5 AM. Alarm. Wrestle with duvet. Swear. Stumble into bathroom. Strip off pajamas. Struggle into training suit. Swear. Pull pajamas back over the top. Shuffle into kitchen. See Harry. Swear. Take offered smoothie, down it in one. Swear at the taste. Grab two bananas and kitbag. Get into Harry's car. Fall asleep.
Sherlock was woken by the sounds of Bach filtering from the iPhone resting on his chest. He let it continue but quickly checked through his news alerts (FINA, swimming, Olympics 2012, hydrodynamics) and frowned. He raised himself off the sofa and stretched languorously, wrapping his dressing gown around himself and padding barefoot into his ensuite. Mmm ... 2nd Thursday of the current schedule, endurance with a healthy bout of interval and VO2 max training. Start with a high-density complex carbohydrate and mix a sweetened energy drink for the last half of morning practice. Oh, and of course the tedious strength training yesterday, so protein powder would help. He returned to his study, where he'd fallen asleep last night contemplating the spreadsheet of his current times, and examined the schedule on the wall. It was huge, colour-coded and cross-referenced, completely optimised to ensure the greatest improvement in his performance. There was a large red circle around one date, 15th June, but Sherlock ignored that for the minute and concentrated on yesterday's entry. In his scrawling hand he'd noted down every pertinent detail about yesterday: duration of training, effort expended, calories expended and consumed, and the all-important training times. Hmm ... adequate. Still a few hundred calories to make up, what a bore. And no improvements yesterday on the times. He climbed over the sofa and coffee table, letting his suite's door slam closed behind him with vindictive satisfaction and making his way into the kitchen, where he fell with a dramatic sigh onto the heavy wooden bench.
"Why the long face, Sherlock?"
The cheery woman with an apron tied around her waist passed Sherlock a plate of whole grain pancakes liberally festooned with fruit and kissed his cheek.
"Everything's just so tedious, Mrs Hudson, routine routine routine. Nothing for weeks on the Olympics but 'Boris Johnson is opening officials-only lanes!' 'The Tube will have forty-minute delays!' 'Nothing will be ready on time!!'. There's NOTHING on swimming, nothing of interest at all. " Nothing to research, to keep my mind active in the slightest.
"Oh dear, well I suppose you'll have to continue training as planned today. Eat up." And she passed him a coffee, black, two sugars, and his training bottle.
Sherlock paused. This can't be right, Mrs Hudson knows my regime better than I do, she was one of the top sports nutritionists in the country, I'm not allowed coffee, and especially not before training, too dehydrating. This must be for a reason, a treat -- no, a concession for something. But there's nothing tiresome to do today so it must be unexpected.... Mycroft.
No sooner thought than the horror himself appeared in the doorway.
"Ah, hello Mycroft. I'd offer you some breakfast but unfortunately pancakes aren't on your diet."
Mycroft smiled infuriatingly.
"No, thank you, Sherlock, and may I say it is a shame you won't be at the trials today. I was so hoping to see you at the new Aquatics Centre, it is a lovely pool."
Sherlock put his fork down with a clatter.
"You know very well I'm not ready yet, Mycroft." He hissed across the table. "If I'm going to have a shot at the Olympics it'll have to be in June, and I need to stick strictly to my routine until then. So you should not bother me."
"Oh no brother, you misunderstand me. I certainly do not wish to distract you, merely to inform you that the results and videos from today's trials will be in your email inbox at five PM. Do enjoy your pancakes, you are looking a trifle … thin. Good morning, Mrs Hudson, urgent business in London."
He swept out of the kitchen before Sherlock could throw the plate in his face, unfortunately. No appetite, but it would be ridiculous to not eat. I must start improving today, June is only three months away. He demolished the plate and headed down to the pool in the basement, juggling his coffee and bottle. Warm shower, stretches, and a slow kilometre to warm up.
"John, Johnny, we're here."
