Swimmers are hungry. I’m not talking about an emotional hunger or a spiritual hunger; I mean a hunger for food. Periodically I run into some blog or news report about how “we” (“we” = people with money, natch) have lost touch with our bodies, we eat out of boredom or stress, and we have forgotten what it feels like to be hungry. When I see these reports I always think, These people are not swimmers.
Swimmers know what it feels like to be hungry. The H2O blog has one of those You know you’re an open water swimmer when… lists: #1 is “You think cake is a recovery food and you can always say yes to a second portion,” and #6 is “You’ve eaten your lunch by 10 in the morning and your afternoon snack by midday.” I eat lunch most days at 10:30, and in the afternoon I’m scavenging for food in the department kitchen.
In the spring and summer, when K and I swim a couple miles or three in Lake Hartwell before dinner, we stop at the Five Guys on the way back and I fall on a hamburger–little hamburger, with mustard, lettuce, tomato, grilled mushroom, grilled onion–the way the Visigoths fell on Rome. It’s not ladylike. I don’t care. There is great joy in eating when you are hungry, really really hungry. Those Five Guys burgers are the best I have ever eaten.
I am thinking a lot about food these days because I need to make plans for the ten-mile swim. I need to learn how and what to eat when I’m in the middle of a lake. It will take some experimentation. One of my colleagues in Health Sciences says I should think about something drinkable, like Ensure, which is a shake-like nutrition drink. Evan Morrison at Farther, Colder, Rougher describes how to make your own carb drink in his four-part series on nutrition.
On the other hand, in her Open Water Swimming Manual, Lynne Cox talks about a Navy SEAL who describes eating cold pizza in the middle of a five-mile training swim; his swim partner pulls a plastic bag with two slices out of his wetsuit and hands him one, and they eat while treading water. She ends the story, “He said it was the best pizza he had ever eaten” (76). I don’t doubt it.
There will be some big eating in my future.