Pregnancy can feel like an endless tick tock waiting game. Four weeks between doctor appointments, another 7 weeks until the next trimester, 5 months until the baby arrives. You watch your body grow and wait. And wait…
Having a goal each week helps me feel like each week is more than just waiting. To celebrate my 20th week of pregnancy, I set out to swim 20,000 yards. For me, this is a big thing. I have never swam beyond 15,000 yards in one week. What happens past that? Can you still see straight? Do you ever get the chlorine smell out of your skin? Do the goggle marks eventually fade? Do you reach the point where you forget to put your swimsuit on before walking out into the pool (I know you've had to look too juat to be sure...)?
By week’s end, I made it: 6 days, about 6 hours of swimming to cover over 11 miles, 20,000 yards, 400 laps, 800 turns, mixed up all 4 strokes, 2 different swim caps and 1 new swimsuit.
Monday: 3,000 yards
Monday morning I arrived at masters. Beth suggested I join her in the lane by the wall. I hesitated, but she assured me that I will keep up with her and the other woman in the lane. Next thing I know, she abandons me for another lane. And leaves me at the wall with a woman who is most definitely not at my speed anymore. I start scaling the pool to escape to a slower lane when the coach shouts where are you going, Elizabeth?
It’s hard to hide when a whale is emerging from the water to switch lanes. She’s too fast! I’m too slow! I want to switch lanes!
Stay right there, you'll be fine.
As I sit on the edge of the lane, defeated, the coach comes up to me and starts rubbing my belly.
You finally got pregnant this week!
She’s right, there is no hiding it now. Especially since I beached myself on the pool deck here, a failed attempt to escape this lane.
Get back in that lane. She reminds me that Monday is technique day at masters. Speed is irrelevant. We did a mix of paddles, drills and fins. I did not get lapped. Before the end of practice, the coach asked how many weeks pregnant I would be at the end of April. Why? Because she is ordering me a speedsuit for the state swim meet.
The whale gets a speedsuit. I would like you all to picture that for a moment. And now you have permission to piss yourself.
But I’m so slow now! Please, PLEASE do not make me swim in the state meet! I can think of drier ways to embarrass myself!
Every other pregnant woman on the team has swam at the state meet, she says. You will swim the 1000 free and you will be adorable.
I am now ready to piss myself.
Tuesday: 4,250 yards
Tuesday masters is distance free practice where I usually put myself into the lane with Tugboat Tom and let him pull me along. But not today. Only four of us show up. I realize that I have chosen my mega yardage week on the week that the entire team is going on a training trip to Florida. Perfect timing. I am now in my own lane.
The coach posts the workout – a series of 500s, 600s and 700s and give us the intervals. It’s an interval I used to easily hit. But not anymore. The interval I am supposed to send off on is one full minute faster than the time I come in on. I’m working on a negative rest interval today, seeing how much time I can add to the original intervals. If I stand around at the wall long enough, I might be able to push this to 2 minutes slower than I’m supposed to send off.
Chris comes home later that night and tells me he had a bad swim. I shook my head. No way. Bad swim has new meaning: 1000 free + state swim meet + pregnant + speed suit. Tell me how bad your swim was again...?
Thursday: 4,250 yards
I returned to the pool on Thursday for another round of masters. Thursday is sprint free day – which is now my favorite practice because it’s hard to lap me in a 25 or a 50.
Apparently I did not get the memo that no one would show up for masters today.
Frustrated in a way that only a pregnant woman on the edge of hormones and bloating can get, I angrily pull my swim cap on while muttering I DO NOT WANT TO SWIM ALONE under my breath when all of a sudden my cap breaks.
I cannot swim without a cap. All that hair. All that drag. Plus – who swims without a cap? I’ll tell you – those people that breaststroke with a foam noodle for an hour. I start looking around the pool deck and would you believe I find goggles and even a Vanilla Bean GU but NO swim cap? Just when I decide I will go capless, I see Amy. And beg her for her swim cap.
Almost on cue, she hands her cap over to me. A bright pink cap that reads
I *heart* swimming
Oh, the irony.
Finally, I relax. Cap on, goggles secure, it is time to swim. Rather than write a workout, I just swim. After 500, I take 10 seconds rest, then repeat 8 more times. With each one I unwind. Nothing calms me like swimming. It is truly the only place where I can find quiet in the world – under the water. No external distractions, nothing but the sound of moving through water. It is rhythmic and calming. And before I know it, another Ironman distance swim has gone by.
Friday: 2,500 yards
Today I chose to swim in the kiddie lap pool. It’s just as nice as the adult lap pool but kept about 5 degrees warmer. If you can get past that and all of the band-aids, you’ll have a good swim. I decide to do mostly pulling and kicking today.
What surprises me is that the every other lane is filled with a woman swimming. There was the woman backstroking – the entire time, another woman swimming with paddles and form so bad my shoulders cried for her, and another woman side stroking. What is it about the water? What brings them here to do something that looks so monotonous yet they seem totally quiet and involved.
It’s the same thing that brings me here – quiet, freedom to move through the water without feeling the weight of whatever - life, age, pregnancy. Maybe they look at me and wonder how I can swim back and forth so many times while staring at a black lane line. Sometimes I wonder the same thing. But in looking at that black line, my head clears. It is addictive. To me, to them. This week swimming is my obsession. I have no off switch.
Saturday: 4,300 yards
Morning masters. Lucky for me, I have a lane mate today – Sue, a sassy like firecracker with undertones of bitterness and sarcasm. When you are on your fifth day of swimming for the week, she is the perfect lane mate.
The coach asks us if we want to do a set of freestyle today or IM.
Who said that? Who shouted that….? OH MY GOD IT WAS ME! The thought of doing more freestyle made me want to barf. IM sounded perfect to pass the time today. But somewhere in the first set I realize we are now stuck in a 2800 mainset consisting of IM. 4x in IM order done as (6 x 25 done as 2 drill, 2 kick, 2 swim followed by 2 x 75 IM drop the free followed by 2 x 100 IM).
I suggested fins for the 100 IM which Sue suggests is a most fabulous idea. I just know better than to attempt IM without fins these days. It makes me feel like I’m going to have one of those underwater births right in the pool. Given the number of band-aids and hair in the pool, I'd like to avoid birthing in it if possible.
Sunday: 1,700 yards
Finally, Sunday. Only 1700 more yards to go. I can’t wait. At this point I have become freakishly giddy about swimming.
Of all the swims, this one goes by the quickest. In no time I have completed my final swim with a little bit of all my favorite swimmy things: 300 free, 300 pull, 300 paddles, 300 kick, 300 reverse IM, 200 swim. I finish with a sense of completion – I set a goal and accomplished it. My first 20,000 yard week. I remember the first time I rode 100 miles, the first time I covered 20 miles on foot, and now I will remember my first 20,000 yard swim week. Who says you can’t accomplish anything athletically when pregnant?
When I started the week, it sounded like a lot of swimming. But now it seems manageable. What was once big, has become small. This is how you improve yourself – you take on what seems big, you conquer it, and then you set your sights bigger. Dreams lead to goals, goals lead to action, action leads to achievement. And achievement turns into more dreams and goals.
So, I sit here now thinking – what’s next? And I can’t help but thinking that maybe around week 25 I’ll be considering 25,000 yards of swimming. Why do I do things like this? For the same reason I’ve always done it – because I can. There is no better reason.
And as for what I am going to do next week, I have one goal: I’m not going anywhere near a pool for at least a few days!