Open car door, outside, JESUS that's cold. Jog into the pool, wave at staff with as much cheer as humanly possible. Changing rooms, strip off outer layer, goggles, hat, towel, bottle, poolside. Smile at Mike Stamford, already there with a clipboard and stopwatch. Deep breath, dive into lane one.
BLOODY HELL!!!! COLD COLD COOOOLD!!!
John climbed out of the big fifty-metre pool and smiled at Coach Mike.
"Want a hug?"
The coach laughed heartily.
"I'm fine, thanks, John, and you? How're you feeling?"
John gave his oldest friend a big fake smile. "Really good, thanks Coach. Lots of sleep last night and I'm raring to go."
"As you should be Johno. Now get ready while I tell these whippersnappers what for."
John towelled himself dry vigorously, slapping his muscles and massaging them efficiently. He sank into the downward facing dog pose and started with thirty press-ups, hard and fast. Then a combination of stretches, Pilates, and lightning-fast yoga for a quarter of an hour, and just as John was finishing the rest of the training session was gawping at him with amazement from the pool. He gave them a friendly smile and did his final exercise -- twenty explosive squat jumps on the balls of his feet -- to appreciative ooh's.
"Alright you lot, back to practice!" Mike bellowed from the other end of the pool. "Thirty fifties on minutes. GO!" There was a general groan of dissatisfaction but the highly disciplined group shot off, eyes fixed on the pace clock.
"John, a nice gentle taper, loosen those shoulders and hips, sounds good?"
John nodded, already fixing his goggles in place and ascending to the block.
"Plus some dives and turns at the end, run my races through?"
"Whatever you say Mr Olympian."
March 3rd 2012, in a few hours I'll be at the GB Olympic trials in the new Aquatics Centre, built for our upcoming Games. John smiled his wolf-like grin, the one very few people saw. This is going to be fun.
And with a mighty jump he launched himself into the gleaming blue water.
Sherlock pulled himself out of his pool with a dissatisfied grunt. The visit with Mycroft had unsettled him more than he liked to admit, and his times had reflected that. I'll just have to note that in the spreadsheet as an anomaly, and adjust accordingly. One always has to plan for the unexpected in an experiment, as much as I dislike doing so. Hopefully tonight's session will be better, I'll take a look at those times again, and the results from today's meet. And I'm sure my turns could be a more streamlined on the release; I'll have to watch the videos...
He kept up his furious calculations throughout his showers (cold for muscles first, then warm and a vigorous shampooing) and dressed himself in one of the suits he kept in the changing room downstairs, adjacent to the swimming pool. He returned to the study and powered up his laptop, downloading that session's videos and times. Best thing Mycroft ever did was update the pool software. Only the best. He was just looking at the slow motion videos of his turns (and maybe plotting a cleaner line out of the wall, work on precision foot placing later on today?) as Mrs Hudson knocked on the door and entered with muffins and hot lemon. She placed it on the edge of the desk and shot a sharp look at Sherlock's face.
She's worried about my sleeping patterns.
"How long did you sleep last night?" He shrugged eloquently. "Sherlock! Was it less than eight hours?"
Shrug. "You know the rules, Sherlock, eight to ten hours every night, no excuses. You won't be able to swim if you're exhausted. Go on, back to bed for another hour or so, before the physiotherapist gets here. Go on." She shoved him away from the desk and towards his bedroom.
He smiled. "Yes, Mrs Hudson."
"Now get some rest, and remember dear, I'm your housekeeper, not your coach!"
John exited the pool smoothly and grinned at the sea of eager faces before turning to Mike.
"Good luck today John, it should be fine."
Mike clapped him on the back and looked him in the eye.
"We'll be thinking about you, just so you know."
And that was the best thing about Mike. He knew exactly when to stop talking.
John could only shake his hand vigorously in answer and turn to leave poolside. A voice piped up from the pool.
"Good luck today, Mr Watson! Blow them away!"
John turned and grinned at the blushing seventeen year old who'd spoken. She looked very familiar.
