Friday, April 13, 2012

Swimming with Kryptonite

Have I mentioned before that my YMCA makes me feel like a superhero? I thought so. For the most part, this is completely true. In the 8 years or so that I've been dipping my feet into their overheated bathwater that doubles for a swimming pool, I've not been bested in a set. Granted, there's a lack of competition but the fact remains, I am the king of the pool tend to be the fastest guy in the water.

Recently, I went for a lunchtime swim. I think someone spiked the water before I got in. It wasn't the good, college-fraternity type of spiking. It was the kryptonite in the water a la the movie Superman type of spiking. It rendered my swimming ability useless. Allow me to paint the picture:

Swim Sets Decoded
I was doing a set of 3x5x100s, negative sets 1-3. For those of you who do not speak swimmer, I'll interpret. To decipher this code, you read starting in the middle and moving to the left. Once you get to the left most words, you go back to your starting point and then read to the right. Dead smack in the middle of the description, you'll find the distance, 100 yards. This is 4 lengths or 4 laps or 2 laps, depending on which system you feel is appropriate. Moving to the left, you'll notice that I had to do 5 of these things. Then, moving further to the left, you'll notice that I had to repeat this set 3 times.

Why in the world didn't the set simply say '15 x 100s'? Good question. Because, there's more to the code. Go back to the starting distance and see that, now reading to the right, that I had to negative. This may mean to keep a grumpy, pessimistic attitude during the entire set. However, it really means that my first 5x100s was to be the slowest, the second 5x100s was to be a bit faster, and the last 5x100s was to be the fastest. I did the first set on the 1:40, the second on the 1:35, and the third on the 1:30.

Enter the Ego
Now, despite my superhero comparison, my swimming this season is in better shape than a year ago. I have been flowing through the water more efficiently than in the past. Once I hit the final set of the workout, I decided that I wanted to hold 1:22s. There were several reasons for this:
  1. The Wife was sharing a lane with me. This always means that I'm going to swim faster than normal due to the Male Ego Gene. We were swimming in lane 5.
  2. There was a second hottie, New Girl, who just entered the water. On a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being the fat, old guy water floating with a noodle in the deep end and 10 being the Wife, I'd place the NG at around a 7 +/- 1. She could have been a notch up or down, but keep in mind that I did not get a good look (see item #1). Even though I was mid-set, the Ego Gene caught her scent and bumped the effort up a bit. She was in lane 6, nearest the wall.
  3. Right around the same time that the girl from item 2 got in the water, a Dude got in the pool. I had about 8 seconds to notice him in lane 4. He was to my left while the deck clock was to my right. The Wife was also to my left while the NG was to my right. I'd rank the Dude at around an 8 +/-1. He could probably go up a notch, but keep in mind that I was in mid-set, didn't get a good look as he was behind me, and, well, he's a dude. 
Game On
Here's the thing about the Dude... Even in the menial 8 seconds I had to take in all of the data happening in the pool, I could tell the guy was a swimmer. First, he had that chiseled, v-shaped body that swimmers are prone to sporting. Second, he did not look at either of the women in the pool. His eyes were glued to the same place as mine, the deck clock. Third, he pushed off at the exact same time as I did, on the 60. My Male Ego Gene was in overdrive.

This was #3 of 5 in the set. Number 1 was on the 1:22. Number 2 was on the 1:22. As I analyze that specific 100 yard swim, I felt like I did everything right. I powered off the wall in perfect streamline position. I held my line for 7 yards. I pulled straight-armed with my bottom arm first. I kept my head-hips-and-heels (commonly called the 3 H's) in a tight formation. I was efficient, making it from wall to wall in 14 strokes (my normal is 15). As I rotated on to my left side, my body was facing lane 4. Time to check on the competition. I was behind by about 1 yard.

I hit the flip turn hard and perfect. When I flip, I naturally spin on my left side. Since we have switched directions, I was now facing lane 6, where the NG was swimming. She was there for my viewing pleasure but the landscape was wasted. The Ego Gene dictates that now is the time to impress. Later is the time to gawk. After my stroke rotated me back towards lane 4, I took note that I had not taken the lead on the Dude. He was still about a yard ahead. At least I didn't lose any water on the turn. As he stroked, his lead was beginning to widen.

The Wife was waiting for me at the wall. I had done 50 yards of the required 100 in this interval and the Wife was Cat and Mousing me. This was going to be my chance to come back on the Dude. As I started my flip, the Wife pushed off giving her a head start on our lane 5 race. She can be pretty dang quick when she wants. I noticed that I had started to kick, which is something that I do not normally do while swimming. I also notice that she was between me and lane 4. I had no idea where the Dude was but I was confident that I had closed the gap (perhaps passed) due to the extra effort.

The Wife hit the wall at the 75 first, which was normal for this type of set. She, however, has not had years of abuse in flip turn practice. I can normally pick up 2-3 body lengths on her just on the turn (which also explains why she gets a head start). This was the case and I had some clear water. I peeked at lane 6 and, yep, NG was still there. As I swung to the right, I didn't see the Dude. I assumed that I had smoked him. I didn't have too much time to contemplate pool positions as the Wife was coming back off her turn into a nice sprint for the finish. I stroked hard to stay in front.

When I hit the wall, I immediately popped up and looked at the deck clock. This is what swimmers are trained to do. Your first look is always at the deck clock. Your second look is up to you. The clock posted a 1:12, a full 10 seconds faster than my goal speed. Having cataloged that number, I was free to look around. I had 18 seconds to gander at my surroundings. The Wife hit the wall about 1 second behind. The NG was mid-pool, heading in my direction swimming breaststroke. The Dude was also mid-pool but he was outward bound. He had about a 10 yard lead on me.

Excuse me?! I had the fastest 100 yards of my season. I had the fastest 100 yards of the past 2 seasons. I was in MY YMCA. Yet, here this pretty-boy swimmer Dude came in and made my interval seem like chump change. As I reflect on the set, I'm pretty sure that there was something horribly wrong. I wasn't fast at all. I only thought I was fast.

The Results Explained
One of the many, many consequences of the Male Ego Gene is its ability to rationalize failure into a positive light. It will work the system, find loopholes, and spin scenarios into whatever direction it can in an effort to replace unpleasant situations with more amenable outcomes. My Ego created a new reality and it found an alternative-fictional explanation for this inexplicable phenomena.

The interval was not a 1:12 but a 2:12. Yeah, that's it. The Dude wasn't fast, he was just normal. Perhaps, he was, dare I say, slow. If he was slow, then I swam super slow due to the 'kryptonite' in the water. Granted, I have not officially identified the specific substance that sucks the speed out of my arms but it is blatantly clear that something was in the water (which had nothing to do with the deposit I made right before the set).

Oddly, I had not been back to that pool for ten days. I even tried a new YMCA (which, sadly, had pool temperatures even warmer than my Y). I am afraid. I don't want to get super slow. I don't want to lose my superhero swimming ability. I don't want to face the Dude, only to lose again. I, just like most superheroes, am a great big cowardly, pansy.

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