Has anyone ever done this? Or am I the ONLY one? Come on... Ever?? Come on, I know you're out there. Wait! Stop! Halter-gebleibin!! You mean to tell me that after hours of swimming countless laps, following a pace clock, ticking off specific times, you've never-not-once-in-your-life-ever peed in the pool.
I don't believe you.
Especially if you've ever followed one of Jen Harrison's swim workouts. (Liz, Ashley, Beth - any takers? :)
Nope - still not believing...
I've seen how you swimmers are. With your speedy suits, cool caps, and Swedish goggles. You jump into the pool, no qualms about the cold temperatures, while everyone else is left shivering at just the thought of placing a toe near the water. You swimmers are intense: set on following your lane buddies, finding your hurt box, making each-and-every session count.
And for the life of me, I can't imagine this would include a 5-minute pee break.
So when the water suddenly becomes warm in your vicinity, accept the fact that NO, the pool staff haven't turned on the pump. It's probably your friendly neighbor in the lane over, doing his or her best to keep the water as warm as possible.
Because if there's one thing that "serious" and "real" swimmers can't stand is warm water. So it's cold. All the time. Which makes bladders shrink. And THEN what happens? Yup, you guessed it. The pool temperature miraculously goes up 2 degrees.
Let's be honest (while we're on the subject of honesty and peeing), who doesn’t pee in their wetsuit before the start of a race? Pretty disturbing if you think about it.
So let's not.
Back to the pool.
There's chlorine. Lots of it. So everything is okay in the end, right?
Now that's squared away, we ALL have a clean conscious, we can discuss the matter at hand: Jen Harrison's swim workout for me.
As I had just come off a high volume, low intensity (hurrah!) weekend, Monday's swim was all about recovery. And breathing - breath sets to be exact.
Let me tell you, I have never done breath sets... but I'm fully aware of what they are.
During my sophomore year at Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), my roommates were all Varsity Badger Swimmers. As the lone rower in the house, I stuck out like a sore thumb: but they were great, and patiently explained all about swimming and listened intently to my rowing stores. I was always really impressed by their grit, their determination. And while they all swam different disciplines, had different specialties, the three of them were phenomenal athletes.
One morning, I returned from practice to find Betsy sprawled out on the couch. She looked awful. Her face was white-as-a-ghost, her eyes were puffy from goggle marks, and she was complaining of nausea.
"What's wrong?" I asked, wondering if she was coming down with a stomach bug.
"Breath sets..." she managed to croak, her eyes crossed. "It's where you control your breathing, your oxygen intake, and take very few breaths."
She was winded even from speaking.
She continued to explain the principles, but with her slumped-over form draped across the couch, I told her that she didn't need to finish. I had already gotten a clear picture of what the workout was about. Crystal clear.
A few minutes later, our other roommate, Jenny returned. She looked worse, and headed straight for her room, clutching a bottle of Tylenol in the process. Before she shut the door, she mentioned that Sarah (the third swimmer of the trio) wasn't going to make it home, that she was in the trainer's office "resting" after the swim.
It was then and there that I decided swimming looked way too painful. And that I would happily stick with rowing. One roommate was dazed on the couch, a second was passed out in her room, and the third couldn't even make it back from the pool (4 blocks away).
At least with crew, I could inhale sweet, pure, clean, crisp, cool air whenever I wanted. None of this "holding your breath" nonsense.
My, oh my, times have changed.
No longer am I rowing. But I'm doing this crazy triathlon-thing.
And now, breath sets are on MY menu.
Can anyone say "Fantastic!"
After a great warm-up, I started my pre-set. Nothing too serious... but I had been given instructions to take 4 strokes after every push-off from the wall BEFORE breathing. O-k-a-y... not too bad, but I could feel the pressure inside of my head increase throughout the set. Adding the dolphin kicks (while fun) only added to the pounding of my head.
But I was kind of getting the hang of it.
Perhaps this isn't soooo bad... dare I say?
And then I hit the main set. Different story. It's wasn't hard in the beginning, but the last 25 of each set - where I had been instructed to take 1 OR 2 breaths for the ENTIRE length - were challenging.
Like I said before - this breath set-thing is new.
And speaking of "holding one's breath" - who in the WORLD came up with this idea anyway? Air is our friend! We need to breath to survive! Holding back, denying our body what it needs, is slightly masochistic - if you ask me...
But in my haze of oxygen-deprived thought, I reasoned that this was... ahem... good for me (whispered in a small voice). These workouts are the exact kind of thing that I need. Something new, something never done, something out of the ordinary… Life isn't about doing the same thing over and over and over again - we need new challenges, to try and complete new things.
And if it were easy every time we attempted it, then where's the satisfaction when we FINALLY accomplish what we set out to do? Sometimes things take a little time, a bit of effort, and a lot of heart. And when you finally get what it is that you want – you’re all the better for having gone through the process.
At least this is what I told myself while inhaling water up my nose (can still taste the chlorine!)
The second part of the main set was just as hard, if not harder. Swim 8 X 25 without taking a breath... What? No breath??
Written very nicely next to these instructions (as though Jen could tell exactly what I was thinking when I read them...) were these reassuring words:
"You will not pass out or die. You might pee a little..."
And you know what? It was possibly one of the hardest things I've done in the pool. I wasn't going fast, wasn't pushing my pace: but I was seeing stars. There was a whole new world to be explored on the pool bottom while my brain was starved for oxygen. Colors became more vibrant, other swimmers were oddly defined, and towards the end of each 25, I felt peculiarly detached from my body, as though I was drifting. I followed Jen's instructions and focused on smaller kicks and really following through with my arms.
And no, I didn't pass out or die. May have peed a little - but I dare you to prove it (blog entry aside!). Made it through the workout and was only a little worse for the wear.
Afterwards, I returned home and stared at my reflection in the mirror. Even though I'm sure the workout wasn't that "hard" for the real swimmers, it was new, exciting, and hard for me. My face was white and the dark circles under my eyes were highlighted by goggle marks. Without thinking, I reached for the Tylenol and tried to placate my headache. The thought of food made me want to gag.
So I waited for my stomach to settle, waited for my head to clear, and went on with my day.
Incredibly though, after feeling as though my lungs were going to burst, and that my heart would beat out of my chest, my lung capacity felt, well, great. Maybe it was just the post-workout high, or perhaps it was because I was allowing myself to breath whenever I wanted, but man-oh-man, the sweet air never tasted so good.
So there you have it: my lungs didn't explode, I didn't pass out, and I survived my first of many Jen Harrison swims. Sure, I peed in the pool. But who doesn’t?
Strangely enough, I can't wait for the next opportunity to swim... And it won't be soon enough. I've got my very first Master's Swim on Wednesday. Good vibes will need to be sent my way! to be continued.