Long course! I intentionally did some things differently for my seven mile swim (see here for the plan to get ready for the ten mile swim in July), and the first of those was to go to Westside Aquatic Center to swim long course. Long course feels like summer. In the US, children (and college students) who swim year-round swim short course yards in 25 yard pools in the winter, but come summer, they switch to long course, in 50 meter pools (This is done by rearranging bulkheads to create different size pools, not by having different pools of different lengths; Westside switched over to long course early in April.).
You know summer is on its way when you start swimming long course. When I was a swim team kid and my pool was set up for long course, during the evening practice you would swim west into the sunset for 50 meters, swim back, then swim west into the sunset again, over and over: 50 meters of sunset, 50 meters back. It was like the passage in The Little Prince where the prince describes watching the sunset 44 times, simply by moving his chair on his tiny planet.
The second thing I did differently was arrange for my own dolphins. In an earlier post (see #4) I noted that in a long pool swim there are moments of difficulty and loneliness; in those times, I wait for the dolphins–that is, I wait for other swimmers, who appear like the dolphins who swim along with those lost at sea–to keep me company. It occurred to me that I could ask a friend to swim along, even if I don’t have anyone who wants to swim the full 7 miles. So I got my friend K to come keep me company toward the end of the swim and then go out for burgers afterwards. He wasn’t hard to convince: I told him that the pool was set up for long course.
I divided the 7 miles (11.3 K) into sections, with a 300m warm-up followed by (1000 swim + 100 kick) x 10. Those 1000 m segments were divided in a variety of ways:
200 pull, 200 kick, 200 pull, 200 kick, 200 pull
(200 free + 50 back) x 4
(200 free + 50 breast) x 4
100 kick, 400 pull, 100 kick, 400 swim, etc.
But I also tried a new set (new for me at least). I did it first for fun and then later because I was in a hurry. Really, K was in a hurry. He said, “Will you be done by 12:30 pm?” at 11:50 am, when I had 2200 meters to go, “I know you can do 2000 meters in 40 minutes.” His faith was touching, I suppose, but I had already swum over five and a half miles at that point, and I was not moving all that fast. But I wanted a burger, and I didn’t want him to be late.
Straight swimming is the fastest way to eat up distance, but it’s kind of dull. To make it more interesting, I repeated a set that I had done a couple times already for two more 1000 meter chunks:
(100 breathe every 3 strokes, 100 breathe every 5 strokes, 100 breathe every 7 strokes) x 3
100 breathe every 3 strokes
Counting to three, counting to five, counting to seven kept my mind busy while I churned through the laps. I did the final 1000 meters in a little under 17:30, not world-record pace, but perfectly respectable.
I went in to the swim with fewer calories than usual–it’s Passover, so my usual bowl of oatmeal was not an option–but it did not turn out to be a problem. I had a 250 calorie drink at 4900 meters and maybe a half of another (125 calories or so) at 9100. I destroyed a burger (no bun) and fries at Five Guys, and I’ve been eating steadily ever since. I’m tired, but I’m not wiped out. It was a good swim.