Rust never sleeps, but neither do swimmers

IMG_2598It’s been hot outside and Sunday presented an opportunity to perhaps gather our swim gear and take one last trip to Centennial Beach in Naperville. But by the time we go home from riding and a meetup with friends at Starbucks, it was 1:00 p.m. and the day felt squeezed enough.

So Sue and I parted ways for the afternoon to get things done on Labor Day weekend. I cleaned house for several hours and organized my closets, which resulted in a needed trip to Goodwill.

Then we got back together to grill and plan Labor Day itself. We have a party at 10:300 with Mojitos and Bloody Marys on the menu. Then it’s up to Wilmette for a family gathering and back home to share time with her kids as well.

But last night she said, “I’m getting up to swim tomorrow.” And I said. “I want to go along.”

That means getting up at 5:00 at the latest to make the trip to a local natatorium where Master’s Swim takes place. It’s a local high school long known for its swimming prowess. There are a few in our area like that. My alma mater in St. Charles was once a dominant swim program with a coach nationally known for his coaching ability. Several swimmers in that program have gone to the Olympic Trials and beyond.

It takes a ton of dedication to be a good swimmer. Swimming tens of thousands of meters a day requires lots of time. And you often have to rise early to do so. That’s true whether you’re a student or working.

IMG_2599My plan is to begin swimming at least two days a week. I have the fortunate flexibility to work remotely and thus, can arrange my schedule to swim and get back home easily in time for phone meetings and the like.

But I like the discipline and structure of workout times. That’s how I’ve lived life since I was the ripe old age of twelve. I need and want that structure. It’s the glue that holds me together.

Yes it can suck to have the obligatory rise and shine of a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call. But back when I had a paper route in the little town of Elburn, Illinois, I rose every day at 5;30 even when I was fourteen and fifteen years old.

Different PersonEven as a stupid kid at Band Camp I got up for the Polar Bear swim at 6:00 a.m. I don’t know why, other than it made me feel better than the other kids. I needed that at times. So perhaps it’s just a strained form of ego that makes me want to rise early and go work out.

This summer I’ve been a bit of a lazy butt. Not compared to some I suppose. The latest I’ve stayed in bed was 8:10 one more. Most other days I’m up by 6:30 at the latest. So it won’t be a shock to start up with swimming.

But it might take some time to get the rust off. The difference between 6:30 a.m. and 5:00 can feel quite profound.

And then there’s the swimming itself. This year I’ve made significant progress bettering my stroke. But pick up any swim magazine and you begin to appreciate that runners and cyclists have nothing on swimmers when it comes to obsessing about technique and proper form.

My God, I swear I’ve read some strange articles in those swim magazines at my GF’s house. Swimmers obsess about every body part positions. And then there are all those strokes to consider.

“HOW YOUR SPHINCTER CAN PROPEL YOU.”

“KNUCKLE YOUR WAY TO FASTER TIMES.”

“BALD MASTERS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE.”

“KISS YOUR ELBOWS AND IMPROVE YOUR FREESTYLE.”

Of course that last headline illustrates the problem with many swim techniques and drills. No one of normal build can kiss their elbows, but if you attend a swim lesson and ask a coach for advice, they often come up with insane things like that.

“How’s my stroke look, Coach…” I asked innocently.

“Well, we need to get you started on kissing your elbows,” he started out. “And licking the backs your knees would help as well. So take this board here, and hold it out like this…nice, now tread water until you run completely out of breath and turn into a panickly pile of flesh. Good, that’s perfect!”

Invented by Dr. Seuss, this swim training float is made by Tyr.

Invented by Dr. Seuss, this swim training float is made by Tyr.

Seriously, swim drills were all invented by sadistic people who with a foam object fetish. There are foam objects of all types and shapes at the pool, like kickboards and floats and whodats and bloats. Dr. Suess invented everything used by swimmers, you see.

Which is perfect, because everything swimming is a lot like a Suessical World in which none of the rules of gravity or modest behavior apply. For one thing, it’s not exactly normal for a human being to try to propel themselves through the water at high speeds. It’s a well-known fact that world champion Michael Phelps depended on prodigious amounts of weed to help him imagine swimming 100 meters in under what, 40 seconds or something insane like that.

He even swims 100 meters doing the Butterfly at insane speeds. But even Michael Phelps was a little rusty in his recent return to swimming. “I did what I had to do,” he said. “Afterward, I can say my stroke didn’t feel good, I needed one less stroke, I needed to kick more, the breakout on my turn was bad. I could pick apart the race a hundred different ways, but just getting in the water and racing was something I was looking forward to.”

World class swimmer Michael Phelps tries to splash off some of the rust following his return to the pool.

World class swimmer Michael Phelps tries to splash off some of the rust following his return to the pool.

Fans reported seeing a long streak of red rust coming off the frame of Michael Phelps. Hi keen rival Ryan Lochte, also an interesting character, blamed the high iron content in the water for his own slightly slower time in the race, but was enthusiastic that his pool buddy was back in the water after vowing that he would not return after the 2012 Olympics.

“I called him a liar,” Lochte said with a grin. “I said you’re going to come back, guaranteed. He’s like, ‘No I won’t.’ … When you do something for so long and you have that passion, when it goes away, you miss it.”

Proving that swimmers are even more insane that cyclists and runners combined. At least when other endurance athletes train, they get to see something along the way. All that swimmers see is the bottom of the pool or the top of the natatorium. And oh yeah, all the bodies of the other swimmers at the pool. So there’s that.

Swimmers are probably crazy and Seussical in many ways simply because they are sleep-deprived, and may have rust deposits on their brain due to all that time in the water. You never quite get all that liquid completely out of your ears, they say. So if you hear a swimmer say they’re feeling a little rusty in the water, they aren’t kidding. They really are.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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