In January I entered the Go The Distance fitness event with US Masters Swimming. Go The Distance is designed to provide motivation for regular workouts over the course of the calendar year. Sponsors provide small rewards for hitting particular milestones, but the object of the event is not so much a competition as it is a way to pay attention to a regular exercise routine. USMS designed it to aid swimmers with committing to a long-term goal and provides tools for helping to track progress over the course of a longer timeframe– certainly much longer than a given workout, or even a week or month. A year of swimming is a lot to keep track of. Today I reached my goal: Mackinac Island (333 miles away).
When I was setting this goal, I dissembled over just how far I felt comfortable swimming in 2012. I swam 215 miles in 2011– my first year back of semi-regular swimming– and only the last three months of that included any time with the Masters team. So for 2012, I played around with a total distance somewhere between what I knew I could do from the previous year and that magical “mile a day” total of 366 miles. In January of 2012, 366 miles seemed very far away. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t use 365 miles for my upper limit, I point out the fact that 2012 was a leap year. There was an extra day to swim this year, and consequently I argued a true “mile a day” total must account for that extra day.) 366 miles is over 70% further than what I had accomplished the year before.
I considered my the ramp-up approach in 2011. At the beginning of the year I was swimming three times a week for a total of 3000-4000 yards. By the time December came around I was swimming five times a week and averaging 11000-12000 yards in the same timeframe. I knew was not going to triple my yardage again in 2012. Initially I planned on a total of 500 km (311 miles) and after a few months, I realized that I was on pace to hit that goal sometime in mid-October, but would probably fall short of 366 miles by the end of the year. That’s when the idea hit me to set my goal distance to be identical to the distance of the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac: 333 statute miles (536 kilometers, 290 nautical miles).
And now, today, I have accomplished that goal.
Along the way I swam in three meets: Evanston Masters Meet, Illinois State Meet and Big Shoulders. I tried open water swimming for the first time in my life. I took my wetsuit with me to Lake Tahoe and swam in that 54° water. I missed at least a dozen workouts in September while I recovered from a serious bout of bronchitis. And I still hit my goal two weeks ahead of schedule. Most recently I’ve been promoted out of my lane with the Blue Dolphins; I’m now swimming with the “fast kids”. I’m the slowest of the fast kids, but I’m swimming with them.