I stopped talking about specifics of training here on the blog such a long time ago, because for the most part, the numbers don’t matter. And it (sometimes) irritates me when other people spend so much time focusing on the numbers, so I didn’t walk to talk about this because I felt like I was being a hypocrite but something happened in the water and oh for pete's sake just type already.
It was a boring Thursday afternoon (it was a dark and stormy night...). I had a swim workout I’ve seen a few times before, broken 250s. (Sorry, Sonja, if I am giving away state secrets here). 100 fast, 75 cruise, 50 HARD, 25 easy. Main set, ten times through. When I’ve done it before, I don’t usually pay attention to the clock, I just work on effort and make sure that my 250 send-offs are consistent. And the thing that has been happening in the pool lately, well, in all my workouts lately, is that I’m coasting. I’m cruising, I’m just getting by, and that is probably why I’m afraid of going to master’s swim because then someone will beat my little ass with a hammer called OUCH. So anyway, the set is broken, the 100s and the 75s are on 1:35, the 50s are on :55 and the 25 slash the whole broken 250 is on 5:00 to make it easy. I figure in my head that I’ll aim for 1:30 pace on the 100s and slightly faster on the 50s because ehhhh, I’m out of shape I’ve just gotten back into training, I think the last time I did this the 100s were on 1:40 blah blah blah. BLAH. I work through the warm-up, wait for the (digital, thank god) clock to grab a double zero and I go. First 100 feels smooth and only a little hard, and I pop up and see that it was a 1:25. And the immediate thought in my head is, well, NOW you’re screwed.
So I cruise through the 75, smash myself on the 50, float through the 25. And the thing that I like about this set is that there isn’t a lot of time to think except after the 25. I’m telling myself, back off, you have nine more of these suckers to go and YOU ARE OUT OF SHAPE and 1:25 pace is going to be 1:34 touch-and-go on the last four if you aren’t careful. I rest, clear my goggles, push off and go. 1:25. FFFFFF.
I think, out loud in my head, the way you do when you're under water. I’ve been having fun these past few weeks swimming, being at altitude plus taking five weeks off from the pool means that I’ve taken all the clock pressure off myself, plus since I’ve only been a swimmer for a few years I never really put that much pressure ON my swimming anyhow. Sonja and I talked about it last spring, if I have a bad day in the pool I don’t give a crap, but shovel me up a bad run and I’m pissing and moaning and having a cow about it. And if only I could detach from running like I do with swimming, maybe I might be able to actually make some progress or at least stop making both of us crazy with it.
So, sometimes it’s good to be detached, but I think it’s turning into me being generally lazy in the pool, because I worked so hard last winter and made so much progress and I feel like I’ve been stuck on a plateau even since so why bother trying to smash through? (The paradox of the off-season athlete). But these 1:25s scare me, and only one more rolls by before my brain starts in with the excuses, with the cop-outs. It’s starting to hurt, why don’t you just throw on some paddles, or take an extra minute of rest after the fifth one, actually you are running late so maybe just do eight instead of ten and then swim an easy 500 and get out, why the crap are you swimming in the 1:20s in December anyway, maybe just ease off the effort, no one is standing on the deck with the stopwatch, it’s the holidays, go eat some more cookies. And after another 1:25 rolls by and it’s really starting to hurt, I realize that this is the voice that I need to face. So instead of backing off, I grit my teeth and dig into the water, I am throwing it backwards away from me. #4, 1:25. #5, 1:26, and that pisses me off so much, that I backed off for one second, that I decide that I’m going to hold the 50s at :40 and descend the 100s for the back half of the set.
I have never heard so much screaming, inside my head, in my life. I suppose this makes me sound crazy, but it was ugly and I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t distract myself with music or chatter or trees or birds or a movie like I can on the bike or run, I had nothing but my brain and the black line and fear. And how much my muscles hurt to swim hard was nothing compared to the pain of standing up to my stupid December self and screaming, no, I will NOT back down. 1:26. The 50 is burning, I need more rest. 1:25. Come on, descend, goddammit. 1:24. 1:23. 1:21. And when I finally pushed off the wall and into the cool-down, there was nothing but silence.
What I sat down to write about, really, was a race report on the meet I did this weekend, and how all I can think of when I look at the times (500: 7:28, 200: 2:49, 100: 1:16) is ugh, and how the excuses want to pile up inside my head. Altitude pneumonia 6 extra lbs time off blah blah blah. BLAH. But the fact of the matter is, this is where I am, right now, today. This is the body and the set of circumstances that I have to work with, right now. I can roll those excuses around in my head over and over and keep letting myself off the hook during hard workouts, or I can grit my teeth and throw water. Those are my choices and those are the ONLY choices I have.
So yup, I've been coasting, these past six months or so. I've been just getting by, but no more, I've been letting myself off the hook, I've been okay with just being okay. That's over. I've had enough of being my own mediocre. I am ready for this work, I am ready to settle into the stuff that isn't exciting, it's just work, I am ready for this year. That is the choice I have made.