Archives for category: Swimming

We’re approaching the end of the year. Time I start taking stock of what’s happened over the past year and start thinking of goals for the next one. But first, a graph. The blue line is day-to-day weight, the red is a 30-day average. Each gray horizontal axis line is ten pounds. Each gray vertical axis line is six months.

Weightloss Timeline :: 2013-2015

I’ve lost another ten pounds since my March update. This brings the overall total to more than seventy pounds. More importantly, I’ve stabilized my weight. The 30-day average is nearly flat with only minor fluctuations. The variance is smaller than five pounds up or down.

I feel great.

For positive reinforcement I took advantage of some Father’s Day sales to pick up a new wardrobe. When the sales clerk asked me what I was looking for, I answered, “Make me look like Don Draper.”

Don Draper

This accomplished two things. First, I updated my wardrobe. Most of the dress clothes I owned were twenty years out of style. Second, I now have a tangible reinforcement point to stay on target with my health. The clothes are a constant reminder of where I should be. If I can no longer fit into them, I’m doing something wrong– undoing a great deal of hard work in the process.

Confidence. Style. Swagger.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and this is a way to express it.

In other news, On Monday I hit my 2015 Go The Distance goal. On Sunday, I swam in the 3rd Annual Tri Right Masters Candy Cane Swim Meet and brought home some hardware.

  • 200 IM: 2:43 [First]
  • 50 Breast: 0:39 [First]
  • 50 Free: 0:30 [Third]
  • 200 Free: 2:26 [Second]

During the meet I met some swimmers from another Masters team in the city. They invited me to join them for practice. I may have found a new team. It could be the beginning of a great adventure.

8:07:26 AM

The official race review for Big Shoulders 2013 was titled “Splitting the Uprights”. This reference to the first week of Bears football really was about the perfect conditions on Ohio Street Beach. The National Weather Service had issued rip tide warnings for the Thursday and Friday leading up to the Saturday swim. On Saturday, amazingly, the winds died. The sun came out. The water temperature came in at a wonderful 72°F. The morning air temperature started in the low 70s and ended in the 80s. The water was glass– calmer than I have ever seen it. Much calmer than last year. And then this morning, the day after the race, the National Weather Service issued a fresh set of rip tide warnings. Friday: Scylla. Sunday: Charybdis.

Call me “Odysseus”. This year I came to the race as a veteran. I’ll admit to some degree of anxiety, but this year I told myself I’d done it before. This year was not just about completing, but about competing. Improving on last year. Hitting my goal time. Improving my position in the placing. It was also my only competitive event this year. I didn’t swim the State meet in Glenview. Or any other meet for that matter. This was it for me. And I wanted to do well.

I learned a lot from last year. I anticipated the chaos of the start and the importance of swimming straight– particularly on that first leg out to the breakwater. My sighting was better. I was able to draft for some stretches. My pace felt comfortable. Training and practice paid off.

Here are the numbers.

This personal best was 8m40s faster than last year. I moved up 91 places overall, 14 places in my age group. I pushed it on the last leg heading back to the beach, and I came out of the water looking like this.

9:32:30 AM

Again, I want to thank Whirl and my mom coming out early in the morning to cheer me on and take photographs. And another thank you to all my friends and family who gave their support over the year. I’m planning on doing it again next year.

Thank you!

Cisco Live! 2013 Orlando

I spent this past week in Orlando at Cisco Live! 2013. The first time I went to this convention, it went by the name Networkers and was held in Denver. That was 1998. I attended Networkers the next year in Vancouver and Whirl came along with me. We tacked a few extra days on at the end to play tourist. A lot of things change in 15 years. The attendance back in the late 90s, at the height of the dot-com boom was still only about 3000 people. Every CCIE proudly wore a leather jacket with their number embroidered on it. I was still wet behind the ears, wide-eyed and naïve.

Now I suppose I’m older. More grizzled. Less impressed by flashy things and more interested in practical knowledge that will improve my work. My boss suggested I go this year. He attended two years ago, and knew that there is real value to be obtained– and that there is some fun to be had as well. So I booked up my class schedule, found a hotel, booked a flight and set off.

I also packed my swimsuit and my Blackhawks sweater. The suit was so I could practice with Team Orlando Masters at the YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive. The sweater was because game six (and game seven, if necessary) of the Stanley Cup Finals would be played while I was there. And I was glad for both of them. I got two practices in with the Orlando Masters, and on Monday night a made a bunch of new friends at Miller’s Ale house. We turned the beer garden into our own Stanley Cup Finals party. At the end of the night we must have played “Chelsea Dagger” on the jukebox at least nine times in a row.

