10 mile swim

It isn't far to swim when you have friends waiting at the end.


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Is Swimming a Sport for Introverts?

Every once in a while I come upon an article about how swimming is a great sport for introverts. Here’s the latest one: 5 Of The Best Competitive Sports For Introverts. And every time I do, my first thought is the same: this author has never heard of Ryan Lochte.

It’s not that swimming is a bad sport for introverts. But I think those who believe swimming is for just for introverts have confused the experience of swimming in a race with the experience of swim practice. Goodness knows, if the only thing you know about swimming is that you race in a lane by yourself, you might think that it is a sport for people who want to work alone. You are by yourself for the few minutes (if you are Katie Ledecky breaking the world record in the 1500 M, 15:25.48 glorious minutes) it takes to swim a race.

But most of a swimmer’s life is not competition — it’s training. And at any team swim practice, lanes are full, with several people in each lane, jockeying for space.

Photo from SwimWithIssues.

Swim practice. Lots of people. Photo from SwimWithIssues.

At a summer league team practice, children are on top of each other like puppies in a pile. But I’ve been in plenty of adult lap swims that were crowded and chaotic; you’re nearly naked with a bunch of people in a 2.5 meter wide lane. If you’re on a team, you know them all, and you’re with them for hours and hours, day after day. You swim together.

(Do the swimmers in this video seem introverted to you? Lochte appears at 1:00, blowing a kiss.)

Swimming together involves plenty of social interaction, even in uncrowded pools. The other day I swam with one man at my summer outdoor pool. We did a set of 12 x 200. Each 200 is “broken,” like this:

  • 100 m, rest 10 seconds
  • 50 m, rest 5 seconds
  • 50 m

As we swam the set, we talked. We talked about where I had been swimming (Westside Aquatic Center), where he had been swimming (the Y), and the advantages of each. We talked about what time each of us had entered for the race we’re swimming later in August (26 min/mile), whether that was a reasonable time (probably), and the differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in a lake. We were racing when we were swimming, but we had 30-plus seconds rest time between each 200, and at every break we picked up our conversation where we left off. It wasn’t a deep conversation. We were just chatting. It’s what you do when you swim together.

Swimming, of course, is the sport you don’t practice by yourself. The pools around here usually have a list of rules posted, and number one is always, “There should be no solo swimming.” You can practice free throws or run sprints or kick a ball against a wall all by your lonesome, but you never swim alone.

Here’s what I think: it’s not that swimming is especially good for introverts; it’s that swimming is good for people who don’t see well. I don’t enjoy ball-oriented sports, for example, not because I don’t like working with other people, but because I’m very nearsighted and my depth perception is lousy (Please don’t throw me the ball. I can’t see it. I DON’T WANT IT). But that’s not so much of a problem for a swimmer; as long as I can see the wall or the next buoy, that’s good enough.

And I can see well enough to recognize a friend coming onto the deck looking for a lane and to ask, “Do you want to share?” Because that’s what swimmers do — we swim with friends. Introverts, extroverts, we take all kinds.


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How to Share a Lane Redux (For New Year’s Resolution Swimmers)

You can buy a t-shirt with this happy swimmer on it at Toad Hollow

You can buy a t-shirt with this happy swimmer on it at Toad Hollow Athletics. I have one in blue.

We are barreling toward New Year’s Day here in the Gregorian calendar, and everyone knows what that means: soon, a new crowd of swimmers in the pool, working on their New Year’s resolutions. And good for you, New Year’s resolution swimmers! Life is good in the pool.

Before you jump in, however, there’s something you should know: while there is much to be said about the isolation of swimming, that isolation is only in the swimmer’s mind. You may be alone in your head, but most of the time your body is in a narrow space with other wet, nearly naked people, all moving at different speeds.

In addition — and this is key — a person swimming freestyle correctly cannot see ahead of her when she is swimming.

When you are swimming, you are looking down at the bottom of the pool. That is why pools have black lines on the bottom; the swimmers are following them. When you get to the cross at the end of the black line, you know the wall is approaching.

