Posts Tagged ‘Swim Doofus’

The Harpy

Posted: March 17, 2017 in Swim
Tags: , ,

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in mythical creatures called Harpy’s.  Harpy’s were thought of as a female monster in the form of a bird with a human face.  Their purpose was generally to wreak havoc on their victims by stealing food and otherwise antagonizing and tormenting them throughout the day.

Their name literally means “snatchers”.

Most famously, Harpies are remembered in the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts, where they were sent by the god Zeus to torment the blind seer Phineus.  Here they were portrayed as winged demons; voracious, malodorous, and snatching away souls to carry off to Hades (click HERE).

Of course, we don’t believe in Harpy’s any more, unless you consider politicians as those who were put upon the earth for the sole purpose making our lives a living hell, but I digress.

Myself?

I absolutely believe in Harpy’s.

In my view, Harpy’s still have the same purpose and effect as the ancient mythological ones in that their main mission in life is to antagonize, torment and other otherwise annoy the living shit out of me.  I further believe we all have one and in my case, my own Harpy visits me every morning in the pool.

Yes, I know, I complain a lot about the different types of schmucks you encounter in the pool (click HERE  for a few reminders).

It’s true.

But in this case, it’s not some random moolyak who I happen to cross paths with.

No.

In this case it’s every…freaking…day!

Now for the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from using this particular person’s name (*cough*cough*BILL*cough*cough*) and simply refer to him them as “the Harpy”.

The Harpy has been a long standing regular at all the local pools over the years and the Port Colbourne Aquatic Center is simply his latest hunting ground, however, to call him a “swimmer” would be a bit of a stretch.

I’m sure outside of the pool the Harpy is a nice enough guy.  I mean, sure he has that rather odd look about him that simply screams any number of lonely and angry lighthouse keepers from Scooby Doo, but don’t all old dudes?

Be that as it may, when the Harpy enters the pool 40-50 minutes into my swim, all those misgivings I have about him being a harmless guy go right out the window and I begin to see red.

I literally begin to go all Bruce Banner as soon as he steps on the pool deck.

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You see, the Harpy’s main mission is to get in my fucking way as often as possible.  For the last half of my swim (an hour or so), it’s all I can do but stay out of his way.  No easy feat I assure you!  And it’s not like there’s a lot of people in the pool at that time either.  In fact, there may be one, maybe two  other people there at that time meaning that between the 3 or 4 of us we more or less have the entire pool to ourselves.  So how then the Harpy manages to get in my way as often as he does is a mystery right up on par with the Pyramids, Stonehenge and who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

For example, the Harpy likes to choose the lane right beside my own and then proceed to do this weird sideways swim right down the middle so that his feet are kicking squarely in the middle of my lane.  On several occasions I have been scratched by his gnarly, sabre-like toe nails.

But does this deter him?

Fuck no.

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If I move over to another lane to avoid him, he will inevitably cross over to the lane beside me again and proceed as he was.

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It’s maddening.

If I’m doing 50m  sprints, he will decide that this is a great time to go into the opposite end of my lane and begin to bob at the wall.  Never mind that he has the whole fucking pool in which to do this, but he has to choose to do it in my lane!  Sometimes I do flip turns so close to his head that my heels are practically grazing his ears and the sheer force is all but parting what few hairs he has on his head …but does he take the hint?

Of course not!

If I’m doing long continuous swim sets, he will decide to change lanes – in the middle of the pool – at the exact moment I’m passing by.

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As it is, he changes lanes about a kajillion times and each and every time he somehow manages to get in my way or interrupt my workout.

In essence, in true Harpy fashion, he literally “snatches” away my focus and motivation.

There are times I have actually stopped my workout outright and glared at him expecting to see him snickering to himself, but then I look into his eyes and this is what I see:

The lights are certainly on but, clearly, nobody is home…if you catch my drift.

FML.

So what other option do I have but do my best to ignore him?

I mean, trying to explain my frustration to him would be like climbing a tree to catch a fish…

Pointless.

Fortunately, in most cases the regular morning lifeguard will step in and promptly restore order whenever she notices that he’s becoming erratic or beginning to get under my skin.  Either she’ll chase him out of my lane, or lure him somewhere else so that’s he not in my immediate path.

I love her.

But when she’s not there to act as a buffer (as has been the case all this week), it’s all I can do stop myself from having a nuclear-sized meltdown and bludgeon him to death with my kickboard.

The nice thing about swimming is that you don’t immediately have to deal with idiots.  It’s not like, say, the gym, where everyone is front and center and quite often in your face.  I mean, they’re there, of course, but because you’re swimming (and by happy consequence, trying not to drown) you don’t necessarily have to acknowledge them; much less have a conversation with them.

But every now and again, some moron will try to assert himself by engaging me in some ridiculousness or other.

Today was just such a day.

For the first 45 minutes or so, my swim workout was going according to plan; warm up, a few drills and the beginning of my main set complete with paddles and fins.  I have long now established myself in the morning echelon of pool regulars and, typically, we have all sorted ourselves out by speed to fit neatly into the Slow, Medium and Fast lanes as we are all apt to do.  It took some time of course, but I like to think that we’ve all since sorted it out and have moved past those initial few hiccups when I first started swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA.

In other words, we all get along now.

