Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Bad. I am a B-A-D swimmer and in the words of Forest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that." Well, actually I have more...

Last night I made my first attempt at solo swimming, without an instructor and without being swarmed by 4-year-olds. My original plan was to swim at 8:45 p.m. In my La La Land of perfection it would be a great way to relax before bed. I GORGED myself on Chinese food from 6 to 6:25 p.m. when I realized I still had time 30 minutes of lap swim left and I might be able to squeeze my swim in before the pool opened for public swim at 7 p.m. Curt questioned, "Are you sure you want to swim on a full stomach?" Being the novice that I am, I replied, "Sure. Why not?" Ummm..... the swimming on a full stomach thing. Not a myth. It's a recipe (pun intended) for disaster. I couldn't have felt more gross and breathing in general, let alone underwater, was next to impossible. I floundered my way through 30 minutes of self-induced torture, never connecting a lap together with the next. Chalked it up to full stomach and learned a good lesson.

Today I hired the neighbor girl to come over and watch the kids so I could swim during the lunch hour. This time I ate a bowl of cereal 45 minutes before entering the water and hit the pool deck with a plan I devised with my super-studly cousin, Sonja. She thought I was up for 3 laps of front crawl, connected to a lap of back stroke to catch my breath, connected to a lap of breast stroke (supposedly a catching your breath stroke) to a lap with a kick board and then a break. Sounded great on the phone. Then I hit the water.

I saw the "Charlie Haley" look-alike life guard, same one I saw last night, and asked him where I should start. He pointed me to a slow lane (which, by the way, did you even know that lap pools are divided into slow, medium and fast lanes? It was news to me) and a medium lane. Both with swimmers in them, but not as crowded as last night. He said, "You can swim with Pink Hat or Purple Hat. Either would be a good choice." I opted to jump in with Pink Hat and a crowd of women walking, talking and doing some sort of something with water weights in the slow lane.

I set off to do my 3 laps of front crawl and found myself holding onto the wall, gasping after one measly lap. While I was busy hyperventilating, Pink Hat took it upon herself to indoctrinate me with the pool rules. "Excuse me. But did you know that when you're lap swimming you're supposed to follow the line on the bottom of the pool on the right in one direction and switch to the left side on the way back? In case you're ever wondering, the rules are posted on that wall right over there. And I think you should switch lanes. That crowd of ladies is taking up a lot of space and I don't think there's room for you in this lane." I opened my mouth to say I was a beginner swimmer (as if that wasn't painfully obvious) and she said, "I'm doing this for your own good you know. I'm a fast swimmer. The lady in the purple hat is not as fast and there are less people in her lane. You should switch to her lane. It's really for your own good." Before I could respond, she flags down Purple Hat, to tell her about the newly devised plan. Poor Purple Hat has ear plugs in and can't hear a thing Pink Hat is telling her, so Purple Hat starts gesturing and talking really loud, "I have ear plugs in. Can't hear you. I'm out of here in 3 minutes." With that, Pink Hat gets a big smile, points to the lap divider and says, "Swim there. I'm really doing this for your own good." And with that, I was officially bossed out of my lane and into the Medium lane with Purple Hat and a Man With No Outstanding Characteristics who was clearly NOT a beginner swimmer and was connecting multiple laps together with what appeared to be very little effort on his part.

The next 30 minutes were totally lame. I could not string two laps together if you paid me. My goggles kept fogging up and even leaked water once. I couldn't seem to get the hang of breathing cardiovascularly in the water. Exhaling underwater was fine, but I found myself mentally panicking every time I came up for air. Something about knowing I only have a split second to get a breath before I submerge my face underwater again wigs me out and so I spent the entire time mentally talking myself off the ledge of anxiety. I remembered an email that my Uncle Jeff sent me when I contemplated learning to swim a year ago. He said the key to good swimming is to relax in the water. To try to think of a baby swimming in amniotic fluid and the peaceful environment that we came from. Ummm... can't remember life in the womb and the Chehalem Park and Recs Aquatic Center Pool so far has not replicated that experience for me. I'm sure SOME day, when I'm 80 and I've been swimming for 45 years, I might be that comfy in the water, but today there was no relaxation happening.

When I did backstroke, I ran into the lap dividers and hit my head on the wall. My breast stroke, supposedly a catch your-breath stroke, is painfully slow and horrible in form. I tried the butterfly kick with the kick board and got so frustrated that I tossed it after half a lap. And after every lap, there I was, breathing heavily at the side of the pool while overweight senior citizens swam laps around me. Not that there's anything wrong with being overweight or a senior citizen. But for someone who can run 13 miles with very little effort, I found the depth and difficulty of learning to swim a much bigger challenge than I anticipated. Talk about frustrating!

I called Curt as soon as I hit the car and he laughed and laughed at my descriptions of how bad I am. Supposedly, he remembers feeling the same way when he learned to swim three years ago, which I find hard to believe now that he swims 35 laps CONSECUTIVELY twice a week and not break a sweat (STUD). But I'm not a quitter, so I'll keep trying. At least I'll give the life guards some entertainment and a chance to come up with nickname for me. Maybe Flounder? And now, that's really all I have to say about that.

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