I attended sessions every day starting around 7:30 and going until about 5:30 or 6:00. Everything from radio frequency specifications and antennae design to the latest features in Cisco’s newest datacenter switches– a monster of a thing that will push 83 terabits/second through the switching fabric. I went to the big customer appreciation event on Wednesday night at Universal Studios– where we closed out the park and had a private, catered party for the 20000 people in attendance. I toured the World of Solutions expo where hundreds of various tech companies had booths set up. It was quite enlightening, nearly ten times the size of my previous visits.

Anyway. that’s enough preamble. Here are a few of the koans of wisdom I gathered from my four days at Cisco Live! 2013.

  • Connecting disconnected things allows those things to communicate (who knew?)
  • Journey without Steve Perry should be called Journey on My Wayward Son
  • Compute is a noun
  • Bathroom inequality is real; I just hadn’t truly experienced it before
  • Resonate (n): superficial consideration of allegedly meaningful propositions
  • EIGRP-OTV is super-cool
  • NX-OS accounting logs can save your bacon
  • 58 seconds can last a lifetime
  • Filling your keynote speech with an over-abundance of buzzwords is a surefire way to clear a room of network engineers; simultaneously offering free food and beer elsewhere multiplies the effect dramatically
  • The Kool-Aid sometimes tastes funny
  • Cafe Tu Tu Tango is wonderful; you should have dinner there

Mackinac Island

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.

What’s next?

In late June, I made the decision to compete in the Big Shoulders 5K open water race. The race wasn’t until the end of summer, and since summer had only just begun, the end of it was a long time to go. Far too long to get worked up about. We’re talking June, and the race wasn’t until the second weekend in September. I mean, when I was a kid one summer was the equivalent of seven years! Maybe even more. One summer was a lifetime.

Well, June became July. July became the trip to Lake Tahoe, and before I knew it I was two weeks out from the race and asking my lane mates, Stephanie and Bernice, if they might be interested in skipping the usual open water practice and swim a test run from Ohio Street Beach to Ladder 1 and back. I figured that would be a fair approximation the Big Shoulders 5K distance. So we did. And I finished it. And I didn’t drown. (Whirl was happy for that.) I swam my regular practices in the pool, finished the last couple open water swims of the year and kept a watchful eye on the weather.

I put together this map of several of the Ohio Street Beach swim courses.

  • 1 mile course from the beach to Oak Street and back (blue)
  • 50 m sprints between the half-mile mark and the first ladder (red)
  • 2.6 mile loop from the beach to Ladder 1 (blue)
  • 2.5 km loop course for Big Shoulders (green)

Since March, the weather has been unseasonably warm. That’s kept the lake at very comfortable temperatures: ranging between 74 and 83F. I quickly learned that at those temperatures no wetsuit is required. That’s a good thing, because despite my child bride’s generous birthday gift of a new suit, I find swimming in a wetsuit an unnatural experience. I also learned that it doesn’t take much to radically change the water temperature. A good storm can churn things up so that the temperature drops 10 degrees or more in a day. I’m comfortable at 74F. 64F, not so much.

So for the ten days leading up to the race, I kept checking the weather. Day after day, everyone was reporting the same thing. Tom Skilling gleefully described a lengthy series of pleasant, sunny 85-degree days. Right up until Saturday. Race day. Skilling predicted a dramatic cold front would sweep in the night before the race that would drop the air temperature almost thirty degrees, bring rain and a strong, cold wind out of the north. You know, ideal conditions for swimming in a Great Lake. “Oh well,” I said to myself. “Can’t do much to change the weather. Not much use in worrying about it.”

Against the Waves

Saturday morning came and part of the weather prediction was true. The air temperature had dropped dramatically, but the clouds failed to materialize. And while mom, Whirl and I rode the bus to the beach, I allowed the optimistic thought that maybe the wind wouldn’t appear either. When we got to the beach, I saw my mistake. The wind — now blowing about 10-15 mph out of the northwest — was bringing in 1-2 foot rollers right down the lakeshore along the last leg of the course. So, if nothing else, we had that going for us: we would be able to bodysurf our way into the finish. And the water was not as rough as I had swam in over the summer. Hell, it was significantly worse when we did the run to Ladder 1 two weeks earlier.

