Saturdays have been our long swim days since Louise and Laura and I started training together at the beginning of March, first at the Berkeley Carroll pool, and then at the Dodge YMCA in downtown Brooklyn. We started with a three mile Saturday (4950 yards), quickly moved to four mile Saturdays (6600 yards), and then adjusted from four “pool” mile-, to four “actual” mile Saturdays (7000 yards). (Confused? See this post for an explanation of pool mile vs. actual mile.)
The first Saturday that we did a 6600 yard swim I felt ridiculously pumped afterward and thoroughly accomplished. This past Saturday morning’s 7200 yard swim* felt so easy, which was, of course, a different kind of feeling of accomplishment. One nice thing about our Saturday long swims is that every time we up the mileage, I set a new personal record for the farthest I’ve ever swam in one pool session. Endless opportunity for breaking a personal record = endless opportunity for feelings of accomplishment. No wonder I’m hooked. I just read a blog of an experienced open water swimmer whose “long pool swim” lasted 9 hours. Clearly, we will have opportunities to continue setting personal records for a long time!
For me, most long swims are accompanied by soundtracks in my head—there’s no waterproof MP3 player in my life. Unfortunately, my brain usually chooses the tune of one song, or of one refrain from one song, to which I then sing all of my thoughts for the hours we spend in the water. Wow, that sounds so much worse than it actually is. Although I have no conscious say in the song, it is not usually a bad experience. Here’s a selection from a few swims:
Saturday March 19th: Home by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros – I had heard this favorite song of mine sampled on NPR on my way to the pool.
Saturday March 26: Ching Chong by Jimmy Wong – Wong wrote and posted this piece in response to this incredibly racist video posted by a UCLA student. I had heard Wong interviewed on NPR and then watched the video of Ching Chong the night before. It’s pretty great, but you have to watch at least a minute of the girl’s original video to appreciate it.
Saturday April 9: Mostly silence! In the middle of the fourth mile, I began to hear Train’s Hey Soul Sister (no, I will not provide a link for this one). This time I fought it, and I fought hard. Thankfully, I got distracted by a pain in my right shoulder and the song was gone—best shoulder pain ever!
Forever Pace and the Bagel Mile
Training many hours with buddies requires a common language. It seems to evolve on its own when needed. We swim a lot of our miles at what we call “forever pace,” which is supposed to be the pace we think we could swim indefinitely. It’s not exactly the same for each of us, but it’s close. Sometimes we swim “forever pace plus a little,” which is a little faster. Faster than that we call moderate or fast. The “bagel mile” is the last mile we plan to swim that morning. It tends to be swum a bit faster, as we are “chasing a bagel”: the faster we finish, the sooner we’re sitting together eating delicious bagels at the bagel shop down the street. We love the bagel mile.
We have been practicing and experimenting with a number of different drinks and gels to keep us going during our long pool swims without giving us tummy troubles. We “feed” every half hour or mile (more or less the same thing). Recent nutrition of choice:
–> Laura drinks Accelerade, a sports drink with protein, and has been known to bring bits of fresh kiwi in a discarded grenade container supplied by Louise.
–> I bring two water bottles, one with water, the other with EFS electrolyte drink, and a handful of Chocolate Outrage Gu, which is instant energy plus CAFFEINE!
Next week in Malta I will learn about far more technical and serious feeding regimens, as I participate in the SwimTrek long distance training alongside veteran and aspiring English Channel swimmers. Stay tuned.
Swimming for Yardage vs. Time
Sometimes we swim in 1750 yard increments, and sometimes we swim for 30 minutes, which comes out to about 1850 yards. Louise likes to swim by time, as it allows her to relax, not do any counting, and practice “sighting the clock.” I like to swim for 1750 yards, because it gives me incentive to swim a little faster and finish a little sooner.
*Louise and Laura continued on without me for an addition mile last Saturday. As I am gearing up for Malta next week, and wanting to feel strong, rested and not sore, I didn’t join them. They reported feeling fine, but ravenous all day long.