The alarm goes off at 5:20. That's a.m. My alarm, which is the theme song to the "Harry Potter" movies, interrupts my dream. I push snooze and snuggle back down into my warm blankets. I almost drift back off to sleep, then realize that if I don't get out of bed now, I won't have time to swim. Reluctantly, I get out of bed. It's still dark outside.
I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, scrape my hair into a ponytail, get in my bathing suit, and pull on some old sweats. I do this in the dark, trying to be quiet as so not to wake J. Of course, he's up, as he heard the alarm too. "Have a good workout," he calls as I tiptoe out of the room. On the way downstairs I grab a towel from the linen closet. Although I've been swimming early in the morning, twice a week, since July, I haven't yet learned to take the towel out the night before.
I get in my car and drive the half mile to the gym. It is dark and cold outside. I enter the gym, let them scan my gym pass, and go to the locker room. There, in the bright lights, I take off my sweats and pull on my swimcap. Locking my clothes and purse in the locker, I head out to the pool, taking my goggles and towel with me. On the way out, I grab one of the gym's little towels and four Q-Tips. The Q-Tips will help me keep count of my laps.
I walk out to the pool. Even though it's only 5:45 and still pitch-black outside, most of the 10 lanes in the pool are taken. I am always amazed. I used to wonder who these crazy people were, showing up in the wee hours of the morning to swim. Now I am one of the crazies. I find an empty lane, and breathe a sigh of relief that I won't have to share a lane. A glance at the white-board shows the temperature of the water to be 82 degrees. "Not bad," I think, "not bad."
I set my big towel down on a table and head to my lane. I put my little towel on the ground, and place my four Q-Tips on it. I sit and dangle my feet in the water. It feels cold, although I know it's not. The water is warmer than the air outside. There is actually steam coming off the water. I pull my goggles over my eyes, press them in for suction, then lower myself into the water. I push off and begin my first length.
Right arm, left arm, right arm, breathe, right arm, left arm, right arm, breathe....I concentrate on my bilateral breathing as I glide through the water. I'm a bit chilly, although I know I will warm up soon enough. I reach the end of the lane, 25 yards later, and turn around. I swim some more and suddenly I am back, and have completed 1 lap. Only 49 more laps to go.
The sky stays dark overhead for most of my swim. This is how I prefer to swim. I love the black sky above me, stars out, no sounds except for the splashing of my neighbors in the next lane and the sound of my own breathing. Unlike running, no music accompanies this workout. For the next hour, I will be alone with my thoughts in the water.
Swim, swim, swim....soon enough I have completed 20 lengths, which means I have 10 laps done, or 500 yards. . I move one of Q-Tips over to the edge of my little towel. This means I can start over with my count. It's easier for me to keep track this way. I can easily keep count up to 20 lengths....I would lose count with anything over. My Q-Tips count for me.
Swim, swim, swim. My arms start to get tired. I will myself to go on. I MUST do 2500 yards today. HTFU (harden the f*ck up), I tell myself, are you a triathlete or what? Soon my arms aren't tired anymore, and the swim gets easier. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes I get too tired and swim a length doing side-stroke instead of freestyle, although that rarely happens anymore. I've become a decent swimmer.
Swim, swim, swim. My goggles start to feel tight on my orbital bones, but I can't worry about that. I'd rather have a bit of pain around my eyes than leaky goggles. I notice the swimmer in the next lane using a kickboard. Another swimmer does flipturns. I stare at the black line underneath me and continue with my swim.
Soon enough, I'm done with my workout. 100 lengths. 50 laps. 2500 yards. Over an hour has gone by. The sun is now up; I swam through the sunrise. I get out of the pool, throw away my Q-Tips, wrap myself in my towel and head to the locker room. I quickly dress in my sweats and head home. I have to get my kids ready for school. I have a full day ahead of me. It's only 7:00 a.m. and my workout is over.