It’s not like I don’t like sharing a lane, but if you’re one of those people – “Floaters especially” (click HERE for more info on ‘Swim Types’) – who like to do God-knows-what at a relative snail’s pace, well, stay out of my Fast lane.

But, again, all the morning swimmers (myself included) have now sorted these issues out and we all play nicely within our own designated lanes in blissful harmony with one another.

It’s glorious.

Until the Swim Doofus shows that is…such as he did today.

I knew I was in trouble the second he plopped down ceremoniously (read that as: nearly on top of me) as I coasted into the wall after one of my 250m intervals.

Not wanted to compete with him, I asked him if we could just split the lane and he nodded in quiet agreement and set about arranging his snorkel and those silly “aqua gloves” that regular aquafuck aquafit patrons like to use (click HERE).

Yes, I could have mentioned that he was in the Fast lane and might be happier in a slower lane, or even the UNUSED lane further down the pool but I decided that silence was the better part of valor and simply figured that he would either be done early, or just move over on his own accord after I raced past him half a dozen times.  That notwithstanding, I only had about another 20 minutes of intervals to endure before I would be exiting the pool myself.

Begrudgingly I carried on and the Swim Doofus proceeded to seizure his way down to the other end of the pool.

After another interval I coasted into the wall (breathless I might add) and the Swim Doofus was also there, apparently resting after his 50m of near drowning.

Swim Doofus“So you like to swim, eh?”

Me (after 10 seconds of gasping for air):  “Sure.”

Swim Doofus:  “Me too,”

Umm, that’s great?  I think classifying whatever it was he was doing as “swimming” was questionable but I digress.  I support his form of healthy activity, nonetheless.

Swim Doofus:  “How far you going?”

Me:  “I’m not sure.  I’ll tally it up at the end”.

And then I pushed off the wall to begin my next interval.  And, hey, it’s not that I intended to be abrupt or rude, but my plan allows for 10 second breaks and 10 seconds were up, like, 15 seconds ago.  A plan is a plan and so, no offense, I gotta go, dude.

And we both went back to our routines; me to swimming and he to whatever the hell it was he trying to do.

As I finished my next interval two and a half minutes later, the Swim Doofus was there again.

Swim Doofus:  “So, how fast are you going?”

Me (after the perquisite 10 seconds of regaining my composure):  “I’m not sure”.

Swim Doofus:  “Well, it sure looks fast.”

Me:  “Thanks.”

What I was really thinking in my head was:

“Well, gee, thanks for the validation that I am in fact swimming in the right lane, so how about you move your slow ass over a few lanes, eh?”

But again, I opted for silence and simply pushed off for my next interval.

For the next 2 or 3 intervals, I missed the Doofus at the wall completely as he was somewhere mid-lane splashing around, inevitably trying to keep himself afloat with his stupid gloves and snorkel and shit.

Thank God.

But, eventually, fate caught up with us again and there we were at the wall again.

Swim Doofus:  “Hey, you would definitely know…”

Now, this type of introduction to a topic kind of annoys the shit out of me.  I mean, I give myself credit for being a clever fella but there’s certainly no guarantee that I definitely  know anything, so just ask the damn question already without the whole dramatic set up that will only result in me feeling like a total ape if I can’t in fact answer that query.

But I digress…

Swim Doofus:  “How many laps are in a mile?”

I looked at him incredulously.

Is he fucking shitting me?

I just shrugged my shoulders (as politely as one can when they’re currently incapable of speech, gasping for air and, really, don’t give a flying shit) and simply pushed off the wall for my last interval.

Of course, that wasn’t before I heard the Doofus also mutter:

“Fine.  Be that way…idiot.”

Motherfucker!

I flew – flew! – the next 250m  with the intent of being back at the wall in time to set this moron straight.  Unfortunately, I guess he’d had enough of his near-drowning and decided to exit the pool so I didn’t get that opportunity.

Here is what I wish would have said:

  1. As last I understood it, Canada is a metric country so I really have no idea of how far a mile is, especially considering that…
  2. This is a metric pool, meaning that….
  3. I’d have to do the necessary calculations in my head which is currently impossible given that I am…
  4. Trying to complete my work out…
  5. My heart rate is about 156bpm…
  6. I can’t breathe…
  7. And, lastly – and most importantly – I don’t give a shit. So…
  8. Get out of my face…
  9. Quit interrupting while I’m trying to get my swim on…
  10. And do your damn math.
  11. You tool.

Not don’t get me wrong, I think I’m actually a pretty nice guy and I think that I genuinely get along with just everybody in the pool.  I even don’t mind sharing a lane if it’s busy and, hey, I even like to chitchat when I’m on a break at the wall…providing I’m resting and not mid-interval.

However, I do not like being interrupted when I’m clearly not resting and, for all intents and purposes, I’m (get this) working out…strange as that may seem.

Needless to say, I don’t appreciate the distraction and this doofus clearly wasn’t getting the message.  I mean, would he stop a marathoner mid-race to ask how far he’d gone, or how fast he’s running?

Likely not.

I don’t see this as being any different, so you can either wait for me to be done and ready to entertain your silly bullshit or just piss off altogether and simply don’t ask me dumb ass questions mid-workout.

This isn’t social hour.

Oh, and as far as your leaving all in a huff:

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Okay, so maybe I can be a bit of an elitist asshole.

