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Moving on Up

By January 6, 2009July 8th, 2015No Comments

Saturday I did the impossible:

I moved up a lane.

Moving up at lane at masters is no easy task. Little did you know that the antiturbulence lane lines also serve as brick walls. Climbing up and over them is not easy unless you are Juggernaut. Even still I’m not sure he would get accepted in the next lane.

Masters is kind of a tough crowd.

Especially on Saturdays. Saturday morning masters is not for sissies, crybabies, whiners or triathletes. I have no idea what I am doing there. It’s a swim with the big boys. The pool is jam packed and the workout is 90 minutes long, sometimes over 5000 yards. It just depends on the coach, the workout and how many times you hang on the wall catching your breath or praying you survive.

This Saturday the pool was once again packed. I stood on deck and looked at my lane choices. To the right was my safe place. To the left was the other lane.

I have always wanted to swim in the other lane. They are always going fast, hard, sending off on intervals that I came in to the wall at. I want to be sending off. I want to be in that lane. No, one day I want to lead that lane. Lap that lane. Graduate from that lane?

Listen, let’s just start by surviving in the draft.

I figured I could. After all, I survived Tuesday. Tuesday is another one of those practices where you have to put your big girl goggles on, say two Hail Marys to hope you make it in before the next send off. I had two choices on Tuesday night: swim on the wall by myself or swim with my husband. There is nothing worse than swimming on the wall. Unless the wall has a staircase. It’s like you lose 5 seconds per hundred somewhere as that staircase swirls water around and then spits it back at you as you make the turn.

…Nothing worse but swimming with your husband. Married couples you know how this goes. The pool is not a blissful place. Chances are someone will leave mad. Why? Because someone will have a good swim which means the other is having a bad swim. It’s complicated like most things in marriage. But then I looked at the wall. At Chris. At the wall – I HATE THE WALL. At Chris…RISK MARITAL DISCORD….the wall…

I chose to swim with Chris.

As if that wasn’t trouble enough, the coach didn’t reveal the workout until we were finished with the warm up. This indicates nothing but trouble. In fact one day I am expecting her to turn the board around and it says 3 x TROUBLE @ 110%. We get 1200 yards into what is called the “warm up”, but what I call “half the workout”….only to see a mainset that is 2800 yards.

Mainsets should not be 2800 yards but when you show up to Tuesday night masters distance free workout that is what you get. Heck of a night to choose to swim with Chris. The coach puts up three intervals to choose from for the first set of 4 x 400. Chris chooses the fastest one. This is where having a wife in your lane comes in handy:

Chris, I don’t think she put that interval up for us.

Call me a naysayer but we are not sending off on that pace. We are barely making it in on that pace. Reluctantly Chris chooses the second fastest interval. He then turns to me and says “do whatever it takes to hang on.” Part of it was a gentlemanly gesture telling me it was ok to tug at his feet, perhaps hang directly on to them for what might otherwise be for me a continuous 1600. The other part was following the gesture up with a maniac laugh like “wife, you are crazy to swim with me when you know that just a few months ago I was lapping your peashooter ass.”

Somehow I survive in his draft and make all of the intervals. Part of me cannot believe it but part of me knows I should not overthink what is happening and instead just focus on staying as close to him as I can. Plus get ready for him to rage on the way home because somebody will think they are not having a good swim (really though he had a good swim and I had a good swim – it is possible for a married couple to both have a good swim in the same lane).

The next set was 4 x 200 followed by 4 x 100 and at that point it was somewhere after 9 pm, nearly 4000 yards, an ache in my arms, a pounding in my head but a growing confidence that at Saturday masters it was time to move up.


So on Saturday I see Beth also deciding about a lane. She is a good masters friend and friends do crazy things together. Like move up a lane. So together we are swimming in the new lane. She says why not. I can think of a million why’s not to swim in the lane and already I have my defense ready about how I will survive. I’m ready to tell them I’ll just drop a 50 or get out of their way when they go to lap me.

But then I tell myself to shut up. What are you doing. Why are you doing that? Who shows up with an excuse for why they might fail? Or a back up plan? You keep your mouth shut. You swim. You swim hard. You do what it takes to keep up. There is no back up plan.

The warm up is easy enough. Then we do a set of 5 x 200 on an interval that I used to come in at. This will be fun. I position myself fourth in the lane and we send off. The first two laps are fast and then the feet in front of me get closer and closer until I realize something – I’m not just keeping up, I’m ready to pull feet here. Something’s not right. So we get to the wall and I look at the time – it’s a new personal best for me.


The swimmer in front of me lets me go ahead. Really? Now I am third in line. I am swimming behind Chris who is swimming behind the doctor and I’m thinking in my head holy crap now, it’s real, I’m swimming with the doctor, THE DOCTOR!, it’s totally on, there is no turning back, I’m in this lane third in line and I’m going to survive. Another 200, another 200, I’m there, I’m not being dropped? Not lapped? Each time I hit the wall I’ve set a new personal best 200 time. I’m getting closer, like 2 seconds away from my all time 200 dream time.

I left the pool ready to skip towards the shower and excitedly over bagel and coffee told Chris that I had my dream swim today.

He looked at me like what? You dream about swimming?

I told him that he might have fantasies about women, video games and beer but I dream of swimming in the next lane. I really do. I dream about coming in under a certain time for the 200 and sending off on a certain interval for the 100s. To me the next lane is like Xanadu. It’s a place where they swim everything under that magic pace. And they make all of my magic send offs.

This will be my new lane.

But each time I get in the pool it means pushing myself. Today I arrived at masters and looked at my choices – I could either swim with the guys that do their 100s in 1:00 or swim with Tugboat Tom – who is quite zippy himself. When I told Tom I was joining him he said a firm NO. I said listen Tom, it’s between you or them. I am swimming in your lane.

Fine, but you are leading. He seemed ok with it then.

We swam a 3000 yard mainset. This seems to be the new thing at masters – swimming these monster mainsets but it makes the time pass fast. The pain in between – this is nothing that cannot be erased with a cup of coffee afterwards or a good feeling inside that you did it.

Sometimes that is all it takes.

I try to set a new goal each time I go to swim. Otherwise what is the purpose of it? Today was my opportunity to lead the lane. I did for the most part and it was not easy. I’m still not sure what pushes me more – leading or drafting. I know that sounds silly but when you lead you can sort of control the pace and ease up when you’re tired. When drafting you are getting an easier ride but it is at a faster pace. Mentally, to me, it is harder to keep up than lead. What do you think?

Since things are going so swimmingly, I wrote down a few other goals today. They are times I would like to hit by the end of January. I might just end my swimming career there because if I can breakthrough to them I will be ok to put my paddles down and walk away from the pool very happy.

Heck I might even do a swim meet.

But don’t quote me on that.