Measuring life in metres

In the original Star Wars A New Hope movie Harrison Han Solo Ford famously said that the Millennium Falcon had “made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs“. I still remember how annoyed I was, because even as a kid I knew a parsec was a measure of distance, not of time. (No thanks, I don’t need any tortuous post-hoc technobabble explanations of why this may make sense).

I seem to be oscillating in and out of some kind of swimming burn-out for about a month now though it’s possibly just the annual end-of-summer slump.  I still love the sea, still get excited or interested in swimming a couple of hours somewhere new by myself, or looking forward to maybe one more long open water swim before the end of season.

But I hate the pool even more than normal, and have repeatedly found myself unable to swim a simple thousand metre warm up and when I can, I swim slower than I’ve swum in years. I’ve had shoulder pain worse than I’ve had in four years for a week and after eight consecutive years, I cannot find any reason to swim the Sandycove Island Challenge or justify the relatively high cost of entry, though it’s usually the mile distance highlight of the Irish swimming calendar. I even missed a Sandycove night swim that I’d suggested and a Ballycotton to Capel Island first time swim with Eddie Irwin, Carol Cashell, Finbarr Hedderman, and Liam Maher two days later, the first time I’ve ever missed one swim, let alone two, due to injury or illness (not that I haven’t swum while ill or injured).

A casual comment by another Channel swimmer led me back to my other magnum opus. Not this blog, but my training log. I’ve been logging all my swimming and related data into a spreadsheet since 2008. Each year I add something new, it’s got multiple sheets and fields and even some charts but at its most basic and original it’s a simple record of how far and how long I’ve swum.

I looked at the cumulative distance since 2008, and discovered that I was just a few tens of thousands of metres short of 8,000,000 metres. It was such a simple thing that I’d hadn’t thought to check.

  • 8,000,000 metres.
  • Eight million metres.
  • Eight thousand kilometres.
  • 800,000,000 centimetres.
  • Eight billion millimetres.
  • Four thousand nine hundred and seventy miles.
  • 8.0 × 1016 angstroms.
  • Fifty times around the diameter of the Death Star (apparently, I looked it up).

Since 2008, I’ve never swum less than one million metres per year. (Before 2008 I was using my old running notebook, long lost but I’d  be certain I swam another million in the three preceding years, as I recall swimming about half a million on 2007). Usually I swim 50,000 to 150,000 metres over target and going almost 500,000 over the mark in 2010. At over 850,000 metres so far this year, I’m over 100,000 ahead of the 2014 target (but dropping fast due to the current lack of swimming).

Yearly swimming metres totals chart 2008 to 2014By the end of the year, I’ll have swum the equivalent distance from County Kerry on Ireland’s south-west coast to San Francisco.

You think I’ve have something useful to say after all or about all these metres. Apparently not today. I guess this site will have to substitute as some evidence instead.

The longest time off I’ve has been after my Channel injuries in 2010 when I was (mostly) out of the water for about six weeks but I still wanted and managed to swim the Island Challenge with a barely functioning left shoulder.

So I can’t be overtrained, since I’ve been doing this for years and I’m well adapted. Some weeks later now, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to swim much at all, except a few three or four kilometre easy sea swims a week.

Which brings me back to Han Solo’s Kessel Run. A long time ago, in a life very far away,  I objected because George Lucas incorrectly measured time using distance.

Does it make me the Han Solo of open water swimming if ironically,  I now find I can do the exact same thing?

I’m not sure I could even tell you why, if you were to ask.

Somehow, my life has become measured in metres.

7 thoughts on “Measuring life in metres

  1. I never feel I deserve your excellent long comments and compliments sam, thanks! I was out at luchtime yesterday and I knew something was really wrong when I left warm sea and sunny skies after only a mile. I beleive I saw that one solitay Compass also.

    The best (only good) thing about the anglers, is the prospect of free fresh from sea mackeral in Spetember, I’ve eaten it for dinner four times this week. Always worth asking if anyone has one or two going, especially Maurice up at the cabin who often has bucket-loads.

    Yes, the Loneswimmer Cave, as it’s becoming known to some swimmers, is perfect (literally) still, I was through it last about a week ago. Sure, let me know, the prospect of your company will make it more enticing!


  2. June July and August and not a mile nor meter swum
    Damn you Inismore, Inishmaan and Inisheer with your sheer breathtaking thrusts of stone rising above the Atlantic. For surely you are part responsible for the flat calm of the bay. Save for the closing days of August when a cold wind and menacing clouds moved in from the Burren over in Clare. This was the sea change that realigned priority number one. Who dares swims the Loneswimmer called, for he had swum from shore to shore cove to cove and cave to cave where even the boldest might hold their breath.

    With two weeks to spare the answer was simple. Piltown is a short run to the sea. Yesterday down at the Guillamane with rumours of a fray I swam out with that old codger with the white cap and blue shorts the one who swims to the Metal Man and back in the fairer weather. The fishermen were out in force so out past the lines nothing fancy. A companionless compass jelly signalled an early turn towards Newtown Cove. With the sun going down and the swell picking up unable to see the bottom there was no place on earth I would rather be.

    Donal If the swell dies and weather permitting I’d like to snorkel up to the Metal Man and Cave next week and hopefully take some video. Is everything sound up there after the storms did you go through this summer? Your welcome to come along I haven’t a set day but I’m thinking Tuesday or Wednesday might be the window.

    Take Care


  3. I’ve encountered numerous head blocks over the last few years of swimming, but you swim far more than I do. Your blog has actually helped me get past some of my 1000 yard days and back to longer sets. Thank you for the encouragement.

    There’s nothing like a race or reading someone else who is passionate about their sport to get me mentally back.

    I’ve dealt with shoulder problems a few times which oddly I’ve solved with butterfly, but a few other things that I’ve tried are doing work with elastic bands to work on interior rotation strength and snorkel work. For freestyle my shoulder problems are caused mostly by breathing issues. I made fun of snorkel users for years, but they are incredibly useful to swim freestyle without adding extra strain on the shoulders.

    This is only a hit or miss idea. I don’t know what is actually causing your shoulder pain.

    Psychologically, I still haven’t found the perfect fix for the down day, and after reading a lot of running blogs or triathlon blogs, the best way to get through it is to fine someone to swim with. I wish I could come swim with you. The people I swim with have always been the biggest key to getting longer sets in and getting me out of my funk.


    • Up here on the West Coast of Scotland we just cannot imagine an end of summer slump. September is the month we look forward to all year – warm water and no Lion Mane Soup. We can swim freely for kms without our brakes on. Just out of the water as I write this, back in later this evening….


  4. You have commented once that TI swimming does not work for open water.

    My life changed when I find Total Immersion swimming and the thing I most like about it is the mindfullness of each and every stroke. The more I concentrate the more I enjoy my swimming. (Apart from enjoying the turbulent cold seawater in Melkbos.)

    Hope you find your swim Mojo soon.
    Best wishes


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