Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Spring Swim Stunner!

For someone that does a fair amount of triathlons and endeavors to complete a full Ironman in September, I really don't swim that much. I usually get to the pool once a week and swim about a half hour, but once "training" starts to ramp up I might come twice and swim a longer distance one of those times.

Many events in our life come with little warning. When I jumped in the pool today I felt more happy with the utter sensation of being cool (day 20 without air conditioning) than I was concerned with swimming hard. In fact, I knew I was going to run tonight, so I thought I'd better take it easy.

Turns out I had one of my best swim sessions ever. I covered 1400 meters in 29:49, my best ever and second time I have gone under thirty minutes!

You might be interested in some historical perspective of my swimming at Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. It would seem that given my work location near uptown, it would be logical for me to swim at the Dowd Y, which is two blocks away. There are two main reasons I am not a member of the Y - the first is that they have only a standard sized pool, and perhaps the biggest reason is cost. Membership would be about $60/month for me, and I would hardly use any of the other facilities. Even through 2004 I was a member at the MCAC, and that was only around $32/month. The MCAC is an Olympic-sized pool (50 meters long course) and has a small exercise room with anything I would ever need.

I first came to the MCAC on September 10, 2003. As mentioned above, I was a passholder through 2004. This was certainly nice as there were no time restrictions and I got a nice white clean towel to use (Douglas Adams would have been happy there!). Given my usage patterns though, it makes even more sense to go a la carte with a $50 twelve use pass. I don't get the towel (but always heed the advice of Douglas Adams) and I can't swim during peak lunch and after work sessions, but those are things I'm willing to go without!

The ladies at the front have been so nice to me over the years, and I'm embarrassed as hell that I don't know their names. Once in the locker room I like to use locker 40 because it's the closest number to 42, which has been broken the entire time I have used these facilities. Over the years I have used several swim trunks, most of which have faded with the chlorine use, even with my "light" use. Since December of 2006 I've been using the Speedo Endurance, which is supposedly made of materials/finish to resist chlorine decay, and I've been quite happy. For those that laugh at the guys with the skimpy little suits, you will never see me wear one of those. For the public record, I am missing a section of my upper left leg. I love my beautiful graft that now resides there, but I never will show it in public.

I have logged 305 trips to the pool since then, of which 230 of those were actual swim workouts in the facilities. My regimen is highly structured to protocol, as I normally swim during my "lunch hour." Long course is only available to me Tuesday and Thursday mornings. By default Tuesday is my swim day. 75% of my visits are that day, and 25% on Thursday. Before swimming, I go into the "gym" and use two pieces of equipment to strengthen my hamstrings, which have always been my particular Achilles heel. When I'm there, for at least the last year 90% of the time there is an older gentlemen by the name of Cliff that I talk with. I don't think he even knows my name, but he always gives me a hard time about not showing up enough. Unfortunately my time in the room is short. I always weigh myself before leaving. There is then that moment of extreme discomfort when I pass through the warm pool enclosure. About 95% of the time the window of my arrival allows for use of my own lane.

Once at my lane I take off my shirt (it's required in the gym room and I have been busted for this!), place my towel nearby (Douglas Adams would again be proud), and slip out of my flip-flops. I stretch my arms and time myself to be in the water and ready when the large clock hits an even minute (I almost never use my own watch, and the MCAC clock has only been broken one or two times). Naturally if I hit it right at 00:00 that's cool, but what's this fascination we all have with round numbers?

The premise is that I swim as far as I can in thirty minutes. I never stop unless there is goggle-malfunction. The rule allows for me to begin another 100 meter lap (back and forth) if I come in before thirty minutes rolls around. In the beginning, this would generally allow me to do 12 laps (1200 meters). I have done this 23 times, with an average time of 30:42. My best time was 29:08 and my worse 40:30. On August 10, 2004 I began to step up to 13 laps (1300 meters). I have done this distance 95 times, with an average time of 30:46. My best time (in this cohort) was 29:25 and my slowest 32:13. On June 2, 2005 I completed my first 14 lap circuit (1400 meters). This is now the general default, although I have my slow days where I have to step back to 1300 meters. So far I have done this distance 38 times. The average time for completion is 31:09. The slowest day came in at 31:57, but that is naturally much better than reverting to 13 or dare I say 12 laps.

My gentle readers might be interested to know that I also do not employ a flipturn. I have never learned as I focus on the long lake swims. I generally don't watch the clock on each lap. I do break it into four lap sections, and that is always based on how well I am doing versus a "standard" 9 minute time frame. I also will note my time at the half, as I calculate my (inevitable?) slowdown for the second half.

On this particular day, it was only the second time that I came in under 15 minutes half way through. But it was oh so close at 14:59! The other time this happened last fall it was even faster at 14:52. But the real key here today was a negative split. Unlike the other time where I slowed down to finish at 29:54, I swam the second half in 14:50 to finish at 29:49. That works out to about 1:04 per 50 meter stretch. Pretty spiffy!

Once down I just take a minute or two to rest. I then pull myself out, gather my items and make straight for the showers. It seems lately there's always something weird going on. A couple of weeks ago there was a photo shoot going on. I can't understand why they didn't see my buff physique and ask me to stand in! This week it was the guy in the stall talking on his mobile. How gross. On my way out I might grab a local fitness magazine, but otherwise it back on to McDowell and up Morehead back to work.

How odd then that this PR comes on a rare Thursday! I couldn't make it to the pool on Tuesday as I was obliged to be in the field that morning. This meant though that I would have to consider running tonight as well. This would be the first workday of the year where I swam and then ran the same day. How sad is that?

Since Chris Cummins and his "harden the &$*# up" band had became their sojourn towards Idaho for their Ironman experience, a venerated group of running friends decided to instead of the normal run from Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, we would go to the actual Sharksbite run, now out of Charlotte Running Company. It has grown in size, even with Tim's sudden departure yet again to try living out in Colorado.

This was definitely a nostalgic experience. The crowd was quite large, mostly people I do not know. Our "traitorous" band consisted of Bruce, Chris, and Jocelyn. Marie was the only other person I knew. The 4.44 mile course was basically the old Thursday night run from East Boulevard Bar and Grill with some small variations and reversed loop. This is one tough course, and naturally there was much complaining in the earlier version. I lost the shirt and started out with Jocelyn and Chris. As we began the tortuous climb up Cumberland I pulled back and began my own journey. I slowly began to "pick" runners off but wasn't doing so on purpose. I was feeling quite strong given my amazing effort this morning. It was also hotter than I had hoped/expected. Still I ascended Ridgewood with determined effort and then rounded up to Princeton preparing the mother of torture on Forest Park. After the descent it was all uphill to the finish. I came in at 33:40, about a 7:34 minute mile pace effort.

Later at the finish my old neighbor (from my McDonald Avenue years) came up and we chatted for some time. I was very excited to hear that he had finished Charlotte's marathon last winter! Good for him. He talked about how I wouldn't even recognize the street, etc. I hope we can run together some time soon. The whole experience reminded me of the very early Thomas Street Tavern years. It was mostly a good feeling.

Even though there would be no group dinner with this option, I was excited to get home. I had a new DVD in the John Adams series that recently was on HBO. As a history buff, I've really enjoyed watching this mini-series! And it wasn't too hot that night in the house, so both Winston and I could actually (almost!) enjoy it.

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