So apparently I am no good when it comes to going to these competitions on my own. With Kelly, we get there and organized and I get twaddle off to the starting line successfully, on time, feeling good. On my own, I have the logistical prowess of a newborn baby deer. You might remember my last epic fail when I tried to do something like this in Woodstock last year, so it’s safe to say that today’s planned Toronto Island Lake Swim didn’t, well, let’s just say it was the hardest swim I’ve never actually done.

Come; let me regale you with tales of my extreme dumbassery.

Yes it’s a word.  Look it up.

Anyway, I woke up Saturday morning at 5:45am on the dot (otherwise known as “stupid o’clock”  in our house) to make a breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee. I’m usually not this ambitious in the morning, but I’m not usually waking up to swim 3.8k in the lake most mornings either. I like to allow for time to let it all settle and drop a bomb in the bathroom before I get on the road to the competition; no muss, no fuss…easy as falling off a log really. And this morning was really no different, just up a bit earlier.   I had already packed my wetsuit and gear (not that swim goggles and a towel really counts as ‘gear’) in anticipation of the early departure (post-bomb, of course) so I was out the door and moving comfortably (and satisfyingly empty) by 8:30am heading for Toronto. Everything was going according to plan.  I was going to do this. How hard could it be?

The trip to Toronto was pretty uneventful and I found parking fairly easily and mad my way to the Jack Leighton ferry terminal. I have never been to Toronto Island before, but the emails from the organizer I had been getting mentioned that there would be accurate signage and lots of “Toronto Lake Swim Volunteers” to point me in the right direction. Again, easy right?

I have to say, it’s kind of fun to take a ferry and as much as I’m not a fan of Toronto or big cities anymore, the skyline from the ferry is pretty impressive. Here is my obligatory tourist ferry pic:

The obligatory tourist shot.

The obligatory tourist shot.

Okay, here’s one more from the island:

Okay, make it two.

Okay, make it two.

My first inkling that something might be amiss is that I didn’t notice any other, well, ‘swim types’ on the ferry. There seemed to be a complete lack of dry bags, wetsuits, competition t-shirts, etc.. It was just all baby buggies and knock-off designer bags as far as the eye could see. I didn’t let this worry me though as it was only a small event (less than 300 people) so I’m sure the athletes were just blending in and I went back to enjoying our taxi ride over to the Island.

The ferry disembarked directly on Center Island, or the main focal point of the island. I looked for some signage as to I go next but, huh, nothing. Then I looked for these volunteers – again, nothing. Huh. I started to get that sinking feeling in my gut.

The instructions I had printed out told me to make my way for the ‘Center Island Pier’, so I located it on a nearby site map and began the 5-10 minute trek over to what I hoped was the staging area. Again, along the whole way there I saw nary a potential “athlete” aside from the casual joggers who , clearly, had a different agenda. I was starting to get nervous. I checked my watch and it was 10:40am; so there was just another 5 minutes to get signed in – my heat wasn’t scheduled to begin until 11:50am though as it had been pushed back to accommodate for the anticipated cold temperatures and wind (more on that shortly. I quickened my pace anyway just a little.

Up to this point, I had still seen absolutely nobody that might be participating in an open water swim. In fact, there didn’t seem to be anybody in the water, like, anywhere. Not surprising given how chilly it was out, but open water swimmers are beasts so I tried to maintain the face that I would arrive at the pier and be instantly welcomed by my fellow loony lake swimmer brethren.

And finally I arrived at the pier, aaaaaaaaand…nothing. Like, nothing. Not a thing. No wetsuits, no registration tent, no signs, no buoys, no turnaround points, no timing chip booths…nada. In fact, the pier was pretty much deserted. My heart did one of those flip-flops. Uh oh!

I approached a bored looking lifeguard and asked about the “Lake Swim”. He looked at me blankly. Clearly, he had no idea about any lake swim, or swim meet, or anything of the like.

“Well, it’s really rough out there today. Maybe they moved the course to the east side of the island at Ward’s Beach. It would be more protected out there”, he suggested.

I vaguely remember an email mentioning that the course had been ‘altered’ to accommodate for the rough water conditions, so I was hopeful that this was in fact the case, so I asked to be pointed in the direction of Ward’s Beach. “It’s down that way”, said the lifeguard as he pointed eastward down the walking trail.

How far could it be, right? I’m on an island for Pete sakes!

I found another island site map and was instantly dismayed to learn that Ward Beach was exactly 3 km’s away.

I was already short on time, so I synched up my knapsack with my wetsuit and gear and started jogging for east end of the island. By now it was after 11:00am, I had missed the official registration period, and I still had 3 kilometers to get there. My heart beat began to rise as the panic began to set in; and I was off running down the trail.

In what might have been record time for me to cover that distance in flip-flops, I arrived at Ward Beach to…nothing…UH-gain.

Shit!

There were some retirees, some fishermen, a few people spread out on beach towels reading, a lazy cyclist or two but, otherwise, nothing or anyone to suggest that a swim meet was about to take place.

I started t craft some’ hate mails’ to the event organizers in my head thanking them for all the ‘signage’ and ‘volunteers’, n’ shit. Shit, at the time I was probably blaming them for homelessness, world poverty and the depleting ozone to boot – I was that livid.  Here I had driven two hours in morning traffic, paid $25 for parking, another $7 for the ferry and it was now beginning to dawn on me that the chances of me ever competing in this thing were fading quicker than Justin Bieber’s teen idol status.