"Don't I know you from Nationals? Lucy, right?"
She nodded, speechless that the great John Watson knew her name. There was a murmur and the rest of the group joined in with "Good luck! Good luck!"
John left poolside with a wave and a huge grin ("All right young'uns, if you ever want to be anywhere near as good as Mr Watson, you'll need to finish your work-outs!"), and met Harry at reception the same way, now wearing his GB track suit.
"I've got your race kit, dry towels, lots of food and water, energy drinks, iPod, change of clothes, and a camera. We're meeting Mum there, now get in the back and eat this pasta." She shoved him a huge Tupperware, still warm, with their traditional race-breakfast -- chicken, ricotta, and broccoli pasta -- and manhandled him into the back of the car.
"Why did you classify energy drinks as a separate entity?" John said around a mouthful of pasta.
"Firstly, don't talk with your mouth full, little brother, and secondly, what?" He swallowed.
"You said, food, water, energy drinks, clearly implying energy drinks are not food."
She looked at him in the rear view mirror over the top of her glasses.
"That, dear brother, is because they are not food. They are the tool of the Devil, to change your mind and make you do his evil bidding."
"Well who would trust drinking something that fluorescent colour?!" She shook her head. "I swear the mind-altering properties is the only reason you athletes keep training." She gave him a fond look. "Crazy buggers. Now, it's a long way from Barnet to Stratford, you finish that and get some sleep Johnny." She put on quiet music as they slipped onto the motorway, John yawning through the last of his breakfast and snuggling into the blankets in the back seat.
"Oh, and John? You know he'd love to be here right now." Harry's eyes were sad in the mirror and John nodded past the lump in his throat and settled back into his seat, soothed to sleep by the rain falling onto the windscreen.
Wow. The Aquatics Centre is stunning. Just gorgeous, even though the rest of the Olympics Park is looking a little rough and ready still. Right, have to get on the team, just to practice here!
John shouldered his kitbag in the cool March morning and strolled up to the Centre. It was busy here today. The trials to choose the Olympic team meant all the usual suspects would be milling around, and maybe a little press. His races weren't until the afternoon, and he was already warmed up, so he could grab a nap, run the race through in his head, see his Mum, and hopefully cadge a massage off Molly. His times were good, his shoulder wasn't too bad, the swim this morning had been great, he should make the qualifying time easily.
He lingered at the entrance, flashing his badge to the officials and going down into the changing rooms.
Wow, just wow. London's really going to show Beijing what for. In his lucky racing suit and track suit over the top he wandered up to the viewing arena to catch the show. The trials had just started (women’s 200-metre free) and the GB coaching team were making notes and watching times intently. John waved at Molly Hooper, team GB masseuse and physio, and slid in next to the Team GB head coach, whose fierce gaze was currently trained on the races. She turned at the end with a disappointed sigh and smiled at John.
"We should've got Joanne in there, her 200's not looking good this season...as opposed to you, Mister." Her steely gaze focused on his face, scanning for signs of fatigue or anxiety.
"Ready for this? I know these past couple of months have been difficult, but I'm not taking any excuses. You're in the best shape you've ever been, you swam like a monster at Worlds and frankly, you could be one of our best chances at medals in July. So all I'm asking you to do is keep focused and warm, and give 100%, so I can kill you in training next week." She paused, a strange look on her lovely face. "Please, John."
Please? The Dominatrix saying please?! Alright, it's serious. More serious.
"Absolutely, Coach Adler, you won't be disappointed."
She nodded and turned her attention back to the pool, John was clearly dismissed. He turned to Molly and gave her a big hug.
"You going to work your magic on me, Angel of Death?"
"After Sarah and Becky, Oh Ancient One."
He cuffed her lightly round the head and followed her to the treatment rooms.
T-minus two and a half hours ‘til race one.
