Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Swimming with a Stiffy

Breaking the Seal
I remember back in the old days when drinking beer was a sport. Beer was invented by the Fraternity Gods, who were Greek if I remember my history correctly (which I don't). It makes sense why most fraternities are named with Greek letters. Honor your beer drinking roots and provide us with hours of unbridled entertainment. Imbibing was comfortable in the beginning of the night. But, lurking in the shadow was evidence that your kidney and liver were conspiring against you. Although mine holds just under 9 (based on rough estimates), the average bladder holds about 12-16 ounces of fluid. This is roughly the same as the average beer. Coincidence? I think not. According to the Law of Conservation of Beer Mass, what goes in must come out. Drink 4 brews (more than enough for a light weight goon like me to become absolutely hysterical) and you have about a half-gallon of liquid that must be removed. The science behind this is a little more complicated as ethanol is a diuretic. The booze will tap your fluid reserves causing more liquid will come out than actually went in. This is a clear violation of the law and completely unfair. There is a delay because the liver is slow and the kidney is reluctant to give up its goods. However, once they get the system on line, the flood gates open and its off to the potty every 10 minutes or so. The seal has been broken and I'd like to offer a long overdue apology to the sorority house who had the unfortunate placement next door to our party room.

What's this have to do with triathlon (or anything else)? Okay, not much, except for a trip down memory lane. Because the last time I was a lush was also the last time I was a truly competitive athlete. When one faded it seemed that the other one did too. Last week, while visiting the BIL, I got in the water twice. I didn't know it at the time, but I may have broken the swimming seal on the 2011 triathlon season. I actually got up this morning and made it to the pool with plans to go back in the near future. We'll try to ignore that other seal thing that accompanies submerging your hands into warm water.

The Y is Full of Role Models
I like the YMCA. Just like most once-competitive swimmers, I find the pool temperatures insultingly high but I am not so much bothered by the temperature as I once was. Honestly, how can I complain about the winter training conditions and still gripe about warm water? I want warm (hear that jet stream!). Further, the Y attracts the most interesting people who are quite active. Oddly, none of these people are in my age group. The Y stands for 'young' and this may just be a matter of perspective. Despite their appearance or acquired life experience, they certainly act young. I like to think of most of the swimmers in the pool as 'role models'. When I grow up, I want to be an active older adult. I'd like to think that when I'm 84 (not 64 like McCartney suggested) that I am still hitting the laps and keeping in good shape, even if my form is in the dumps. I doubt that I will be getting in the pool at 6:30 am post-retirement. I only get there now because I have that job thingy. They want to get there early, that's their preference and who am I to judge? I'd sleep in. Still, I look upon the 'older' people with respect and awe. They are completely motivating.

After changing, I stepped out onto the deck, picked the open lane, and subsequently got kicked out. "But the lane is empty," I thought and was readying myself for the fight. As I scanned the water, there was the role model on her way to my lane, just not as speedy as me. The protest ended before I started, especially when I noticed that said role model was also blind. If I ever find a reason not to swim later in life, I hope that woman (or her ghost) hunts me down and smacks me silly. I had absolutely no problem yielding the free lane to her awesomeness. Smiling, I moved over 2 lanes to the next zone featuring just one swimmer.

Enter the Stiffy
There are certain rules in non-competitive swimming that must be adhered to. If you are joining a lane, you must announce your presence to the keeper of the lane. Fail to do so and you might actually get lynched. I prefer the 'sit on the edge with one foot in the water waving in front of the swimmer' approach. There I was waiting patiently for my new lapmate to spot my decrepit feet while stealing glances at the lane I recently vacated. Success, she stopped. Not the blind lady, but the woman in my lane. She was no role model per se, but closer to a traditional model. She was... Let's just say that she had good form. I am not lying when I tell you that I did not check her out before picking the lane. Seriously. Had I checked her out, I probably would have picked a different lane. Hot chicks intimidate me and I prefer to admire from afar. Too late, I'm stuck. After a short, awkward chat in which we decided that we would swim side-by-side and not circle swim, I stopped gawking and started my workout. It took me only a few strokes to notice my stiffy. Not good. Embarrassing. Swimming with a stiffy is very uncomfortable. Yes, my neck was still stiff from this past weekend.

Swimming with a stiff neck can actually be advantageous. First, it can, umm, keep you from getting distracted by anything else that may or may not be in your lane. Second, it can help maintain proper head position. Proper head position in the water is exactly the same as the most comfortable head position while walking. Try walking across the room with your head craned up at a 45ยบ angle. Won't keep that going too long will you? Your head and eyes will drop to the neutral position, which is straight ahead. Pay attention as this is the ideal head position in swimming. Your eyes should be pointed down to the bottom of the pool directly below your nose. Most swimmers tend to look forward because animalistic instinct tells you to look where you are going. The YMCA, like most respected pools, was nice enough to paint bright lines on the bottom of the pool with a warning T near the end. My stiffy made sure that looking straight down at the bottom of the pool was pretty much the only option.

I Want to See Her Again
One thing that swimmers are prone to is scheduling. This is a good thing. No! a great thing. Many of coaches, myself included, believe that the best way to develop first class skill in anything is to be consistent. Most swimmers will work pool time into their lives and return to the same place at the same time with amazing predictability. I haven't been consistent in the water. But now that the seal has been broken, I hope to become a swimmer again and get back on a regular basis. Plus, I can't get her out of my mind. Next week, I may add 'stalker' to my list. I am considering a scientific approach of going early, staying late, and recording the times when she is there. When I have compiled the data, I will set my 'consistency' based on her schedule. That blind woman role model was really inspiring.

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