One of the challenges of tri training is the logistics of swim workouts. You’re familiar with my struggle with swimsuits, but that’s only part of the story. There’s the challenge of finding goggles that don’t leak and don’t fog, there’s the fact that no matter what soap/bodywash/bleach you use, you smell like chlorine for the rest of the day, and then there’s pool etiquette.
Pool etiquette is a set of rules more complicated and impenetrable than Hammurabi’s code. I’m not talking about the basics: no glass containers in the pool area, don’t run on the deck, children must wear swim diapers, etc. Those are posted on the wall on a big sign.
I’m talking about the unwritten rules.
At our Y, we have a six-lane pool that is usually divided into three lanes. The lane nearest the locker room doors is the “slow” lane, the middle lane is the “medium” lane, and the farthest lane is the “fast” lane. These designations are also posted on the wall, along with an admonition to swim in the lane closest to your swim speed. This is the first area of ambiguity. I’m pretty sure I’m not “slow”; slow is for the old folks doing the senior citizen breaststroke.
You’ve seen these folks, committed to staying fit at an age when most people are dead, moving through the water without a single splash at speeds of up to 2 miles per millenia. I admire these folks, but they are territorial as hell. I was forced to swim in the “slow” lane the other morning, and after a half-dozen laps, the lifeguard apologized and asked me to move to a different lane. “Some people don’t like to get their hair wet,” she explained.
This is a pool, right? Full of water? Then why… how come… don’t they… oh, never mind.
I like the “medium” lane, primarily for its fence-straddling nature. I can’t piss off anyone in the medium lane. Not too slow, not too fast. I’m neither Methuselah nor Michael Phelps. Unfortunately, that’s how 90% of people who go to swim at the Y think, so the medium lane is usually full.
I don’t mind swimming in the “fast” lane; I know I’m not the fastest, but I know I’m a serious swimmer training for a serious event, so I feel justified in the rarefied air of the fast lane. However, a lot of mornings, there’s a new twist to the fast lane. The REALLY serious swimmers are in there, and they’ve divided that lane even further. It’s easy to get three swimmers in two lanes, but it’s hard to get two swimmers in one lane. So the two “fast” lanes are taken up by hard-bodied half-dolphin freaks.
And you have no idea how many people are in the pool until after you’ve changed, showered (Shower BEFORE Entering Pool Area!) and stepped out of the locker room. There’s a particular panicked look on the faces of people when they can’t immediately identify where they’re going to swim. You roll the dice every time you walk into the pool.
This morning, I was lucky to snag a spot in the “medium” lane and had a pretty good swim. I actually felt a little sluggish, but I swam 1200 meters about one minute faster than I did the other day.
And I didn’t get anybody’s hair wet.