I love open water swimming. So much so, that I live five minutes’ walk from the beach so I can do more of it. (Previously I’ve lived by hills so I could cycle or run (walk) up them). And yet, this week I did my first outdoor swim in almost two years. Why? Lack of time, for one – I’d had other things to think about: children; work; Love Island. I’d also lost motivation.
In September 2016 I managed a 10km swim in Loch Ard, so I had something to aim for. It mattered little that the local (leisure) pool offered only five one-hour windows per week for lane swimming – outside of that, you need to navigate old people doing aqua aerobics, children playing (and pissing) and the wave machine (twice every hour) – because I was there at 9am for the lanes, raring to go.
And that wasn’t all. On Tuesdays I’d head to the local sports lake for some open water action. On Fridays I’d drive 12 miles to do a session between 8pm and 10pm at another pool – only about three people seemed to know it was open at that time, and from 9pm ‘til 10pm it was all mine. And at the weekends there was the sea.
I was focused. Even though our second child had arrived in January 2016, the September swim date was set in stone. I’d had it in writing from my wife (and ignored the small print detailing what I’d be required to give up afterwards). Indeed, it was the first substantial event I’d done since Celtman, in those heady days of pre-children training (and the guilt-free seven hour rides on a Saturday).
Slipping back into my wetsuit this week, I felt sad that I’d let all that fitness just … drain away. I get that after big events – weeks of doing nothing, turn into months and then, in this case, years. Why was I here at the lake? And why bother – there were only another six weeks of open water sessions, after all (?). Besides that, there was nothing to train for.
But then I thought about the effort I’d put in to get to the lake in the first place.
The children had been with the child minder all day, returning at 5pm shattered, starving and keen for their 30 minutes “watching something”. My wife turned up about the same time, having cycled home from work. We then had 45 minutes to: 1) satiate the kids; 2) convince them that watching mum and dad swim was more fun than watching TV; 3) shove some food down our throats; 4) locate, dust off and pack our kits; and 5) get out the door.
I looked out of the window as I shovelled a piece of toast and peanut butter into my mouth. “It’s going to tip down,” I said. It was only 5.20pm but I was already feeling the dark clouds gather over my mood, too. My daughter had eaten a mouthful of pasta, but was now in the kitchen cupboard playing her electric keyboard. “Shall we not risk it?”
My wife offered: “Why don’t you just go?”. Was this a trick? Or did she simply not want to spend the next couple of hours with grumpy me?
The next 20 minutes I spent internally (and at times externally) debating the pros and cons of us all going to the lake. My vision had been of sunshine – basking in it as my wife swam and I watched the children in the play park; halfway through we’d switch, I’d swim and the kids could have a hot chocolate.
However, in the space of a few minutes, that quickly ebbed towards a very different scenario – me sitting in the car with two children as the rain beat down and they – fuelled by hot chocolate and whipped cream – beat each other up.
But it didn’t rain. We both managed to swim the best part of a kilometre. And the kids, well, they loved it … almost as much as Peppa Pig.