That day you stop counting laps

A longtime friend and fellow runner named Jeff Wheaton posted a photo of himself from the pool yesterday. He’s been rehabilitating from a foot injury and finally has permission to get back to Jeff Wheatonexercise. He went out and swam 40 laps. First time.

He wrote: “3 months to the date of my surgery, I shed the boot and swam 40 laps! Thankful for progress and all the people who have helped me from my surgery until now, starting with my surgeon, Dr. Tanawat. Thank you! ; )”

Jeff’s always been a good athlete. He ran a 10k around 30:30. So, no slouch. He also went to Wheaton College. So he’s a Wheaton Wheaton. He works in ministry in Burma.

But it was his example in the pool this week that inspired me to get in there and stop making up reasons why I can’t swim longer than 400 meters.

And it worked. I put in an 800 with no problem. And next week I plan to swim even longer. So it’s official. I can swim.

I’ll mark this down as the day I stopped counting laps. Swam by minutes and I know what pace I’m swimming, so it all added up to a great experience in the pool. Let the body do the work and didn’t grind down my brain trying to keep track of laps. I can imagine myself doing a mile or even two-mile open water swim someday. It’s take time, but like anything, it also takes a while for the imagination to keep up with the work. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

LegsOf course, the flip side is that I’ll keep counting laps as I work on my speed and pace now. But it gives you the confidence to swim faster when you know you can actually swim longer.

And by contrast, it gives you the confidence to swim longer when you know you can go faster. Two sides of a swimming coin. To go farther, you just go a little slower and spread out the effort. Feel the flow. It sounds so basic but you have to build the foundations through persistence to make even the basics possible. For some it’s tough to do the swim. For others, the bike is a vexation. And for many, it’s the run that is the killer.

I’ve come into the sport of triathlon in reverse. As a competitive runner I ran on teams in middle school, high school, college and post-collegiately for running shops. Then I took up cycling in the early 2000s, and was taking my first swim lesson in 2003 when I tore my ACL playing soccer. That squelched the triathlon plans. Rehab.

Then in 2007 I bought a real road bike and got into criterium racing. So the pieces were coming together. There were many days that bike was a rolling salvation from the caregiving necessary for my wife, who passed away from ovarian cancer in March 2013.

When I met my companion Sue, we went cycling on our second date. From there we’ve done many runs together, and have ridden thousand of miles here in Illinois and in the hills of Wisconsin. Now I’m finally able to swim well enough that I will consider joining the Masters program that swims at 5:30 am. Or maybe not. Ha ha. Early mornings. Cold water. Um, maybe.

Honestly, it is getting to the point where swimming is actually enjoyable for me. I plan to check in with my coaches (Sue mostly) to make sure I’m doing things right. But that first leg of an Olympic or even a Half Ironman looks extremely “do-able” now. That was the goal all along. Can’t beat that. //////// 🙂

And Jeff Wheaton, if you read this…God Bless you and your work in this world.



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: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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1 Response to That day you stop counting laps

  1. Valerie Blaine says:

    Counting laps is the only downside of swimming for me! Over the years I’ve devised mental tricks to help me count. I have to get in kind of a “zone” in my head. Often I write columns in my head while I swim, and totally lose track of my lap count. That’s kind of nice.

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