Going like Sixty: Staying Present makes it better.
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 25th, 2010

Internationally-known bass-baritone Simon Bailey stays fit for the rigors of his opera roles with TI Practice. ¬†Today he messaged me from Vienna (where he’s doing a Richard Strauss work called Ariadne auf Naxos) :¬†Vienna’s outdoor pools closed on September 19th – just as the weather turned absolutely glorious. So this week I have been in the Danube, which has lots of stretches safe for swimming away from river traffic.

Yesterday I built up to a full ‘ironman’ length swim, trying to put in to practice some of the tips from the Perpetual Motion Freestyle DVD. With a 30km/h wind and heavy chop all hell was breaking loose, but trying to keep the stroke ‘an oasis of calm within the storm’ worked really, really well. It’s funny how big a role the mind plays – mentally calming everything down, stretch the stroke, take it easy, and suddenly everything improves.

Today, I marked the exact midpoint between my 59th and 60th birthdays by swimming the current-aided 10km Little Red Lighthouse Swim in the Hudson River. It started at the 79th St Boat Basin and went north, under the George Washington Bridge, finishing at the Inwood Canoe Club, about 1.5 miles north of the bridge.

As I’ve related in other posts, my times have been slow and my placings modest in my open water swims this year and last. I had let disappointment in my results detract from what had always been a joyful, flow-creating experience. I determined that today I would focus on enjoying the experience — not just the camaraderie of many friends and the glorious day, but to focus on feeling fantastic in the water.

And I did feel that way, for over 5 miles and 90 minutes. Then I had a brief moment that reminded me of exactly what Simon has learned — how much one’s experience is determined by what and how you’re thinking.

This was brought home when I was about half a mile from the finish. Because I’m not fully fit for a swim that long right now, I’d been feeling a creeping edge of fatigue for 10 to 15 minutes at that point and could feel my ability to maintain flow slipping too.

I looked forward and could see the finish line, as well as 6 or 8 swimmers stretched out between me and it. And I just wanted to be done already – or at least closer to the finish as they were. Instantly, the swim became less enjoyable, the feeling of fatigue became more pronounced and I felt a bit of strain or struggle enter my stroke.

That lasted only a few seconds before I caught myself and thought “No. Be here and make each stroke as good as it can be. Let the finish line come to you.”

The final 8 to 10 minutes were the best of the entire swim.

4 Responses to “Going like Sixty: Staying Present makes it better.”

  1. Roger Coxon says:

    Dear Terry,

    I swam the Little Red Lighthouse swim today – it was the culmination of my first year of open water swimming and of a little more than a year of doing TI swimming.

    Sorry I did not meet you there, but I found it a very fun swim. The tide assist certainly made it a far quicker swim than I expected!

    Roger Coxon

  2. Simon says:

    The intro should read:

    ‘Overrated, underpaid and overweight opera singer Simon Bailey fights an ongoing battle with his beergut by swimming freestyle badly, but he’s trying to improve’

    Cheers Terry!

  3. Self-deprecating humor goes a long way. Striving to improve – in swimming as in all endeavors – goes even further.

  4. Roger I heard from three others yesterday that TI practice was the reason they were there for the event. Comments like that bring me as much satisfaction as doing the event myself.

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