When I first dipped a tentative toe into the South Portland Municipal Pool on February 14, I wasn’t expecting much. Actually, I figured that things would go so poorly that I’d have an excuse to quit, although I’m not really given to quitting since I became the JBE, free agent superhero.
That first experience didn’t get off to a great start at all.
Having no knowledge of pool protocol, since the last time I had visited a public pool was in sixth grade, I managed to get myself sideways with the pool authorities.
Btw, my Lisbon Falls homies might recall those Thursday night “splashes” at the Bath Y. For sixth grade juvenile delinquent wannabes, this was really an excuse to smoke cigarettes out behind what was then the Marion T. Morse Elementary School. I believe these were absconded by one Reggie Black, who some of you might know from references made by my sister over at her blog. Sorry for blowing your cover, Reggie.
Since I was waiting for my coach (yes, I have a swim coach), I thought I’d hit a couple of lengths to warm up. Of course, I went in at the deep end, which violates rule #1. Rule #1 of lap swimming says, all swimmers enter at the shallow end of the pool. When lanes are filled, this allows you to ask the swimmer if you can split the lane with them.
So I’m swimming towards what appeared to be a fairly large object in the water. Since I’m doing my best not to drown, I thought I did fine avoiding the woman passing me. On my return pass, I’m thinking, “is she going right? Is she going left?” I went right and on the way by, something grabbed my leg. “WTF??” was my thought. Not good.
This older female swimmer began giving me a lecture on protocol, which made me get defensive and I basically said, “I don’t need this shice,” and I was out of the pool, sitting on the penalty bench until my world-class tri athlete and newly-appointed coach arrived.
I saw the lifeguard coming and I had a scenario in my head of being banned for life from the SoPo Municipal. I began to quickly assess what other pool options were in the vicinity of my home in case I needed to find an alternate swim venue. Or, maybe I could just quit before I invested anything more in my swimming.
Well I’m happy to report that I didn’t get tossed. I learned some protocol from this sympathetic lifeguard, I’ve acquired a few skills from my coach, Kelsey, whose offered me three lessons, and now, I’m six weeks into this thing called swimming, and while I don’t love it, I’m also beyond mere tolerance.
The other night, Monday to be precise, I was coming off a miserable day of work. This was the day before I lost my good friend to cancer. I didn’t want to swim. I’ll delve into that in a minute, but let me set up how I went from swimming in the early AM, to night swimming.
Between lessons with Kelsey, I had begun swimming in the morning at the Greely High School Pool, in Cumberland. Miss Mary, who is a mermaid, encouraged me to swim Wednesday mornings with her, prior to work. This means leaving the house at 5:00 and being in the pool by 5:30.
Cumberland is one of these towns where kids get swim lessons before they can walk, and everyone at the Greely pool is an older version of Ryan Lochte, or Missy Franklin; all except the JBE. He’s like a floating turd that just tries to stay out of everyone’s way.
Actually, the swimmers in the morning are all pretty cool and I now know a few by name, including one named Joe who went to school with our son, Mark. Joe’s an engineer, which Mark said he wasn’t surprised about.
Joe and I commiserate about swimming, and I get to share my struggles with someone, although Joe is still a much better swimmer than I am.
Because the Polar Bear Tri is in another month, the Greely High School Pool has become overly crowded, at least for floating turds like the JBE. What began with sharing the lane (I now know how to do this), has turned into swimming counterclockwise (which happens when there are more than two people in a lane). Since I’m still building stamina, I can’t swim consecutive laps like these pros can, so I end up huddled in the corner most of my 45 minutes. Well, I exaggerate, but trying to stay out of other swimmer’s ways makes focusing on my breathing, rotation, and kicking, difficult.
Long story short, I’m now swimming at night. That’s because Greely now has night lap swimming and not a lot of people go.
There are drawbacks.
The lockers have been used all day and the locker room reeks like someone deposited a moldy swimsuit in some locker, or perhaps the smell is even worse. Humidity and chlorine make anything smell rank.
So Monday, I came home a tad before six and had told Mary that morning I was swimming that night at Greely. But when I came home, I was looking for an excuse not to swim. I began whining about having to swim and “blah, blah, blah, wah, wah…” I know, life sucks and then we die.
When Miss Mary said, “well, you didn’t have to sign up for the tri,” that sealed the deal. If the JBE is anything, he’s stubborn and he has a sizeable chip on his shoulder. When you call him out, he’s going to engage.
My bag was packed, so I threw it in the car, and my 20 minute drive south on Route 9 to Cumberland was filled with some Silversun Pickups to get psyched. I also was plotting my swim strategy. Could I swim 6 consecutive lengths?
When I first started in February, I could barely make two lengths, and I’d take on water (because I couldn’t breathe correctly) and this caused minor anxiety palpitations that only made my swimming even more difficult.
In the pool at 6:30, I swam for 55 minutes, did six consecutive lengths out of the gate, and then a series of 4 consecutive lengths (these are 25 yards each) and it wasn’t long before I was over the 1/3rd mile distance I need to be able to swim on June 12 at the Pirate Tri.
What this post is about is facing your fears, overcoming things that you think you can’t do, and often, the benefits that come with doing so make you wonder why you were so resistant to begin with.
Oh, and props to you, Kelsey, if you’re reading. You told me I could do it and I guess I am. I’m no Ryan Lochte, but I’m becoming a pretty good JBE-style amateur plodder.