I’m half-way to goal for swimming 50 miles before my 40th birthday: Yesterday I logged Mile 25.
It almost didn’t happen. I’m an early riser on the weekends – so much so that I’m often ready to go back to bed around 7am, when my gym opens. But yesterday morning I fought the temptation to stall and trudged the 1.25 miles to the gym. All uphill. In the rain.
So it was with a certain self-congratulatory smugness (I’m conquering this weekend, dammit!) that I found a locker, stripped down, stepped into my flipflops and – CRAP. What is the one thing you absolutely can’t forget if you want to swim? That’s right: a swimsuit. Oh, I had my goggles and swim cap. I even had a lock for my locker and conditioner for the shower.
But my swimsuit was at home, hanging on the back of the bathroom door where I’d left it to dry earlier this week.
Clothes back on, I walked home, contemplating my next move. Should I mentally check the “gym” box since I’d made the effort, or grab my suit and take a Groundhog’s Day approach to the whole thing?
Tough call, but thirty minutes later, I was back at the gym with my suit in hand. (You don’t even want to know how pleased I was with myself for motivating not just ONCE but TWICE on a rainy weekend.)
I was able to get a good chunk of my mile in with a lane to myself, but with about thirty lengths to go, a guy climbed in my lane. The pool is fairly small – it’s only four lanes – so it’s not uncommon to share a lane. The thing that’s weird about gym-swimming is that almost no one ever circle swims (where you go up one side of the lane and back on the other), even though it would allow a small pool to accommodate more swimmers. Instead, the habit is to split a lane in half down the middle, with each swimmer sticking to his or her half, limiting each lane to a max of two people.
The lanes at my pool are a bit tight to begin with, so splitting a lane can shift my workout from great to frustrating if the person I’m sharing with has any bad habits, such as: being extra splashy, being scared to hug the lane marker, not holding a straight line, or kicking my kidneys when doing the breaststroke.
This guy was extra splashy, in no small part because he was trying to go REALLY FAST. When he hopped in and attempted his first lap, it looked like he was trying to outrun someone threatening to jam a bottle rocket up his ass. Watching him swim toward me, he was a blur of arms and feet, with splashes that would make a toddler proud.
My style tends to be really smooth and non-splashy. Not because I’m a good swimmer, but because I’m lazy. I’ve found that the easiest way to swim laps is by exerting myself as little as possible – so I rely almost exclusively on my arms and shoulders, allowing my legs to drag behind me, just enjoying the ride. I always figure I’m a good person to share a lane with, because I just move along like a sting ray, barely stirring the water.
However, when I’m sharing a lane with someone who is basically waterboarding me every time we cross paths mid-pool, I begin to get a bit testy. And so I’d deliberately land a few kicks on top of the water, just parallel to his face, each time we met.
At some point, I realized that although he was causing quite the commotion, by the time he stopped to catch his breath and rest at each end, I was actually out-pacing him, much like the Tortoise & the Hare.
In that scenario, I was totally cool being the tortoise – and was actually feeling somewhat smug about it – until I got home and saw on Facebook that my friend Brian just finished swimming 30 miles in the month of March alone. Um.
Let’s do the math. I’m basically averaging one mile per week (which fits since I tend to make it to the pool weekly at best). Meanwhile, Brian’s doing a mile per day. And – to add insult to injury – somehow Brian has great hair despite the chlorine. So in this scenario, it’s kind of like the Tortoise and the Hair.
My take-away: Apparently the moral of the story isn’t that the turtle always wins. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, and sometimes slow and steady is just – slow and steady. And has bad hair. I guess that’s what I get for all my smugness. Thanks for the reality check, Brian!