Alphabet soup

Well, since I can’t seem to get to sleep despite 3mg of Zolpidem Tartrate, I will post something.

I’ll post about a new game I play in the pool. I call it the Alphabet Soup Game. I “run” in a 25m pool, about half of which I can cover without my feel touching the bottom. So I am basically running in loops in a 6 ft wide lane for about 12m each way. It takes me around 60-75 seconds to complete a loop.

Time passes slowly in the pool. Very slowly. And lately I’ve found that wearing an MP3 player hampers my ability to keep up a steady effort. It’s a complete pace-killer for intervals/fartleks, just like on the track. Running hard in the pool is like running hard anywhere else –  it takes concentration and focus. So I’ve set aside the music and podcasts and now run in silence.

I have found with some experimentation that there remain some ways in which I can occupy my mind without slacking off on effort. One of them is a game whereby, on each loop, I choose the next letter of the alphabet and think of all the words I can during that loop, then move onto the next one with loop 2 being sponsored by the letter B, etc.

I also play this game when I’m trying to get to sleep — when counting backwards from 999 has not worked — and the same thing happens in the pool as it does in bed: I start off with a mundane, obvious children’s grammar book entry, such as “A is for apple” — and then immediately launch into some of the most obnoxious, obscure words. Words I’d forgotten I ever knew. I mean, I guess I’m happy that I have a decent vocabulary. But why am I coming up with words like “estoppel” and “egregiously” when “egg” would do perfectly well? I slip into themes too, where I’ll go on a psychological/brain journey and hop my way along related tangential words like they’re river rocks (“agoraphobia,” “amygdala,” and my favorite: “aquaphobia” — a fear of water found in the final stages of rabies. And in the early stages of pool running).

My standard pool run time is now 60+ minutes. After the warmup I can usually get through this word game at least twice, sometimes three times. 90 has been my biggest water run so far, and I did that one with music to reduce the shock. But on Sunday I’m doing a 2 hour run at steady ~75% effort, basically to simulate a long run. No MP3s. My vocabulary and capacity for free association will get a big workout then.

I’m becoming more efficient in the pool (meaning I cover more “ground” and I have had to increase my flail pace to get my HR up. I’m also adjusting the spin bike and elliptical machines to higher resistance settings these days since I’m much fitter on them than I was a month ago. Will this all pay off? I think it kind of has to, if one assumes that, at the very least, the aerobic conditioning will be applicable to running. I was also informed by Jonathan, in for him what was an uncharacteristically enthusiastic reaction (“Hang on — flex those again!”) that my shoulders, back (lats, especially) and triceps are making a statement when I enter a room. Some of that’s the upper body weight work. But I think most of it’s the pool running.

The visit to the new orthopedist went well yesterday, insofar as I was listened to quite carefully and the response was positive: “If it’s w, we’ll do x. If it’s y, we’ll do z.” The big surprise is that he takes my insurance, which I’d figured he wouldn’t. I’m so used to getting shafted by our insurance company and loathed by practictioners who grumpily accept it.

The MRI is next week. More news as it comes in. I’m sending Jonathan in to see ortho guy Tuesday since I figure he may as well get to work on fixing both of us.

I am hoping our diagnoses and recoveries will be easy as A, B, C. I don’t even care if they are painful and expensive. I just want them to work.

Uh oh. Can’t see straight. It’s time to make my way to my favorite horizontal space and start counting backwards…

5 Responses

  1. Yikes, that is a lot of pool running, kudos to you for putting in that much hard work! Have you ever considered *actually* swimming in the pool? Just a thought… it is an excellent workout and makes for really good cross training that is easy on the bod. It would certainly be a new kind of “hard” if you’re not much of a swimmer. I have this mental image of you running back and forth in the pool that makes me giggle a bit each time you post about it. :)

    • I don’t really know how to swim properly. Meaning I don’t know how to coordinate breathing along with arm wheeling and kicking. Otherwise I’d try it.

      Your giggling is justified. I look like a wounded duck.

  2. I remain in awe of your mental fortitude and physical patience.

    • I strongly suspect that there is an abnormal capacity for tedium running along my father’s side of the family. Both my dad and uncle were marathoners. And my uncle once held a job as a human pencil sharpener for a standardized testing company. He sat in a windowless room and stuck hundreds of pencils into an electric sharpener, then put them back into boxes. My first job was a in windowless room slicing and cream-cheesing bagels for hours.

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