Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I like about Open Water Swimming

Today's swim was an easy two laps around Bountiful Lake - 2 miles in under an hour.

Now for some commentary.....

A couple nights ago Jared Eborn, sports writer for the Deseret News, called me at home and asked me several questions about open water swimming for an article he's writing and publishing tomorrow in the newspaper.  I must admit that I do better at organizing my thoughts in written word, than in verbal communication.  I'm sure he was disappointed with the quality of my answers as I was going off on tangents and not really making meaningful or thought provoking answers.

One of his questions was something like why open water swimming appeals to me.  I said something like "It's relaxing, and it isn't very difficult to do."  While that's true, it isn't what makes me passionate about it.

During today's swim at Bountiful Lake, I put more thought into that question and came up with the following:

  • I love the coolness of the water on my skin.
  • The rhythmical sound of my stroke and water washing over me is hypnotic.
  • Watching the sun rise or set while breathing to the side is a sight that not many people get to appreciate.
  • I get a good tan without having to be a lazy butt.
  • It's quiet, I get to think, it's not intense physically to do, and I get to focus on my breathing.  So in a big way, it's alot like meditation.
Another question he asked was about the tight knit group of open water swimmers.  While I would say that I have a friendship with Josh Green.  He's about the only person in the open water community that I'd say I have a connection to.   Open water swimming actually lends itself quite well to people who would be classified as anti-social personalities.  Other sports like running, or biking you can do and socialize (should you want to) at the same time.  Even pool swimming, you can socialize in between sets.  Open water swimmers, while training have more in common with fish, than with people:
  • Is the water clean?  It sure would be nice if all that trash and crap wasn't floating in the water.
  • What's up with all these hooks in the water?  Avoid those as much as possible.
  • Please bird when you fly over me, don't dive down like you're gonna attack.  And especially don't defecate in the water!
Pool swimming is like football, and open water swimming is like soccer.  It's totally different in its intensity and endurance.  I was especially struck by my friend's statement after she did the English Channel.  While the actual quote maybe significantly different to this, it came across to me like this:  "While I've spent many hours with my face under water in the darkness, I feel like I need to come up to breathe and strengthen some relationships that I have neglected."  So in that sense open water swimming is an antisocial's sport.  

It's also an individual sport.  I personally don't like team sports.  While a victory as a team can be great and socially rewarding.  Without a great deal of discipline by each and every team member, a defeat can often lead to blame and distaste for others on the team.  So what appeals to me about competitive swimming is that I have nobody to blame but myself.  I also put more emphasis on my success on my goal time, than on how I place against other swimmers.  While it's nice to take 1st or 2nd in something, getting that goal time is the real monument of achievement for me. 

Open water swimming for me is less about competition, but going the distance.  Challenging myself to endure and progress against my previous accomplishments rather than comparing myself to other individuals.  That is a much less stressful way to think and again goes back to my stupid answer, it's a stress relief.

Post a Comment