As thoughts of the day crisscross my mind, I methodically count each lap of the pool as I swim. In addition to regular Masters group pool swimming, I love the meditation of settling in on long training swims both in the pool and the San Francisco Bay as I prepare for my big swims. I know that 40 laps of a 25 yard pool is 1000 yards. At a steady pace that takes me 16 minutes to swim. Repeating this block of laps at least a few times during some evenings adds to my total weekly mileage which is an important component of training. Now building my fitness and stamina for my next swim, I am in the thick of a routine. Having already swum twice before work, I return to the pool at the end of the day after work. Without question it is physically tiring but often times I look forward to it mentally. From the moment I walk in the door at my local pool, until the second I emerge after my swim, time seems to grind to a standstill. A wonderful reprieve from the day it can be delightfully isolating.
Fixing my goggles to my face, I sit on the edge of the pool for a brief moment before sliding into the chlorine tank. I never dive into a pool. This, and encountering a large surf break, are two of my fears. A newcomer to the sport, I was not trained to dive off the blocks like many of my swimming colleagues. And while I suppose I could look at the carefully indicated pool depth numbers painted in large black lettering on the edge of the pool, I am not entirely confident in my ability to dive without submarining and hitting my head on the bottom of the pool. Even when I begin a big swim in the ocean, I never dive. I always jump in - feet first. This is because knowing my luck I will inadvertently head butt one of my pinniped friends. Worse still, I might hit my head on a random floating log. In the middle of the ocean. Yes, I think about these things.
It takes a few laps of swimming before I am able to settle into the zone and stretch out from swim practice earlier in the day. Careful to track the mileage of all my training swims, I need to count the laps in order to accurately calculate the distance swum. Concerned I might forget which lap I am on, I rhythmically announce the number to myself. It is a wonderfully choreographed arrangement. Lap numbers regularly punctuate the score of my thoughts as steady metric beats in this mesmerizing and calming composition. 16…16….16…. Soon it is time to touch the wall and swim another lap (my flip turns continue to be a work in progress). Returning down the pool for another lap, the routine repeats effortlessly. Enveloped in this aquatic dimension, I am free of interruption, and some days my thoughts run wild. Reflections on the happenings of the day dictate the tone of my practice. Less planned choreography and more improvisation, the metric beat of the lap counts continue without interlude.