Nirvana

I learned something big and important yesterday. No, it wasn’t how with no money down, I can buy houses, refurbish them, and turn a tidy profit (though that might be nice). I learned that there’s a place deep down in me that doesn’t care if I’m tired, if I’m hungry, if I’m hurt; it’s a place that only wants to keep going and reach the goal.

I’ve been tired and sore before during road races. I’ve been hungry, or had to hold a nature break for a really long time. But I haven’t really previously reached a point where I was tired, sore, cramped, needing a potty break, hungry, thirsty, and well, just ready to completely give up. I got there yesterday while training.

If you read yesterday’s entry, you’ll know that we had a big training day on Sunday with training in all 3 disciplines. It was a long hot day in the sun, and at the end, I was beat. I actually looked forward to Mondays scheduled workout of 2000 yards in the pool, thinking it would be nothing compared to the previous days effort. Either I forgot how much I had given on Sunday, or didn’t think about the cumulative effect of this bigger workouts back to back for the first time in a while.

Yesterdays swim was a complex one; it started with a 200 yard swim and ended with a 200 yard pull (swimming with just arms, holding a float buoy between your legs). For the 1600 yards in between, we didn’t go any longer than 50 yards without switching strokes. The default stroke was freestyle, but we alternated that with breaststroke (my strongest) and using a kick board (by far my weakest).

I started strong with a relatively strong push through the first 600 (200 swim plus 400 alternating every 25) yards, which was meant to be the warm-up. Then we got into the meat of the workout: 75 yards alternating swim-breast-swim, and 75 alternating swim-kick-swim. We got 10 second breaks between each set of the 2. After about 6 sets, I was about 50 yards behind Rach, and thought I was looking at finishing quite a bit slower than she did.

But that’s when something took hold; I was already tired, and I was getting hungry, but I knew I could push through. Then I started cramping, first in one foot then in the other. I was probably still a little low on electrolytes from the previous days effort, and it was coming back to haunt me. But even though this was just a training swim, I wasn’t going to give up.

Giving up in practice leads to giving up in the race, and the thing you’re fighting most against in an endurance race is against the hurt and exhaustion in your body making the voices in your head yell at you to give up. I’ve never had a DNF, and even if I’m the very last one across the line before the time limit, I’m NOT getting my first at Timberman. So, while I cramped, and my swim turned slow and sloppy at the end of each lap, I pushed on. I had reached a sort of swimming nirvana, where the pain and the hunger and the fatigue couldn’t reach me.

Finally, I reached the last 200 which gave my cramping legs a much needed rest because of the small pull buoy. Getting a reprieve from the cramps, I found strength in my arms that I didn’t know I had, and got myself through the last 200 pretty quickly. I took everything I had just to climb out of the pool, but in the end I had done 2000 painful and glorious yards in an hour and 20 minutes. Thankfully, there isn’t a kick board element to Timberman, or else I might not make the cutoff.

We’ve got a lot of work to do over these next couple months, and some workouts will be even harder than this one. But I know now that no matter what, I can get through them.

5 thoughts on “Nirvana”

  1. Loving your positive spirit and outlook today (well, yesterday I suppose), Ben! Sports/endurance racing is so much mental training, too. Mind over matter, and it sounds like you nailed that during your swim! Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks guys, I appreciate the encouragement. It really felt good to get to that point. Now that I know what that feels like, I know that when I need to, I can dig deep and there won't be just a hole there when I'm done digging.

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