It’s true, I was pissed.

At that point, a fire fighter named Troy drove by and I flagged him down to see if he knew anything about the swim. I got the same blank stare and I wanted to scream. Didn’t anybody know about this thing? Troy was actually a top-notch guy and offered to look up the swim’s website to see if any course changes had been made. After all, it was “pretty rough out” he reminded me.

Then I heard those four dreaded words which made my heart retract down into my nut sack:

“What’s the date today?”

I hesitated. “Saturday, the 17th?, I offered hopefully.

I knew what his next response was going to be and Troy gave me that look that said: “Congratulations dumbass. It’s tomorrow.”

Double fuck.

Somehow, someway, I managed to screw up the dates on my calendar. Even though the 17th had been squarely looking at me from the top of the photocopied email instructions I had been carrying, I had placed the event in my calendar at home on the 16th.

Let the dumbassery commence.

I was gutted. I had spent the better part of a week scheming to find someone of babysit the child so I could make the trip to Toronto to do this thing and, now, after nearly $37 spent already in getting here (never mind the price of gas or the original registration fee), there was no event.

Yes, I’m a dumbass.

Well, ‘fuck this shit, I’m swimming anyway’  I thought to myself, so I wandered back to the Center Island pier. Maybe I could still do the course on my own and recoup my day’s plans for an open water swim.

The lifeguard greeted me again and when I inquired if I could go out, he told me the water temperatures and current conditions had pretty much closed the swim course for the time being. “It’s too rough today”, he said. Not surprising I guess as waves were crashing over the breaker wall just beyond the beach. For the past two days or so, the swim’s organizing committee had been sending out regular updates to this effect: “cold weather conditions…high waves…wind warnings…blah blah blah”. It was most certainly not going to be fun, I got that. But then the lifeguard offered a glimpse of hope:

“You could try further down the island at Gibraltar Point”.

So Gibraltar Point it is…just another 2 kilometers away in the opposite direction.

I started walking.

When I got there, the water conditions definitely did not look any more favorable. In fact, there were big waves rolling into the beach and over another short breaking wall stretching out into the lake to the east. There was no one else on the beach aside from two, very bored looking lifeguards.

I asked them what were the chances they’d let me in to swim.

“It’s pretty rough”, they said. I rolled my eyes at them on the inside.

“Yes, I know. I’m okay with that”, I replied.

“It’s cold too”, they warned.

Yes, I’m okay with that as well. I brought a wetsuit so I’ll be good”, I replied again. I was practically pleading by this time.

“Well, okay. I guess. Maybe I’ll just go out with you in the boat”, one of them said.

“Deal”.

I was just excited to get the approval to go out. The problem was, that even though they were going to let me out, Gibraltar Point only existed as a small beachhead between a white marker on the left, and the breaking wall to the east…maybe 350m apart…at best.

In other words, from here:

Point A (west)

Point A (west)

To here:

Point B (east)

Point B (east)

Yeah, not much of a swim really, but I didn’t want the day to be a complete loss so I started to get into my wetsuit while the lifeguard prepped the boat and made her way out into the surf. Likewise, from the pictures above the water doesn’t really look very choppy, right? Well, believe me, they were. I was told later by the lifeguard that in her opinion, the swells were approximately 3ft. in size.

The first thing that hit me however, was the frigid water temperature. Upon my first few steps out into the water my feet turned into frozen TV dinners and I almost packed in my plans right then and there. Of course, by now the lifeguard was out in the boat so I was pretty much committed by this point. I summoned up my best tough guy façade, put my face in the water and started to paddle for the white marker on the left. Almost, instantly, I had brain freeze…over my entire body.

Fuck! This was cold!

I’ve been pretty spoiled swimming in the warm waters of the Flatwater Center this season, so the 11°C/54°F lake temperatures were, well, let’s just call them pretty “bracing”. I could feel my testes instantly retract into my abdomen.

I started my first swim to the breaking wall and was pretty much tossed around by the waves for the entire short distance. At one point I was even thrown on my back. And so I went back and forth under the close scrutiny of the lifeguard for about 45 minutes or so. And in all that time I probably covered, maybe, 1.5 kilometers. I was feeling pretty defeated and exhausted (Probably even more so than my Ironman Wales swim) but still happy that I did something.

Just see how happy I am:

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This is “pre-freeze”

Upon exiting the water, my feet, face and hands were completely numb and it was sometime before I could manage full sentences with the lifeguards for all my chattering teeth. I was actually kind of relieved that the event as tomorrow, because I’m certain that it would have been one bitch of swim had the organizers gone through with it – and I sincerely doubt they would have.

So despite all the confusion and disappointment and shitty ass planning and imminent dumbassedness on my part, at least I got a swim in, short as it was and the lifeguards got something to do for 45 minutes or so.  Just see how excited she is?

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In the meantime, I’ll just have to take a mulligan on this event and make plans to come back next year to participate. At least I could chalk the day up to either a ‘tough weather’ or ‘conditions simulation’, or maybe even a ‘mental toughness’ training day prior to my next competition in September (click HERE).

Whatever I choose to call it, I’m also never…ever…going to plan these things again without Kelly to also manage the logistics given I – apparently – can’t be trusted to do so. Stroke, pedal and run I can do, sure, tough weather and cold conditions…no problem.