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These lines on the bottom of the pool: not just for pretty (my photo).

When you breathe to the side, you can see in that direction, but you never lift your head to see in front of you in a pool. The exception, of course, is if you are practicing sighting for an open water swim. In open water you do have to look in front of you because there are no black lines to guide you.

What does that mean for you, New Year’s resolution swimmers? It means that if you hop in a lane without warning the people in it, they may not see you. Last fall a woman got into my lane without telling me. I was swimming at full throttle when I realized she was there. I pulled up in shock inches before a huge, painful crash.

If you get in a lane in front of me, especially if you are slow and don’t splash much, I won’t know that you are there until I am on top of you like an eighteen-wheeler on an armadillo.

The National Wildlife Federation notes, “Nine-banded armadillos have a tendency to jump straight up into the air when they are startled. This often leads to their demise on highways.” Image by Jerry Segraves (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/photos/64102) via Wikimedia Commons

The obvious lesson here is that you don’t get into a lane with a swimmer until you get that person’s attention. It’s not so much that you are asking permission to join — although it is conventional to ask, “May I share?” — as that you are establishing how you will interact in the lane. Two people can split a lane down the middle, each keeping to one side; three or more need to circle swim, staying to one side.

If you are walking into a new pool for the first time, and there are no signs indicating which lane you might choose, you can always ask the lifeguard. I went to a YMCA pool in Atlanta over Thanksgiving; every lane was packed, and there was no guidance about speed. So I asked the lifeguard for advice, and he directed me to the appropriate lane. I ended up in a lane with a family of three cousins together for the holidays. We had a grand old time.


I’ve written about lane sharing before, but I have been thinking about the subject again because last week I shared a lane with my friend K, who is big and fast. He’s easy to share with; he knows what he is doing, and he swims straight. But it is always just a little bit nerve-racking when we share a lane, and it occurred to me that sharing a lane (especially with someone big and fast) is like doing a trust fall.

The trust fall is a staple of group team building exercises: one person falls backward with eyes closed and another (or group of others) catches her. You can find a video and description here.

In a trust fall, you can’t see: you have to trust that the catcher will be in the right place and you won’t hit the ground. In the same way, when you share a lane, you can’t see: you have to trust that your lane mate will be in the right place and you won’t hit each other. You communicate to establish trust.

I hope to see you at the pool, New Year’s resolution swimmers! Say hello before you jump in.


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The Nine Mile Report: Getting Better All the Time

The nine mile report comes in a little late. I was supposed to do a nine mile swim in June, and I didn’t get to it until July 5. I had the problem I had anticipated from the beginning: finding a pool that was open for a long enough stretch of time. The last two weekends of June, Westside Aquatic had events going on, so there was no long Saturday lap swim.

So, the last two Saturdays of June, I went to my home pool, got in the water as close to 9 AM as possible, and swamswamswamswamswam until 1 PM instead. I got in eight miles in four hours both Saturdays, a lot of straight freestyle swimming. It could have been unpleasant, but the temperature at my home pool has been very comfortable lately (i.e. cooler than average) and the swims were just fine.

I also got in two longer swims at Lake Jocassee, 7.2 miles or so with R and S (and their friend L) in the middle of June and 4.8 miles or so with K last Thursday. K and I had planned to go to Lake Hartwell, but the water temperature there is unswimmably hot — 90 °F (32 °C) — so we decided on Jocassee instead.

R kayaking for me on Lake Jocassee, June 2014. My photo.

R kayaking for me on Lake Jocassee, June 2014. My photo.

Yesterday I went to Westside Aquatic and swam the nine miles (14.5 K). For much of the time I had my own lane, although for a little while I shared with a guy who was unfamiliar with the most important rule of lane sharing: the fastest person goes first. If you have a person coming up behind you when you’re coming into the wall, it’s polite (and safer) to stop for a second or two to let that person pass you, rather than making her swim beside you to pass, trying not to hit you. I was in no mood to sprint, so I passed him slow and steady each time. Strangely, he was always way behind me on the next lap, suggesting either that he was stopping at the wall after I passed him or that he sped up when I was trying to pass him, slowing down to normal pace later. Either way, I didn’t have energy to waste on figuring out what was going on.

