Crossing the Sun's Anvil

The big drought starts now. I must cross the Sun's Anvil, four weeks of waterless, barren wasteland of pool closure. A man could lose his bearings, and walk around in circles, confused, looking for any pool of water in which to wet his brow.

I dread the holiday pool schedule. The city running my local pool has an expansive view of what constitutes the holidays. We're not talking Christmas and New Years, rather an entire month, commencing mid-December. There is another pool I can use, and it's got a more swimmer-friendly idea of what a holiday is. But it's an hour away, and I can't justify too many 2-hour round-trips just to swim.

Worse yet, once the month is over and our local pool opens I go almost immediately to the TBI Conference and then straight into a weeklong F.I.S.T. Workshop. This means I'll be on dry land most of the time between my pool's closing (December 11, 2015) and the end of the F.I.S.T. Workshop (February 5, 2016).

Something's got to tide me over.

There is another complicating factor, which is I'm a weather wimp. All the pools above are outdoor. As I write this it is 35°F at 11:30am where I live. That's unseasonably cold, but this winter it's been unseasonably cold. Even when the pool is open for swimming there's only so much inclemency I can stand.

With advance knowledge of these challenges, this year I planned ahead. Pictured (badly) is my Vasa Swim Ergometer. This device has a lot of electronic and training features, but this is not the sizzle for me. Distance, time, power are nice, but luxuries. The value of this device is a pretty realistic resistance band throughout the stroke.

I'm not going review it here. I promised readers a couple of weeks ago that I would report at intervals throughout the winter how my swim was progressing using limited pool access along with Vasa sessions to tide me over. My intent was to establish a swim set – which I did – that would act as a gauge of in-water speed and fitness. If I could, from time to time, perform this set in the water over the winter then I would reckon myself fit.

This is my proverbial Milo of Croton daily bull pick-up, but I'm not looking to get stronger, only to keep what strength I have.

The set is designed to provide a reasonably stout test of fair speed with reasonable endurance. It's 16x150yd, leaving on the 2:20, that is, every 150yd swum, plus the rest, equals 2:20. Successful completion of the set means a swim accompanied by some amount of rest in between each 150.

Making this set is no evidence of blazing speed, but if I can do this set in the beginning of March it means I didn't fall entirely to pieces over the winter. Knowing that I'll only be swimming sparingly over the winter, this test is to see how well a dryland training device can tide me over. What I'm using is a Vasa Ergometer. If fewer swims plus augmentation with the Vasa does the job, this doesn't mean only the Vasa Ergometer will work. Maybe a Vasa Swim Trainer (at half the price), or any swim bench or Nordic ski dry-land training device would do the trick. My intention here is simply to see if there's a way I can cheat my way through the winter, coming out the other side not having lost all my swim speed and fitness.

Included here are a couple of truly bad pics of the trainer I'm using. I have the rolling bench bungeed pretty tight front and rear so that it moves only enough to grant a realistic feel. I bought a massage table headrest off of Amazon for $20. I scribed a base out of ¾” oak with my jigsaw and glued the hook part of hook-and-loop to it (the headrest comes with the loop part attached). I attached the scribed wooden base to the Vasa with a couple of pieces of rubber cut from a flatted bike tube and stuck the headrest on it. If you spend a lot of time on the Vasa there is a question of where to place your head. This solved it for me.

It is the 14th of December as I write this, and the last time I completed this test set was a week ago. I successfully limped through the first part of the winter performing fewer swim sessions with Vasa workouts in their place. It's too early to tell much, but it seems to me that I actually have slightly more speed augmenting with the Vasa, but less endurance. This might make some sense on account of the way I'm using it: somewhat high resistance, but not for long duration.

I got a little reprieve. I've spent the last few days out of the country, but in proximity to a pool. An oasis, you might say. The true test will be next month, after I've crossed the Sun's Anvil (a familiar reference to old movie buffs). I'll have relied even more on the Vasa and less yet on any pool. I'll try to swim the set again within the next week or two, then again in mid-January, and I'll report back here.

In my next installment I'll tell you what specific Vasa workouts I'm doing.