SpeedI am, by all accounts, a putter. I putt around the house, I stroll with the dog, and I prefer baking to cooking because it’s more meditative. I think one of the reasons I love swimming so much is that it, too, is putting at its best: you just truck along, no one to talk to, counting your lengths (or not). It’s great.

So, imagine my surprise when I found my new love: sprinting.

It started with running. My coach needed a way to build up my running capacity (how long I can run without needing a nap) but long runs felt, and still feel, like a life sentence to me**. “Ugh” is the word that comes to mind, actually. So, he started sending over plans that included stretches of sprinting. I loved them.

Finally, there was a way I could break up the monotony of the never-ending long training run with intense, quick dashes. I just pulled out my timer, started the clock and booked it until the timer said I could stop. No pacing myself, no time to think about the pain, no worrying if my iPod had enough songs to get me through. Just running as fast as I could, with my arms pumping me forward, and my lungs straining for breath. Ugh turned into Aah.

A few months later, one of my swim coaches began incorporating sprints into our workouts. Even though it had been a fabulous addition to my running routine, I was more than a little concerned about swim sprinting. After all, it’s easy to pant while running; swimming offered a bigger challenge and, dramatically, a possible drowning scenario.

I generally just trust my swim coach and do whatever he asks me to try. This one, however, I was a little concerned about. He assured me that all was well. I wouldn’t drown. I would be able to take in enough oxygen.

I figured that he was probably lying but decided that I would try it anyway. And, hey, he was going to be the one hauling me out of the pool. If he was confident in his ability to get me out alive, who was I to deny him his opportunity?

So, he set the length and pace and I swam my little heart out. At first, it felt like those cartoons look — with the arms rotating so quickly they are just a circular blur — and I was pretty sure that my sprint looked to bystanders like that beach scene in Chariots of Fire. Slow. With great effort.

In truth, I was hitting all his paces. I didn’t know how but this was working out at least as well as the running sprints. I got a huge endorphin high from the effort and the results and started looking forward to my sprint sessions.

Of course, I tell you that I enjoy these sessions, but I don’t know that he would believe it. I still scrunch up my face at him at least once during the sprints in a “even Michael Phelps couldn’t hit that” kind of way. But, he does know best in these cases and, even though they feel tough, they’re always very do-able and I always feel like a rock star when I get out of the pool. By that, of course, I mean a rock star that has been drinking on stage and can’t walk straight. Seriously — walking after swim sprints is brutal.

Logically, you may be asking yourself, “So, Candrina, how are your bike sprints going?” Well, they’re not. I am just moving to a road bike now after spending the last year desperately trying to remember how to ride a bike at all (yah, that saying is a big fat lie). Perhaps I’ll tell you the hilarious (now) story of my first bike ride since childhood one day. But for now, the cold, hard fact of it is that road bikes are weird. They look weird and feel even weirder. It’s going to take me some time before I’m sprinting. But, once I get that all worked out, you’ll be the first to know.

** And this probably should have been my first clue that I am not a putter in all aspects of life. Sometimes, quick bursts are best. That’s actually how I work when I’m at peak performance and efficiency: quite quickly, bouncing around, hitting the endpoint and moving on to the next “to do.”

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