Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Junior Mr. Speedo

Very few things annoy me at the pool. I usually swim on my own, or else during the practice time of some of the really fast kids on the GPAC (Greater Pensacola Aquatic Center) team (boy - those little kids are speedy! Pretty cool to watch a 10 year old swim a butterfly). So while the practices can be a bit lonely, I am generally upbeat, enjoy the solitude of the sport, and really work hard on pushing myself. If anything, I'll get annoyed at myself - I'm not a big fan of cold water, so it generally takes me a few minutes to "get up the gumption" to take the plunge - so to speak. But once I get going, it's great. Moreover, after Jen Harrison's blog entry a few weeks ago about SWIMMING, my entire attitude has changed. I've been even more upbeat, looking at my swimming as a really fun opportunity to play around, go fast, and do something that really gives me a lot of pleasure. And as a result, my swim times have really been coming down after hitting a mid-season plateau. It's been wonderful.

Today was going to be another great swim, I could just tell. You know when you get those feelings? - I don't really have any other way of explaining it, but you can just tell. Well, it was going to be a real gem - T-pace work and lots of sprints. Just another workout to help make me faster. Yea! Just try and stop me! I knew I would be tired, I knew my breathing would be laboured, I knew my lats and triceps would be sore from the intense pulling, and that my legs would feel heavy with all the kicking - but in a weird way, I was looking forward to it. I wanted the challenge. I wanted the opportunity to push my limits, to push my body, to push my mind. Rock on!

Got to the pool, made some pre-swim small talk with another local triathlete who was tapering for Ironman Florida, and then got ready to jump in. Goggles - check! Pull buoy - check! Cap - check! Swimsuit? (just kidding) - check! Here we go! Warm-up went well, but I noticed the pool was becoming more and more crowded. But it didn't bother me, why would it? After all, I'm usually looking down on the lane line, oblivious to what's happening on the pool deck (unless there's a thunderstorm. We're allowed to swim during a storm UNLESS the guard specifically sees a lightning bolt. It still freaks me out to swim with a storm happening nearby, but as long as there are other people in the pool I'm okay. And as soon as the guard blows the whistle, I'm out of the pool as quick as possible. But I try to hang in there and get as much of the workout completed as possible.) So... more and more people, but both lanes next to me on either side were open. Maybe people don't like swimming on my side of the pool... Maybe my brightly-colored suit and bright blue turtle swim cap were just a little too much. Didn't matter. I was still going to kick major butt (my own, seeing that I wasn't swimming against anyone... yet).

And then I started my sets. T-pace (training pace, based on a swim time trial that I completed for my coach, who then in turn crunched the numbers and gave me a target pace to work my swim sets off of) work is always "pleasant". Started with 400 at +:03 from t-pace, then 4 X 100 at t-pace, and proceeded down the ladder until I hit 200 at t-pace +:03 and then finished with a flurry of 4 X 100s at under t-pace. Fun, eh? The workout goes by pretty quickly, and the rest intervals are all :20. Just enough time to catch my breath, but not nearly enough time to recover from the previous sets exertion. But I was feeling good, swimming fast, but not feeling hectic or rushed. Oddly efficient for such a fast pace. Hhhhmmmm. Sometimes I worry about starting out too quickly and blowing up, so I'll overcompensate and not start out quickly enough. Today was different: I just decided to go for it (a theme that I've been following as of late). If I blew up, at least I would go down trying. I've done this workout enough times to know what starting off slow is like. So I went out and swam hard, but well for the first 400.

During my first rest interval, I grabbed some water, gasped for breath, trying to get as much oxygen into my deprived lungs as possible, and noted a guy getting ready to jump into the lane next to mine. I saw his wife/girlfriend/significant other sitting on the side of the pool, handing him a camel back and holding the bag and the straw while he drank from the valve. Okay. And then, as though she sensed my disapproval (let's be real, when you've got all of your limbs and have them in good functioning order, and are about to hop in the pool for a swim - how hard would it really be to get your own water?) - she looked at me. And then he looked at me. I made a quick mental note of their appearance (late 20s, young couple, obviously dedicated to each other, but he was the one doing the swimming and she was the one in jeans, a pair of fancy shoes, holding an expensive looking bag. She had very nice makeup, but I can't picture her features. It was :20, and I was more focused on my swim sets than the people 1 lane over). She was just very made-up for the pool, and I really didn't think that she would want to get her eye-makeup wet. Does that stuff even stay on in the water? Probably not as much as she had on. But it didn't matter. I still had the rest of my swim. Go go go!!!

