Swim Fan: Where Spandex Rule

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

11:20am: I pull into the old gymnasium parking lot. I've made it the 40 minutes to the gym, and now I have to sit there and wait. Don't be that guy knocking on the door right at 11:30am. Don't be that guy. I pull out my iPhone, play a word in Scrabble against my mom and then take a quick browse of Facebook.  Time to go in.

11:30: Still in the car.  My body is so comfortable and the song on the radio is so good. Do I have to get in the pool every Tuesday and Thursday?  I could skip this one. But I'm already here. I've got to go in. Momentum is a powerful force.

I found a compromise!
11:35: Getting inside the locker room is one thing, undressing into a jammer is another intense step forward.  I sit in front of my locker and collect myself.  Slowly, starting with my shoes, I transform into the swimmer with a belly.  I own it.  Truth is, if it weren't for the belly, I wouldn't be here in the first place.  Insecurity is an even more powerful force than momentum.

11:40: Just me, my spandex, and my faculty ID are left of me.  Stretching begins outside the pool area proper. There is creaking and cracking interspersed between the various pushes and pulls. I hope no one comes around the corner of the locker room to see me mostly naked in a warrior pose.  But fuck it, I'm 36 and they are more scared of me than I am of them.

11:47: I'm in. No, not in the pool -- the pool room.  First I have to get my ID checked by the lifeguard before selecting lane.  I'm amazed at how many people are already in stride barely 15 minutes into free swim.  Academics love their schedules I guess.  Everyone splashes extra hard when they see a new person enter the room. No one wants to share a lane. It's hilarious to watch the, mostly men, vary their strokes to appear half drowning just to front like they are unappealing candidates for sharing a lane.  In a pinch, I always knock in with a woman I went to graduate school with. She and I both have quiet strokes and don't feel sharing is beneath us.

So Many Mixed Emotions
11:50: Slow and steady. Remember breathing. Survive. Stay afloat. The water is cold and my arms pull like frozen sausages from the bottom of the freezer.  My legs still haven't started moving. They mimic what kicking legs would look like, but without any of the associated energy needed to define something as a kick as opposed to "legs in tow." I continue on because I'm already wet and I need to warm up.

11:58: This is the first hurdle every swim.  My arms are waterlogged and, now kicking, I'm a bit short of breathe. The only way out is to keep going.  I cough up some mucus lodged deep in my lungs and I know everything will be ok.

12:07pm: Air is no longer a problem. I can breath easily now that I've cruised into my second gear, and I begin to feel my skin pealing away to reveal dolphin skin.  I am Aquaman! I don't even need air.  I immediately swallow and gag on a mouthful of chlorinated humble pie. Ok, I am Aquaman's air-breathing side kick who is also very good in the water.  On the next flip turn I stub my toe on the wall.  Thankfully, underwater, no one hears my high pitched yelp.

12:15: I've hit the second wall. Not literally this time, but my easy breathing is a bit more panicked. I'm not drowning by any means, I just need more oxygen to continue the pace I'm trying to maintain.  I slow down a tic and suck air greedily for a lap or two.  I don't stop. I must not stop. Stopping is quitting. Stopping breaks the magic. I can only stop on my own terms, never cause I'm tired.

This is the internal competition of swimming that I've fallen in love with. I don't need another swimmer pushing the pace next to me to feel exhilarated. Swimming long distance is about not stopping until you've swum through every wall that is erected in front of you. And a little after a mile into my swim that second wall is one hard sone of a bitch.

12:21: Third wind! Third wind! Third wind is the best part of swimming.  I'm freaking Aquaman again, smoothly cutting through the water with no regard for the finite nature of my lungs' storage capacity. The world is quiet and cool and slick as it passes between me and the long blue "I" stretched across the bottom of the pool.

12:25: Ok super solider, it is time to warm down. No more sprinting to the finish like I used to do back in my twenties.  The last few laps are nice and easy, stretching my fingertips out with each pull and shaking out my legs as I kick.  I cruise into the blocks worn down but not exhausted.

12:29: I'm hanging off the starting block like an orangutan. My body requires that I wring it out like a used towel after use or it refuses to move normally for the rest of the day.  Since I have beer league softball in the evening petrification is not an option.  I pull at my tight and aching muscles until walking feels like a fair compromise been my mind and body.  One push up out of the water and I make a beeline for the showers.

"Oh, that's the pool huh? That's cool, I'm more of a runner anyway."
12:35: I'm sitting in front of my locker once again with negative motivation. The shower warmed me and with my body relaxed, it could sit on this wooden bench for the next 30 minutes easy. It would love to.  But my mind has places to be, so as I dry myself I replace the layers that I wore in.  By the time I exchange my towel for a clean one at the pool office, I am both exhausted and enervated simultaneously.

12:39: Back in the car, I look to see if my mother has played her counter-word. I take stock of my day and realize that nothing productive will happen until I put food in my belly.  My stomach agrees with a rumbly yawn.  I turn over the engine and pull out into the rest of my daily business.

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