I've been a swimmer all my life. My dad has family movies of me swimming underwater as an infant, bald head gleaming, eyes wide open, lips puckered up in a fish-kiss, with my chubby little legs waggling me forward toward the arms of my waiting mom.
I did my first swim race when I was just six years old; I didn't realize that the 8-and-under kids were supposed to race for just one length of the pool, so the lifeguards had to jump in and stop me when I started my third lap. I couldn't understand why they were getting in my way and I tried to push them aside; boy, was *I* embarrassed when I found out the race had ended 35 meters before! (The 8-year-olds, much faster than I was, had finished long before, of course. They won the race, but my parents tell me that my determination won the hearts of the on-lookers).
I've never been particularly fast; it's just that I keep going. So the swim part of preparing for this Iron Man is the easiest part for me. A couple of times this summer, I've jumped in the pool, swum 4000 meters, and climbed out feeling fine; it's not like the bike and running, which have been wiping me out and giving me nightmares. In fact, my biggest difficulty with swimming is that it's a funky combination of too easy and just too time-consuming: swimming that distance is an hour-and-a-half of sensory deprivation. I can't chat with friends; there's nothing interesting to see (especially since I'm the only swimmer I know who doesn't use goggles), and swimming is just enough of a workout that I can't concentrate on math problems.
But lately, I've realized that the pool is an excellent place to pray, and that's given me new reasons to go jump in the water.
I usually count laps by singing. It's easy to forget numbers (especially when your brain is foggy from exercise, and especially when every lap looks just as fuzzy as the last one). So if I try to count by remembering numbers, I'm always wondering "was that six? or did I get to seven?" But songs can stay stuck in my head, running in the background while the rest of my mind wanders. So I count hundreds -- that's four lengths of the pool -- by singing songs:
- "One singular sensation!"
- "Tea for two"
- "Three blind mice"
and so on. And once I've gone a thousand meters ("Ten Little Indians"), now I start praying. Each person I pray for gets one hundred meters, four lengths of the pool, about two minutes of my prayers. I'm incoherent and my mind wanders, but that seems to be okay, actually. I swim/pray for the many members of my family, for my friends, for the people at my church who asked for prayers, for people who have come to my mind.
I suppose this turn of events is appropriate; I took this IronMan challenge on because of something my pastor said about the Christian life being one of endurance. So I'm glad that my training isn't entirely about ignoring my family and career just so I can get out there and selfishly exercise.
And as an added benefit, counting on people, I've discovered, seems to be easier than counting on numbers . . . at least in the pool.