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The anatomy of a 12-hour pool swim

Swimming 12 hours non-stop in a 50m chlorinated outdoor pool is not for the faint-hearted. And I’m not alluding to physical prowess. One sees, feels, ingests and makes contact with an alarming array of objects, some identifiable, some not. This is particularly true when the pool is being used simultaneously by a number of different groups to initiate people to various aquatic activities.
I took part in a 12-hour swim as part of a local ‘sports promotion day’ and in aid of charity. The activities that centred around the pool, while the swim was taking place, were synchronised swimming, scuba diving and water aerobics. Lanes were cordoned off for the various activities but because it was a blistering hot day and the pool was filled to overflowing, there was some cross-pollination.

Swimming 12 hours straight is challenging enough but it became a nautical obstacle course to boot. My lane was adjacent to the scuba divers who were taking youngsters 2 metres down and in most cases trying unsuccessfully to hold them there while they floated off upside-down and unaware of oncoming traffic. As a pool swimmer you generally concentrate on what is ahead of you and not what is underneath you. Swimming head on into a diver’s tank is not something you expect while doing laps. It also became good practice to make a quick aerial check at the end of the lane to ensure no small children were going to bomb drop on your head.
Swim watches can be fickle but so too it seems are people who count laps – they can easily be distracted by sequined synchronised swimmers. Which led to some tense exchanges, “27km right?” “No, I have 25.8km.” “Please-could-you-recount?” I wait tensely with imploring panda eyes. “Oh yes, 27km, sorry, ha ha!” And I swim on, bubbling under my breath. My Garmin total was 34600m, my official result was 34km. Those 600m are very precious to an exhausted swimmer but in the end they were sacrificed in a chlorine induced high of goodwill to all lap counters.