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Triathlete Blog

Time for a Test

By January 13, 2009July 8th, 2015No Comments

If you are heading to masters practice this evening consider yourself warned: there is a timed (pool) mile.

Good thing I woke up this morning feeling zippy and fresh. I was expecting to look outside my window and declare a snow day for masters but no such luck. Turns out that the snow shoveling crew we pay to shovel our driveway (it’s not an option, when you live in a townhouse you have to pay a fee to get people to do what you are perfectly capable of doing yourself) – yes, they actually showed up. I’m starting to see a pattern that when snow is forecasted but does not arrive they arrive to shovel the snow that arrived when it was not forecasted. I am not sure what all of this means but when I least expect it, there is a clear path on my driveway. And all of the other days – I am shoveling.

A clear driveway meant I could drive to masters. First I took Boss out. I believe I have the world’s only Arctic Chihuahua. F*ck the booties, he says, I’m walking all the way down to the field with bare paws. Not only that but he pulls me which is really fun when the street is covered in a month of snow, ice, freeze, thaw and you are wearing rubber shoes. I feel like Balto the sled dog is pulling me down the street. Expect he’s only 9.3 pounds. And I’m Fat Elvis. He decides that it was too cold to make the potty so we sled our way all the way back to the house. Good thing we went for that 12 degree walk with winds gusting to 20 mph that make it feel like 20 below.

Make your damn potty already!

After that I get into the car ready to drive to the pool. You know how cold is cold? When you get into your car and the snow you tracked into last night is still in there. When the windows are frozen shut. When the windshield is frozen from the inside out. It took a good 10 minutes to get the car warm enough for human inhabitance and finally I was on my way.

I arrived at the pool needing to thaw myself so I decided to take a quick trip into the dry sauna. When you do the same thing every week you start to notice patterns. Like the two older women that stand not in but in front of the dry sauna, blocking the door while pressing their legs against the glass. And every week I politely ask them to step away from the door so I can get in. You would think the entrance door to the sauna would tip them off that perhaps that’s not the best place to stand. Because then when I want to leave the sauna, I have to tap on the glass and I am at their mercy that they move away from the door.

If they choose not, I could bake. I could literally die and bake in there at 180 degrees.

They let me out of the hot box of hell and I walk towards the lanes. Immediately I could tell something was up. As I approached my usual lane, Tugboat Tom asks me with urgency, “Are you going to captain our lane?”

Something’s not right. Tom looks unusually nervous and antsy today. I get the sense that he doesn’t like distance free Tuesday but convinces himself he needs to so he shows up every Tuesday looking frantic about at anything over 50 yards. And then he spends a few nervous minutes convincing someone else to lead the lane.

I look to S. who is already in the lane and spreading the rumor that we are doing a timed mile. Tugboat Tom looks at me again like, well, are you going to lead us or leave us to die. I knew I had three seconds to quickly glance at the other lanes to see my choices or else someone would answer for me and I would be captaining the lane.

And so I did what any brave captain would do. I walked away. I had to save myself. At the end of the pool I noticed John swimming alone and can you not read the sign? It says no swimmer shall swim alone. Don’t worry guys – I’m on it – I’m going to make sure John has company in the lane.

(you should also know that John is fast and would most definitely lead the lane with me safely in his draft)

We started swimming the workout written on the board which was deceptively devoid of any mainset. I see some 300s, some 75s, some 50s and….where oh where is the mainset? Chatter continues about the timed 1650. Where is this rumor coming from? And if it was true it means that someone in the 5:30 am practice told someone that was coming to the 10 am practice that we were doing the 1650. It’s not like we all exist in some high school walking the halls. We live throughout an entire county. Someone had to call someone who then put the word out. This is just swimming? Who calls to spread the news – sound the sirens, blow the horns today at masters is a TIMED MILE!

Somewhere in the middle of a kick set I realize I am alone in the lane. Hmmm. Not to worry, John will be back. Potty break? Fin malfunction? I get a little nervous when 50 goes by and he is still not there. I especially chose this lane – this annoyingly cold lane on the wall right next to the door to the outside (which by the way has snow on the inside of it – that’s how cold is cold) and I am not here to swim by myself. I am swimming in someone’s draft in this lane. I will drag John back by fin if that is what it takes. Where is he?

