Thursday, April 17, 2008


First, very briefly - thanks so much to Amber and Eric R in Colorado. You guys are so sweet! I will enjoy everything heartily. Thank you, friends!

And now, C-C-C-Cold!

Now that I'm back in the water, I have a new and alternate perspective on pool water, ie the temperature. What was once too warm for my lap-swimming self is now freezing cold for the new water-walking me. Let’s face it: it’s one thing to swim your 100s at 1:xx pace, but when it takes you 2:00 to walk a mere 50 yards, well, hopefully you can understand why I’m so cold.

Perhaps not…eh?

Let me back up, before my Northern counterparts gag at their computers.

I am from Minnesota. I am a hearty Minnesotan. I love Minnesota, and I love Minnesota weather. It's snowing? Oh boy! I can't wait to go outside and bunny hop in the snow, or go romping around through Como Park, or go skiing on some wonderful woodsy trail! BRING IT ON!

Yes, I DO understand that this past winter has been unfoundedly brutal. Downright awful, in fact. And my heart goes out to everyone living above The Mason-Dixon line. Heck - even those few cold souls living below the Line. While I’m at it, I might as well toss a few of my Northern European readers into the mix as well. (For the life of me, I can't imagine Sweden or Norway, the birthplace of my ancestors could be that much better or different compared to Minnesota...)

Cold weather, namely being cold is NOT FUN. Okay if you've got alternate wintery activities lined up. Like skiing- hooray! But pretty awful when your coach has scheduled a 3 hour trainer ride followed by a 45 minute t-pace run.

Not that I had to spend a lot of time in cold weather this past season. I was down in Florida - where the winters are mild (to put it very mildly), but the summer absolutely is awful. I am still amazed that more than half my runs last summer were done on the treadmill, simply because it was 95 degrees with 85 % humidity - at 7:00 am.

Yea. Good stuff.

So take your pick: either its too cold or too hot.

That's ONLY dealing with the weather.

The pool, my friends, is a completely different matter.

I should know; as I just spent 51:08 of the coldest moments of my life immersed in freezing water.

And believe me, when I say that it's hard enough for me to get into the water in the first place. Pre-crash, I would spend 5 minutes (or more!) on the deck before eventually hopping into the water. The need to workout would eventually supersede my aversion to the cold temperature. So in I would go. But only after adjusting my cap and goggles a few times. Getting a different kickboard. And of course (my favorite) taking several sips of water before the workout even started.

Because - let's face it: hydration is key when swimming, right? :)

Today was different. I knew the water would be cold before I got in. However, as I'm only walking in the pool, I have no need for swim caps, no odd assortment of goggles, exnay on the fins, and definitely no kickboard piled ceremoniously at the end of my lane. It's just me, my watch, and my water bottle (which I didn't even use – due to the extreme cold water).

To top it off - I can't jump in with one swoop. No - as I'm recovering and my back is still "delicate", there will be NO jumping. Yes, I was pushing it with my Little Green Snake friend yesterday - but that was really a matter of life or death. No, now when I go to the pool, I need to lower myself into the water.

Inch by agonizing inch.

And let me tell you, my friends, when the water temp is a chilly 82 degrees, inch by agonizing inch is NOT the way to go. Trust me.

The final agonizing step into the 4 foot water was the worst. There’s just something about cold water hitting my torso and shoulders that makes me break out into goose bumps. At least while swimming – it takes me a mere 200 yards to really “warm-up” to the point where I’m not shivering in the pool.

Today, I discovered that I’m only semi-un-frozen after 200 yards. I’m warmer, yes – but as it takes me nearly 8 minutes to walk 200 yards, it’s a far cry from the usual 3 minutes or so.

As I walked along the pool – forward, backward, and side-to-side – I kept my attention on my swimmer counterparts. On the far end of the pool, the GPAC (Greater Pensacola Aquatic Center) juniors were holding one of their many practices. I watched as each swimmer would dive gracefully off the blocks, their backs arched and arms reaching out towards the water, and sprint to the other end – only to do it all over again. It was a game, playtime for 12 year olds.

And oh – how I wanted to be a part of their group.

But I was on a mission: I need to warm up, and I needed to accomplish my water walking.

I pressed on, watching various swimmers in different lanes throughout the aquatic center. One duo, two lanes over, was particularly interesting. One swimmer (the girl) was holding between 1:17-1:20 per average 100, while her male lane-mate used giant flippers to keep the pace. They swam several 200s and 300s, and I found myself wondering if I could beat her.

The competitive side of me said yes – naturally!

The realistic side of me said to stick to the water walking, and instead focus on passing the other “water walker” in this part of the pool.

Sigh. Back surgery and recovery or not, you can’t take the competitor out of me. Clearly, the other water walker in my section had no chance. (Which is good – this is part of what makes me inherently me. I still maintain my sense of humor, but when the time is appropriate, my competitive juices get going…)

I kept going, and kept watching other swimmers, kids in lessons (shivering blue on the deck!), and the lifeguards changing shifts (they have a 30 minute rotation, fyi). But no matter what I did, I couldn’t warm up, couldn’t escape the fact that I was freezing cold.

I chanced a glance at my watch, figuring I was at least half way done with my 45 or 50 minute workout. I was approximately 15 minutes in. Great.

At 20 minutes, I could handle it no more. My arms were a solid mass of goose prickles. My legs were freezing, and my bladder had shrunk to pea-size. Suffice to say, I was slowly freezing, and aware of every single moment.

