Sunday, February 26, 2017

Finding My Inner Dog

There's not much difference between dog culture and swimmer culture, in terms of seeing members of our species. Dogs are highly predictable when it comes to seeing other dogs. They choose between 1 of 2 reactions. They are happy to see another dog, which results in barking and tail wagging. They are grumpy to see another dog, which results in barking, raised fur, and sometimes tail wagging. Swimmers are the same way. All you have to do is replace barking with grumbling. (Note: The tail wagging is a thing. However, it's much less pronounced and people accuse you of being a creep if you go looking for it. Especially when they're females in bathing suits. Trust me on this.) Further, both are pack animals and follow the lead of the alpha in their vicinity.

Since I haven't yet recovered from my foot injury, I decided to get in the water. This is way out of character for me to be swimming at such a time of the season when my run sucks so much. (Okay- you got me. My run always sucks.) We had a day off of school, I went to the pool.

The Thing About the YMCA Pool
If you ever get the chance to swim at the Y, you'll notice something completely ironic. Lap swimmers are treated as second class citizens in the lap pool. Almost always, the pool people will tell you differently. They'll tell you that there is forever a lane reserved for lappers. But, what they won't tell you is how tedious it is to physically swim in that lane.

Take this recent Tuesday's swim. I stepped out onto the deck at 9:30. I immediately saw lanes 1-3, of the 6 available, cordoned off for the Active Older Adults' Water Bouncy and Raise Your Arms Above Your Head class (I think that's the published title). This class had 722 people (I counted the legs and divided by 2), all over the age of 60, and the pool water level was at an all-time high. Lanes 5-6 were posted as 'Swim Lessons', which included 2 people per lane. One was a kid and the other was an adult. It was unclear as to who was giving the lesson and who was receiving.

Lane 4 was for the lap swimmers. Upon arrival, I glanced down the lane to find two water walkers with those styrofoam dumbbell thingies (I honestly have no idea what they're called). I have dubbed these water walkers Ron and Nancy. Both looked to be somewhat more in-shape versions of the Active Older Adults that were still bouncing and raising their arms 3 feet to the right of where they were standing. And, both were smiling and waving at me to join their lane. Who was I to argue? My inner dog wagged it's tail, happy to be included.

The Different Reasons I Was Slow
When I go to the pool, I try to relive the good old days, ya know, when I was good. Now, I'm just old. Regardless, I go to the lap pool with a set in mind that's more than just going down and back. (Okay, it's exactly the same as going down and back, except that I know when I'm going to stop and look at the deck clock.) I'm a lot slower than I used to be.

Compounding the biology, the AOAWBRYAAYH class was a force with which to be reckoned. For one, they are highly distracting. The instructor is out of the water, on deck, and everyone in the class facing in that general direction. Therefore, I get lots of fabulous views at retired butts in lycra. (This is why I started counting legs.) For two, when you have 722 individuals all bouncing and raising their arms over their heads in unison, the disturbance on a non-compressible fluid such as water is immense. (Note: This does make for excellent open water swim training). And, since the tsunami machine is perpendicular to the path that I'm trying to swim, it's all resistance without the boost. (Aside: I wonder why they don't hold these classes at the water park. I bet the park could save tons of money in the wave pool. /End Aside.)

I think, at this point in the post, it's only fair to say that Ron and Nancy were not a barrier to speed. In fact, they were a couple of the best lanemates I have ever had. They were observant and readily made space anytime I came flailing by. They were vigilant in their work. And, every once in a while, they took a tidal wave in the face that was earmarked for me.

As if the undulations of a normally sedate pool weren't enough, crap I'm out of shape. This came glaring at me during a set of 100s. I used to be able to pop those babies out on the 1:20 without a care in the world. I set my sendoff at the 1:40. The first one was great. The second was a little less great. The third was tedious. I forget exactly which one caused me to pause due to all of the heaving and an incomprehensible feeling of numbness in my arms. I hung out on the wall looking like I was trying to chew the air. Nancy had just finished a walking lap and moseyed on up for a chat. It's the first time that I've actually taken a good look at her. She was in her 60s and in great shape. (Aside 2: If your hair is silver and you bleach it, what color does it turn? I think that's the hew she was sporting. /End Aside 2.) She was wearing a nice tiger-print one piece. My inner dog was wagging it's tail. (And I hoped that no one noticed.)

"How long you been at this?" she asked.  "This is my 2nd time in the water since September," I reply. Although, it didn't come out that smooth. It was more like, "This is <gasp for air> my 2nd time <breathe breathe> in the <breathe> water since <cough> September." It was so bad that I'm pretty sure that I could play the next wheelchair buddy in the Hollywood reboot of Malcolm in the Middle. At least I was telling the truth. I swam twice in September, both in races. The official last time I trained in the water was in early August, nearly 6 months ago. (And yet I wonder why I'm slow. Talk about irony...) "Wow, you're fast!" She replies. "We come 4 days a week." I reply back, "Well, it's clear you're in better shape than me." (See note on the speech patterns of the wheelchair buddy). Nancy turned and headed out for another lap. My inner dog barked and I followed the alpha down the lane.

Enter the Other Swimmer
As the set went on and I got slower and slower, the AOAWBRYAAYH was seemingly tireless. During a moment of weakness, I considered joining the class. If they ever have a triathlon that is water bouncing, biking and running, I'm there. Since that's not currently a thing, I continue to toe the line between training and a swimmer in distress. A door to the deck opened up and out came a middle-aged women who saw the exact same scene I did upon my arrival. Only she was clearly perturbed by what she saw. Protocol dictates that the non-lap swimmers must vacate the lane and make way for a lapper. Ron and Nancy initially side-stepped the protocol by sharing the lane with me. But, now that there was fresh meat for the lane, they were forced to leave by appearance of the new girl. My inner dog growled. I would have raised my fur if I had any recognizable body hair.

"Can you believe those people?" new girl says in a tone of indignation, "This lane is supposed to be for lap swimmers." I say, matter of factly, "They were some of the best lanemates I've ever had." And I push off for my next interval of shame without seeing the reaction from the new girl.

As I zoned back into my set, I noticed that Ron had gotten out of the water and headed for the hot tub. He's clearly a smart bloke since he knows that when the AOAWBRYAAYH ends, the population of said hot tub will increase exponentially. I went back to counting legs to see how much company he'll have. The number was pretty close to the last time I counted, with a minor change. My number had stayed at 1444, but I also noticed one tiger-skinned butt. My inner dog was wagging it's tail again.

Like any good pack animal, I followed the example of my new-found alphas. I've been in the water 4 days this week. I haven't seen Ron or Nancy again but I know that I've made them proud. RUFF!

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