But the sun was out. The Ohio Street Bouy was reporting water temperature at 75F.

I Y W tI met up with my teammates from Chicago Blue Dolphins. We worked our way through registration, picked up our goodie bags, got marked up with our numbers, attached timing chips to our ankles and waited impatiently for the course talk. At some point we started stretching with Bernice’s “I Y W t” routine and Whirl was there with the camera to capture us in the act. Stretch your arms up straight like you’re forming the letter “I”. Then “Y”. Then “W” then finally a lower-case “t”. Accompanying the stretch with a silly grin is strongly encouraged.

Before long the lifeguards took to their rowboats and took positions around the course. The elite first wave took to the water for the start. I should note here that this year’s qualifying time for that first wave was 1:08:00. Nearly three miles-per-hour.

And just a few minutes later I made my way into the water out to the start. With a rather subdued electronic beep, we were off. And the first major difference between a pool start and an open water start became intimately familiar. Pool starts, each swimmer has their own lane. There’s no contention for water or air. No one kicks you in the face or the chest. You don’t smack anyone else across the skull and you reach forward. It’s very controlled and civilized. An open water mass start isn’t. It’s a blinding churn of arms and legs and murky water. And I just hoped that I would travel along with most everyone else in the general direction of that first marker without losing my goggles.

Wave 3

By the time I rounded that first marker, my wave had stretched out and I was cruising along without difficulty other than the second major difference between open water swimming and pool swimming. In the lake there are no lane lines to either side, no painted lines on the bottom. Nothing. Now I’d practiced this arcane art of “sighting” all summer in our open water practices but somewhere in the excitement of the moment, I seemed to have forgotten most of what I’d learned. I swam pretty wide on several of the legs. That’s one of the areas I can definitely improve upon for next time.

After the start, the remainder of the swim fell into a comfortable rhythm. I was passed by a few swimmers from the waves behind me, and I passed a few people in the waves ahead of me. My goal was to finish the race in 1:45:00, with a stretch goal of finishing in 1:30:00. Official results were posted online in the afternoon:

1:33:50Not Ryan Lochte calibre, but I am extremely pleased. A couple points of comparision: Adam Dawkins (0:59:25) was the overall winner, Barbara Richter (1:01:51) was top finisher for the women and second only behind Dawkins. Daniel Hamzik, 69, (1:25:24) was the oldest swimmer in the race to post a finishing time in the 5K, beating my time by eight minutes. John Le Bourgeois, 74, posted a 0:53:09 in the 2.5K race. Three 60-year old women finished the 5K, Laurie Tanimura (1:34:55) was the fastest in that division. In my division, Men 40-44, there were eight of us between 1:30 and 1:34. And across all divisions there were 55 swimmers in that time range. Which tells me while I’m not the fastest by a longshot, I’m right there in the middle of things. And that gives me a great boost of confidence and inspiration to try it again next year. It really was a blast.

I’d like to thank Whirl and my mom for coming out early in the morning to cheer me on and all my friends and family who gave their support over the summer. It was exciting challenge and I am really happy to have done it.

Thank you!

I spent Saturday and part of Sunday at the UIC Flames Natatorium for the ILMSA State Meet. I swam five events in total, three of them relays. If I discount my times from when I swam as a kid, I posted personal best times in both individual events. Two of my relay split times were consistent, and one was impossibly off (0:20.45), so I’m sure that’s not accurate.

  • Mixed 200 Medley Relay (Free) : 0:31.09
  • Men 200 Free (seed 2:36.00) : 2:29.39
  • Men 100 Breast (seed 1:32.00) : 1:23.58
  • Men 200 Free Relay (3rd) : N/A
  • Mixed 200 Free Relay (3rd) : 0:31.84

I had intended only to swim on Saturday after failing to meet the registration deadline for the 500 Free which ran on Sunday. Fitz, my coach, asked if I could sub for a leg of the Mixed 200 Free Relay, so I agreed to come back. I did a long warmup and cooldown around the race and turned Sunday into an abbreviated version of my weekend practice.

The Chicago Blue Dolphins entered 19 swimmers in the meet, and that was a huge difference between my experience in Evanston where I was the sole representative and here. The team hung out together between events, encouraged each other, posed for pictures and generally contributed to that spirit of camaraderie that had been missing the first time around.

Whirl came along and cheered me on. Spencer and Templar came out to spend the afternoon at the pool and cheer as well. Once again, my squad of loyal fans adopted my (much speedier) work colleague, Brent, and cheered for him, too. Brent was the sole representative for his team at the state meet.

