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Triathlete Blog

Grace Under Pressure

By June 6, 2007June 4th, 2015No Comments

At 7:45 pm Monday night, I found myself in the pool. Again. Weren’t we just there yesterday? And two days before that? Two days before that? Again, we were in the pool and had another one of those workouts that went something like 12 x 200 with 50 moderate 50 easy 100 fast, 50 easy 100 moderate 50 fast, rest 10 seconds, rest 20 seconds, repeat whole thing two times through, touch your nose, touch your toes, do the whole thing in reverse with one arm. One of those.

We got into the pool, and Chris realized his workout was not the same as my workout but he had forgotten his workout so he would be doing my workout. To top that off, he didn’t like my workout. Huh? Anyways, he wanted to write the workout down on the dry erase board at the end of the lane but I said I was not waiting one minute longer to start this swim and if he wanted to spend the next day writing out the most detailed swim workout EVER – fine – but I was swimming. NOW.

We swam in separate lanes.

Both of us got through it, until I think the last 200 when Chris seemed to succumb to either leg cramp or boredom – you never can tell – as he quickly got out of the pool, said something about going home, and disappeared.

I finished the cool down, and as I touched the wall on the final lap of a pull set, I heard a strange voice beckon from the next lane.

“You’re very graceful,” a man said.

Wait, what? Who? Me? Have I swam so much this week that I’m starting to hear things? Is it water in my ears? Certainly me and graceful don’t belong in the same sentence. Or even the same paragraph. No, no graceful has never lived here in this body.

“You don’t splash when you swim. You’re absolutely quiet. How do you do that?” he asked.

Uh – oh. I could sense this was more than a question – answer session. Think fast. Creepy lonely guy or possibly some guy with very extra special needs? I had fallen for this one before. At the other pool. The guy in the hot tub that was a little weird looking and always stared at me with wild bug eyes. Who one day told me “I like sports”. Great. I suspected extra special needs but when I saw him a few weeks later making out with some chick in the hot tub I just chalked him up to creepy guy with a really hairy back. And there’s nothing special about that.

But back to the question at hand. How do I do that. How do I do that? Let’s see…..put yourself into the pool several times a week. Which isn’t a big deal if you enjoy going to parties where people say “something smells like chlorine – oh, it’s you” or if you like blowing chlorinated snot out of your nose for the next day, or if you like raking your brush through your overchlorinated hair. If you like any of those things plus following a black line to one end of the wall then to another repeat about a billion mind boggling times, well, that’s how you do that.

Glad you asked?

But I didn’t say that. I just said a casual “I don’t know” because really I didn’t know what to say, how to break down years of technique, drill, lessons, videotaping, yards, yards, yards and it was too late to answer anyways so I set out to finish with 200 reverse IM hoping that he would just swim away.

But when I finished he was still there standing in the lane.

“…..25 years been swimming….” he said a little too fast, plus I think I missed the first part of the conversation he was having with himself as I came up to the wall.

“Oh no, I just learned……” I started to say. I thought he was talking about me, that my grace in the water was the result of 25 years of swimming. And I was just about to tell him that I haven’t been swimming for 25 years, I had just learned how about 8 years ago.

He cut me off, “no, I have been swimming for 25 years. And I can’t do that, no splashing, swimming with grace,” he sounded a little miffed. Like it was my fault he was the world’s sloppiest swimmer. And for the record, he did not look like he had been swimming for 25 years. In fact, he looked like he had been sitting on his couch for the better part of 25 years because he also happened to be one of the world’s biggest men. Easily over 300 lbs. Easily. Which is not a big deal – hey, you never know what’s in the cards for you tomorrow or 30 years from now….which is why I suspect one day I will I wake up a 300 lb man – but I will just say that it has to – simply has to – take some personal effort – or lack thereof – to get your body that big.

And as he seemed ready to argue with me about his swimming history, I seemed ready to take that as my cue to exit, lane, now.

So I took myself to the hot tub. I started stretching, with my back to the rest of the hot tub. Mostly because I’m not one of those people that sits in the hot tub looking for conversation with the 1000 lonely men that seem drawn to the hot tub on any given night. But single-women be warned. You will not find Prince Charming in the hot tub. No, instead you will find an overheated smorgasboard of freaks, weirdos, and card carrying members of the lonely hearts club.

And I find the less eye contact you make with them the less likely they are to ask you questions like “are you a swimmer” to which you are dying to say no I just touched the wall 160 times because I felt like pacing my aquatic cage today.

So I have found if I turn my back to stretch, I can’t see their eyes, and avoid conversation – so there I was, back turned, stretching away.