Mmm, that's wonderful. Just lovely, ouch ouch ouch, ignore it! The body is transport, a well-oiled mach-ayeee, a well-oiled, a well-oiled machine! The physiotherapist was really working out the kinks in Sherlock's muscles, pulling his shoulders around like they didn't weigh a thing. A hulking Czech man, he kept mostly silent while he worked, a trait Sherlock appreciated immensely, letting his mind run through the various permutations of training schedule and possible improvements. He was nearly finished with the physio (nicknamed the Golem by his victims -- sorry, clients), then an hour and a half bodyweight exercises, including cardio on the rowing machine before lunch. He was expecting the Speedo Aqualab scientists at two, I have a few ideas for some alterations to FASTSKIN3 , especially my new racing suit. It may not have caught on among the others, but the numbers speak for themselves. He grimaced. And I'll show them all at the June trials when I qualify. They all complain it's uncomfortable and difficult to put on, but what's a small bit of discomfort to winning? Speaking of which...
The Golem grunted and finished up his manipulations, slapping Sherlock hard on the shoulder to finish. He winced a little and got off the bench. Oh that's gooood. He glanced at the clock and grabbed his sleek black warm up jacket, bouncing on the balls of his feet and lithely stepping into the adjoining gym. He fastidiously wiped down the rowing machine handles and seat, sliding onto the seat and strapping his feet down. Just put the music on... and Holst's "Mars" immediately blasted out from the sound system. Thirty minutes, keep the splits down, increase the rate every kilometre. He settled onto the balls of his feet, the "front-stops" position and grabbed the handles. Breathe in, breathe out, and push. Sherlock shoved backwards with his powerful glutes and thighs, starting off with a vicious pace and settling into a punishing rhythm for the next half an hour.
Alright Johnny-boy, it's just another day at the pool. Just another day you try to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics. Changing rooms. Calm. Empty. Warm and dry. Hydrated. Body is in perfect condition.
This is feasible, it's all mind over matter! More focus, more focus...
Time to go. He lifted himself up, headphones in his ears and towel round his neck. For some reason Chariots of Fire always helped. Walk onto poolside and stand behind lane three. Wave at Harry and Mum. Where's the empty seat? Oh, Sarah's sitting in it, what a treasure. He'd been dreading seeing that empty seat, missing the one person who'd believed in him since age seven and he'd mastered the fly. Warm up time, splash face with water.
Only ten minutes left, I can definitely cope with another step up on the rate. Thirty-three strokes per minute, there!
Shake shoulders out, breathe.
No the time can't slow down, I can do this!
Race announced ("100-metre butterfly men’s finals"), name called, smatter of applause. Obviously heard about my World Champs performance. Good.
Whistle. Climb on blocks. Settle into dive crouch.
Breathe. Calm. This is my race.
Take your marks. Tighten muscles.
This is for you, Dad.
Oh thank God, it's over.
Sherlock climbed off the machine and wiped his face with a towel. He took a long swig of water and grimly set his face again. And another hour to go. He moved to the mats and started sit-ups.
Dive in, fast kick fast kick fast kick fast kick. Where am I where am I?? Quick look to the side. Not far enough yet, keep going. Twelve and a half metres, to the surface, PULL arms out. There, fast and PULL and BREATHE and GO. Kick in, kick out, kick in. Nice and hard, lots of power down. Like this morning, only about fifteen more strokes before the end, no time at all, no time at all. Breathe, pull, pull, BREATHE pull pull. Wall coming up fast. Ready for the touch, no need for a half stroke, just a sharp kick THERE. Touch and turn and STAMP ON THE WALL LIKE IT'S THAT BASTARD WHO RAN INTO DAD. That's a great one, I felt the power ripple through. Over halfway done, accelerate on the way back. Breathe every two, no need for a PB, just to massacre this race. Lungs. Want. Oxygen. Vision. Getting. Dark. Around. The. Edges. Going to do this, going to do this. Last two strokes. No need to breathe. BIG kick now. And we're done.
