Training vs Racing

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Happiness and anticipation for the Long Bridge Swim in Sandpoint, Idaho

Right now, I like training more than I like racing.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy event days too – the atmosphere of anticipation, the cameraderie, the snacks, the fashion parade of wetsuits, the men in wee speedos…its all good.

BUT – the reason I swim is not to race. It’s to access the feeling I get while swimming and after swimming.

What I want to discover is how far/long I can swim in this sagging 43 year old meat sack. What I want to do is swim in amazing places all over the world.

I think I would be happier if open water events were positioned more as experiences rather than races. Of course, I am concerned with my time and my performance at any given event. But the reason I swim is to tamp down my sharp and uncomfortable edges. Competitiveness has a way of creeping into my head and my body and gives me the exactly opposite feels that a challenging but relaxed training session or light lake swim gives me. I stopped swimming with a local masters group because I was overcome with the negative mindset the practices triggered in my head and body, especially during a time of misdiagnosed illness. This would express itself in swimming too hard and then crying in the shower if my body wasn’t up to what I was asking of it. And of course it wasn’t up to it – it was liable to fall asleep at any given moment. It would remind me of how I felt when I quit competitive swimming as a teenager, when repetitive, negative thought patterns became a big problem for me.

Swimming on my own terms is my solution for the brain that I was born with. And solo training takes me into the positive space I need, and allows me to channel those characteristics into my work (which I LOVE), rather than my workouts.

I love swimming long sets in the pool. At a certain time of day, the sunlight streams through the windows and it almost feels like being outside. I don’t mind staring at that long black line for hours on end. The repetition is meditative for my restless brain that seems to never stop worrying, stewing, planning, creating, and reviewing. It’s an extended time to think without making decisions or dealing with distractions. Sometimes I think about the act of swimming – like my pull, which is my current focus for improvement. Often I think about work and what I need to do to be successful. Sometimes I concoct and mentally file blog posts. Sometimes I have a long, imaginary but romantic dialogue with Ewan McGregor. Sometimes I think about the things that piss me off, and leverage the gift of isolation to wrap my thoughts and feelings around closure or next steps.

If my ankles and left knee (mild meniscus tear) are behaving themselves, I don’t mind countless flip turns as punctuation for each length.

Getting a swimP3 has also been a game changer for pool workouts. I used a Finis Neptune for a few years (they’re no longer available, so no way to fix mine) and just recently switched to the Duo, after literally wearing out my old device. I load up a playlist and swim along listening to my favourite songs. I spend a lot of time curating the best playlists for my swims, including events where I’m allowed to wear my headset. I’ll publish some playlists at some point, but my current swimming faves are Hot Chip and Toto. Yep, Toto. “Hold the Line” through bone-conduction audio is something to behold, Children of the Eighties.

If I swim in the evening, I love the post-swim shower and changing into my sweats (Commando, no less) for the drive home. This is more enjoyable in the summer than the winter, of course.

Training at night sets me up for a more natural and restful sleep. It helps my body slow down and makes me feel like my day was productive.

I’ve had a light training week with work travel and a chest cold. I’m hoping to achieve this week’s km goal (12,000) by Sunday, feeling refreshed, rested, and (almost) ready for the lake. My longest training session this week was 5200. Ewan and I got a lot of stuff figured out.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Back in the Lake | Open Water Life

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