I know I’ve got some work to be competitive in my age group, but I am seeing steady progress on my times. I dropped seven seconds from the time on 200 Free I posted in Evanston. I dropped nine seconds off my practice time-trial seed time on the 100 Breast. My 100 yard split in the 200 Free was only a second slower than my goal time for the year in that event and the entire time for the event was only three seconds off my goal pace for the year.

Before the meet on Sunday, I stopped by Niqui’s house to try on a used men’s wetsuit she is interested in getting rid of. As Doug Sohn — of Hot Doug’s — proudly states, “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats’, my friend.” After 15-20 minutes of wrestling with the wetsuit I successfully transformed myself into an ostensibly buoyant encased meat. Or a penguin.

I went through all of the trials of the wetsuit as a prerequisite to attempting some open water swimming later this year. There are a couple of events on the horizon that I’m considering where a wetsuit could be useful besides just practicing in Lake Michigan, Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake this summer:

Now, get back in the pool!

I got to thinking about the 2012 Go the Distance event I signed up for at the beginning of the year. I mentioned it a while back. Since January I’ve been keeping track of my progress and most recently I’ve tweaked my goal a little bit. I was thinking about a way to visualize my progress beyond what I could see in a spreadsheet or a chart. That got me thinking about how far 500 kilometers really is. I started looking at maps, and it turns out the length of Lake Michigan is pretty close to that same distance.

A bit of research here and there and I found the course map for the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac. It is the oldest annual freshwater distance sailboat race in the world. 536 kilometers (333 statute miles, 289.4 nautical miles) from Chicago, starting just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac Island, Michigan. After I read that, I had my goal. I could swim to Mackinac. Not all at once, mind you, but over the course of a year, I could make it. Follow along.

At the end of each month, I am adding a checkpoint along the route. I am also marking when I hit certain recognized milestone achievements. My ultimate goal is to reach Mackinac Island by the end of the year.

If you’d like something a little more immediate, the ILMSA State Meet is next weekend: April 19-22. It will be held at the UIC Flames Natatorium in the Physical Education Building at UIC. This is the same location where I swim with my team. I’m excited to see how I do. Thursday and Friday are in the evening only: 1000 Free; I’m not attempting that this time around. I am swimming two individual events on Saturday:

  • Event 14: 200 Free
  • Event 18: 100 Breast

It’s highly likely my coach will place me in a relay as well, either the 200 Medley or the 200 Free. I toyed with the idea of swimming the 500 Free on Sunday, but by the time I got around to registering for the meet the 500 Free was already closed. Cheer my teammates and me on if you like. Should be quite a show with some very fast swimmers entered into the meet.

Reserve your seats, now! The ILMSA State Meet is two months away. I know this because the pool where I practice on Tuesday evenings, the UIC Flames Natatorium, has been reconfigured from the eight-lane 50 meter long course pool to an eight-lane 25 yard short course pool. Teammates have informed me this happens every year and the pool will remain in this configuration through April.

At first I thought that’s too bad, I’d really come to enjoy swimming in the long pool. Then I considered the upside. I’ll have the advantage of regularly swimming in the competition pool for several weeks before the big meet. I decided back in January to give the State Meet a shot. And to prepare myself, I swam three events in the Evanston Meet in late January. Despite a vicious case of nervousness, I managed to acquit myself without an overly undue amount of embarrassment. I swam three events and turned in three personal best times, beating my seed times in each event if we don’t count my DQ in the 100 Free due to a rolling start. I did say I was nervous, right? Anyway, here are my results from the Evanston Masters Swim Meet on January 22nd.

  • 100 Free : 1:12
  • 50 Breast : 0:39
  • 200 Free : 2:36

Whirl woke up with me at Oh God-thirty, came along and cheered me on. My friends Farmboy, Princess, Spencer and Templar came out to spend the morning at the pool and cheer as well. It felt great! Incidentally, my squad of loyal fans adopted my (much speedier) work colleague, Brent, and cheered for him, too.

The whole experience got me thinking about setting some actual goals for the upcoming year and see how close we come to hitting them. To that end, Niqui turned me on to the USMS program: Go The Distance.

Go the Distance is a self-directed program intended to encourage Masters swimmers to regularly exercise and track their progress. There is no time limit for the distance milestones, except that they must be achieved in the calendar year 2012. GTD is on the honor system– you track the distance you swim. […] When you achieve certain milestones, ranging from 50 miles through 1500 miles, you will be recognized on the U.S. Masters Swimming website and will receive special prizes from Nike Swim, our event title sponsor for the event.

