Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Swimming With Diana Nyad

Those of you who hang around these parts already know that I'm on a swim team.  I haul myself to practices four times a week, sometimes five, and swim like crazy for an hour in the morning.  And I do all right.  Most days I swim somewhere between 1800 and 2000 meters, sometimes a little less.  Yes, some of the guys on the team are ex-Olympians and triathletes, and no, I don't try to keep up with them. I am not built like a swimmer.  (Michael Phelps is built like a swimmer.  It's like God said, "Somebody create me the perfect swimmer," and a couple of gnomes built Michael Phelps, and God said, "That's pretty good but let's make the arms longer.")  Sure, I'd love to be built like a swimmer, but I'm not.  I got these li'l T-rex arms and I'm short and fat and I have giant floater buoys attached to my chest.  But I am what I am and I swim anyway.

The word "team" implies "going to meets and entering races." I don't really do that. Much. I am not fast, though I'm not slow either.  I'm more of a distance swimmer.  Once a year during "Swim for Distance Month" we have a meet that has a 2k race (a little over a mile), a 5k race (three and a quarter miles) and for the truly hardcore, the 10k relay.  Every year for the past four I've entered the 2k race, and in 2014 I did it in under an hour (59 minutes and 17 seconds, precisely). Which was pretty cool.  But again, it's a 2k race and you do it in about an hour.

So imagine, if you will, swimming from Cuba to Florida. 111 miles.  Fifty-three hours in the water.  Storms.  Rough seas. Sharks. Jellyfish.  Jellysharks.  Diana Nyad did it, and she was sixty-four years old at the time.  So when I heard she was going to be in town, I raced down there.  I figured she had to be six feet tall, with arms like a gorilla's and muscles like Arnold Schwartzenbarfer's.

Uh, no.  Check out the picture.  She's actually just a little bit taller than me.  And she does have muscles, but they're nothing like some of those pictures you see of female bodybuilders (and I'm sorry, but those ladies have to be taking steroids.  Because there's no way.  No way.)  She's a shockingly ordinary person.  Who happens to have swum from Cuba to Florida. And across Lake Ontario, and around Manhattan Island, and--anyway, she's done a lot of marathon swimming.  And I happen to think that marathon swimming is one of the coolest things on the planet.

Now, for me, that 2k swim is a marathon.  At the end of it I'm worn out and shivering and can barely climb up the ladder to get out of the pool.  That's because adrenaline kicks in and I go out way too fast and have to rein myself back in and that's hard to do.  It's easier to just start out at a given speed.  Yes, I know that but try telling me to do it when I'm out there in the water.  Well, maybe I'll have better luck this year when I try swimming the 5k.

5000 meters.  A little over three miles.  Probably between 2 1/2 and 3 hours in the water.  No sharks and no jellyfish (or jellysharks) but that is a daunting spectacle indeed.  Still, right now I'm clocking 1800 to 2000 at most practices, so it's not out of reach.  It's just not going to be easy.  For one thing, I'll have to stop and take breaks.  2000 meters is about the limit of how far I can go without stopping.  (We're not counting my three-second water breaks as stopping.  It's July when this race happens, and it takes place outdoors.  You've positively got to stop for water every 4-500 meters or you'll end up in in the hospital.)  I've been told by veterans of this swim that you've got to eat something, too, because you'll just burn through any sugar that might be in your system and after that you'll start crashing.  They recommend Snickers bars.  Anything that calls for Snickers bars can't be a bad thing.

The other challenge will be finding somebody to count laps for me.  5000 meters = 50 100-meter laps which each take around three minutes if you're me.  And let's face it, swimming is boring, especially when there aren't any sharks. Or jellyfish.  Or jellysharks.  Well, it's boring to watch. It's great to do.  Luckily, my good friend and massage therapist Kellum has said he's in.  I just have to pin down a date for him so he can keep his schedule free.  And in case I get bored, I can listen to my underwater iPod, awesome Christmas gift from my sister Kristen which really does make the time go a lot faster.  Something about wanting to rock and roll all night and part of every day, I expect.

So anyway, that's the plan.  I could get intimidated at some point and scale it all back and do the 2k again, but now that I've told y'all what the plan is, it'll be harder not to do.  Besides, I have a training swim planned for this weekend (2500 meters to start, with stops at 1500 and 2000 for Snickers bar munching.)  I'll ramp it up from there.  I have to convince myself it's okay to stay in the water and keep swimming after an hour, since I'm used to stopping there and getting out.  And I also have to solve the problem of getting too cold.  The farthest I ever swam was 2800 meters, and I was positively shaking when I climbed up the ladder.  I'm thinking a silicone cap (I hate silicone caps) might solve this problem.  A silicone cap in July.  Oh joy.

But again, I don't have to contend with jellysharks.  So there's not much to complain about, really.

No comments: