My lungs are burning, I’m half-blind from the fogginess of my goggles, and my muscles are barely functioning. Somehow through all of the chaos and confusion, I am able to beat my way through the choppy water and make it to the wall. I have just finished 60 x 100s freestyle. With great relief, I take my goggles off and look at the clock, expecting to see the hour hand on 7.
“Yes practice is over! Wait-“
I looked back at the clock. The hour hand was on the 5 and the minute hand was on the 30.
“This can’t possible. Practice started at 5 and there is no way we did 60 x 100s in thirty minutes!”
Surely the clock is wrong? Have I forgotten how to read analog clocks?
I quickly looked for someone with a watch, but there was no one else around. Seemingly out of nowhere my coach appeared and was standing over my lane. A storm was forming above us and lightning was striking close by. I started to get out of the pool but my coach stopped me.
“That was pitiful. Do it again,” she said.
“But coach, there is no way I can do 60 x 100s again and I don’t think it’s safe to be swimming in this storm,” I replied.
“Again!” She bellowed.
“Beep! Beep! Beep!”
My eyes opened and instinctively my arm swung, knocking something across the room. The beeping stopped. I fell out bed and crawled over to the maimed alarm clock. It read “6am.” I trudged into the bathroom to wake up and put my contacts in. I studied my face, easily able to spot the effects of what these morning practices had done to me.
“Are those gray hairs? I shouldn’t have wrinkles at this age.”
I hop into the pool and a refreshing rush of cool water greets me. As I took my first stroke my arms felt like a rusty, un-oiled machine trying to function. It was then, I realized, this was not going to be a good practice.
To my surprise after some drills and a short main set we were rewarded with water polo for the last thirty minutes of practice. All was well; my team was winning by two points. For a moment I forgot about afternoon practice, I forgot about the despair of the morning’s main set- then BAM! Just as I let my guard down the ball, flying no slower than the speed of sound, slammed into my face.
“How may I help you?”
“Twelve count chicken mini, four hash browns and a lemonade, please.” If I stop swimming this habit I have picked up of eating the family size portions will end up with me being on a reality show about over-eaters.
After at least a 2000-calorie lunch, I drag myself over to the couch and turn on the TV. My eyes begin to close. I hear the words, “save 15% or more on car insurance,” and everything goes black. I am swimming freestyle in a dark pool. Suddenly someone is touching my feet. I move over, to let what I am sure is one of our distance swimmers pass and see a gecko swimming past me.
I wake up an hour later on the couch and quickly check the time to make sure I have not slept through afternoon practice. Then I check the weather. The storms that we often hope will come to provide a reprieve from afternoon practice also allow the grass to grow at a ridiculous rate, forcing me to tend to the lawn weekly. If it were up to me I would let the yard turn into a jungle but the neighbors who pay me to mow their lawns more than likely would not be happy.
The lawn is done. So many grass clippings cling to me it looks like I am wearing a ghillie suit. But required summer reading demands I pick up the book “How to interpret dreams” (exciting right?) and read for a bit.
It’s back to the pool for dryland. Surprisingly, I don’t feel like I can barely move the way I do after every practice. If only that was all, but its back to the pool and the coach seems to have forgotten that we swam two hours this morning and just did an hour of dryland.
Most of afternoon practice consisted of easy drills. At the end of practice, however, after countless days of begging, we were allowed to do some relays. As we were assigned our lanes randomly, certain teams cheered at the arrival of new swimmers while others brought stares of hatred and disgust upon their rivals. We are usually a loving team but the time for relays is like a civil war among us.
In lane seven, a small skirmish begins…
“I am going first,” said the swimmer in the pink cap.
“I already said I was going first!” screamed the swimmer with blue goggles.
A crowd gathered around the two swimmers. From standing on top of a the block in my lane I could PC (pink cap) pick up a kickboard and swing at BG (blue goggles). BG looked PC dead in the eyes and said, “It’s treason, then…” before launching at PC. The two rolled around on the pool deck while other swimmers squirted their water bottles at each other. Finally PC made it on top of a block. Looking down at BG he said, “I have the high ground, you can’t win!”
Just before what was sure to be an epic end to the battle, the lifeguards ran over and broke up the fight. Practice was ended as the coach stormed off the deck and said, “This is why we can’t do fun things.”
Another 2000-calorie meal. I don’t even know what I am eating anymore. Eating has become a job. Another casualty of summer swim schedule: enjoying meals. I shovel in more food in front of the TV, as the ubiquitous gecko yet again reminds me of my potential savings on auto insurance.
Like a robot I walk upstairs to my room and go through the motions of my nighttime routine. Though the sun is still up and my non-swimmer friends are posting pictures of nighttime summer actives aren’t squelched by a 5am wake up. I roll into bed and recharge for the next early morning.
Why do I and all the other swimmers do this every summer? My first response is we are all crazy, but it’s more than that. Every practice you suffer through difficult physical and mental challenges; and right there in the lane with you are your best friends, helping you get through it. Bring it on!
Written by Jesse Hagy