I swim (and run) every day. I deeply enjoy the clarity of mind that comes from pushing my body beyond its limits. It feels meaningful to me. Without it I am unable to think. I am unable to see myself or the world in any kind of open and honest way. In large part this is a result of the personal primordial and developmental trauma that pushed me to swim in the first place. For ten years as a child all of my existence was processed through swimming back and forth in a pool to exhaustion. There was a moment where I would likely have gone to the Olympics had I continued. I don't know if I would have ever been capable of making the US national team, but I am a Mexican national, and at that time in Mexico no one in my age group was even close to posting the times I was posting in the 100m and 200m butterfly. When I was 13 and 14 years old, a rich Mexican elite was already courting me to give his chain of fitness clubs an international name. He took me to visit his estate in the city complete with private security, servants, gardeners, etc. Incidentally, he eventually received, in the most tragic way, the international recognition he had wanted through my body. His daughter was abducted, held for ransom for months and then killed.
Instead of swimming and potential fame and success, I opted for the short-term loves of drugs and girls and life instead. I don't regret that choice. I couldn't have made a different choice at the time. I'll never swim as fast as I did then, and the drive to compete has really left me. If I can't be the best at it, why bother ... . But I am deeply committed to the activity and the existential meaning it produces in my life. I don't want to imagine my life without it.
The last couple of days my swimming and running have been exceptionally strenuous. Motivated in large part by this drive I have recently had to live to the fullest, to understand and accept pain and joy (and ennui). And sometimes I check my pulse just to see to what extent I have exceeded the limits of my capability to withstand that pain. Yesterday and today after runs and exceptionally long (for me) descending interval swims mixing sprints with sustained swims, I noticed that my heart rate was unusual. I often push 220 or more beats per minute for minutes at time. It wasn't the rate that alarmed me. It was the fact that my pulse would race normally, then drop to the equivalent of a near resting heart rate for a couple of seconds and then race again.
I imagine it's probably nothing – some normal response to the stress of intentionally pushing your heart to its limits. Maybe I'm just to old to train (for nothing) like this. But if it isn't nothing, the only thing that occurs to me is that since I have to die anyway, I would happily swim myself to death.