Scheduling…clearly not.

When I swim, I typically keep my workouts in a little zip lock baggie that I then stick it to the lane marker – as many swimmers do no doubt.  It’s hardly an innovative idea as far as swimmers go, believe me.  So, anyway, this baggie then contains approximately 2 to 3 months worth of workouts as I tend to just leave them in the baggie afterwards for possible future use.  I never do, mind you, but they’re there just in case and it’s comforting in a strange kind of way.  If I ever get stuck for a workout, BAM!, I’ll just pull one of these bad boys out and I’m all set.  Knowing is half the battle I guess.

Anyway, last week I was using one of these workouts from this particular baggie in the usual fashion except that I absent-mindedly left it affixed to the lane marker when I left.  Oops.  No huge loss mind you, except that I’m a creature of habit as well as being a bit of a hoarder so I won’t deny that I was a bit bummed.  So this morning when I arrived at the pool I inquired with the lifeguard on duty (a nice enough guy) as to whether someone had thought enough to rescue it for me.  I didn’t hold out much hope though, of course, as the typical lifeguard at the pool I train at has all the proactive common sense of a blowfish but, hey, it’s worth a shot right?

I could never have anticipated the response I got.

I didn’t really expect much other than maybe a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders or a blank stare, but the lifeguard I asked this morning seemed really concerned for my baggie…I mean, like, really concerned.  You’d think I lost my lost my family jewels or something.  Did I exaggerate the situation a little bit?  Maybe; it’s quite possible.  Like I said, I can become attached to pretty stupid things.  Maybe I seemed overly upset and he was reacting to that or perhaps he had one too many cups of coffee by that point.  Maybe he just had a profound sense of empathy – I’m not really sure – but he seemed extremely concerned about my little baggie of swim workouts.  Bless him.

“Oh no! That’s terrible”, he said.

“Yeah, well, it’s no big deal”, I replied. “Honestly”.

“No, no, that sucks”, he continued earnestly.

Seriously, it’s a baggie dude; just a simple disposable zip lock baggie.  No reason for concern or panic.  This isn’t a Scooby-Doo mystery, just carry on about your business…nothing more to see here.  Seriously.

But either he just couldn’t, or wouldn’t let it go.  I’m not sure which.  He seemed genuinely upset about it; more so then was ever needed or necessary.  I just wanted to let the whole thing drop and get back to my workout and I was kind of regretting having ever said anything in the first place.

“It’s nothing I can’t replace.  Seriously, no big whoop”, I answered.

“Are you sure?”  he pressed. “It seems pretty important”.

“No, not at all”, I reassured him.

“Is it valuable?”  he pressed.

Okay, this was beginning to get a little weird.

“Umm, no? It’s just a disposable baggie.  Really…”

“But it had all your workouts in it. What will you do now?”

I was stymied.

“I’ll just start collecting them again probably”, I suggested.

He gave a look of complete remorse.  You’d think I had just put down a family member or something.

But he wasn’t about to give up just yet.  Oh no!  He proceeded to leave me to continue with my swim while he literally tore the entire pool area and lifeguard’s station apart looking for it, leaving no kick board or life jacket unturned.  It was kind of amusing that he just wasn’t going to let it go.

Obsessive-compulsive much?

The whole exchange was beginning to remind me of the scene in Pulp Fiction where the Christopher Walken character, Capt. Koons, addresses the young Butch about his father’s watch…only, here, with a zip lock baggie instead.

 

Eventually he returned from his foraging looking completely defeated and apologetic.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t find it anywhere”, he confessed. “I’d hate to think that someone just threw it away”.

“Really, it’s okay.  I’ll manage without it.”

“Maybe somebody turned it into the Lost & Found!”  he exclaimed hopefully and before I could reply again, POOF!, he disappeared again.

By this time, while being a little amused, I was also a little worried that whoever else he might be also inquiring with about my baggie might – quite logically I might add – assume that I was being a tad bit obsessive (or just a complete dick) over something so inconsequential when, in fact, I didn’t really give two shits one way or the other but, hey, whatever makes you happy bud.  So while he ran off again I went back to my sprint intervals.

Eventually he reappeared at the end of my lane, again looking disappointed.

“Dude, I’m sorry. They figure the janitor has probably tossed it out.”

Sure, blame the janitor.  More than likely whoever was working the front desk just didn’t give a shit and simply offered this as an explanation to appease me.  Who would blame them?  However, by now I figured I also had to play along with it if I was ever going to get him to give up his quest and not feel rejected, so I mimicked his disappointment, shrugged my shoulders and told him it was okay and thanks for looking.

“Easy come easy go”, I offered. “I really appreciate you looking though.”

“No problem, dude.  I’ll keep my eyes open though…just in case.”

“Okay, you do that.”

I have to say – all things aside – I like this guy.  It’s not often I get a lifeguard who is completely engaging this early in the morning, much less empathetic, and then goes above and beyond the call of duty to make me happy.  Well done, buddy!

You’re totally bat shit crazy but I love ya!

