Every time I swim I am encouraged – amazed and humbled – thinking about John F. Kennedy after his PT109 was destroyed, swimming in the Pacific night with his surviving men for four miles – while towing one of his injured men by the strap of a life preserver in his teeth.
I swam 100 laps today, in the Buffalo Jewish Community Center’s basement half-Olympic length pool.
72 laps is a mile.
96 of the laps I did non-stop – stopping only at the end as the lifeguard was unhooking and pulling out the floating blue and white plastic lane dividers to open the pool up for open swim, to ask her if I could swim just 4 more laps for the 100. “Non-stop” for me is both not stopping – but I will occasionally float on my back for a few breaths – and not touching the end wall with my hands. A little OCD. I do flipturns and simpler curling kickoffs.
I do flipturns like a bear dances. Just began doing them a year ago. Hell, I swim like a bear dances (If you’re younger, you might not get that – it’s an old saying, a Russian circus reference: “It’s not how well a trained bear dances, it’s that it dances at all”). I was in Corrective Gym throughout grade school. Never on a sports team. I hate having to deal with the physicality of things. I had a heart attack at 44.
My goal right now is to swim 2 miles on the 3rd anniversary of my bypass, April 18. My usual swim has been 24 or 36 lengths (1/2 mile) . The 18th falls on a Sunday this year, and there is only 2 hours of lap swim Sunday mornings, so I will swim the 2 miles in 2 hours.
I wrestle down my self-mistrust about breathing and drowning – (see my previous 2 posts on that – a swimmer’s aquaphobia and an aquaphobic swimmer -further adventures ) – by doing mostly backstroke now. I chisel away at the laps at just under a mile an hour – I was swimming today for an hour and 20 minutes.
This week I started swimming with plastic paddles –
The stroke is, of course, more powerful, as it is with the plastic foam gloves I’ve been using, but also a harder strain on your arms and torso – so I assume there is an equilibrium. Because of that trade off, paddles/gloves and fins are not considered “cheating”.
The most I’d even swum before was 104 laps, a year ago. The most I’ve ever swum non-stop before today is 60 lengths.
It takes me 24 lengths or so to begin to get into any kind of flow. And after about 40 – if I get there – it just turns into counting. Lengths, making sure not to lose count – and strokes. I have short arms, a thick frame, and I know I do almost twice the number of strokes a good swimmer does. By 40 laps, the water, my windmilling arms, my pulling flanks, my kicking legs, my sore back, my number-obsessed brain, just are. The horizon line where life eventually meets death – which I am always aware of, look out towards hourly despite myself – disappears in a churning storm of movement.
It is strange to think I waited this long to feel this, the way I feel as I do after, now a few hours later, my body sore, both tight and loose, my body hoping for sleep but craving dervish.