If you know me in real life, or pay incredibly close attention to this website, you might know that when I was young, I swam competitively. I was never particularly good (I have never been particularly good at any physical endeavor) but I did it — a lot.
There were years when my summers consisted of three hours of swimming in the morning followed by another hour and a half at night. In between, all I did was sleep and eat.
The clearest memories I have of those days are of how cold the water was in the morning, how crazy our coach was, and how much we ate.
I remember steam coming off the water in the morning and all of us, rail thin, terrified to jump in. I remember Coach Oz who’d lost half a finger in a machining accident screaming at me so much his dentures would come loose.
And I remember the food. When my mother handled the car pooling duties on Friday, we’d stop at this Italian bakery. Four swimmer would split a dozen cannoli’s. At nine in the morning. Then I’d go home and eat a box of pancakes. Yes, a box. Or we’d head out to an all you can eat buffet, where we’d eat, straight through breakfast and into lunch, laughing and joking, and putting away plate after plate of food.
Those are my strongest memories. What I don’t really remember was enjoying the actual swimming. Usually, it seemed like a grind.
And that’s because it is. Unlike running, where you can chat, listen to music or watch the scenery go by, or team sports where comradery is part of the goal, swimming is an individual endeavor where you spend most of your time with your head in the water, looking at a black line at the bottom of a pool, trying to remember what lap you’re on. As I’ve written about before, it can get dull.
And yet there I was, last night, in the basement of my synagogue, getting in some yards.
Was it boring? Yes. Tedious? Yes. But also kind of wonderful to click off the laps without the benefit of a podcast, or audible download, or Spotify play list. A teenage me, would never have appreciated this, but last night, having 45 minutes to think about my son, my training, and John Joseph’s strange road from the Cromags to Ironmans, without any interruptions, felt like a luxury.