Then I realize someone new has joined me lane. John – out. And I realize J. – in. For someone who doesn’t take all of this very seriously – J. can haul ass. The problem is – he won’t let himself. He rarely swims the entire workout, refuses to lead the lane and never touches the wall. For every 50 yards we swim, he swims 47.5. He typically arrives late and leaves early. Anything that includes a timed set, he usually DNFs.

So one thing was certain – there was no way he was leading the 1650. Look at it – it contains at least two conditions he automatically cancels out. Leading and a timed set.

Perfect. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. All of a sudden my perfect plan to draft John into new timed 1650 personal best left under the lane line about 150 yards ago. John acts helpless claiming that J. made him switch lanes. Well the joke was on him because now his fate was to swim with Timmyboy (as a side note, Timmyboy is really fast and Timmyboy actually has Timmyboy tattooed around his arm which always makes me laugh because I would never think of tattooing Lizziegirl on my arm – or….well…maybe?).

Meanwhile, another swimmer joins our lane. Within a few minutes she tells us she doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like timed 1650s and by the way will be swimming it slow. J.H.C., who snowed all over her driveway? Call me crazy but I’m guessing she won’t be a contender for leading the lane. But it didn’t hurt to ask. And just as she confirms that she doesn’t want to lead, I overhear the girl in the lane next to me announcing that she will be swimming the 1650 slow to practice turns.

Wait – what? TIME OUT. You are going to swim the timed set slowly to practice turns…what am I missing here? Have you noticed this? You give swimmers a set of 10 x 50 on the 2:00 all out max effort and they are all over it with no complaint (yes, I said 50s on the 2:00 which implies you do them so hard you barf at the gutter after each one before waiting a long time before doing it again). You give them a timed distance free set and they’re “going slow”. They’re opting out. Hey guys, about that timed 1650, uh, I’m good. I don’t think I need to do that. For crying out loud, who shows up to “go slow”? That would be like me showing up to a 5K telling everyone, know what guys I’m just going to cruise this 5K race and throw a little carioca drill in there to work on my lateral movement.

It’s a TIMED SET. Go for it! I have noticed, though, that any time you throw the word timed or test into something adults freak out. I see this (lovingly) with my own athletes. All of a sudden their student identity comes out and you can tell the crammers, the naturals, the “let’s just wing it”, the neurotic, the spent the entire week sleepless, the excuse maker, the fear of failure, fear of their own pencil, fear of being judged, fear of the timed set (test).

Well, I was the student who waited until 2 nights before the test, rewrote all of the my notes then read them the night before the test and called myself prepared. I have no idea how that prepares me for a timed 1650 but today I was set. And a good thing because apparently I was leading this lane.

All right – timed mile. 33 laps. A 150 with 3 x 500s afterwards. The final 500 you pick it up with the last 200 of it all out. So what to do in between? Swim. Oh my lord this is a long time to swim. Whose idea was it to build a pool in short course yards? Whose idea was it to lead the lane? The good thing about the timed 1650 is that you knock out a lot of yardage at once. The bad thing is that you swim 1650 continuously. Not so bad if you let your mind wander or sing swimmy songs – all impossible, however, if you are leading! Each lap you are thinking about the lap you are on or the lap you are going to be on all while trying to sneak a peak at the clock occasionally to see if you are on the lap you think you are on based on time. It is all very confusing and when we do anything over 1000 yards straight there is no guarantee that I go all the way.

The 1650 goes by slowly. I won’t kid you. I am trying to feed off the energy in the other lanes but I cannot even see them. There is an overchlorination problem in our pool right now that makes it very cloudy. You can barely see the person swimming behind you when you make the turn. In fact it was so cloudy that Tom tried to convince the coach we shouldn’t swim the mile because of poor visibility that might cause us to miss the turn buoy.

That didn’t fly.

I finish after being lapped only 3 times by the lane next to me. On my masters team, I consider that a personal victory. I ended up missing my dream time by 3 seconds. And I realized that J. cut the entire thing short by 50 when I lapped him. As the lane leader I tried to command him back out to make up the 50 but he wouldn’t hear any of it.

I guess my captain’s hat came off right at the end of that 1650.

Now it is time to ride. I suspect leading the pack for this workout will be much easier. Rumor has it that we are riding 1:45 today. That’s a long time to ride in the basement – almost as long as swimming 1650 straight. But it will go by much quicker because this time there is no counting or clock watching. Oh no, it’s better than that because I can watch Rock of Love.

Tour bus, baby!