This day irks me. I am always stuck between "it's just another day, move along move along" and "I should reflect, I should look back, look forward". I'm somewhere off center, leaning towards it's just another day. Last year I heard that some Masters groups like to swim 100x100 on New Years Day. This year the Masters group at my local Athletic Club put together a 100x100 swim session so I invited Michelle. Troy and Annie even decided to come and swim around, play in the snow as well.

I wondered if it would be held in the indoor pool or the outdoor pool. One of the big reasons I joined the Greenwood Athletic Club (I know you think it's so I could see John Elway work out on a regular basis) was because it has the only year round outdoor pool in Denver. I am always "trying" to make swimming a more enjoyable experience, and in a land-locked state, that task takes a lot of imagination. I wasn't too surprised when everyone headed outdoors. It was 20 degrees today. At least it kept us swimming faster.

I didn't know how many I could do. I'm coming off some heavily reduced volume and quite a bit of rest. The instructions from Chuckie were to get in, see how we feel, and swim until our form started falling apart.

The group had broken the 100x100 into sets of 10x100 with a different protocol for each set. Some were pull, some kick, some descending, some had stroke in them. Check out that snow, brrrr!

I gotta say, as much as I feel like an "insider" when I run, I feel like such an "outsider" when I swim. When I arrive at a group swim setting, especially at my club I know I am the slowest there. I immediately relegate myself to some sort of lane with a wall. I was lucky today that "Joe" hopped in with me, so I had some company for a few thousand, this is extremely rare. I'm such a social person, but when I swim, I feel lonely most the time. PIC was there but she was 4 lanes up, tucked in the middle of all the good swimmers, firmly planted safely inside the click that is the "fast swimmer cool kids".

Nobody means to be exclusive, they are all very very nice people, and very very fast swimmers. It's just one of those situations where you show up to a group thing, and you are the slowest. It automatically lands you as an outlier, someone on the fringe. You can't make the intervals. When people are chatting at the wall, you are madly swimming. When you get to the wall, everyone is long gone.

And it reminds me to make sure that the people who show up to group functions that I organize are made to feel special and included. Just a reminder for me personally. We are all out there to have fun, and to get better, but it reminds me that everyone is looking for a little validation at times, a little inclusion so to say.

I was glad that Troy was there. I think others may have wondered who was the "hovering helicopter husband" with the 5 year old dressed in snow pants in 20 degree weather hanging out on the swim desk, but let me tell you, it was nice to have a smiling face watching me, and nodding a lot. Annie would walk along the deck and keep pace with me as I swam and she would smile at me. That was a real treat today.

So I got going into things and really I just plodded through things. I focused on my form, reaching long, then reaching deep. Holding the water I found, trying my best to push it backwards. I focused on relaxing what didn't need tensing, using the muscles I'm supposed to be using when I swim. It was so crazy above water with the splashing, the steam, the snow, but so peaceful below water.

My view above water

And my view below...sometimes you have to look deeper for things to become clear.

I was happy to say that about 60 in I still felt pretty good. Tired, but good. 61-70 was a kick set and I threw away my flippers a couple days ago so those were painfully slow. 71-80 I let myself use pull buoy/paddles. Those were on 1:45 and went by quickly but I could really tell that my arms were tired. My form felt like it was breaking and my arms hurt in a sore way.

When I finished 80, everyone else was done with 100. I had these illusions of grandeur of me finishing all 100, all alone, and in 4 hours. But 3:10 of swimming and 80 was good enough for me. It's not like me to "quit", but I had instructions from Chuckie, and my form was degrading, and I'm not going to do something stupid just getting back into the swing of things. Did I feel lame? Not really. Was it a new place for me to be in...not going the longest? Kinda.

So, on New Years Day, when I could think of a few things I would rather be doing, this was good. I'm going to need to get used to the loneliness and sometimes awkwardness I feel when I swim because I have a lot of swimming to do this winter.

I'm trying to not get a complex about my swim. I swam really hard last winter. I swam a 24 min mile in the State Masters meet in April of 2010, and then it seemed that through the season my swim just slipped backwards to where it had always been. I could pull out some fast sets in the middle of the season but my racing in the open water, and my confidence in the pool remains lackluster, at best.

I want to reaffirm myself this year to swim more/harder/better/whatever, and I don't want to be cynical or sarcastic about it. I'm not one to make resolutions, but I do look to the New Year this year to give me a new zest for the pool. I found a way to enjoy it in the winter of 2010 and I'm going to have to search to awaken that flame. It's like my view of the pool today. I feel like I'm only looking above water, like I'm only feeling the splashing, and the fog and the snow and the WTF am I doing here feelings. I need to find a way to look beneath the water. To find the calm, the serenity and the beauty in my own practice.

I try to compare it to running, something I am more familiar with. In running I know that a 9 min miler is not going to become a 7 min miler without a hell of a lot of work, and not just any work, but the right work, at the right time, with the right rest, and the right shoes, and the right frame of mind. Even then it's super rare for me to see someone actually make it happen. And that depresses me about the swimming.

But then I also know that the jump I need/want to make is about 11% which is taking a 9 min miler to an 8 min miler. That is something I see as doable within a year, but again, lots of hard work, no missed sessions, and the work must be the right work. So there is hope, I think.

Troy said if you don't give it your all then you never know if you would have gotten faster. We all know what happens if you don't try. If you do try your hardest you may or may not get faster, but there will be no unanswered questions in your head. And that is my style, that's how I roll.

So, it's 80x100 to start off the season. We will consider these 80x100's many tiny steps to stripping away what I am scared of, stripping away my nervousness in a pool setting. I will let them be a metaphor for a new start, a renewed start, and fresh start. And somehow I will try to see beneath the water, where things are calm, and beautiful.

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