FIRE UP FRIDAY! I had a moment tonight during my Friday night early-evening swim that gave me fodder for what I’ve now labeled as my Daily Mo file. I went to the Y because it was a long week of staring at Excel sheets and calendars. I went to escape my computer and my cell phone, which I cannot use in the sauna or the pool. I did once bring a notebook into the sauna about two months ago with a writing deadline on my mind. I found reaching for my cell phone as if I was at my desk, so I decided I should just stick to leaving my office in my locker about 50 feet away.
After reading the article this week on how important it is to embrace new things, and how important it is to improve your eating habits, I set my future plans for signing-up for swim lessons to improve my speed (first time in my life). I even came up with a more efficient eating plan. I was able to think through all of this because it was one of the rare times at the Y that there was space in the pool, and even in the fast lane. I go at odd hours because during prime time, it’s often packed and I end up passing people, which is no fun for any parties, so I stop and tread or do a U-turn and can’t get anything done.
Tonight I was pumped because the two women in the lane with me were moving at a nice clip. One was mixing it up and doing fine, and the other woman had a great backstroke. I watched her and thought, I really need to work on my shoulder mobility, and maybe my new instructor will show me how this week. I was pumped when I got into the lane because I knew I had to move to stay in the flow. Everything was great until a guy got in our lane and he did what 98 percent of guys do in the pool. Even when they’re medium-fast to mostly turtle-slow, they get in the fast lane. This guy saw that only two swimmers were in the medium-to-fast lane. Three of us were in the fast lane and holding up our end of the adjective on the big sign that says FAST. I could tell by his first four strokes that he was barely a medium.
I thought back to my last pool when Thomas, age 70-something, insisted on getting in the fast lane, even though turtles move faster and he literally doesn’t swim – he walks – and there’s an area to do his walking whatever. I looked at him and pointed at the sign FAST. He said, “You swim there, I will stay here.” I looked at the lifeguard. He was not paying attention nor did he care to resolve any conflict ever. I looked back at Thomas, and said to myself, “Don’t be an arrogant jerk. Let it go.” B
ut here’s the problem: I missed my sport. It was swimming. A lifeguard at my previous pool where I swam with Thomas called me his “Great White,” which I am mentioning only because it accurately describes that I am that fish-belly white and not exactly a small woman. I swim in a cheap pink, black or blue camouflage bikini from swim outlet (maybe $18 total). I now swim without goggles in my new pool because I hate the marks the goggles leave. I excel at the backstroke. I want to drastically improve my butterfly, which feels impossible most of the time. Breaststroke may ruin my reconstructed knee. My instructor is going to help. I need to get in shape before I get an instructor.
So Thomas sees me sprinting in the fast lane and he still thinks it is safe to stay there. Making matters much more dangerous, he invited his buddy Harry over to his lane so they’re going to share half of the fast lane. I finish my sprint and just look at Thomas, like, “You’re kidding me, right?” He said, “You go there, and we’ll swim over here.” I huffed and continued with my workout. The only problem is he didn’t tell Harry. Seconds later, Harry decides to circle-swim in my lane while I’m sprinting back. Harry’s pace is barely moving forward, but he’ll eventually get there. At the very last second, I pick my head up and put on the brakes inches from his head. I stand up in the water and yelled across the pool, “What the ….? I almost killed him, Thomas.”
Harry didn’t even hear me, see me or know the accident that almost killed him or me or both of us. He smiled at me and said, “I’m going to Palm Beach tomorrow for three months and I’m just using today as a warm-up.”
I smiled at him, and he carried on. I looked at the lifeguard, and said, “You saw that I almost killed him, right? It would have been your fault, you know that right? You saw all of this and did nothing.”
So tonight when I saw this guy get into our lane, I had a flashback to the time I almost killed a 70-year-old man and his buddy who got into the fast lane. I thought of all the times I’ve been at the Y with guys who insist they are faster than they actually are, and then end up messing-up the timing of our lane. The timing was so perfect with the other two women. Why couldn’t he do the math and just hop in the medium-fast lane that had only two people in it, not three? When I used to go to the track and some crazy sprinter was out there, I got out of his or her way. I went nowhere near his or her lane. The muscle dudes at the gym? When I go near them I try not to mess up their flow or even make eye-contact. They need their space. Unfortunately not all swimmers feel the same. Lifeguard, Thomas, Harry and most men everywhere don’t know the story of Gertrude Ederle. (The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. It’s a story of toughness, triumph, competitive fire, drama and sadness.) Most men don’t know that in 1925, Gertrude became the first woman to swim the English Channel. It took her 14 hours and 31 minutes, and she beat the men’s record by over two hours. Yes, by over two hours.
I get to the end of the pool and stand up. I think of Gertrude Ederle and how NYC and one million people gave her the biggest parade in the history of the city upon her return. I don’t expect anyone but my 11 blog readers to know what is about to go down right now, and this may in fact end up leaving me looking like a great white shark when all I want to do is stay in the flow and keep it honest. I calculate just how quickly I’m going to be able to catch and pass him. I look at the other woman who is now next to me – the great backstroker – and I say, “You’re fast. I’m fast. Why is he in our lane?” The women in the medium-to-fast lane next to me all laughed. One said, “We all know that answer.” “Watch this,” I said. I gave my fellow swimmer about half of the length of the pool as a start. I did the freestyle without goggles, knowing I would have slid right over his back if I was backstroking the whole way and unable to see him. I caught him right where I thought – right before the wall. I knew better than to pass him at the wall – it’s too dangerous with a flip turn, or even without, in a public pool. He moved to the right and let me pass. By the time he reached the other end, I was back to the spot where he let me pass. I looked up at him from the end of the pool and my jaw dropped as I watched his next move.
He lifted up the rope and moved to the medium-fast lane.
There’s hope, which is always a good thing.
And so is the fact that it’s Friday.