John popped his head up, gasping furiously and ripped off his cap and goggles. What the hell is the time?!
"Olympic Qualifying Time: 52.36
1st Place - John Watson: 51.40"
YES! John pumped his fist in the air and suddenly realised that the roaring in his ears wasn't from water but from the entire pool on their feet, clapping furiously. Even Coach Adler was waving her clipboard frantically. Well, I did do well at Worlds but that was 25 metres. Guess I'm going to the Olympics. And he leaned over the lane rope and shook hands with lane four, who was shaking his head in amazement.
"Yeah, you too. Wow, guess I've got to step up my game if I want to qualify in June."
"Bet you will."
He exited the pool to Harry's screams and Mum's tears, after all I have to cool down for the 200 and the IMs.
At five PM sharp Sherlock received the email from Anthea. He ignored it to drink his leek and potato soup and run over the new improvements the Aqualab scientists had given him to check for viability. Unfortunately due to his current endurance training regime he wouldn't be able to test the improved suit for sprinting capabilities until next month, but Speedo were perfectly happy to wait for anything he came up with. It is nice to be appreciated for my true genius, but I can see why they chose me. After all, I am the world's only consulting hydrodynamic specialist.
After his evening swim session he finally looked at the results while eating a second dinner. All fairly normal, not that many swimmers had qualified today, quite a few were aiming to later, with Sherlock. His face tightened in annoyance.Well it would be futile to try, as I'm clearly going to qualify. The numbers speak for themselves, I don't know why so many people continue to delude themselves. Like John Watson, late twenties and past his prime, not going to win a medal, I would be surprised if he even qualified for the 200m fly this time around. Wait a second, I'm sure I saw his name on here. Where...
"John Watson - 100m Butterfly, QUALIFIED
John Watson - 200m Butterfly, QUALIFIED
John Watson - 200m Individual Medley, QUALIFIED
John Watson - 400m Individual Medley, QUALIFIED"
Sherlock was actually struck speechless for a second or two. Impossible. How could I have missed that? He pulled up John Watson on his spreadsheet of pro swimmers and looked dumbfounded at his World Championship times. Dear God, he was third and fourth in these! And only sixth in the fifty-metre fly, his worst event! How did THAT happen? But there wasn't anything to show the massive improvement, just a leap up since November 2010, with John beating times he'd set as a seventeen and eighteen year old, and easily. Sherlock was left to consider the mystery that was John Watson and his sudden improvement.By all rights it should be impossible. The statistics don't allow for this, and they never lie. Hmm. It was to keep him up thinking for another hour or two before he descended into an exhausted slumber.
Some notes about the contents:
1). I have tried to make this as accurate as possible, these swimming times are in the ballpark of accuracy, and those are the dates for the GB Olympic Team Trials.
2). Barnet Copthall is a highly esteemed swimming club in North London, although the head coach is not Mike Stamford, he is a lovely guy called Ricky and the club produces many great swimmers and Olympians. Nice pool too.
3) Becky is Rebecca Adlington, the current queen of British swimming. Joanne is Joanne Jackson, don’t worry, she did make it to the Olympics.
4) “Thirty fifties on minutes” is 30 times 50 metres frontcrawl/freestyle swum on 1 minute. This means you have 1 minute to swim 50 metres AND rest for the next one. Also you have to decrease your time swimming the 50 metres by 1 second each time, so you start on an easy 60 seconds and end up at a flat-out sprint, 30 seconds. It is a well-documented and evil set.
5) The Speedo FASTSKIN3 is the new system Speedo came up with late last year. It is meant to reduce drag by something ridiculous like 11%, but a lot of pro swimmers don’t actually like it. More on that later.
6) The idea of John recently losing his father was inspired by the young British diver Tom Daley, who recently lost his. In no way do I intend to belittle Tom’s suffering in this difficult time, but to investigate how much grief and the loss of a constant support and comfort can affect a pro athlete and a human being. My condolences to Tom Daley regarding his loss.