There aren’t many charts that take 50 years to complete.
But these will (give or take).
They’re fairly easy to understand. On the first chart below, the ‘Running total’ is the cumulative number of conquered pools. As you’ll note, I started well, carving up over 20 per year. But then with Sydney, Canberra and most pools within a 3-hour drive all conquered it became more difficult and that’s reflected in the slow wane. The end result was that over the first 20 years, I averaged just over 14 pools per year.
In January 2012, I took a long hard look at myself. ‘Soul searched’ you might say. And did a bit of Maths too. I realised I needed a new no-nonsense annual target of 24 pools per year (2 per month), which is shown by the straight purple line on the right hand side. Did I achieve this new target in 2012? No. I only managed 19. ‘That’s only 5 short,’ says you, trying to cheer me up. But 5 short over 30 years is 150 pools and take it from me, chaps that walk around boasting ‘I’ve swum 850 pools,’ are laughed at in the circles I mix in (and rightly so). I’ve done a bit better since.
The ’20 pools per year’ teal blue line is just there to show what might have been if I’d kept up that early, consistent pace. My lackadaisical youth created a problem for my more mature self, but though the 2nd half of the Quest will be the toughest, I’m determined to claw myself back.
On the second jaw-droppingly interesting chart, the dark blue line shows how many pools I’ve conquered, year-by-year. As you’ll note, I had a strong start marked by a long period of pathetic effort. Also shown is the annual average to date (a purple line). You can see it declining and declining until 2012, when I finally got to grips with what lies before me. Call it a mid-life crisis if you will.
The annual target (from 2012 onwards) – 24 pools – is shown by that long, flat teal blue line stretching out for eternity. Or at least until I reach around 72.
These two charts show the nigh on catastrophic position I’ve found myself in in early 2012. If you’re thinking I’ve done mightily well to exceed the target of 24 pools for a number of years since and I must be very popular at parties, I’d encourage you to remember these few salient points:
1/ Two new pools every month ain’t that easy anymore. With every year, it gets harder and harder for I now have to drive for 5 hours to reach a virgin pool, conquer it and return home. That’s a lot of time in the car.
2/ Not that I’m planning on it, but if I get injured or come down with Yellow Fever or the plague or break my leg somehow, and am consequently out of action for months, the target gets even harder to reach.
3/ I’m also assuming that I’ll be fit enough when I’m in my 60’s to continue. I see no reason why I wouldn’t be, but what if I take up smoking? I’ve never really given it a try much. I might like it. Or, I might succumb to any number of old man degenerative conditions which could be inflamed by chlorine. The mind boggles.
So, please don’t pooh-pooh the magnitude of the challenge that is The Quest. Really, swimming the pools is the least hard part. Lastly, here’s a new acronym for you: HIGSFYSH. It stands for, ‘How’s It Going So Far You Swimming Hero’ and if you know me, feel free to discretely ask it. It’s almost like a secret handshake between believers.
I hope you can appreciate that from here on, victory is no fait accompli by any means. But I know that the closer I get to the end, the more I’ll feel the pull of glory dragging me through the water. And should I lose an arm to gangrene, should my prostate pack up and pull out, dare I say should my mind go bananas, I trust that somehow, somewhere, there’ll be someone kind enough to throw me in the water and scream, ‘Swim porpoise! Swim! Don’t give up now old boy! You know you can do it! You can conquer 1000 pools!!’