I’d like to begin by apologising for any typing errors you find in this month’s column. Any you spot have been caused by the fact that I can’t move my arms and lifting my hands on to the keyboard is causing me more pain than having my appendix removed by a circus knife thrower.
The reason for this extreme puniness is that I’ve just completed a swimming challenge that involved doing 100m in 100secs, 100 times. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. In old money that’s 10,000m of swimming with a maximum turnaround time of 1:40mins for every 100m. It’s no wonder my biceps are so weak that I’d currently lose an arm wrestling bout to Ed Milliband.
Before you accuse me of being weedy, it should be noted that I’m a triathlete not a swimmer, so when City of Coventry swimming club invited (dared) me to be part of their 100/100/100 challenge I should’ve responded with two words bearing one syllable each. But I couldn’t, precisely because I’m a triathlete.
Not only are we triathletes pathologically incapable of turning down a challenge, but mere mortals who just do one sport expect us to take part in every nutty challenge going. And we have to do it if we want to maintain the athletic high ground we believe we occupy.
This constant need to prove ourselves has led me into some stupid situations over the years and the 100/100/100 was no different. It was held in the main swimming pool in Coventry, a place that serves to highlight the relative charm of North Korea. I once dreamed of achieving enough sporting greatness to be awarded the freedom of Coventry… until I realised it’d be like being given the keys to a bin in a cupboard.
Out of place
Unsurprisingly, the event attracted hardcore swimmers with torsos like Dairylea cheese triangles, while I look as athletic as a draught excluder. I couldn’t have looked more out of place among them if I’d turned up wearing a sombrero.
I also noticed that most of the male swimmers indulge in body-shaving to increase speed, while my back looks like a barber’s floor. At least I wasn’t alone in sticking out like a steel bike at Ironman UK because I did the event with my friend Keith, a white-haired swimming terminator who is so robotically efficient he looks like he was constructed by Skynet to infiltrate Eastbourne’s pensioner community.
To my surprise I got off to a good start and was comfortably ‘repping’ at 1:25mins per 100m, which would’ve been 1:20mins if it hadn’t been for the drag effect of the rolled-up socks down my trunks (see last month’s column for sock-in-trunks reference). When I passed 38 x 100m well within the time limit, I began to wonder why I couldn’t swim this well in an Ironman when it might do some bloody good. When I reached 50 x 100m I began to think I might actually be able to call myself a swimmer. When I reached 65 x 100m I began to realise I was a ******g idiot.
By this stage my pace was starting to slow alarmingly and my stroke was so jerky that I looked like a sea lion that had been fitted with a misfiring pacemaker. By 70 x 100m I was only making it with a couple of seconds to spare before having to set off again, and the only way I was going to give myself more rest was if I worked harder – advice that really paid off for the horse in Animal Farm.
Hot and cold stages
Having been in the water since well before 5am I could tell we were edging towards 7am when the public were allowed to get in with us and the warm water jets came on to heat the pool up, and I went through so many hot and cold stages I thought I was going through the menopause. The possible appearance of head-up breaststrokers in my lane added an extra frisson of tension, and I spent reps 80-90 praying I wasn’t joined in the lane by someone so large that they measure the size of sweet bags in fathoms.
The final 10 reps had our swimming coach Dave Moreton shrieking at me to keep going in a voice that sounded like a pirate’s parrot. When I touched the wall for the final time I was so delirious with exhaustion that I could’ve ‘accidentally’ walked into the women’s changing rooms and got away with it. Your honour.
In the end I completed the 10,000m so that’s another pointless achievement completed.Though I should add that we did this event as a fundraiser, which is the first time I’ve done anything for charity since I abseiled down the Shard and didn’t make as much money as everyone hoped from my sponsorship because I made it down alive. Next time I’ll stick to my usual water-based method of gathering money by fishing 5p coins out of urinals.