Swim Types

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Swim
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I don’t know why I didn’t jump on this bandwagon sooner, especially since I’ve already made posts in the past about particular ‘Yogi Types’, and ‘Gym Types’.  And now that the off-season training is back upon us, I am giving more notice to another branch of unique weirdoes that, for whatever reason, have escaped my attention (or my cocked eyebrow)…until now that is.  Specifically, I’m speaking about the specific group of total aquatic wackjobs that frequent your local YMCA pool; the ‘Swim Nuts’ as I like to call them.

They will exist at every YMCA pool in the world, particularly if there’s a regularly scheduled lane swim or free time being offered.  I know this, because I’ve swam at more YMCA’s than I could name.  It’s the perfect vehicle to slip in quick workouts when you’re traveling for work.  When I arrive in a new town, I like to hunt out the local YMCA, call for the lane swim times (which usually tend to be in the morning and evenings), and check it out after work before I go home.  I have therefore been plenty exposed to some real Lu-Lu’s, let me tell you.

Sometimes they are very frustrating, as I’ve indicated before (chick HERE), but at other times they’re actually amusing and will help to pass the time in the water (click HERE), whatever, it is practically guaranteed that they will always be there no matter what.  They are as ubiquitous to swimming as pull buoys and kickboards.  So without further ado, I give you my complete list of ‘Swim Nuts’.

The Slapper – You will probably hear the Slapper way before you actually see them swimming in your lane; they don’t swim so much as they attempt to pound the water into submission with their hands.  It’s often painful, like watching a barbarian beat its dinner to death.  There will inevitably be lots of slashing and loud ‘slapping’ noises echoing along the water, hence the name.  They will offer you little problem however and will usually be all on board for the whole circle swim etiquette, but you may have to be a little cautious when you try to pass them in the lane unless you like to be publically spanked by a Baby Boomer.

The Albatross – I named this swimmer for their elongated wing span across the entire lane as they swim.  It’s like they’re trying to collectively ward off other swimmers as they swing their enormous arms across the water’s surface like an albatross trying to take off.  God help you if they’re wearing a watch and swimming at you from the opposite direction as you’ll be taking your life in your hands should they clunk you in the head with it.  I try to avoid swimming with Albatrosses like it was a life passion.

The Endless Breaststroker – The person is the bane of my aquatic life as it seems there are many in this particular swimmer type category and they usually all end up in my lane.  I shit you not.  I won’t be swimming for three minutes and, as if on cue, a breaststroker will jump on my lane and passively move down the middle of the lane like a drowning sea lion.  Let’s face it, it’s doesn’t really matter if you’re sticking to your side of the lane or not, you may as well be stroking down the lane center with that huge ass kick taking up the entire lane anyway.  Unfortunately, the Endless Breaststroker is also a creature of habit and will be loath to change their routine and use any other stroke other than breaststroke.  Let’s not even discuss what happens should the breaststroker have not trimmed their toe nails in a while either.  You may as well do your laps in a bathtub of daggers.

The Endless Kicker – Similar to the Endless Breaststroker, the Endless kicker does only that…kicks…usually in the similar Breaststroke whip kick fashion.  It is my opinion that these two are in cahoots with one another to muscle out the rest of us in the pool.  Anyway, one really has to wonder if the Endless Kicker could even swim at all if you were to ever take the kickboard away.  If an Endless Kicker has ever actually pulled a single stroke through the water with their upper bodies, I haven’t seen it.

The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – This swimmer is, well, odd.  They are the swimmers that like to push off the wall and glide along the pool bottom for as long as possible like they were the ‘Nautilus’ or something.  It freaks me out.  Particularly when I’m about to pass you and you come back at me like a launched torpedo threatening to surface.  Apart from the 5 to 10 feet they actually surface long enough in the middle to do a few strokes, they spend the majority of their time underwater.

The Seizure – Who knows what the fuck is going on with this swimmer’s stroke other than it’s amazing they actually make it to the other side.  It’s like they’re having a full blown epileptic seizure up and down the down the lane.  No matter how you try to figure it out, you’ll never completely wrap your head around their stroke.  But, hey, who am I to judge?  Usually, the Seizure swimmer will know they are a bit slower than others and keep to themselves in the Slow Lane.  Never count the Seizure out in an endurance workout though, for their most likely able to spasm and jerk through the water all day long.

The Bobbers – I simply don’t understand this particular pool goer.  They stand (or float) at the end of the pool and just…bob…up and down…over and over.  It’s almost, like, they were meditating over it.  I equate them to those spinning hippie dancers at Phish concerts.  For whatever reason, Bobbers tend to be of Asian descent; beats me why.  Is ‘Bobbing’ a national past time overseas or something?  I find the they type of swimmer annoying because they tend to hog the ends of the lane – obviously lost in their bobbing trace  – making flip turns practically impossible.

The Floater – The Floater is a curious pool patron.  They don’t swim, they float as you might in your backyard pool, or bathtub.  I remember very well what my Uncle Ernie would most likely be doing if you were ever to see him stretched out on back floating in the pool with a huge shit-eating grin on his face and, believe me, you steered clear for a while. Maybe this is why, although I have no issues with the Floaters, I still can’t help but be a little anxious that one of them is going to forget where they are and unconsciously let loose with a full stream of urine that I proceed to swim through, a few hundred times.  For this reason, I try to keep to the other side of the pool if possible.  Be careful though, Floaters in some cases will actually turn out to be a 97-year-old lady who has probably been doing laps since Moses parted the Red Sea.