The next few t-pace 100s went by amazingly fast. I was just on! My times were the fastest they had ever been, and while I was really working my rear end off, I was turning in some great numbers (for myself). Still, the :20 rest intervals were hard, but I distracted myself by checking out the couple, sipping some water, and then trying to keep myself from passing out due to lack of oxygen.

And then I had company. The guy in the lane next to me, decided that it would be fun to race.



This happens occasionally at the pool, where someone decided that they'll pace off of me, to swim my speed, or try to beat me. Sometimes it doesn't bother me at all (especially when I can beat them, or am doing slow sets), and sometimes, when it's more obvious (like they look at me under water and push off the wall a few seconds before I make my turn), it gets a little more annoying. I don't mind swimming with partners, and I know ahead of time we're going to push each other. We're working towards a common goal and for our common good. But when random strangers decide to race me from half a pool away, I think it's a bit of a cheap shot. I'm really good about following my own pace, my own workout, and listening to my body and not letting their ambitions interfere with my plan. But it's still annoying.

There's one gentleman who does this quite often - I've nicknamed him "Mr. Speedo". He sports a mighty blue and a mighty small speedo, is in his mid-40s, and is a pretty decent swimmer. He'll usually position himself two or three lanes down, never right next to me though, and then hangs with me for a few sets. I've gotten pretty used to his antics, used to the idea that his speed is directly correlated to mine. If I want to have fun, I'll deliberately speed up or slow down, and he'll match me, almost stroke for stroke. Annoying at first, but now I'm so used to it that it doesn't bother me anymore. Nathaniel will ask if "Mr Speedo" was at the pool, and it's a joke that we share. Ha ha. Use a pace clock, my friend. But in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I've never mentioned it to me, because I realize that at some point I've done exactly the same thing.

Today was different, though. They guy in the next lane was downright rude and annoying. Obviously he wasn't paying attention in swim-etiquette class.

I am delighted to present to you "Mr. Speedo, junior". I know this, because it was written on the rear end of his suit, in big bold letters. SPEEDO.

For the next 20 minutes, I had plenty of time to examine Juniors exterior, so I'll give you the lowdown. He had a pretty solid build, that of a swimmer. He wasn't really tan, and as I didn't recognize him (I know a lot of the swimmers), I assumed he was a transplant, new to the area. Or maybe the military crew cut gave that aspect away. Wherever he was from, he didn't have very good swimming lane manners. He was wearing a little black speedo, but more in the cut of a boy short, and had a pair of reflective swedish goggles (the painful kind that always dig into my eye sockets..ouch!). Additionally, he was swimming with not one set of paddles, but two. Not at the same time, he just would alternate. One lap red. Next lap green. And then back to red.

Kind of like Christmas.

But not really. I wasn't happy. I was pissed. At least the man in the red suit brings holiday cheer. This instead was bad.

Here's why: During the start of my 300 swim, he started swimming next to me. At first, just next to me, but then he started going ahead. Still not a big deal. I figured he was just going fast, and that's fine. NO issue. As I came back to the wall to finish my first 50 and completed my flip, I noticed he had stopped on the wall. Fine. Later, dude. Breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, and repeat. I was into my set, the swim feeling good. Hit the 75, flipped, and headed back for the first 100. It would be time to check my splits, and I was excited to see what kind of pace I was holding. Just as I was heading toward the wall, I saw Junior openly look at me under water and then push off the wall about 1 or 2 seconds just before I flipped. Oh-kay... whatever. I was still doing my swim. Got to the 125, flipped, and noticed that he was about half a body length in front of me. But he was using his paddles. Gee whiz - anyone can go fast with paddles. Come on! Whatever. I focused on hitting the 150, breathing every 4 strokes and looking the other direction away from him, and was pleased with how great everything else was. My body was responding really well to the effort. All right - passed the 150 mark, was on track, and noticed that Junior wasn't shadowing me this lap. Maybe he had to adjust his goggles...

