Friday, September 10, 2010

Swimming around uptown

As you may or may not know, I have an allegiance to swimming that began many years before I started running. After a recent change in my twitter name from "runamyrun" to "runamyswim" I got my butt back into the pool after a while away. I spent much of the summer doing open water swims in the ocean, Hudson River and Lake Sebago and staying away from the busy pool at the gym. The gym has a sundeck, so the pool gets icky with people jumping in with sunblock on and whatnot, so I try to stay away as much as possible. The insane heat of July and August also caused the water to heat up to probably 85 degrees, which is intolerable for real swimming.

Wednesday I made my return to the pool after almost 2 weeks of NO swimming because of the rough surf in the ocean and my focus on marathon training. The pool kicked my butt on the first time back, but it was much kinder during my return today.

I swam for a solid hour this evening around 5pm which was a nice time to swim because there weren't too many folks there. I had to share the lane with a couple of yahoos (aka bad swimmers) at times, but managed to do my speedwork without company. In total I did around 2600 yds and felt really great afterwards.

As I was sweating up a storm in the steam room and sauna after my swim, I got thinking about swimming vs running. I am going to say this- Swimming is just as fun as running. I know plenty of runners that either can't swim or "hate"swimming for whatever reason, but I feel the need to defend swimming as an equally fun and challenging endurance sport. Some people suggest that swimming in the pool is "boring" or compare it to running on the treadmill, but I beg to differ. I often liken lap swimming to track running. It is definitely nothing like running on the treadmill/hamster wheel where you aren't actually moving your body in space. Like running on a track, you complete the same loop over and over again while challenging yourself and the clock. The thing I love most about swimming (indoors and out) is the way you're alone with your thoughts in the swishing water. Just like running, I can work through most problems or ideas while I'm swimming, I've made lots of friends through swimming, and we all have in common one thing- we're athletes. We train just the same- we all do speedwork to get faster, do long open water swims to prepare for long distance events, and do maintenance swims just to keep things moving. There is nothing, NOTHING as liberating as conquering an open water swim in an ocean, lake, pond or some other body of water. I think if many people who dislike swimming took the time to see that swimmers are JUST like runners, they'd be more likely to embrace it or at least give it a try. Maybe the reflective goggles make us look less friendly...

Anyway, as I write this I'm toggling between typing and watching the tail end of the Manhattan Island Marathon swim as Mark Warkentin attempts to break the record set by Shelly Taylor-Smith in 1995 of 5:45. It is unbelievable to watch his little glo-stick moving up the Harlem River towards the finish at 112th in the pitch black. His attempt at the 28.5 mile swim has to evoke some sort of camaraderie among the running types who can certainly appreciate the hard work that goes into this type of race.

While I won't be tackling the Manhattan Island marathon swim or English channel anytime soon (or EVER for the channel), I do have some plans for longer swims in 2011 and I'm really looking forward to kicking up my swim training over the winter. I hope to have a little company for the training (even if you're in a kayak!)

With that, I have to go watch his final 45 blocks or so.. he has 30 mins and a 6 knot current on his side. Go Mark, Go!


  1. I personally love swimming! For me it's evolved, as a child it was my one of my activities and in summers it was my mainstay and then after many years of nothing but leisure dips into the water and/or sunbathing I returned for laps and to enjoy the water as another mode to strengthening my body and soul.

    Do you think many of those that dislike swimming actually have anxiety or a level of feeling scared about the water itself?

  2. I enjoy swimming, but it is very hard and I'm no good at it. However, I thoroughly enjoy it. Conquering it, without wetsuit or helpful current in Hudson River, in my Olympic tri this past summer, was awesome. For me, it is the ultimate challenge, unlike running and biking, which come naturally...

  3. Ah yes swimming. As one of those qualifying under not that good at it, I think there are a few things that also make swimming a challenge to me. Unlike running or biking, it's much more of a process - I can't just run out the door. There needs to be pool access, hours of availability, etc.

    However, when I do swim it's been enjoyable. I'll probably never be that good at it but it is a great feeling exiting the pool after a workout.

    That said, I'll be on the kayak;)

  4. I think you're right Maria, many people ARE scared of the water which is unfortunate, but only a reason to get some lessons and get in! It is scary to think that there are people who actually "can't" swim...what would they do if they fell in the water somewhere? Anyhow, I think swimming rocks because it is difficult and takes hard work (just like running) and people have this "mental block" with swimming and suggest that they are unwilling to try.
    As for it being a process, yep that's true sometimes. The funny thing is, it actually requires way less equipment (cap, goggles, suit, go!) than any of my other activities. I keep my stuff in my gym locker which makes it possible to just decide on a whim to go swim, something I can't do with running or biking.

  5. I see your point there...but it still doesn't solve the problem of pool access. Working til 5 or 6 I run into issues with the pool being used for classes or being extremely crowded which really takes away the relaxing/fun part. That, to me, becomes a process:) I guess it becomes a case of where your true passion is too!