Otherwise, the nine mile swim was largely without incident. I wasn’t hurrying: I did two 500m kick and three 500m breast/back along the way, as well as some pulling. My primary interest was getting the food right. I stopped for an Ensure-like beverage at 3500, 7000, and 10,500, and I had a squeezy applesauce at 12,500. Over the course of the 14,500 I drank about half of a 20 oz. Gatorade bottle; I slugged the rest down at the end. I’ve been hungry today, but I didn’t wake up in the night desperate for food, which suggests I’m doing a better job with calorie intake.

I swam it like this:

2000 straight
500 breast/back (alt by 100), 500 pull, 500 swim
(food)
2000 straight
500 kick, 500 pull, 500 swim
(food)
2000 ladders (4 x 200, 150, 100, 50)
500 breast/back (alt by 100), 500 pull, 500 swim
(food)
2000 ladders (4 x 200, 150, 100, 50)
(food)
500 kick, 500 pull, 500 swim
500 breast/back (alt by 100)

The nine mile swim is the longest distance I plan to do. I will keep swimming shorter daily distances, maybe put in five miles or so this coming weekend, but nothing longer. The swim was tiring, but it was completely doable. I sang this for most of the way:

It’s three weeks to the race. I’m ready.


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On Swimming with the Team, Part 1

I swim unattached. That’s not a description of my state of dress or marital status or relationship to the universe; it means that I am a member of US Masters Swimming, but I am not affiliated with a team. Maybe someday I will join one of the fine Masters teams in the area, but I’m not at the point in my life when I can commit to a team, not while I’m working full-time and responsible for getting a child (sometimes two) to school in the morning.

It’s easier swimming on my own. During the school year, I swim at my university pool at lunchtime, and I just walk across campus, waving at everyone I know on the way, and get in the water.

But while I like swimming on my own, it is not the same kind of experience as swimming with a team, the way I did as a child. Happily, every summer I get to relive my childhood by swimming with other adults, mostly swim team parents, at the outdoor pool before the kids have morning practice Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The workout does not vary:

Monday: 8 x 250 meters (known as ladders, or Ladders of Death for the melodramatic), each 250 broken into 100, 75, 50, 25 with 5 seconds rest between

Wednesday: 10 x 200 meters (known as broken 2s), each 200 broken into 100, 50, 50 with 10 seconds rest after the 100 and 5 seconds rest after the first 50

Friday: Medley: 3 x ladders, 3 x broken 2s, 13 x 50m

It’s 2000 meters. It’s always 2000 meters, and it’s almost always these workouts — the only permissible variation is 40 x 50 meters on a Friday or special occasion. You can show up and swim whatever you like; some people come and swim something else entirely. But if you swim with the group, this is what the group swims.

It’s simple, and it’s rhythmic, and I fall into it every summer.

I swim faster when I’m swimming on summer mornings. It feels like swim team practice, and swim team practice always meant racing: racing each other length after length. While in swim meets we competed girls against girls and boys against boys, during practice we all swam together, and I was conditioned never to let the boys beat me without a race. Most summer mornings it’s me and two or three men doing the set workout. I will swim until my arms fall off.

One morning before we started practice, a man who hadn’t met me before asked if I could “keep up with these guys,” and on slow days I draw on the memory of my incandescent rage. I work the flip turns, and I keep my head down, and I swim so much harder.


This year with the ten mile swim fast approaching, I’ve been coming in early for 1600 meters or so before the rest of the group starts. I was concerned that I’d be tired and the guys would flatten me, but it seems to work all right: a quiet mile warm-up and I’m ready to go when they arrive. Apparently I swim better on more swimming.

