The Thrill is Gone

Wednesday 11/4/09

It is another strong flood today and the critters are really out in force. Packs of four and five young sea lions roam through the water snout-to-snout like a gang of adolescent boys. Pelicans are more numerous than any of us can remember. A pack of sea lions enveloped a swimmer at the Goal Posts. They didn’t harass him, but they certainly gave him a start. Until the last couple of years, no one paid much attention to the Bay pinnipeds. After all, we’re the interlopers on their turf. For many years, the sea lions congregated at Pier 39 and cruised through Aquatic Park only infrequently. Now, there are an increasing number that seem to have made the cove their stomping ground. In the last couple of years, people have been bumped and even bitten from time to time. One woman required 14 stitches for multiple bites and a comprehensive antibiotic regimen. Other than a seal, hopefully playful, nudging my feet insistently ten years ago, I’ve been pretty much left alone and hope to keep it that way.

The temperature is dropping a little each day, now. It’s around 56 degrees and should be about 53 by Thanksgiving. I’ve been swimming two miles a day since Sunday with a day off on Monday. What a slog! The second mile seemed interminable and I had mild, stage-one hypothermia when I got out of the water. I’m definitely going to have to start pulling my swim hat down over my ears.

The initial buzz has worn off and fourteen or so hours of swimming is looking quite daunting. In the beginning, the sheer excitement of committing to the swim provided ample exhilaration. Then there was the drama of booking a pilot and procuring a slot and the warmth and encouragement of fellow Dolphins. Starting a blog and a web site for the first time contributed to the euphoria of new conquests with periodic adrenaline bursts. Now, the prospect of almost eleven months of training stretches before me like one of those endless, straight, desert roads we traveled on vacation in Nevada.

Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers developed a psychological testing instrument known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It measures the behavior preferences of individuals along four dichotomies. One of the dichotomies is a person’s preference for “closure” or for “process.” A person who prefers closure is most comfortable when a decision is taken, when a milestone is achieved, when a journey is completed. A person who prefers process loves having options and keeping them open. This psychometric questionnaire is very popular in the business world. I’ve taken the test three times in the last fifteen years and, every time, the results have shown me to be decidedly closure-oriented. The whole Channel attempt is an opportunity for me to practice embracing process.

I saw Peter Perez in the sauna today. Peter’s training for a Channel attempt in August and he had a delightful helpful hint for embracing process. He said that while he is swimming, he is working on thinking, “there’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here.” Face down in the cool, clear, salty water; completely isolated from phone calls and worldly demands; this is the best place in the world.

Being closure-oriented, I know I’ll feel much better once I’ve made a training schedule. In the meantime, I’ll just keep swimming two and three miles most days, get a stroke consultation, and see about doing some interval training in the pool. This is starting to seem like quite a process.

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