Initially I wavered on a target distance. First I thought a mile a day. Since 2012 is a leap year, that would mean 366 miles. When I compared that goal to the yardage I turned in for 2011 (216 miles), I decided perhaps I should scale back a bit. — I settled on the distance of half a million meters. That translates to a little more than 310 miles but sounds so much more impressive. Right!?

So that’s one goal. Now I’m looking at my times and thinking of some others. I’d like to be able to compare where I am now to where I was at my peak at 18 or 19, I’m just not sure I have any of those times anywhere. I’ll have to look around. Anyway, that may not be terribly realistic at this stage, so I’ll focus on something that is more in line with my current performance. I’d love to drop my 500 Free time below seven minutes, shave a couple seconds off my 100 Free and see if I can get a competitive time in the 200 Free. As far as stroke events, I’m less certain, but faster is always better.

So let’s stretch it out a bit. Without further ado, here are some goal thoughts for 2012:

  • 100 Free : 1:08
  • 200 Free : 2:26
  • 500 Free : 6:55
  • 1000 Free : 14:20
  • 1500 Free : 21:30
  • 100 Back : 1:20
  • 50 Breast : 0:37
  • 100 Breast : 1:16
  • 200 IM : 2:34
  • One hour nonstop distance : 4100 yards
  • Total distance : 500000 meters

I’m not expecting to hit all (or even any) of these goals at the State Meet, but hopefully come December I will have achieved a few of them and pushed myself to set some new ones.

See you in the pool!

So it’s been a year of swimming regularly. I started thinking about it as something to do to augment my regular exercise and after a year I’ve found that swimming has not only taken over but I just sent in a registration form to compete in an honest-to-God swim meet. And not some little fuck-around meet, either. A big one. With blocks and timing pads and everything! It’s kind of a big deal.

As I was sealing up the envelope with my registration form inside I started asking myself how I got here. What changed? And what had I actually accomplished along the way. I’m not sure what exactly changed, other than enjoying it. It was fairly simple to alter the workout routine to substitute swimming for my typical cardio work. As I re-familiarized myself with the pool, I did it more and more, and the elliptical less and less. I started off swimming 1000 yards on my lunch hour, two or three times a week. Now I’m swimming five days a week, three days on my own and twice a week with a USMS team. I’m averaging 14000 yards a week– about five times what I started doing.

So there’s that. What’s more I started keeping track of things as the year progressed. I mean, it’s swimming. You go up the lane, you flip around and you come back down the lane. Up and back, up and back, up and back. It’s not the most exciting of exercises.

For several months I swam the same workout each time. I started with five 200 Free on whatever it took to do them. When I completed five of them, I congratulated myself, got out of the pool and walked around feeling virtuous the rest of the day. As I got stronger, my times dropped and I could complete the workout in less time. Eventually I added a sixth 200 Free, but by that time I was pretty bored.

So I watched the clock. I started playing games with myself. Can I do this 50 in less than a minute? Can I string a set of three 200 Free on the 4:00 together without completely gasping out? Can I catch that guy swimming a lane over? I think it was that last one that did it. Having those little imaginary races in my head with other people in the pool. They didn’t know they were racing me. Or maybe they did; I don’t know. Maybe they were doing the same thing to me. We never talked about it.

I started tinkering with my workout. I tried to remember the workouts from when I was a kid– that was fruitless. I turned to online to look for help, and initially that was only mildly helpful. Workouts are all over the place in terms of intensity, distance and goals. Triathlons have become popular forms of exercise and there are a number of suggestions for workouts as part of triathlon training. I looked at some of those and mixed things up a bit, but nothing really fit right. Eventually I discovered a website run by some Kiwis out of New Zealand that provided customized workouts. Swimplan asks you to enter some basic information about yourself, your swim ability and your facilities and then kicks out up to five workouts every day for you to choose from. By this point I was swimming regularly five days a week: three times during the workweek and twice on weekends. I signed up, punched in my basic numbers and waited to see what it would suggest. It kicked out at 2200 yard workout, nearly double what I had been swimming on a daily basis. But the workout was broken down into sections: warm up, build up, core and warm down. It had sets. It had intervals. It suggested appropriate rest and intensity levels. It was, essentially, a stand in coach.

