in Swimming

The Early Morning Swim

My alarm goes off on Friday morning at 6am. I am a light sleeper, so even the slightest whisper of alarm wakes me up fully. I lay in bed for a few minutes, thinking of only one thing: how cold the water is going to be for that first lap around the pool.

Finally I drag myself out of the warm cocoon and stumble into the bathroom to pull on whatever I was wearing the night before. I eat a tasteless banana while staring vacantly at the floor. I don’t want this banana, my stomach doesn’t want it, my mouth doesn’t want it, but I know later, somewhere around yard 1,000, I’ll be very happy for this banana.

About fifteen minutes after the initial alarm bell, I’m closing the front door behind me and walking into the rainy darkness. The streets are silent as I get into the car; this is the one day of the week I willingly drive to work, as leaving the house this early on a bike to go straight up Marcam hill is just not happening.

I park and walk in; the front desk person is entirely too sunny. The radio voices in the locker room jumble around in my head and confuse me; I won’t be fully lucid for another couple of hours when I have my first cup of lifeblood coffee. I change and make my way to the pool; there is always at least one open lane, and I can’t help but shake my head at the people already leaving by the time I arrive. They must actually get here at 6am. I cannot comprehend this.

The worst part is about to come. I try not to think about it, but I dread it. I have my cap on, I put my goggles on, I have my watch turned on. Okay. I jump in the pool, and stand at the edge, and it’s fucking cold. Here we go. I start the timer and just jump and start swimming. If I didn’t time my swims, I would probably never get in the water, I would just stand there for 40 minutes. But the idea of my time being messed up on Strava from standing around is just not acceptable, so I always jump in immediately after starting the timer. Ego, at least it’s good for something.

The first two laps are thrashing; I’m just swimming as fast as I can to get my body temp up, form be damned. After that I slow down and actually do a proper warm up.

The night before I have written out my workout on an index card, in as clear a language as possible. I made the mistake of being somewhat confusing once, thinking I’d know what I meant–I wrote it after all, right? I had no fucking clue what I meant and did the workout all wrong. Not all cylinders are firing before 7am. If anything remotely unusual happens, I am just completely confused. The other day someone walked around the pool and out a door I’ve never seen anyone go out of before; since I only saw it out of the corner of my eye as I took breaths, I thought either that I was hallucinating or there was a ghost. Later I saw the person return with a cup of coffee and go into the little office. So, no ghosts, except the ones knocking around in my head.

I don’t think about anything while I swim, other then counting. Which I can’t do this early in the morning (have I mentioned it’s early?). I lose count of laps every other lap, so in the end I completely rely on my Garmin, which isn’t always totally accurate with the yardage. But it’s far better then depending on my muddled brain.

When I finally complete my workout, I get to enjoy the prize: sitting in the hot tub for 15 minutes, with the world’s best jets. This is about 90% of the reason I can handle this early morning wake up call. Hot tubs are great, but they’re so much better after a hard swim. If anything messes this part of my morning up, I am pissed. Yesterday the hot tub wasn’t hot because they put more water in it that morning. Not happy. A few weeks ago some dude started talked to me about my Garmin while I was trying to center jets on a knot. I thought to myself: I haven’t had coffee, it’s 7:30am, I’m in a bathing suit alone in a hot tub, I haven’t had coffee. Why the FUCK is a person speaking words to me WHY!? I left early. Not happy.

But most of the time, I leave the pool warm, my muscles both tired and relaxed, and I make my way to work. When I finally get that coffee in my hands and sit down at my desk, I have a few minutes of pure bliss, before I want to pass out but I can’t because now I have to work.