68.7 laps in 60 minutes

January 31, 2009

I arrived at Osborn Aquatic Center this morning and realized the last time I’d swum 60 consecutive minutes I was in college, in my 20s. I was on the OSU women’s crew team. I weighed 116 pounds and I could bench-press more than my body weight. And I was at nine percent body fat.

Those numbers have all migrated north in the last two decades.

I’d given myself a goal of 3000 yards, a two-minute pace per 100 yards. 60 laps. That seemed reasonable. Although, truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I could do .

Elizabeth was there. Master swimmer and birthday girl. She was shooting for 4200 yards. Nathan approached and said he was shooting for 4900, or was it 5200? I can’t remember now. It was an impressive number. 

Elizabeth suggested I swim in lane 7 (cool. my niece’s lucky number.) Elizabeth and Gayle, another master swimmer, had lane 6. I knew I couldn’t keep pace with Elizabeth yet the competitor in me appreciates her example and her strength. I like swimming next to her.

I was lucky to have a volunteer, Mike Kalk, to time me, so I wouldn’t have to keep track of my laps. Bad with numbers, in the pool and out.

I gave up my flip turns after the first 500 yards. They were sloppy, ineffective. And they were messing with my breath. Those first 500 yards were the toughest.

I decided to focus on my breath and my stroke. Don’t look at the clock. Don’t count. Just swim and enjoy it. Enjoy my body. Enjoy each stroke, each lap.

I was also motivated by the people who had supported me and donated money to Isis Initiative. I had one pledge for $2/lap. Another came just before I left for the pool: $1/lap.

I gave myself two simple rules: freestyle, all the way, and no quitting, no matter what.

My face turned into a radiator. My stomach turned, period. And I kept going. I felt strong, rhythmic.

When I finished, Mike told me I’d done 3435 yards, 68.7 laps. Holy smokes! I was happy!

I was consistent?, I asked, expecting an affirmative.

You were slowing, he said, matter-of-factly: .

Oh, so I was consistently slowing? I joked.

Actually, I paced at a 1:43 or 1:44 per 100 yards. I was positively giddy. I’d finished. I’d finished better than I’d expected. And I felt great. 

For the post-swim celebration, Elizabeth donned a t-shirt with a slightly modified iconic image. It had the words “Elizabeth Can Do It,” with the J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” 1942 poster image (often mistaken for Rosie the Riveter). A present from her husband, Tim.

We gathered for photos and then for games and birthday cake. A cake with chocolate almond ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. Elizabeth, now 55, had always wanted, and never had, an ice cream cake for her birthday. It was delicious. We all giggled and laughed.

Elizabeth hails from a long line of tough women; her ancestors were part of the suffrage movement. Her women believed in educating women. Elizabeth gave me the floor to share about Isis Initiative, Inc. And women gave me money to support our global mission of educating women. 

Elizabeth had one request: whenever we send a woman to school, we ask that woman to support the education of another woman. Agreed.

There’s a crescent moon setting in the clear, dark western sky outside my window. It’s been a glorious day. I am thankful for my body: she continues to serve me well. I am thankful for my friends, for their generosity, their encouragement and their shining examples of doing good in our beloved world.

And ladies, let’s give a shout out to all those women who paved the way for us..and let us boldly and joyfully continue the journey.


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