Before I hit the 175 mark, I was already hedging bets about weather or not he would swim next to me for another 50 meters. It's times like this that I figure I would make a great poker player.

10 meters to the wall. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breath.... and sure enough, Junior looks my way and then shoots off the wall, just as I'm starting my flip. I know this because I was staring directly at his SPEEDO'ed rear end. Nice. (Not really). There he was, yet again, half a body length ahead of me, pulling as hard as he could with his green paddles. Thanks buddy, I'm touched that you've decided to race me, but can you be any more obvious about your intentions? And there he stayed, about half a body length ahead of me for the next 50, and as before, stopped and waited, while I rounded out my final 50 of the 300.

I hit the wall in record time, in spite of Junior playing his games, caught my breath as best as I could, noted the time, grabbed a quick sip of water, and then started my 100s. It was almost exactly the same as the last set. He started slightly ahead of me, pulled up half a body length, and tried to keep the gap as best as he could. This time, my pace was a bit faster (by about 3 seconds per 100), and he had to work harder. I was fine, annoyed, but fine. But then again, I can cruise to a 1:15 100 with paddles, easily, piece of cake. Not so without the paddles. He managed to hang with me for a full 100. We hit the wall at exactly the same time, and this time I was curious. I peeked a glance over at him. While I was breathing pretty heavily (like a train!), he was doing his best to hold in his breath, and hide his apparent effort. I don't think he was all that successful, for 2 reasons. 1) His face was beet red and he looked like was slowly being strangled. 2)Mrs. Junior Speedo was looking at him with a lot of concern, while shooting me dirty looks. Obviously I wasn't about to get any sympathy from her. Oh well. Time's up. Time to go fast again. I took off, and surprise surprise - Junior didn't follow.

The next 100 was exactly the same speed as the first. I was fast and I was consistent. Great job so far with the workout. Yay me!

I started my final 100, and can you guess it? Nope - he didn't start with me, but instead joined me for the second 50. Atta boy! Give yourself yet another break and then start a second ahead of the chick in the lane next to you!

I was beyond annoyed. I was angry, and I was pissed. Who the heck does this? Even Mr. Speedo has manners, unlike this buffoon. What was his deal? Swim with paddles AND start every sprint a second or two ahead of me? To what purpose does this serve? Congratulations jerk! You just beat a girl - way to go. And you know what, if I had paddles and a long break on the wall, I would kick your ass too.

The rest of my workout passed in exactly the same way. I would swim fast, but Junior would start just a little bit ahead. After starting ahead. With his paddles. And after a break. And I just got more angry. But what can you do? Nothing. Nada. Zip, zero, zilch. So I just swam, stuck to my workout, and made a mental note of insults to swing at this guy. But you know what? It wouldn't be worth even yelling at him, or insulting him. A complete waste of time: seconds that I would never get back. Obviously he's got the morals and ethics of a worm, and doesn't mind doing what he's doing At the end of the day, he's the one that has to live with himself (well, he and his overly-dotting significant other) - he knows what he's doing, weather he realizes it's wrong or right. Yep - it's crap. But if his self-esteem and self-worth are based off of beating a random girl at the pool, well, that's a pretty sad life to lead. If it means that much to you pal, go ahead and take the win, for what it's worth. Unlike you, I don't base my self-worth off other people's performance.

And that's where it ended. When I realized I wasn't going to play his game anymore. Because I don't base MY self worth off of what other people do. Sure, I may have a bad workout or a bad race, but if I've done the best I can with the tools I have, it doesn't matter. I still had one of my best swims ever, but now as I write this (easier now than when I was walking to the car from the pool), I really feel sorry for Junior. Humph. (Didn't think I would say that, did you?). He probably can't help it, and if he could, well that just shows how much lacking in the morals department he is. What a sad way to live.

So here's to you, Junior Mr. Speedo. I wish you all the best in your swimming and life conquests. And I'm not angry with you anymore for swimming next to me the way you did. Happy to be of assistance. And if you need to swim next to me in the future, that's okay. Only you better watch out - because I'll be all that much faster. And I don't want you to feel bad afterwards when I beat you.

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