So, I started doing a very easy water trot. NOT a run, just a trot. Which consisted of more arm movement, more vertical movement, and more forward movement. But it wasn’t running – I was simply desperate to move faster, to work harder.

And what was making matters even worse, is at the far end of my lane was the hot tub.

Now, I’m not a big fan of hot tubs. I’m a little leery of the germs, and, quite honestly – after every swim I’m way too hot to even consider stepping one toe in said hot tub. But today was different.

Today I stared at the hot tub, and the lucky individuals soaking in its bubbly warmth. They looked so happy, so relaxed.

And where was I? Trotting my heart out, pumping my hands up and down, my nails slowly turning blue, goose bumps the size of crochet needles on my arms, my little leg hairs sticking straight out making my skin feel like sandpaper…. It was awful.

But I knew that the water walking – or trotting – is one of the things that will make me stronger. It will help me recover. And it will help me to become healthier much sooner.

So I kept my mouth shut, refused to look at my watch, gazed at the youth team practicing their starts, and dreamt of how wonderful the hot tub would feel at the end of my workout.

And it really really really was wonderful...

It just took seemingly forever to exit the cold pool.

Let’s face it: if I was swimming fast or hard the way I’m used to, I wouldn’t have had this issue. But for the first time ever, I was cold for the entire time in the water. Had I not been injured, I never would have experienced this, never knew what it felt like to push through until the end of a workout despite being really cold. AND, I never would have had the pleasure of a soak in the hot tub afterwards.

And wonderful it was.

Just goes to show – you never know what’s going to happen, or how you’ll react until you actually hit a certain point. I can relate to little kids in swim class, and I can understand why the aqua aerobics folks are so insistent on warmer pool water. For now, I get it – I understand. And that’s what part of life is – learning as we go along.

Just as long as the pool water remains consistent at this temperature, and doesn’t increase as the spring and summer temperatures grow hot. Because in a very short time I’ll be back in the water, swimming my heart out. And then, I’ll need it to be as cold as it was before…as I’ll return to swimming the way that I’m used to. The way I love. In the mean time, I’ll look forward to the hot tub after each and every session. And a brilliant experience it will be!


Pedergraham said...

You made me smile. Reminds me of when I started "mall walking" after my back surgery. My post-op droopy right foot made it hard to walk anyplace but the smoothest and well-lit ground. So, the mall it was. I thought it would be good for my ego and that I'd be passing all of the "pedestrian" mall walkers. Boy, was I wrong. Mall walkers are a tough, fit crowd. I figure the more tri-training I do now, the more fit I'll be when I'm in my 80s, living in Florida, having blue hair, driving a ginourmous car (badly), and walking (racing my AARP friends) around the mall.

I am glad that you are "beating" the competition in the water walking world.

Also, one of our local pools is pretty cold and some of my triathlon friends come to swim with old tri uniforms, rash guards, and skin suits on top of their bathing suits to help keep them warm. I wonder if that would help you keep warm for the next bit.

PeggyAnn said...

Stumbled across your blog and am moved by your courage and dedication. I wish you a speedy recovery! You're an inspiration....

Keep on keepin' on :-)

Ness said...

Hey Marit - bet you never thought you were going to have to HTFU while water walking! Way to stick it out there. I had a good chuckle picturing you racing another water walker and keeping track of a swimmer's splits - exactly what I would have done in your situation.

Ashley said...

Welcome back to the water! Maybe you should try wearing oversized clothes like ELF?! he he he. BTW, thanks for the WICKED shout out. Have you heard the song yet? Download it, you'll love it.

Eileen Swanson said...

YAY! AWESOME, you're back at it....I am so inspired by your positive outlook always. So cool!

Oh and YES of course you can come join us for a swim anytime that you are in the Bay Area. You would love the Bay swims ;-)


Bob Mitera said...

Marit - you won't believe the effect walking in the water will have on your running. It will help and it is counter intuitive I know. You don't need to be in pain and breathing very hard to be working out. (Think yoga or pilates.)

I understand your perspective on being cold. Take someone out of miserable temperatures and they get used to "nice" weather very quickly. However, this "95 degrees with 85 % humidity - at 7:00 am." I cannot :) let go.

What is wrong with 95 and 85%? Get outside! Come on! Just bring water or MotorTabs with. Geez.

In our house we have a rule - you get to complain all you want about ONE type of weather. So pick one and stick to it. I hate cold and all winter I marvel at my ability to do (when healthy) long runs in the cold (my first 15 mile run was at -10 F). It sucked but the run wasn't so bad and I was actually kinda warm - until I stopped back at the car.

HEAT? Bring it on! You're talking to the guy who when running when it was 106 F and 80% humidity in Chicago. Did his first 1/2 IM in 105 F. It sucked too...but live it!


Anonymous said...

Temporary...thank goodness! Now you know what the old ladies bitch about when they are walking in the water. I promise next time I hear someone complain about the cold temps while walking, I will think of you and not mutter under my breath to suck it up!!

Anonymous said...

Is there an outdoor pool in the area you can use? I'm sure it would be more pleasant on a typically hot Florida day.

I was hoping you would end up in the hot tub after the workout - good decision!

Mel said...

Marit I tried speed walking in the water the other day (in your honor)...IT is not easy as I wanted to keep falling forward :)