As a Triathlete, it is essential that I be athletic in three ways. This is actually what “triathlete” means! I’ll break the word down for you, because etymology is kind of a hobby of mine.
“Tri” is greek for means “three,” as you probably know. What you may not have known is that “at” is Bulgarian for “completely unrelated sports” and “hlete” is Ninevan for “merged into a single activity, with an eye toward completely consuming all of your free time.”
Ninevan, by the way, is both an incredibly compact and surprisingly expressive language.
Like most triathletes I have met, I am good at one of the sports (cycling in my case), passable in one (running), and terrified of the other (yodeling).
What? The third event is now swimming? When did that happen? I’m even worse at that than I am at yodeling!
Fortunately — and very, very coincidentally — I went swimming yesterday, for the first time since I got my Swimming merit badge thirty years ago.
These are my findings.
- One mile is very far. On a road bike on flat ground, it takes me about three minutes to go a mile. On foot on flat ground, it takes me about nine minutes (at least for the first ten miles or so — after that it takes quite a bit longer). Swimming on flat ground, on the other hand, really chafes my stomach. Ha ha! OK, honestly, it took about 35 or so minutes for me to swim a mile in the pool. Which leads me to wonder: is there any slower way in the world than swimming for a human to travel? Like, suppose a one-year-old had started crawling a mile and a breakdancer had started moonwalking a mile at the same time I had started swimming. I’m pretty sure I would have come in last, depending on how often the one year old stopped to eat some dirt, and how many times the breakdancer paused grab his crotch.
- I love cheating. At the end of each length of the pool, I would compress my legs against the wall and push off, hard, underwater. I would shoot underwater like a torpedo a very great distance. This was, in fact, my very favorite part of the swim, and the only part that I would call “fun.” Which leads me to think that I’ll actually be just fine during the Ironman, as long as the reservoir has walls I can kick off every 50 feet or so.
- I have been injured. With cycling, a fall can injure you very badly indeed. With running, your entire lower body is subject to fractures, sprains, and torn ASPCA ligaments. But with swimming, I thought that at least you can’t get injured as easily as you can with the other two events. Boy, was I wrong. Here’s what happened: After being in the pool for 28 laps, I was so incredibly bored that I wanted something — anything — to alleviate the boredom. So I intentionally poked out my left eye. The pain was intense, but it was in fact an improvement over what I had been experiencing up to that point.
- Swimming is Soma. I confess that I am middle aged and that my memory is not what it used to be. However, until yesterday I would have thought that I could at least remember a number for a minute. However, at least five times during my swim, I arrived at the beginning of a new lap and found that I could not remember whether I was starting lap X or X+1. In the interest of not rewarding my brain for its forgetfulness, I always chose X. So it’s quite possible — probable, even — that I swam quite a bit more than a mile.
- My massive quads are quite dense. While I am certain that my swimming form is admirable and darn close to perfect, I couldn’t help notice that my legs tend to sink a little bit. This was most noticeable when the tops of my feet started dragging on the bottom of the pool. I ascribe this to the fact that muscle is very dense — much denser than water. And so, with the magnificent quads that I have earned over the course of fifteen years, how could I help but have my lower body drag a little bit?
- The smell persists. No matter how long I showered and soaped and rinsed and soaped and scrubbed and rinsed, I smelled strongly of chlorine the rest of the night. I probably still do, but just can’t smell it myself anymore.
- The itch persists, too. Another really great thing about chlorine is how awesome it makes my skin feel. Specifically, it feels almost 20% less itchy than if I had rolled in poison sumac for twenty minutes.
- The exhaustion. Forty minutes of swimming left me completely cooked. Wiped out. Beat. Knackered, even. Frankly, until yesterday, I would have thought I am currently in good enough shape that 40 minutes of anything wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Wrong.
I can hardly wait to go swimming again tomorrow!
PS: Like most United States-ians, I’ll be spending Monday deeply contemplating our presidents. I’ll be back on Tuesday.