On my third and final lap of this morning’s ocean swim, I stopped swimming a few dozen meters from shore, turned on my back, put my toes in the air, and allowed the perfect waters of the Pacific to create a serene moment of tranquility. This was the final Ocean Speed Circuit of the season, my last group ocean swim until next year. As I watched swimmers’ elbows peaking and descending a pod of a half dozen dolphins leaped in arcs along the current. The morning sun burned through the marine layer, dappling the Santa Monica mountains with light. A fellow triathlete floated up next to me and said in a friendly manner that it didn’t look like I was having a workout. I laughed and said, “my season is over! I’m just enjoying myself.” She laughed, began to swim away, then thought better of it and decided to float around with me. “It sure beats working!” I said, to which she agreed, and we both floated there in the morning surf, watching dolphins and athletes play.
Swimming in the ocean has been one of the greatest pleasures for me this year. Besides becoming a faster and stronger swimmer, with each swim came a sublime happiness that I could carry throughout the day. When my balance was good, I was truly a leaf on a stream. When my stroke was good, I moved with the water, not against it. When my breathing was regular, steady, and clicked into place with my stroke I slid through the water with minimal effort. It takes a lot of work to stop working so hard at swimming. Like so many things, there is a moment when technique becomes transparent, autonomic, and the mind can transcend mechanics to enter a joyful state of experience. Artists understand this moment as much as basketball players. We all call it “the Zone”. In my screenwriting it is the moment that my characters speak for themselves – fictional beings I’ve assembled like Dr. Frankenstein, nudging them, sending bolts of lightning into their bodies, desperately waiting the moment they utter their first, terrible words. This summer I achieved those moments fleetingly in the water, but they were there. I could feel my shoulders opening to allow circular rotation. I could relax my spine enough so that my pelvis floated to the surface. I could feel the flutter of my feet against the surface of the water, sending eddies of bubbles behind in my wake. With my head all the way down in the water and breathing on the fourth stroke instead of every other, my heart rate dropping into a comfortable “forever” zone. The buoy dead ahead, meaning my course stayed straight without wasted effort, zig zagging, or crossing the invisible course lines.
Thirty of us showed up today to say goodbye to the Speed Circuit until next year. Some of us did more laps, some less. Some are done with their seasons, some have one or two more races to go. But everyone seemed to be savoring their swims in different ways: either hammering out their fastest times yet, or like me, floating on a season of progress, memories, and achievements. I couldn’t have asked for a better swim.