I could of course witter on about not having swam/written the blog/eaten too much/ smoked too much but I think that theme is getting a little tired. I could give excuses that both lie to myself and whoever I think I'm writing this blog for; perhaps myself two years ago when I was slightly more serious about swimming the channel.
To recap: I now live In Birmingham, the most landlocked city in the country, a move that is not obviously conducive to sea swimming. I miss the pools I swam in London and out of some sense of respect, a want not to taint their memory, fear of the unknown (I also had a runny nose, pieces of paper to move, face book to check etc etc) hadn't actually managed a swim in Birmingham.
There is a pool near me. Walking Distance but every time I think about it, I get a rising fury, a frustration that I can barley contain. It's a leisure pool. Some sort of S shaped, island bent, with water the temperature of a tepid bath. To try and do a 25 metre length you have to swim in a curve past neatly coiffured ladies where no hair on their head will get wet. It's warmth makes me think I'm swimming in other people's urine. I like my water cold, so I have to move to keep warm. I cannot count the amount of time I've wasted wondering why you wouldn't build a normal swimming pool. Just an oblong, 25 metres long, about 16 metres wide. So this aside, but still playing a a tune of fury in the back of my head I set my alarm for 6.20am to travel 20 minutes on a bus to Solihull Pool.
A little note- I've been feeling a tiredness that I haven't felt for a while, it's a slowness in my body. A reluctance to achieve anything other than sitting, or lieing, a low ebb that hits me for a nap in the afternoon at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm then stops me sleeping during the night, so that my vision seems slightly blurred, fogged over, fluff rattling between my ears. Too many late nights, and not keeping my feet on the ground. Pull my head from the clouds. I know that if I leave swimming one more week (It's been three weeks, last time was in Deptford a fond farewell to pool I loved, in between being one foot in London, one hand in Birmingham), I'll tip over edge where I won't go back, and each thought of exercise, each tiny step will be met with an excuse of other stuff happening. I have to swim or I might not catch myself again.
I'm worried, anxious about the size of the pool, the changing facilitates, the quality of the swimmers, the price of the pool. In London between the two pools that I frequented, I knew my times, the ebb and flow of the tides of people, learnt to read the rhythms of the swimmers, when it was busy, when the professionals came, who to avoid, what lane was mine. Judging my timings so I would get at least one moment of still when it's only you and perhaps one other in the pool. Now I'm treading water to see what lies in my new local(ish) pool.
I tell myself that people probably swim in Birmingham less, in Solihull less, there's probably not as much of a culture for exercise. I still obviously have that one foot in London and the superiority complex that comes from living in the Capital's glass walls.
I'm in for the Sunriser Session. £4.10 for a swim, glass wall over looks the pool. It's busy, five, six, seven people to every lane. I'm not even sure it's actually 25 metres long. I take a deep breath and...
Mixed changing rooms, maze like in their lay out but individual showers. It's a locker type affair no towel by the poolside here. Strap on the wrist, which I think slows me down. I'm aiming to do two miles- 130 lengths, think that I'll falter at 100. Seems like months, not weeks. I'll probably start with the medium lane, don't think I can aim that fast, that high.
7.15am Poolside I go. Scan the lanes, take an aim, look for the signs. Look for the signs. There's no slow lane. There's no medium lane, there's no fast lane. There's no system. There's no system.
There's people swimming full pelt front crawl in between no head wet swimmers. Heart sinks, I'll sink. I get in what seems to be ,on judgement, the faster lane, although in between tiny tight wearing short men, there's a flailing back stroker who's swimming like he's drowning. It's like rush hour, I gage the etiquette and decide to go straight in for over taking. It's a baptism of speed. I'm in between being insensed by slow swimmers and speeded up by the snapping of water dogs at my heels.
And I can't even get the furies, full of tutts at the leisurely crawlers because there is no system. It's not their fault there is no minimum speed.
I'm not at my best and I'm struggling at no system no sense, acknowledging that I like my rules. There's a couple of the familiers; the speeding men in tight trunks, speeding their way and stopping every few lengths. The dogged distancers (a category I'm usually part of) never stopping, just pacing, going the distance. But there is not the fine tuned Iron men that I've come to recognise from Deptford, the hard core, fin lined, hard lined swimmers who are all blur of cap and goggles. It's a little more like dogems at the fair. A man under takes me. He undertakes me and then swims directly towards me as he's just done a U turn. I'm not a driver, but I'm pretty sure this kind of manoeuvre is frowned upon, nigh on dangerous in a car. Now I'm all for letting people over take, I quite like a bit of encouragement of speed but this shows complete disregard for lane etiquette. Or politeness. Or safety. Or anyone else. I consider punching him in the balls.
I enjoy my rage, have a couple of pauses one at the 30 length mark (100 more to do) another at the 60 mark (nearly 1 mile, nearly half way there) and then people start to filter out of the pool...for a while it's me and couple of other's in the lane, no more stopping and starting or panic swimming. I keep lapping an older man who is swimming gracefully and slowly on. Drifting like he was born in the water. A basking shark, but with socks on. I assume their swim socks. Veroca deterrents.
My googles steam over, my pace evens out and I drift into my thoughts. Enjoying the ache in my arms. All the thoughts that keep me up, all the thoughts that make shadows in my bed, wash behind me, stroke by stroke. This is optimum time, around 8am. I'm waiting for the schools to come for the lanes to get smaller, for the next surge to come. But for twenty or so minutes it's the perfect swim conditions.
Then a rise and swell of a large pair of shorts, billowing like sea weed announce the arrival of the amateur swimmers. Dog paddling. Hand throwing. There's legs all around me, glimpses of white and pink. The last ten lengths powered by thoughts of breakfast...Reach my hand out for the side that one last time, head up goggles off and the pool is full again. This time it's like being in the film Cocoon. The lane is full with breast stroke and gental. And I leave the pool. Catch a bus, caught myself, 20 minutes back home.