Closing the Book

This past week I frequently found myself reflecting on last week’s Hagg Lake 30k Challenge attempt. In my warm-up shower at home, hours after the swim, I wished I had told the last group of paddlers to get in their car and meet me at the next parking lot for a feed. Maybe I could have pushed my beaten body another two to three miles. Who knows, possibly after those hypothetical few extra miles, I could have continued on to complete the 18 mile training swim?

After two days of those thoughts interfering with my showers, night time reading, driving and Barre3 workouts, I decided I would restore my meditation practice. I restarted a HeadSpace mindfulness program for athletes in training, that I completed back in January when I first started increasing my distance in the pool. I found the program very enlightening at the time, but apparently had not successfully incorporated the information into my swimming trainings, and subsequently forgotten it all.

HeadSpace compares training to bookends being opened and closed. At first I visualized this analogy as books being stacked next to each other on a shelf. The first book end is placed on the shelf at the opening of a workout, books are lined up next to it representing completion of different sets, and at the completion of the workout, the second bookend is set on the shelf, closing the workout. As I am no longer doing regular interval sets, as my focus at this time is to increase my endurance while maintaining a steady pace, I have tweaked this imagery from bookends to a book cover. The book opens when my toes enter the water, and the book closes when I exit. All reflection on the swimming session should take place during the swim while the book is open, and once the book is closed, it is time to eject that training from the mind.

This guided imagery helped me move past last week’s failed challenge attempt, which allowed me to focus on preparing for the May 4th Hagg Lake 16 Mile Challenge. Since the Hagg Lake 16 mile challenge has happened and I shouldn’t still be reflecting on it, the following will be a brief summary, before I close the book.


Start Time: 6:17am

End Time: 3:35pm-ish (Watch Battery was long dead so no precise finish time available).

Course: Four, clockwise four mile loops, beginning and finishing at the Eagle Point boat ramp.

Support Crew: Nick (Kayaked for first six miles. He is a 100 mile ultra runner and Ironman), Maryl (behavior teacher extraordinaire, provided shore support for miles seven to 12 3/4 by mixing warm drinks and driving between boat ramps with warm feeds, gummy worms, and baby sunblock.), Amy (my good friend and favorite substitute teacher provided car support and kayak support for miles 12 3/4 to 16, and made sure I exited and warmed up safely).

Conditions: Glass-like water as the sun was rising. Wind and under water current present south of Sain Creek beginning around mile 6 when Nick took off leaving me with my orange tow buoy with mint tea with pure carb drink attached. Wind and waves (not as extreme as the previous Saturday’s) until mile 12 3/4. Then light chop from there until finish. Lots of sun and warm water. I never experienced slurred speech like I do in cold conditions.

Feeds: Hot Chocolate, Chai Tea, Mint Tea with Carb Powder added, Mint Tea without carb additives, Arbonne Phytosport hydration packets with Carb Powder additive, and Gummy Worms.

During Swim Thoughts: M.I.S (my students and I read in The Boys in the Boat this past week that the University of Washington coxswain yelled M.I.B (Mind in Boat) every time the boys were to start the catch of their stroke) “Mind in Swim,” don’t “stop traffic” with your hands because this is a swim, this is like swimming pool warm, just get to next boat ramp, yay I’m learning how to pee while swimming (peeing in water has been very challenging for me, and is crucial for health during marathon swims), “my body is stronger than my mind thinks it is,” and “I’m going to make this!”

Sensations: Soreness in trapezius muscles and deltoids, and stomach cramping and pain for last two miles. I was told this week that I will vomit during North Channel swim. My response was “no I won’t.” The response I got back was “Never say never.” Feeding horizontally for hours, and drinking carb drinks messes with your digestion. I think I was starting to feel the effects.

Emotions: Ecstatic, content, and confident.

Reflection from Today: I’m a lot less sore today than I was every single day last week. This is progress!

Present Moment: It’s time to forget about this training session. I’m closing the book. No other training swim will be exactly like this one, and it is time to start planning this week’s training schedule. Three weeks from today… I attempt to be the first woman to swim around Bainbridge Island (25 miles).

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