The early drive through traffic-free streets.
The inbox clearance over tea in Pret. Essential preparation this – you have to go into the water with nothing owing, nothing overdue. It has to be that if you succumbed to a stray hammerhead or a torsion of the Speedo, you would leave behind an orderly thread.
The cold-water shock on first entry. Puts everything into perspective.
The first few lengths, and all the perverse pleasure of voluntary water-boarding.
The balancing of the breathing, and the art of forgetting that you’re swimming in a Soho sub-basement. (If you’re lucky, forgetting that you’re swimming at all.)
Front crawl, breathing every four, always on the left.
The gradual, rhythmic de-fragging of the mind. The events of the previous day. The rights and wrongs of airstrikes. The way the client smiled at the end of the meeting. The creative ideas that have spent the night in the subconscious. The mooted dis-assembly of Wire & Plastic Products.
Then, ten minutes in, the further horizon. The industrial conundrum. The daylight that now comes streaming in where once there was magic. The ISBA keynote. More with less. Or was it more for less.
A butterfly fanatic creates a wake and I swallow water.
The medium-term comes pouring in. The looming pitches. The launch of our latest subsidiary. The worldwide board meeting in Madrid.
My breathing quickens. I start to race the man in the next lane. It hurts. I am mortal. Stay calm. Don’t chase perfect. Choose one of the ten right answers and do that.
The anguish of the final laps, then clarity. Decisions made. Ideas tested.
"Leave it all in the pool" the woman on the front desk always says.
And I do. All the chaos of the information age. I leave it in the pool.
Giles Hedger is chief executive of M&C Saatchi