Just two more rounds, I reassured myself, as my mind left the task at hand to search for new thoughts of encouragement. I filled my burning lungs once more with the cool night air and then releasing my grip on the wall, going limp, I exhaled slowly, sinking into the dim stillness below.
Pushing up off the bottom of the pool I returned to the surface, glancing up at the full moon. I once again breathed in life and then let myself relax and sink, now gazing at the supermoon from beneath the surface. I bobbed like this for some time, shaking out my tired, stiff muscles before pushing off to swim an easy 100m of active recovery. I revelled in the now effortless ease of movement that was in such stark contrast to the near-impossible resistance training that both preceded, and would soon follow.
It was around eight in the evening. I was where you can find me on most evenings if I am in the country; alone in Blue Dolphins Pool, getting the job done. By eight, after four hours of training, two hours in the gym and another two of swimming, I am normally mentally and physically exhausted.
In the corner, floating by the wall, the near-impossible rubber stretched cords mocked me, attached on one end to the starting block, and to a belt on the other. I quickly put on the belt and ratcheted the buckle down tight.
"Two more rounds! Let's go!" I exclaimed as I pushed off the wall and charged full speed, surging through the breakout, into a blistering fast rhythm that I struggled to hold against the thick rubber cords that pulled me back. With each all-out pull I advanced less and less, until after ten strokes I had stretched the cords to their maximum length, ensuing a furious struggle against them just to remain stationary.
Cavitating in the water, I sensed myself beginning to drift backwards. I lifted my head, ceased the struggle and was sling-shotted violently back to the wall. Taking hold of my breath, I deliberately slowed my heart with a deep inhale into my belly, a counterintuitive hold, and then a forceful exhalation. The burning sensation in my limbs and core began to subside.
After an interval of 20 breaths I was off again. This time, in addition to the cord, I had to battle with my familiar old enemy; fatigue, charging as I held my breath, I went over a mental checklist of technique as I sensed things beginning to fall apart from the resistance, lack of oxygen and mounting fatigue; out, 12 strokes, a breath, and back. Another 20 breaths, and then out and back again, I could feel the lactic acid poisoning me. "One more, one more!" I yelled.
Despite being alone under the moon, in my mind everything was transformed, I was now under the bright lights, in front of tens of thousands of screaming spectators, glaring down the pool's black line, arch-rivals to my left and right and just 12.5m to the finish, to either glory or defeat.
My energy lifted into a burning fire of adrenalin in my solar plexus, intensifying with each of the 20 breaths. Nineteen, in, hold, out, 20 and then, without hesitation I blasted off sensing myself gaining on my rivals on either side of me, channeling all my aggression and frustration, imagining the final surge into the wall, redoubling my efforts, lifting my kick, keeping the rhythm that would keep me, I powerfully churned the water to victory. There was a sudden jerk right as I imagined myself reaching for the wall.
Sensing that I had gained the upper hand on a close finish, I relaxed and let the cords do the work, bringing me back to the wall as I raised a fist triumphantly.
"One more round!" I gasped as I unhitched the belt, bobbing in the dark silence.
People seem so shocked to learn that I swim here alone. I just smile, knowing it is impossible to describe the intrinsic motivation machine that I have developed over the years.
Drying off, I saw a figure approaching in the moonlight. It was Curtiss, the pool's 76-year-old caretaker who spends a few nights a week on the premises. Curtiss saw me and casually walked over, and after our usual catch up he asked. "How was it?"
"Alright, another day at the office," I joked.
"That's right, George you are a professional!" Curtiss retorted.
I smiled with pride, basking in the hard-earned afterglow of satisfaction from my work out. Curtiss gets it, I remember thinking.
Wishing him good night, I grabbed my bag and headed home for dinner.