On the day before the longest day of the year, the temperature hit a new summer low. After weeks of rainy weather, the temperature sank to 6 degrees centigrade (42.8 Fahrenheit). People tweeted jokes about snow coming and buying winter jackets. So when I got the chance, I grabbed my bathers and rushed to the outdoor pool.
You see, there is nothing better than cool and rainy days in summer here if you’re after a long, solitary swim. Yes, the indoor pool was chock-full of people. On weekends with bad weather, the indoor pool with its slides and bubble jets and warm water in warm air is a haven for families, oldies and tourists alike. When I arrived, a long queue was waiting to get in. I nicked past, since I can use the “annual pass” entrance, dodged an American group in the change area and several old Bavarian geezers lumbering around in the showers. I waded through a school of little kids drifting in and out of the baby pool and briefly checked in with the lifeguard. “Oh, outside? The water’s only 18 today!” (64.4 Fahrenheit). I thanked him, made a joke about lasting a lap or two, and then weaved my way to the door that leads to the outside area.
As I stepped through, the crisp cool air hit me. To my left, I could here the low murmur of the bathers sitting in the indoor/outdoor hot water pool, their faces red shapes behind white veils of steaming heat in the cold. Before me, the pristine 50 meter outdoor pool lay, perfect blue glass under leaden grey skies. The rain had ceased, and the surface was still. I could feel dozens of eyes following me as I walked up to the water and dipped in a toe. It felt almost warm! I jumped in, pushed off and stretched myself out into the cool, silky wet, wrapping itself around me as I took my first tentative strokes. It felt quite good actually, I though, and decided to aim for 300m. My thinking was something like this: If I could last 6 laps, I could last the distance I had set for myself: 100 laps – equalling 5k.
Whilst I still was not very comfortable, I felt at home in the slight chill after the first two laps. It felt like childhood winter swims in South Africa to my muscle memory. And then my middle-aged body finally had warmed up sufficiently and I realised: This was doable. So without stopping to stretch and adjust, I ploughed on through. A few times on the way, I thought of cutting the exercise short. Hey, just doing two k would be fine!? No need to overdo it! And so on. But I just turned my mind back to relaxing, keeping calm and swimming on. I reminded myself of the value of disciplining my body a bit, which even has spiritual benefits, and that I needed to host a barbecue for my son’s birthday party, with about ten boys in their early teens running mad around me, and this swim was the only me-time I would have today to charge the batteries. So I swam on through, and even put in a decent sprint at the end. The result?
5050m in 1:26:51 at a pace of 1:43/100m
What these numbers fail to show of course is how and why this was an amazing, indeed – if you pardon the hyperbole – heavenly experience that I am very grateful for. Like others with introvert tendencies — according to Myers-Briggs I am supposed to be an INTJ, though I am not sure if that is a useful methodology and form of categorization at all — anyway, like many people, I savour the rare time I have to simply unwind and recharge, and I prefer to do so by myself or with only a good friend like my wife. This is one of the many, many things that I love about swimming: It is a meditative, solitary, quiet and yet challenging sport.
Enough rambling. Suffice it say, the 185th day of this adventure was special. Every now and then, a single brave soul would join me in the giant pool. After a lap or two, they would disappear. Most of the time, this aquatic world was my oyster – I was in summer rain heaven; a truly splendid isolation. I could feel my mind unwinding after another particularly stressful week, lap after lap after lap after lap after lap.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? My wrist hurts!
Of course, before even hitting the half-way mark of 50 laps, I was reminded of my earth-bound limitations: My right wrist started hurting. It felt like the cold water was constricting the muscles and tendons that run from the thumb to the arm. Or like the nerve was inflamed. So yes: Symptoms of the carpal tunnel syndrome. And yes, I had spent too many long hours in bad posture at a keyboard again this week, done no stretching before the swim, and was in cool water doing a repetitive stroke. So that might be the reason. The pain is all but gone now as I am writing this a day later – and I hope it was a one-off. Will try and add these stretches to my normal stretching regimen (I do some light stretching after my warm-up swim in the water normally).