On New Years Eve I went to the pool. It was empty when I got there, save for a half asleep lifeguard who looked very disappointed to see me. I sat on the deck and put my toes in. The water was warm.
"What's the pool temp" I startled the lifeguard with my question.
"Uhh...85 degrees?" he answered unconfidently.
"Pretty warm!" I shouted, and slid into the water.
I want to go under 1:00 minute in the 100 yard breaststroke. That is my goal. I have never done it before. The minute barrier holds a special place in swimming. Most people can remember their struggle at sometime or another to get under it in one stroke or another.
I am 33 years old. Old enough to feel my body's limitations more acutely, even as my mind expands. Young enough to still feel some hope that I can be faster than I ever have. Two years younger than Anthony Ervin, I like to remind myself. I am married, have a three year old daughter and work for myself as a private swimming coach and consultant.
The only place I have to swim is a four lane, occasionally very warm, 25 yard pool that takes a half hour by train and foot to get to. I am busy, busy trying to build a business so that my family can pay rent, make student loan payments, afford some childcare and occasionally go out to dinner with my wife.
This is not a new year's resolution. I started to go after this at some point around Thanksgiving, when I finally started to get back "in shape" and found myself scanning for meets to enter in. I'm just posting about it in 2017 because, well, I figure it's still in the spirit of the new year.
A Brief History of My Swimming Life
I started swimming at age nine. My story is different from every Olympian you've ever heard of, namely because I was terrible and I'm fairly certain I got dead last in every meet for the first two years of my swimming career.
Then, improbably, I turned into a pretty good age group swimmer. Some early puberty and the right coach meant that I swam pretty fast, at least for New England, when I was 14 years old. I won the age group title in the 200 breaststroke for 13-14 in 1998 in a thrilling come from behind victory. I swam 2:16.
Eight years later as a college senior I swam 2:15. I got a lot speedier in the meantime, with my 100 improving in fits and starts. I had a three year period where I barely improved, a year of improvement, and two more years of no improvement before I finally got within striking range of 1:00. I swam 1:00.6 my junior year of college.
I didn't improve my senior year. After college I kept swimming, aimlessly and by myself. When I became a college swim coach, I kept it up. At first I tried to mimic the workouts that I did as a college swimmer, until I realized that I hated them.
So I tried something else. I showed up, warmed up, worked on my stroke. Then I sprinted a few 25s or 50s. Two years out of college, and fresh off watching the 2008 Olympic Trials, I decided to enter a meet. I went a lifetime best in LCM 100 breaststroke by two seconds.
I spent the next two years coming ever closer to the 1:00 line. Ultimately, at the 2010 Short Course Masters Nationals I went a 1:00.10. I competed a couple more years but never came that close again. Then I moved to a foreign country, had a kid and almost stopped swimming altogether. A year or so ago I started the embarrassing return to training swimming again.
My experience in my mid-20s was that almost no swimming training was better than anything I did in college. Now I am using race pace training to actually "train" for the first time in my life.
Don't Go It Alone
I have not practiced consistently with a team or even anybody else since graduating college in 2006. I am at least 90% to blame for that. Despite but also because of the fact that I know better, I practice by myself.
I know that this goal is a lot more likely if I have other people involved. I want help- people to coach me, people to be accountable to. I can be really annoying to coach, if only because I have my own ideas about how to train.
So who's in? My aim is not to just selfishly hoard whatever I learn through taking on this challenge, but to pass it on and promote those who give me that little extra through this blog. I'll be updating on the project monthly for those that want to follow and learn with me.