Thursday, 10 February 2011

3 Mile Swim and Chips

Oh the song to my previous post was- 'Fight for This Love' By Cheryl Cole.
I have no idea why.

As I am working backwards from last week, I got distracted by my arm and back measurements, I am with a sense of dread, going to start documenting my BMI. 

This was Wednesday 2nd February...

I spend an afternoon taking my clothes off in a windowless room under Warren Street in front of a camera. This is for work in progress performance that I am doing as part of Starting Blocks, not unfortunately as seedy as it seems-there is more about it here
Yes, another blog, more specifically about performance and rehearsal including the blogs from artists working on subjects such as Getting into Space, Fear, The Moon and The Temperance Hospital and Mary Wolstonecraft.

It seems rather odd to spend an afternoon in my swimming costume not in water to then put my clothes back on to take them off to get into the water. I seem to be spending perhaps 40% of my time in a costume.

I am wary of the wednesday swim, I have hit commuter exercise rush hour before at these times and its like a swim conga- a packed pool with no chance of speed. I am going to another pool than the one I have been going to, one closer to home, but smaller and older- a beautiful beach frieze to brighten up the tiles at one end. There is queue to pay and I notice that I will be sharing the pool with the local swimming club throughout the evening, I feel dread.

I think that I might not even do 100 lengths. I must do two miles. I must. That's 140 in this pool. I'm still beating myself up for not doing three on Sunday Morning, but now, tonight is not the time for beating personal bests.

The two right hand lanes are a flurry of red swim caps, youths in the peak of fitness swimming at full pelt,  the coach's shouts reverberate around the hight of the building and rush of water echoes everywhere. But the lanes for public swimming are not busy. A few lone stragglers confused by the noise of the swim club. I get in the fast lane and push off...

Perhaps it is because this pool is shorter, perhaps because the water is colder, the push off glide is more pleasurable here, it feels, as it should do,  a little like flying. The rushing youths to the right of me causes the pool to heave and move with their exertion. The water is far from the smooth wide pool that I'm used too, but choppy and loud, and as my googles steam over I can just about imagine I am in the sea.

The chant of the coach's call makes me swim faster and harder (an of eager school girl wanting to impress still hiding somewhere in the 29 year old), I take pleasure in his barks. Though if I stop for just a second, I cannot understand his instructions.

'10 in the water-four on the back 3 times the two'.

Before, there was a stillness after I emerged from the water, now there is noise and thrashing all around. I don't have time to get inside my head, with the waves from the youths, I concentrate on my stroke.

Despite all of this I'm not having a good swim. I'm counting lengths in 10's to make it easier for myself, but I am pushing as hard as I can. Then someone gets in the fast lane and starts doing breast stroke. At a slow pace.

Perhaps it is the pace I have been swimming at, perhaps it's the noise, or the testosterone leaked from the promise of youth on my right, but today, I do not have the patience for slow swimmers. I do the swim version of the commuter huff and tutt. I usually try politeness first until pushed. But not today, I flounce my way ahead of the (amateur-I think in my head) swimmer, just as he reaches the end. Get out of the fast lane I think.

At 100 I get out to go for a wee (never in the pool, never and not just because I am afraid of that myth of the purple dye that follows you around), knowing that sometimes that little break helps me push to the last 40 lengths. As I get back in I see that my 'amateur' swimmer is a young lad, probably 14 or 15, eyes blinking with chlorine, all ready probably intimidated by his fish like peers in the lane next door. I chastise myself but I'm still pleased he switches with panic to the appropriate 'medium' lane when I get back in.

I get to 140. 2 miles. I pause. I'll do 10 more lengths.
150. I'll do 10 more.

I haven't eaten since 2pm. I should get out.
160. Only 50 lengths to 3 miles.

I'll do 10 more. 170.
I might as well stay in.

If I do 3 miles, I'll treat myself to chips.
And a glass of wine.
And a cigarette.
And I will be able to tell people. I swam 3 miles.

180. 30 lengths to go. I've made up my mind.
And now all I can think about is the swimming.
My arms moving my legs kicking. Getting to the other side.

The kids have changed to the adult club, it' quieter. I have the lane to myself.
190.  My arms hurt, my shoulders ache.
If I was out of the water I'd be shaking.
20 more, I'm not getting out now.

And now I can't imagine getting out of the water, I can't stop my arms from moving, I'm afraid of what will happen when I do. There's no ranting in my head, just the goal of the next few lengths and the rhythm of the water, and my breathing and my moving. It's a kind of even out of pain. And I know it's only a small step in the grand scheme. 3 miles in a pool is not the channel.

But it is my challenge, that only I know about. All though a fantasy aside imagines the lifeguard looking at me wondering when I'm going to get out.

205 lengths.

I think about Gertrude Edele, getting out of the water after she became the first women to swim the channel, legs giving way to firm ground, a fish out of water.
I remember something, somewhere from a book, about breaking the moment (the pain barrier) and a kind of euphoric quality taking over. (Possibly 'Skippy Dies'?-not really about swimming as such-a boy who swims is in it)

207 lengths.
I wonder if I could go on? I feel like I could go on.
208 lengths.
To 4 miles.
209 lengths.
210 lengths.

I feel there should be a fanfare, a cheer. Instead the coach keeps shouting at the adult swim clubbers. And I drag myself out of the pool. I'm sure he smiles at me. I'm sure he is congratulating my achievement. 

One hour and 50 minutes.

I feel surprisingly full of energy. Proud, as if it is written on my face. All I want now is chips. And a cigarette. And a beer? Or a wine? I've got wine open.
I walk to the chip shop, it's closed. I'm not being distracted by soggy chicken shop chips, or kebab shop chips filled with grease. I want thick potatoe cut, chip shop chips. I get on a bus to a chip shop that I know, where then men are so nice that I once cried into my paper cone on the way home after a particularly bad day. It has a yellow sign at the end of the street, telling me its still open.

I have sausage and chips, open. A child's portion, with so much vinegar it wears away the paper, and I have to bite back telling the man that I deserve these, that I just swam three miles.

Always chips after you swim in the sea, to match the salt in your mouth. It's like a cream tea after a long walk.  Even if I've eaten before, I can't go to the seaside without having chips.  The chlorine on my lips doesn't taste as good as the salt in my mouth, and I wish for the out door water.  As I'm walking home, grease on lips,  chips in hand I work out (it takes me quite a long time considering it's a fairly simple sum) that if I could swim 3 miles every day for 7 days, than I could do the channel in a week (technically).

At the moment, swimming two miles is my standard, it's an achievable target and 100 lengths just isn't enough anymore. What I'd like to do is build it up so 3 miles is my standard, that this is what I can swim easily.

By the time I'm home, the food is gone and I shower,  pour a glass of wine to savour over my last cigarette.  As I spark up my stomach seems to complain, and my throat seems sore. It feels like is seeping through my blood stream. This is unusual. Like my body is rebelling. I put it out without finishing it. Pour the wine away. I'm so tired that I can barley get into bed.

The next day, I wake up and I am so tired I want to cry. So here is to making three miles my normal.

No comments:

Post a Comment