Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From mermaid to shark

It's no secret that I love swimming.

I love the meditative aspect of swimming in the pool. I love the muted world: the way sounds become muffled. I love the sound of water moving below the surface. I love the blurred vision of seeing others underwater or the fogging glare coming in through my goggles.

Taking swimming outside is even more magical. The sun sparkling off the water, the fish below, the plants floating by, the blue sky above....the clouds.

I've joke about being the mermaid, but that's how it is for me. Sometimes I go underwater and see how long I can hold my breath....I imagine twisting and turning and flipping around underwater.

When I'm in the pool, I see the other people in the lanes as schools of fish, swimming back and forth, all around. We're like one big mer-people family.

Today was a mermaid day in the pool.

Today Helen met me at the pool. The pool was pretty empty when we got there. So, we selected two lanes next to each other.

After we started swimming, I took a break and looked up and noticed a woman standing at the edge of the pool. She looked mighty irritated.

When I asked if she would like to share a lane, she immediately huffed and puffed, gave me her angry eyes and started grumbling about how long she waited.

Then, she turned to me and said, "If you don't mind, I'd like you to stay on your side instead of doing circles. I don't want to be slowed down."

I sort of shake my head in disbelief and think, "Really? You don't want to be slowed down?"

"Wow", I respond, "You must be really fast."

Mean Lady: "yes, I'm a triathlete. I'm training for a half iron race. It's a 1.2 mile swim. It just gets so frustrating to share lanes with people like her." She says as she points to my 80 year old friend Helen, who is training for her 2nd triathlon.

Me: Wow, I will definitely try to stay out of your way. I just have a short workout. I'll be done before you know it.

I watch Helen swim. She's come a long way. I remember we first met in this very pool. She was trying out her wetsuit and didn't even know how to put it on. Now, when I watch her, she looks all-pro to me. Helen's been through a very rough time recently. She's dealing with many family issues, and still makes an effort to workout almost every day.

I look at Mean Lady.

I felt the mermaid take her leave.

I watched mean lady swim. I waited for her to get roughly 3/4 of the way down the lane, and I took off.

Under the water I looked forward and could see her come into view. I went from mermaid to shark in about 2 strokes.

I could feel my speed pick up as I started tracking her. It was like she was bait on the end of a line. I reached her feet. I passed her midsection. Then I hit the wall and passed her full on in the turn.

I don't know why her comments made me so angry. Normally, I will just let those types of things roll off.

Maybe it's because I will always remember what it's like starting out. I'll remember my first days in the pool and struggling with 3:00 100's.

I'll remember not being able to run for a period of time and taking my first steps back to recovery, thinking that a 15:00 mile was next to impossible.

I'll remember getting on my bike and having tears in my eyes when I managed 12 mph climbing.

We all are where we are. Some of us are just starting. Some of us are starting over. Some of us are having our best year ever. That might mean a podium stand or a bottom 50% finish.

The shark knows that. It's not a speed that demands respect.

It's DOING it. It's the committment. It's being in the gym, on the road, in the pool day in and day out.

And dammit all: the little ego queen needs to be taught a lesson.

Back and forth I went, lap after lap, I sliced through the water, lapping her again and again.

At some point, mean lady got out of the pool.

I saw Helen swim over to the stairs and start to climb out. She turned and yelled at me "I didn't drown! I thought I'd only be able to do 5 laps, but I did 9!"

With a huge smile, I said: I know! I watched you swim. You were the best swimmer here today. I can't believe how great you did. You've come a long way.

She walked over to my lane, scrunched up her face and said: by the way, you kicked that girl's ass. And, I know why you did.

Me, smiling: You do, huh? 

Helen winked at me and whispered: Sometimes water is thicker than blood.