The Analyzer – This is the person who turns up at the end of the pool with all the newest gadgets and not a single clue on how to use any of it.  They will be happy to discuss all the latest swim techniques they saw on ‘Swim Smooth’, break your stroke down piece by piece, or review their newest coaching schedule with you but, really, the chances are pretty good they won’t do much swimming.  They may race you once or twice to the opposite end and back, but then they’ll have a near heart attack before deciding to go bob by themselves in the deep end and loudly declare it as ‘breathe work’.  I avoid this swim type like the plague.

The ‘I’m Just Here to Look Good in My Speedo’s’ – I think these pool types are the best.  Why?  Because they never actually get in the pool!  For some weird reason, they just like to stroll around in their Speedo’s, sunglasses and designer flip-flops as if they were on vacation.  I figure they are doing just that – in their heads – enjoying themselves on some white sandy beach somewhere, and even though they’re just standing on the deck at their YMCA pool, in their head they’re all like:  ‘Honey, I’m just going to wander down to the Tiki Bar and see if anyone’s seen my coconut suntan lotion.’  For all I know they’ve just escaped the psych ward.

Sometimes training is like gambling.  You have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away and know when to run.  Or that’s what some grey beard with gravy stains in his Rhinestone pants would have me believe anyway.  Today I had just such a mental dilemma with in the pool; should I stay or should I go?

You see, both my girls are currently down with the sickness.  There has been this Dino bug going around lately to which both that Kelly and HRH have unfortunately succumb.  Me?  I keep on keeping on.  I’m a big tough triathlete, right?  I just take my morning Vitamin C, continue to add cumin to my morning omelets, and suck back as much OJ as one can reasonably tolerate and as such, and stick to the training plan, or what little plan I have managed to cobble together anyway.  I have daily runs drills to do, core building to maintain, hydration lab testing to endure (more to come), a new Masters spin class I just started weekly and, holy shitballs, I have a lot going on so I need to keep going.  Even though I might experience the odd tickle in the back of my throat, perhaps a little cough here and there, or a sniff every now and again, I just keep plowing forward.  But today it became painfully aware that I am, in fact, also down with the sickness.  Frig!  I guess, like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun.

So what started out as a planned 2.75k workout from my ‘Swim Speed’ program, eventually turned into the ‘Total Aquatic Shit Show’ not 30 seconds after entering the water as my mental attitude went from ‘I feel great!’, to ‘Okay, this feels like work…’, to ‘Holy shit!  Where’s my pull buoy!”  All that in just the warm up; yeah, definitely NOT winning!

I definitely wasn’t feeling the jazz, or the funk, or the cheddar, or the vibe, or whatever colorful metaphor you wish to substitute for your motivation to train.  Even the old ladies were threatening to lap me.  So after 1.75k worth of easy drills, I pulled the plug completely and came home instead with my flippers between my legs.

It’s a hard thing to be able to listen to your body and simply say ‘No’ when it’s most appropriate to do so.  I have always struggled with this.  Seriously, when the breathing isn’t there, I have no cardio, and despite the lack luster pace I might be maintaining, my heart rate is soaring like a jack rabbit on crack, all signs are pointing to ‘Quit’, so what’s the point in continuing?  I’m still in the early phases of off-season base training so there is no real need to be hammering out the kilometers regardless of how I feel.  All that’s going to accomplish is make things worse and I’m fed up with going backwards.  Right now, my body seems to be telling me to relax, and enjoy the approaching holidays (as well as the subsequent turkey coma afterwards), so I think I will.  No apologies, no excuses, just lots of mucus’s (I’m a poet and don’t even know it).

Fortunately, tomorrow also makes for the perfect ‘Rest Day’ as the Ironman World Championships are on and I simply have to see how much publicity Gordon Ramsay manages to sponge up, so maybe tomorrow will also be declared as ‘strategic’ recovery day as well.  Then Sunday is Thanksgiving and Monday is still free and, shit, I already can see where this weekend will be a complete loss to at least two of the seven deadly sins; gluttony and sloth.  They do say ‘feed a cold, starve a flu’, right?  And I definitely have a cold.  So who am I to buck popular convention?

If that’s what the doctor ordered, then that’s what the doctor ordered.  I’m not going to argue this time.  I think I might just start to enjoy this whole ‘getting sick’ thing, well, for a few hours anyway.  But for the time being, I’m going to do the smart thing by tapping out and taking a wee break.  Of course, this will also inevitably mean spending an insane amount of time watching children’s television all cuddled up with the small drippy child person we live with but, hey, things could definitely be worse.

Well, it seems like I’ve found myself a pool groupie; and not the good kind of groupie either.  There’s no big hair, no back room “favors”, just a whole lotta Speedos and aggravation.

It all started a few weeks ago when a new swimmer started showing up at my usual lane swim times.  Inevitably, as all aspiring swim doofus’ do, he jumped into the Fast Lane and proceeded to fuck up my swim workout by whip-kicking down the middle of the lane at the same rate as your average aquatic octogenarian sporting ankle weights (i.e. damn slow).  However, he seemed eager to learn and so I remained patient and allowed him to do his thing which, for the record, was very little.  Typically, he occupied the space at the wall and quizzed other swimmers on how to get better and faster.  I even offered him a few basic suggestions between sets on specific drills to do to improve his form but he didn’t seem very keen to really practice or perfect anything, but rather just be able to talk the talk, but, whatever, just move over and let me swim, dude.