And I ate it up. I took that first workout with me to the pool and was through it much faster than I had anticipated. And I felt great afterward. I thought I would be completely gassed after doubling my workout. I wasn’t. Over the next few months I refined my information, added time trial data. I bought some paddles and a pull bouy so I could drill with those. Swimplan supplies appropriate drills depending on what equipment you tell it you have.

Swimming was very much part of my daily routine. Whirl commented that if I went too many days without swimming, I would grow crabbier and irritable. Complete a workout and I would return to calm, cool and collected. Endorphins are amazing that way. I got to know a few of the regular swimmers at the pool, people I ran into every week. In more than a few conversations, it was suggested that I look into Masters swimming. In mid-October I followed up on those suggestions and I’ve been very happy about that decision ever since.

The end of the year has been plagued by some facilities problems with my regular lunchtime gym. The pool has been intermittently out of commission starting in November. So an added benefit of joining the team is that team practice has given me another outlet while the gym tries to fix their pool.

My highlight accomplishment has to have been the Hour of Power workout in late December. The workout was very simple: swim non-stop for an hour. They kept track of our distance and recorded our time at the end of every 50. I swam 3850 yards in an hour, approximately 2.2 miles. And what is more impressive is that I kept a much steadier pace than I could have hoped for.

Some accomplishments over the past year swimming:

  • Weight Loss : 43 pounds
  • Weight Loss : 6 inches off my waist
  • One hour nonstop distance : 3850 yards
  • 100 Free : 1:13
  • 200 Free : 2:41
  • 500 Free : 7:23
  • 1000 Free : 15:26
  • 100 Back : 1:35
  • 100 Breast : 1:36

I plan to use those results to build some goals for the next year. But before that, it’s off to the races!

(Timothy Clary/AFP Photo)

In January I started swimming regularly for the first time in about twenty years. When I wrote about it at the time I said that I wasn’t swimming for competition; I said that I was just doing it for myself. And I think I meant that. Now it’s ten months later and I’ve been steadily adding more and more to my workouts and swimming has pretty much taken over from my other exercise routine. I started off swimming 1000 yards three days a week. As I got more comfortable, I added a fourth day and then a fifth. Then I started edging up the distance. I was swimming faster and requiring less time to rest. I started keeping a log of my distance totals and every once in a while I would time myself. You know, just to see how I was doing. Nothing serious.

Of course there was absolutely nothing vaguely competitive about any of this. Racing never crossed my mind– not even when I caught myself secretly trying to pass the guy in the lane next to me. I found Swimplan and punched in some of the statistics I’d gathered over those first few months to establish a profile. I have really appreciated Swimplan and have recommended it to several of the other regulars I’ve met at the pool. That first workout added fifty percent more to my regular workout, and it’s kept steadily increasing ever since. Up until last week, I was averaging a total of 10000 yards per week. I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine — five days on, two days off — swimming Friday through Tuesday. On the three weekdays I swim over my lunch break; The pool is just two blocks away. On the weekends, I try to swim first thing in the morning.

Then a couple of things happened in rapid succession that altered my thinking. In one week at the pool I had three people ask me if I swam competitively: two mentioning the US Masters Swimming program, and the third talking to me about triathlons. At the time, this seemed like coincidence, but now I can say with some confidence that it probably wasn’t entirely coincidence. The Chicago Triathlon, the Wisconsin Ironman and the Chicago Marathon were all scheduled to run within about a month of the comments, marking the culmination of the summer triathlon season.

A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim for. — Bruce Lee

I had a new goal. I’d accomplished most of what I’d sought out to do. I was comfortable in the water again. I was getting stronger and continuing to lose weight. I was feeling better about myself. The objective data was there for anyone to analyse: times were quicker, distances longer. It was time to step it up again.

So last weekend I signed up for Masters swimming. I joined a team and last night I attended my first official workout. The Chicago Blue Dolphins practice out of the UIC facility about a mile and a half from home on the southeastern corner of the campus. It has two gorgeous pools in the building. The large pool is a huge pool: eight lane 50-meter by ten lane 25-yard pool and a large diving well offset on the deep end. The small pool is a more typical six lane 25-yard pool. The workouts are challenging, effectively doubling the longer workouts I’ve been doing on my own through Swimplan. New drills, new techniques and coaches there to help make adjustments and provide encouragement.

From what I can tell, the competitive swim meet season starts in January, so I’ve got a bit of time left to practice before then. Regardless, it’s a powerful motivation and one I’m really excited about undertaking.