In irons

Being ‘caught in irons’ refers to a boat sitting at, or very nearly, head to wind with sails luffing and no forward motion. Left alone any boat will eventually drift out of irons with a 50-50 chance of coming out on a desired tack.

It had been a rough week in the wake of the Newtown shootings. Each morning I read the news reports before heading into the office to see my daily panel of pediatric patients — kids of all shapes and sizes, in sickness and in health. As is the case every year, those in sickness succeeded in passing some form of their ailment along to me.

General body aches and a sore throat kept me out of the pool most of the week. By the time Saturday rolled around, I sorely needed some sustained exercise to ease my battered body. I grabbed my duffel and headed to the gym.

Not many had ventured forth that afternoon. The sky was overcast; the wind was up. A few drops of rain pelted the windshield. I pulled into the parking lot and struggled to push the door open against the heavy wind.

Inside the locker room I changed into my suit, grabbed my goggles and strolled out onto the pool deck. I chose one of the vacant far lanes and immersed myself in the water.

It was a bit rough going at first, but I soon stretched out and concentrated on snapping my forearms down through the water, alternatively sweeping them back along my thighs as I slowly crawled down the length of the pool and back.

Forty laps I counted, each 25 yards in length. After a brief pause at the wall I resumed swimming, now with a pull buoy tucked between my legs. This time I swam 36 laps, or 900 yards.

I resolved to continue the trend, successively completing 800, 700, 600 yards, alternating swims and pulls. Eventually, at a quickened pace I tooled the last swim of the set — 100 yards — before calling it an afternoon. All told, I managed to log 5,500 yards; just over 3 miles in the water.

I finished up the workout with 50 push-ups and retreated to the showers.

As I sauntered down the hallway past the front desk to the exit, I felt as though I were walking on air; my body was so light, my mind so clear. All of the mental cobwebs from the past week had been brushed aside.

Outside, the intermittent rain had given way to gusts of snow flurries. It was the day after the solstice; winter had arrived.

Stepping out into the cold, I raised my eyes to the pole in the circle at the front of the facility and froze in my tracks, caught up in the moment.

The flag stood at half mast, luffing sharply in the winter wind.

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