I haven’t given a Go the Distance update in a while, but not to worry: I’m way ahead for the year. Of course, I don’t plan to be doing long weekend distances every week after the ten mile swim on July 26. Today’s total: 376.12 miles.

USMS Go The Distance 2014 Progress: June 23

USMS Go The Distance 2014 Progress: June 23

 


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The Most Beautiful Pool in the World (Is the One You’re Swimming in Right Now)

It’s Memorial Day weekend in the U.S,, and outdoor pools are opening. This morning I swam laps outside for the first time this year: 4000 meters of sunlight on the bottom of the pool.

25 meter pool

The view down the pool. My photo. May 26, 2014.

Usually it takes me a little while to adjust to the 25 meter (instead of 25 yard) length, but this morning I hit every flip turn; my body remembered where the walls are.

You aim for the cross at the end of the lane.

The cross at the end of the lane: get just the right distance from it and flip.  My photo. May 26, 2014.

Is there anything as beautiful as sunlight on the bottom of a pool? If I had money to burn, I would buy these sheets from Snurk:

Image from Colossal. Sheets from Snurk.

I could have happily swum for hours, but there were people waiting for me. I won’t be back to swim laps there for a couple weeks. Soon, though, I’ll be swimming in the outside pool with the summer group on a regular basis.


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The Eight Mile Report

For the first three to four miles of my eight mile swim I was mentally composing an angry blog post about how I had been unfairly prevented from swimming eight miles that day. It was going to have lots of boldface and ALL CAPS and extra exclamation points!!! I was expecting to get yanked out of the water around 6000 meters. But no one came to stop me. And as an object in motion stays in motion, I just kept swimming.

I went to Westside Aquatic to do the eight miles. Two weeks ago I went out there on a Saturday and was turned away; there was no lap swim because of lifeguard training. I protested at the time that the website had said nothing about a closure, but I was told it was an exceptional circumstance. So this Friday I called to confirm that the competition pool would be open for lap swim on Saturday, and I was assured multiple times that there would be lap swim and it would be in the competition pool.

Well, you can probably guess where this is going. When I got there, there was no lap swim lane (two are scheduled); one person said he would make me one, and then a supervisor came to say that he couldn’t. The supervisor offered me the therapy pool, but I said no way; that pool is 86 degrees F, and I don’t want to swim eight miles in a hot pool. It’s borderline dangerous and absolutely unpleasant.

There were intense negotiations, but to make a long story short, I was allowed to swim in the 50 meter pool in a lane with a loosely fastened lane rope on one side and no lane rope on the other. On my lane rope side there were lifeguard classes; on the open side there was a floating bouncy inflatable. And I was told that when the birthday party scheduled for 1 pm for the bouncy inflatable showed up, I was going to be moved to the hot pool.

The floating bouncy inflatable. Image from Westside Aquatic.

I swam the first half or so of the swim filled with righteous indignation, which means I swam it way too fast. But I was expecting someone to grab me, and I wanted to get in all the distance I could. On the lane rope side of me, two different lifeguard training classes were going on (there was a third in another corner of the pool), and they were jumping in and rescuing each other in different ways and configurations. There were splashes and waves, and the loosely fastened lane rope was pushed into my lane. But I had enough space to swim, and watching the lifeguard training kept me amused. I kept swimming.

As time passed and no one stopped me, I took a break for food and asked the one lifeguard in charge of me — she was sitting on the starting block of the next lane, my own personal lifeguard  — where the birthday party was. She said they didn’t know. I kept swimming.

Eventually the birthday party kids appeared to play on the bouncy inflatable. My personal lifeguard moved to guard them. More kids (and adults too) appeared, but still no one stopped me. I was concerned that flying children might drop on me, but they didn’t. The only person who got in my way was a grown man; he and he alone floated into my lane three different times, in spite of the fact that I stopped and told him it was the lap swim lane the first time. It’s always the grown men. Still, I kept swimming.

