Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Artsy Resort Pool Can Stop Me

The last few days I have been away at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association meeting. (Haha, nooo, not as a department head, but thanks if you connected the dots that way!)  A colleague and I were showcasing her "Lab-in-a-Box" on-the-go lab kit and curriculum we use at Virginia Tech.

I had two runs and an unstructured swim scheduled.  The runs were no problem.  One was done on the trails of a convenient adjacent mountain preserve.  The other called for strides on grass, but because the only suitable areas were within the manicured golf courses, I felt it was best to stick to the long vacant parking lot of the nearby visitor's center.  Not ideal, but had some fun revving the engines!

The swim presented the greatest challenge. I knew I wanted to do a continuous aerobic session and enjoy the outdoor swim and sun on my back. There were about 9 or 10 pools scattered throughout the resort - lagoons, adult pool, children's pool, hideaway pools....you get the picture. I scoped them all out and wouldn't you know, there wasn't ONE single pool suitable for laps! (Yeah, poor me, but lest you think I live like this, I assure you this work trip was a rarity.) I eventually settled on the pool adjacent to the workout room which was in some artsy non-symmetrical geometric shape and had a step/bench all the way around the perimeter which would make pushing off the wall interesting.  But the pool was quiet and fairly deep even if it was better suited to sipping umbrella drinks than training.

I swam from the top shady corner to a point off the photo on the right, dodging the edge of the hot tub!

I put on my swim cap and goggles, and set off on the longest diagonal of the pool, looking for landmarks among the drains and walls to create a lane for myself. After a warmup I started my watching thinking I might try for 2 x 20min continuous swims.

As a few folks began to take a dip in the water, I feared that if I stopped swimming I might lose squatters rights on my impromptu lane.  I imagined myself as a big container ship, far out at sea in the shipping lane, staying the course. I rethought the 2 x 20min plan.

Sidebar: At this point I should probably mention that immediately prior to this swim, I had been reading the blog of Sheila Plemich - Mind (and Body) of Iron.  She's a competitive master's endurance athlete in her 50's who trains at incredible volumes. In one of her recent entries, she reported on doing a 13,500m continuous pool swim.  Yes, 13,500m!!!  I can do 2500y in about 47 minutes, so That would take me about 4-1/2 hours, if I even had the mental fortitude to do it.

Sooo, to preserve my "shipping lane" I decided to change to a 1-hour continuous swim, something I had not ever done before in the pool. Physically it would not be a problem, mentally I wasn't sure.  Plus there was the issue of possible pool congestion. With the chronograph running, and my 18-20 y lane determined, I got to work.

And a quick 60 minutes later, I stopped -- happy and feeling good.

It made for a memorable swim and a good workout to boot.  The funny thing is it left me with tan lines on the top of my back and based on that evidence, one of the ECE department heads asked me if I was a triathlete. That started a chain of conversations where I was introduced to many of the runner/cyclist/triathlete/windsurfing department heads!

No matter what our jobs, positions, education, or power, doesn't it seem that endurance sports are a great equalizer?