“Here be dragons” is a phrase used to denote dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of the medieval practice of putting sea serpents and other mythological creatures in uncharted areas of maps.
I have often considered it apt in describing the mental side of marathon swimming. Many people have described a split between the physical and mental side of the sport, with such a percentage mental / physical. Whatever the actual ratio of mental to physical actually is, and it probably varies from person to person, the mental side is definitely a major component and needs to be given the same, if not more care and consideration as the physical.
Given I am now in the last stages of heavy training and doing longer and longer swims, I’m now encountering dragons. Quite often really. These take many forms. Cold, injury, pain and dare I say it: boredom.
The water is still quite cold, especially when the sun is a stranger to these parts. At least in sunshine, there is some degree of heat available, but swimming in sea fog and rain and single digit air temps? That does nothing to raise the water temp. It’s still regularly at 12 deg, occasionally rising to 13. Sometimes you just get tired of finishing every session in a state of mild hypothermia. It hurts, makes sessions much harder and generally just wears you down. Although a recent swim at High Rock in Portmarnock was a welcome break, it was a tropical 14 deg there. Unusual, as up the east coast is typically colder than here. Every little bit helps.
I’ve been largely injury free for most of the winter, the usual shoulder niggles but nothing sinister. This is good. However I’ve noticed a growing pain in my left hip. Most likely a slight imbalance has crept into my stroke, not unusual given the quantity of cold water swimming where muscles don’t exactly do what you tell them to do. Again nothing major, and only really apparant on the longer swims, but at his stage with only 3 weeks to go, it’s probably better not to do anything stupid to make it worse. Tapering begins next week anyway with a switch to some speed work before the ease down. A few pool swims will probably allow me to analyse my stroke and make the necessary corrections.
I came across this quote recently and found it very apt:
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea. -e.e. cummings