In any case, I swam the full eight miles in the 50 meter pool. It was a hard swim, mostly because I started too fast and ran out of energy. Angry swimming is not sensible swimming. I think, however, that it was a useful training exercise simulating race conditions; I tend to get excited and go out faster than I should. I also swam far more straight freestyle than I would ordinarily — again to get in as much distance as possible — and my shoulders were sore by the end.

I pulled myself onto the deck. And then, my friends, I was the belle of the ball. Three lifeguarding classes had been watching me swim for four hours, and the lifeguards and trainers all wanted to know how far I had swum and what I was preparing for. They said complimentary things. It was all very flattering.

Next Saturday I’ll be swimming the Lowcountry Splash in Charleston, and the Saturday after that Westside has a planned closure for a swim meet. Perhaps by June it will be safe to swim on a Saturday again.


I swam the eight miles in 2000 meter blocks, with 200 kick in between. After I realized that I might be allowed to stay in the 50 meter pool, I introduced some breaststroke, but I was never comfortable enough to try backstroke: far too many obstacles in my path.

  • 2000 swim
  • 200 kick
  • 2000 swim
  • 200 kick
  • 2000 swim
  • 200 kick
  • 4 x (100 breast, 400 free)
  • 200 kick
  • 4 x 500 ladders (200, 150, 100, 50)
  • 200 kick
  • 4 x (100 breast, 400 free with breathwork)

The total was 13000 meters, just a smidge over eight miles. I was hungry early in the swim; I had started late with all the negotiations and it was closer to lunch than breakfast. I sucked down one Ensure-like beverage at 4400 and another at 8800.

Here is my progress for the year as of May 18: 287.68 miles

May 17 totals

Image from my USMS fitness log


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The First Lake Swim of 2014

Lake Hartwell, from the water. My photo.

Lake Hartwell, from the water. That buoy is the half-mile mark. My photo.

We finally made it out to the lake yesterday, the first time this year. It’s been a cold spring. I looked at my records (my USMS flog), and our first day out last year was April 10, a full two weeks earlier. Even so late in April, the water temperature was still below 68 degrees F, so we put on our wetsuits. I don’t like wearing a wetsuit. I was cranky about it for the first mile, but then I perked up. It’s hard to be cranky when you’re swimming under a sky like that.

The first race of the year will be May 24, exactly a month from yesterday: the five mile Lowcountry Splash.


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The Seven Mile Report

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.

Image from

Image from Ocean on Tuesday

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:

1000 swim
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.


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How to Swim a Long Way in a Short Pool: Practical Considerations

These days I’m swimming long distances in a short pool. Soon, very soon, we will swim in the lake, and in two months I’m doing a five mile race in Charleston, but most of the time, I am (and will be) swimming in a 25 yard pool. As the weeks go on and the distances get longer, I’m developing techniques to make these long swims work better. This weekend, I swam 11,200 yards, and it was the best long swim yet.

How do you swim a long way in a short pool?

1) Break it up

I have said this before, but it’s even more important at longer distances: you can’t just swim one big unbroken stretch. I had a really enjoyable 7500 yard swim one Friday when I was short of time, but I can’t do that often. Long distances are much easier to manage–mentally and physically–when they are broken into chunks.

I recently found FactorNumber.com, my new favorite tool for making a long workout. I don’t know what other people do with it, but I’m using it to figure out different ways to break a given distance into equal units. For example, if you look up the number 11,200, it tells you that it can be broken up the following ways:

2 x 5600
4 x 2800
7 x 1600
8 x 1400
14 x 800
16 x 700
28 x 400
32 x 350
56 x 200
64 x 175
112 x 100

(11,200 can be broken up in other ways too; these are the ones that will work in a 25 yard pool.)

I like to swim long distances in equal sections. It makes me happy, thinking about swimming part 1, part 2, part 3, etc. I decided to swim 8 x 1400, but I could have picked 7 x 1600 or 16 x 700 or some other combination.