“So you’re one of those people,” a voice calls from across the hot tub, extra snarky emphasis on the word those. Ok, I have got to start swimming less because this whole hearing voices is getting to be a little too much. I look to my right and see a little lady, about 80 years old that hasn’t blinked or cracked a smile since I’ve been in here. I look the other way. And wouldn’t you know there is the guy, the same large body – large mouth guy sitting across from me.

Talking to me. In the hot tub. Looking for lap lane love or maybe just conversation in all the wrong places with all the wrong people but tonight he chose me. But this does not surprise me. After all, you are talking to the woman that once had her palm read in New Orleans to which the palm reader took a long hard look at my hand and said, “you tend to attract weirdos and you can spot them across the room.” Say no more, Mr. Pink-Haired-French-Quarter-Palm-Reader. In that short sentence you have summed up the story of my life.

But back to the guy….

One of those people?

Ok, listen lunchbox, I’m sorry I don’t want to talk to you, make friends with you, or get to know you as we both boil in this vat of hot water that is probably collecting more gross stuff from your body alone than it has in the past year. I don’t want to hear about how 25 years ago you were the world’s best swimmer. And I certainly don’t want to spend too much time distracted by conversation in front of you because I feel that if I boil in here long enough you might just eat me.

Finally, after going through a fit in my mind, I respond, this time out loud, about being one of those people. “Oh no, no, I’m just stretching,” I said. Code for I’m one of those girls that is too nice to admit that I’m ignoring you so best you leave me the alone and I won’t feel compelled to swing my 4000 yard pumped up arms right at you.

“I’m sorry,” he said, apologetically, a little pandering, “I’m just one of those people that talks to other random people and says things.”

So you’re admitting you’re a weirdo that preys upon quiet graceful girls in the hot tub at late hours of the night. Perfect. Thanks for clarification. But still I’m not feeling any better. Is there like a freak panic button in this pool? Will someone come for help? I’m trapped. I’m right across from him in the hot tub with only the little old 80 year old lady to get my back. And she still hasn’t blinked. And why do I think he is starting to see this hot tub as a light butter sauce that I marinating in.

Help, a little help here….. Husband? Oh, that’s right, he left me here looking like Lane Bait all alone in the pool at 9 pm. I look towards the therapy pool for help, just a short distance away. In it, I see what can only be called the Lawrence Welk dance team made up of a dozen 70-something men moving around with colored foam noodles. Perhaps they could help? Throw me a noodle here for safety?

Wait, scratch the noodle request. Again, we are talking about a boiling pot that I am floating in with a man that might mistake a foam noodle for the linguine that he’ll have with me on the side.

No response from my quiet cries for help from the therapy pool or the older woman next to me. I suppose I could just leave, exit the hot tub and erase this night. But I have waited all day – a very long day – to sit in this heated tub to let my mind and worries melt away. I am not the one that will leave. I earned this. Come hell or hot water with big man, I’m staying. He’s going. Not a choice.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” the guy asks while imitating me stretching my arm across my chest.

“No, it feels good,” I said. Hey, you ask the world’s dumbest question and you will get the world’s dumbest answer. Does it hurt. Yes, that’s why I’m standing here doing it because after that swim set I couldn’t wait to hurt some more.

I had just about had it. My temper was rising about as much as the heat from the tub. My grace was under pressure and I was about to explode in the most unquiet of ways. In less than 3 sentences, I had become convinced that this guy was certifiably creepy, freaky, weird. Either that or really hungry. And the fact that my body was sitting in the same hot saucy liquid as his made me want to barf up perverted bubbles of disgust.

And just as I was ready to explode like the hot bubbles in this tub, the encounter came to a close because he turned his back to me and then verbally assaulted one of the staff that happened to be walking through the pool at just the right/wrong moment when he started yelling, and complaining, very loudly, about the black squiggly lines at the bottom of the pool.

I will repeat that – the BLACK SQUIGGLY LINES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL. Exact words. No joke.

How many ways is this wrong?

First, when was the last time you heard an adult use the word ‘squiggly’, and second is that any way to get yourself taken seriously? Third, of all the things you could complain about in the pool – floating band-aids, frigid water temperature, cloudy overchlorination, visual pollution from people that wear see through swimsuits but have no clue, hair, scabs, all the people you KNOW are peeing in there, you’re telling me the only ‘bad’ thing that caught your eye was BLACK SQUIGGLY LINES?

For the second time that night, I took that as my cue to get out, mumbled to myself as I walked into the locker room that I was probably lucky still to be alive, lucky to be safely out of that hot tub, lucky to be on my graceful way and if I was lucky enough I would never run into this guy again.