Each day he watched me like a hawk and, occasionally, he would push off the wall at the same time and do his best to keep pace with me.  I assume he was trying to mimic what I was doing in the water as he would have a zillion questions after my workout.  Mostly, I just found it annoying.  He’d swim all out for about 50m then sit there occupying the wall for the next 15 minutes or so discussing swim technique with the bored-looking lifeguard who were about as interested in him as I was.  But, hey, let’s get something straight, I wasn’t trying to be all “too cool for you” or anything, it’s just that I only have a certain time frame to actually workout in the pool and therefore I need to actually swim and not spend an hour discussing form with you and, besides, whenever I did offer him some tidbit of advice, he seemed to immediately discard it for whatever the next suggestion happened to be from anyone else who happened to be in the pool at the time.    So being as it was, I mostly left him to his own devices to flounder away 50m at a time like an epileptic sea lion.

Then one day he turned up in a new Speedo similar to mine and told me that he’d read somewhere that it was more aero-dynamic in the water and this was probably a major reason why I was so fast while he was, well, slow.  Okay, whatever, I just had to giggle at the guy, right?  Again he tried to keep pace with me for 50m and I left him in my wake.  Sorry.  If you don’t put in the prerequisite time working on your form and technique, I don’t give a shit what you’re swimming in, you’re probably not going to make much improvement and this guy was just validating my point.  I tried once again to explain this to him but, again, his eyes glazed over and he made his way into another lane to play ‘Twenty Questions’ with someone else.  I, of course, kept swimming.

The next week he showed up with his own copy of Swim Workouts in a Binder for Triathletes’, the very same that I use in the pool.  Well, color me shocked.  Maybe I was finally getting through to him.  Maybe he was finally going to forget about his overall pace and actually focusing on doing more than 50m at a time, just maybe, but…no.  He never ever opened it.  It just sat there on the pool wall soaking in the chlorine.  He was always curious to see which workout I was doing but he never actually tried to emulate any of it to my knowledge.  Instead, he just gabbed away about how wonderful it was before trying to race to the deep end and back.  In fact, what few laps I did see him do were actually worse than when I first noticed him flipping and flopping away in my Fast Lane weeks ago.  This guy was like the Benjamin Button of swimming.

Last week, he showed up with his own mesh swim bag containing flippers, paddles, kick board, etc.  Good grief.  Obviously, he had been gathering information from all the other swimmers about which equipment he should be using.  But did he use any of it?  No.  Of course not!  He talked about it all at great length with anyone who would listen but for the most part, everyone else was swimming so he didn’t have a very large audience.  Go figure.

I was actually beginning to feel sorry for the guy.  Then, today, he crossed the line.

He was already in the Fast Lane when I arrived and was leaning back on the wall, obviously exhausted from his last 50m a half hour ago or so.  I jumped in as per usual and began my planned workout while he stood there ogling me as was usually our routine.  When I stopped after a few 100m’s to get a sip of water before beginning my main set, he offered me the following chestnut:

“You might want to consider working on your reach a bit…”

Umm, did he just give ME advice?  I was dumbfounded.  He who can barely splash down to the opposite end of the pool and back before quitting is giving me tips on how to improve MY swim technique?  Seriously, the way this guy windmills through the water would make Don Quixote more than a little anxious.  He doesn’t stroke through the water so much as he beats it into submission.  Surely he was kidding, right?  ‘fraid not.  He continued to look at me thoughtfully before adding:

“I saw on a Swim Smooth video that you should extend your arm out in front of you.  You could probably reach a little further to go faster.”

Sensing my pending meltdown the lifeguard on duty decided to walk down to the other end of the pool to check on the lane ropes or something.  Smart.  Unfortunately, I had no such other responsibility to tend to so I continued to gape back at this moron as he waited patiently for my response.  Did he really think I was going to appreciate his poignant insight?  I was stymied over how to react.  My first instinct was to bludgeon him with my kickboard but, I also need to keep my membership in good standing so I can continue using the YMCA pool so I opted for the better part of valor, thanked him (albeit distantly), and started swimming.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Michael Phelps.  I get it.  In fact, I like and appreciate getting feedback from people who either swim themselves, know swimming, or, you know, get their information from anywhere else but an internet video.  What I’m not about to do is simply take advice from just anyone.  Certainly not some moolyak who swims a couple laps before turning himself into a wall flower at the end of the lane for the rest of the ‘workout’; if you want to call it that.  YouTube-ing a few swimming videos does not immediately turn you into a swim form expert.  Where did he get off?

As I swam, I could sense him continuing to scrutinize me.  It was more than I could bear.  I admit it.  So after my last set (making sure to finish each 500m at the other end of the pool), I quickly packed up my shit and split lest I should have to continue hearing more of his crap.  God help me if he decides to comment on my kicking next time otherwise he’ll be on the receiving end of a liberal dose of profanity the likes of which would make even the most worldly of sailors blush.  Specifically, I’d tell him that if he feels the urge to offer up the swim tips, he will have to learn how to complete more than 50m while not looking like a drowning orangutan.   And, for the record, even the old ladies in the slow lane would lap you.  So there!

Good for you for having all the toys n’ shit but, dude, seriously… USE THEM!