Then I decided what I was going to swim for each 1400 section:

1400 swim
700 pull, 700 swim
8 x 350 alt kick (free, fly, breast, free) and swim (that’s two 1400s)
14 x 100 alt IM and free
4 x 350 alt pull and free
4 x (100 kick + 250 free)
1400 swim

There is variation in each unit, which keeps the workout interesting, and completing each unit is a little achievement along the way. I don’t have to swim 11,200 yards all at once; I just swim one 1400 yard block at a time.

2) Get a lap counter

I recently read a blog post, now lost to me, about counting strokes and laps. The post made a compelling case for the importance of knowing your stroke count every lap, your lap count every swim. But the author lost me when he or she stated that counting accurately was simply a matter of mental discipline.

I don’t buy it. I can read long, complicated, arcane texts. I can knit intricate lace patterns. I have buckets of mental discipline. But I can’t count laps, and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

I’m the kind of person who processes information by looking at it. If you read aloud a crossword puzzle clue (“City in Belgium, or insect’s annoying little brother”) and tell me that the answer is seven spaces with the third letter T, I will write on a scrap piece of paper “_ _ T_ _ _ _” in order to figure out the word (“Antwerp”). I can figure out a tip or solve a quadratic equation, but I need to write the numbers down. When I have a student talking to me in my office, I take notes as we talk. I need to see things to keep track of them, not just laps, but other kinds of information as well.

(Perhaps Socrates is right when he says in the Phaedrus that writing destroys memory, but there’s not much I can do about it.)

I certainly can’t accurately count the 448 lengths of a 25 yard pool that make up a 11,200 yard workout. For me, the Garmin Swim lap counter has been a terrific tool. It’s made specifically for pool swimming; it keeps count of laps by sensing when you push off the wall. I still haven’t figured out all the things it can do, but it’s doing what I need most: it keeps track of my yardage. It has made these long pool swims much easier.

3) Lubricate

My friends, the fact is that the swimsuit strap that is perfectly comfortable at 4000 yards may viciously chew through your neck like some kind of cross between a vampire and beaver at 10,000. Until I started swimming long distances in the pool, chafing was a problem I had only encountered in open water swims, particularly in salt water. But if you swim far enough and you’re wearing a swimsuit, it doesn’t matter where you’re swimming: eventually the swimsuit is going to start to chafe.

In her Open Water Swimming Manual, Lynne Cox writes, “Because of problems with chafing, there were top female open water swimmers in the 1920s and 30s who swam naked” and goes on to note that women today will often wear two piece suits and take off the tops once they’re out in the water (20).

Unfortunately, neither of these solutions is going to go over well in my home pool. So I’ve starting using Body Glide for these long swims, mostly on the areas rubbed by straps, but also on the undersides of my upper arms where they repeatedly brush against my suit. Petroleum jelly would work too.

Men don’t have to deal with straps, but I understand that they have other problems. I’ve heard men complain about beard burn from stubble. As for other kinds of chafing, Cox writes, “Some swimmers apply the lubricant only to key points of friction along their bodies. Some male swimmers apply lubricant to all the unexposed areas beneath their swimsuits” (24). I advise you to do what you need to do.

4. Wait for the dolphins

I love swimming. But not every second of every swim is wonderful. Even in a good swim, there are bad moments, when you are tired or sore or hungry. But I’ve found in my long pool swims that often when I’m dragging, another swimmer–friend or stranger–will show up and swim with me for a while.

When someone does, it makes me think of stories of dolphins rescuing people in the ocean–you know, stories where the boat overturns or the surfers go out too far, but the dolphins appear and swim along until rescue comes?

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gebl/3240892240/

The dolphins. Image from gebl

This weekend R the triathlete (married to S the triathlete–they are a power couple) appeared in the lane next to me around the 7000 yard mark. He swam at my pace for 300 yards or so. We didn’t stop and talk–we were swimming–but I enjoyed the company. He was my pod of dolphins.

In any long swim there will be good moments and bad moments. You enjoy the good moments when they come. And in the bad moments, you wait for the dolphins.


Do you have other advice about how to swim a long way in a short pool? I’d love to know.