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March 6, 2008

35 Going On 50

A few administrative notes to follow up on some previous posts …

First: thanks to everyone who offered kind or sympathetic words in response to the post about my sister. It’s comforting – but more than a little disheartening – to hear that sibling issues are so prevalent.

To update the story - I spoke to her again on the phone last week. It was a nice talk, although I wouldn’t say there was any sort of meaningful shift that I could detect. So it seems like business as usual – although maybe one of these days I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Second: the polls from the Choose Your Own Adventure post have officially closed, and (using my best Wolf Blitzer voice here) I’m ready to make a projection – the comic strip story prevailed. Thank you to everyone who commented or e-mailed me. I went strictly by popular vote, so I don’t have to worry about superdelegates throwing the election to the second place finisher, which was tentatively titled “Why I taught my son the F-bomb”. Although, as a few people pointed out, several of those suggested topics will probably find a way to seep into a post one of these days anyway.

Finally: the promised Foo Fighters post will come along in the near future as well – but in the meantime, answer me this: is anyone making more creative videos than the Foo Fighters lately? Their latest is on my sidebar – and whenever I see it on VH1 while I’m getting dressed for work, it’s far and away the best four minutes of my morning (or 12 minutes, if you count me rewinding it twice on TiVo). The title of the song is a little ominous for an ultrarunner to have on his sidebar, but what the heck - I’ll roll the dice with these guys any day.

That's all for now. On with the post …


In a previous post I described how I’ve made a habit of doing underwater laps after each swim workout, just to keep an element of playfulness in the regular routine. I typically do 2x 25 yards underwater, and if I’m feeling particularly strong, on the last attempt I’ll stay under and push off the far wall again, extending the interval another 10 yards or so.

I frequently do these intervals by myself, but sometimes the other swimmers in my group will join me, and that’s what happened one day last week. We did our first underwater rep, and the group waited about 30 seconds before dipping under the surface for the final interval. I lagged behind a couple of seconds longer to draw one more deep breath, then followed suit.

Approaching the far wall, I tapped it with my fingers, turned my legs around, and pushed off in the opposite direction. I managed a couple of breaststroke pulls and frantically kicked my way more than halfway across before finally coming up for air, completely wasted from the oxygen depletion.

Treading water in the middle of the pool, I slowly turned towards the wall where the others had finished, just a brief second before they turned around and saw me 15 yards behind them. It was the farthest I had ever traveled underwater.

Just then, as she was climbing out of the pool, the ringleader of our group initiated the following exchange:

Her: What happened, Donald?

Me (gasping): I ran out of air.

Her: Yeah, sometimes it goes bad like that. Don’t worry about it.

And with that, she turned and walked toward the locker room, and the others started climbing out of the pool as well.

It took my oxygen-starved brain a couple of seconds to realize, Wait - I'm facing them right now ... they think I only made it 10 yards underwater! By that time, everyone was headed to the showers - but I didn’t have enough breath to shout a response back to them anyway.

Once I finally made my way to the locker room, the thought briefly crossed my mind to track a couple of guys down to say “Actually, fellas – I went 35 yards, not 10.” But then I questioned exactly what the point of that would be, and ended up just keeping my mouth shut.

I know what I did, and that’s the important part. What’s more, the underwater effort pushed the envelope of my maximal ability to this point – and it stoked a small fire to blast completely through the barrier at some point in the future.

I think I can make it 50 yards underwater someday, so now I’m putting it out there as an official goal. This will be a fun one to chase (that is, if oxygen debt and prolonged episodes of sheer panic are your idea of fun – I’ll have to write more about this sometime). I'm not putting any deadlines or pressure on myself – it just seems like a cool challenge to go after from time to time.

Of course - knowing my luck - when I finally reach up and grab the wall at the same place I left it after swimming two lengths below the surface, someone will probably wonder out loud why I never left the wall to start the interval.

I’ll be way too far out of breath to correct them, but that won’t bother me one bit.


Bullet 3/6/08, 6:33 AM  

Don't think I could do 25 yards under water. Impressive. I watched men of honor last night and these guys were talking about holding their breath for 4-5 minutes! Yesh!

stronger 3/6/08, 7:26 AM  

I remember the day I could go underwater across the pool with one breath- but we started much earlier (like age 9). I still test it every now and then after a swim and feel like a dolphin coming up for a breath at the wall. I recall only being able to do a length and a half. 50m would be tough. Give us a progress report.

Deene 3/6/08, 8:11 AM  

looking forward to the progress reports on this goal.
my first thought would be that she was making a joke too.

Formulaic 3/6/08, 11:56 AM  

I think that the 35 was great!

I know I used to do it as a kid, but for the life of me I can't do it now. I get 10 feet away and break the surface.

I remember that as a kid I had all these tricks, like swallowing my air or closing my eyes or blowing out a little air, etc.

But I don't try them anymore. Maybe that's why.

What tricks of the trade do you use?

mindy 3/6/08, 4:40 PM  

I'd like to think that she really knew what you did and was just jealous. I admire you for taking the high road and resisting the urge to correct the error of her ways. We are a competitive lot, and instead of getting bent about the comment, you relished your accomplishment and let it stoke the fire to break a new goal! Good luck on the underwater 50!

Rainmaker 3/6/08, 8:32 PM  

Impressive. I can do 25...about twice, then it all goes downhill after that.

I hate that feeling though like you just mentioned - when you do extra or circle back/etc (sometimes on a run/bike) and people thing you are slackin'. Doh!

triguyjt 3/7/08, 9:19 AM  

first of all...35 is verrrry good..props for that.

i'm with you..i would be tempted to go after them and proclaim how i did 35 not 10 yards..

i was thinking for your 50 goal..do a run through using flippers..making it with flippers will be a psychological barrier you will have broken. then as you work on it more and more without flippers, you would reach your goal.. just a thought

Makita 3/10/08, 7:09 AM  

When I read the title of your post, I assumed you were going an entirely different direction with your narrative. You make me laugh. :)

My dad used to challenge me to swim different distances underwater... "If you make it to the tree there, I'll give you a $1." It was all good fun. I wonder how far I could go? When I start swimming again, I'll have to give it a go. :)

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 3/13/08, 9:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 3/13/08, 9:34 PM  

I remember watching the Poseidon Adventure on TV as a kid, the part where they have to swim under water to get to a higher part of the submerging ship, and thinking if that were me, I'd have no chance. Luckily, if and when I do tris again, it's all freestyle.

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