chase or chill?


07/04/2014 by Carl Reynolds

You begin to swim in cool water with either a sedate stroke to ease out the muscles, that by the laws of physics are going to contract in the cold, or you speed off in the vain hope of deluding yourself that it’ll make you warm. Whether it does or doesn’t is, perhaps, more to do with the placebo effect than a physically measurable reality, but each to their own method of beginning a cool/cold water swim.

After a couple of lengths of steady state ticking over, I spot someone who seems to be going a little faster than I, but not so fast that I couldn’t gain on them. After several years of swimming in a clear 100 yard long pool, I’ve become adept at spotting them. I am then faced with a dilemma – chase or chill?

If I indulge in the chase, I can persuade myself that its good training, but…I lose the tranquility. I get lost in the pursuit and forget to look around. Bubbles are no longer fascinating, but an indication of a frenetic flight towards the heels of my intended target.

If, on the other hand, I resist the competitive urge, I continue to swim in a mesmerising and calming fashion. There is, for me, a boundary between being slow enough to absorb the surroundings; and being too quick to notice. I notice the same when driving on a motorway – 60 is a speed to absorb the countryside around; 70+ is a multi sensory plunge into focussed concentration. Anyone else feel the same? Is it a pan human experience; or just me?


6 thoughts on “chase or chill?

  1. DD says:

    S’different for me Mr Apey, swimming in the Lido in cold water is still all about gaseous exchange!. I stop at the end of every length to gasp in air, whilst pretending to wipe non-existent steam from the inside of my googles. I have no idea how the experienced swimmers of the lido can do the distances and the speeds they achieve, but i look on with admiration. In time, as my swim distances increase and the water warms up, I hope to progress to looking around me and enjoying the experience in a more relaxed styleee. More swimming would certainly help and I am doing all i can to achieve a protracted period of unemployment in this regard.
    As for racing, I took on a wet-suited supreme athlete for the last 15 metres of the pool the other week. Locked in a swim to the death I threw everything into the contest; style out of the window, breathing every 6 strokes, lungs bursting for oxygen….is everyone nodding? Gradually I pegged his small lead back and your readers will be thrilled to hear i got it on the touch (as they say). Jumping up to gasp the air and turn to commiserate with the loser, I was just in time to see him surface 10 feet away from a beautifully executed tumble turn as he went on his way.
    I love it down the Lido; the serenity of the swim, the camaraderie with fellow swimmers, the occasional 15 metre race to the death, the tea and cake, all well documented. Everyone has their own reasons for swimming in the cold waters and I suspect everyone has their own challenge that become the focus for each days swim.

  2. Peter Rev says:

    Similar. Just recovering from a cold (Yes, cold water swimmers can get colds too!) with a relaxing mile when, after four lengths, in jumps a grinning actor friend with ten years on me who swims along side. I was thinking I was doing well keeping him at bay. Then he finally sprints ahead after about 8 lengths and loses me completely then exits to the sauna. I complete my mile to be finished off by listening to weird Buddhist stuff in the sauna! So?

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks to Douglas Adams, Ford Prefect had the line ‘Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so’. The point is everything is relative. 60mph may be a sedate pace to admire the scenery from a 6 lane motorway and 70mph too fast, but if you want to appreciate the hedgerows of the Devon countryside through which I drive every morning then 60 is clearly much too fast. Nevertheless some mornings I rush along other mornings I slow down, stop, back up, get out and lean over a gate.
    I don’t get to swim in a pool but I’m sure it is to swimming what a motorway is to a narrow lane, there is always someone in your sights, somewhere to go and to be honest not a lot to distract you, bubbles are interesting, but only to a limited extent.
    I do get to swim in the River Dart and up and down the coast as often as I can. There is rarely anyone about to try to catch up with and if there were for the most part they would be happy to be caught and a conversation would probably ensue about the marvelous quality of the bubbles today. I speak from experience as last Friday evening 5 of us were actually paddling about admiring the bubbles. But also the blueness of the sky, the reappearance of the fish, the fluffiness of the clouds. In short we were thoroughly distracted.
    Some days it’s good to chase the swimmer ahead of you, other days it’s enough to watch the bubbles but don’t be disappointed if you end up doing something else entirely.

  4. Thanks all. Just what I needed to hear – some other perceptual experiences.

  5. Alex says:

    I always start fast – can’t help it, it’s just so much easier when I fisrt get in. Then I slow down and reach a better pace and rhythm, at this point I get to watch more of what’s going on around me.
    I do like the occasional sprint if I’m gaining on someone but I find this often makes them speed up as well.
    This morning I had a about five metres on Richard and Alfonso for the first six lengths which changed to them 10 metres ahead by length twelve. There was no way I could catch them by then. I felt a bit disappointed at first but they both have much longer distance swims to train for so I guess they should be better at pacing themselves.

  6. […] – gathered with the 3 Rivers crew for a multi-river swim and reflected on flow state in the […]

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