Sunday, June 26, 2011


It's almost halfway through 2011. We've passed the summer solstice, the happiest day of the year. This was what I was longing for back in January when there were ice dams on my roof that wouldn't yield to repeated blows from a steel hammer.

2010 was far and away my best swimming year ever - an absolute blow-out in yardage totals, attendance, and every other measure you can think of.

2011 will not top it. By the end of Jun 2010 I had 318,100 yards under my belt. Right now, my total for the year is only 158,100 yards. Half the total!

The reason is easy to see: poorer attendance and effort. Five of the first six months in 2010 were "best monthly yardage totals." This year I fell short in January and never caught up. I haven't been regular about making it to Masters workouts. My standard morning workout was 2500 yards last year. This year I've put in 2000-2400 yards a day, rarely reaching that 2500 yard mark. Those small differences accumulate over time.

I had two bouts of poor health. There was a feverish weekend back in March that left me flat on my back. But I went back to my swimming regimen as soon as I finished the course of antibiotics and recovered sufficient strength. I don't think I was fully recovered. When the trees popped in May, spewing pollen everywhere, my health collapsed. I couldn't breathe, couldn't stop coughing. I was able to recover thanks to extreme measures, a smart doctor and wonderful health coverage.

But I found myself back at square one when it came to fitness. I've always been lung-limited while swimming. Now I had to figure out how to get it back. I had to do something different.

Swimming and biking are great, but there's nothing like running to tax the lungs and expand capacity. I decided that I had to learn how to run again.

I started swimming back when I was 21 because I wanted to avoid the toll that pounding the roads would take on my ankles, shins, knees, and hips. That was prescient - no replacement surgery for me. I ran every day then, but I haven't since. I'm lucky if I run the Manchester Race on Thanksgiving Day and hit the road half a dozen other times in a year.

There's a speed limit sign exactly a half mile from my driveway. I started running half-mile repeats, with a two-minute rest in-between. The key is to be regular and focused. I want to run four times a week. Don't take days off. Don't be shy about two workouts in a day. Keep working my lungs, getting a sweat on, and building my metabolism and lung capacity up.

It's worked out well this week. I swam at noon on Monday, squeezing in 1500 yards that included some nice 100 repeats. I had a yoga class at the grammar school just up the street after work. I measured the distance from my driveway to the school: 1.3 miles. A run to yoga would be doable. I persuaded my youngest daughter to join me. It was fun to have a running partner.

We had a 90 minute yoga class that felt great. I felt strong and loose. Wouldn't a run home complete the day? My daughter was game, so we ran home in the dusk followed by clouds of fireflies. It was a beautiful experience.

I'm not trying to run marathons. I don't want to race or be competitive. I just want to get my lungs back and feel fit again. I've learned the hard way that running is the only way. I've neglected this activity for too long. If this week is any indication, it's like seeing an old friend again after many years.

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