I swam competitively in high school, all four years. I competed in many races, in many meets, but oddly, I only remember one time.
I remember working really hard to cut that time down to about 7:00, and I think I might have broken 7:00 once or twice — which isn’t actually that impressive for that particular event, but it was my personal best and screw the rest. But I don’t definitively remember any times but that one.
It was the 1991 District 150 JV Invitational meet, which was not so much a real competition as it was a consolation prize for freshmen and sophomores who never got to race in a regular season meet because there were many better swimmers than them on the team. I don’t remember what events I chose. I think we were allowed something like up to three individual events and a relay, or something like that. I imagine I swam 100 free, and probably the 400 free relay. I don’t really remember. Some of the events, like the 50 free, had so many swimmers they had to run that race over and over and over so everyone got a chance, but there were two races that only had one heat, as I recall: 100 fly, and 500 free. I chose to swim the 500, and finished it in eight minutes, thirty point six nine seconds. I hadn’t picked it because I really thought I was a fabulous long-distance swimmer or anything. I’m pretty sure I just looked at the list and picked it because it sounded hard but I thought I could do it.
I was right.
I went on to swim the 500 regularly for the rest of my high school career, along with the 100 fly (which I initially hated, but by the end sort of enjoyed — at least, I enjoyed that I was good at it, which is not exactly the same thing, but it’s close enough to get you through a season). I was never a sprinter and I never did the 50, don’t think I did the 100 free either. They did make me swim the 200 once in a while — although I hated it because the 200 is a sprint, not a long-distance event, and eight lengths of sprinting sucks, y’all sprinters can have your stupid 200 back, give me my nice peaceful 500. As it turned out, I really liked the 500. I had a pace, I breathed about every six strokes, I had a little rhythm with my flip turns, I could just go for it, and sprint the last hundred or fifty, and basically so far as I was concerned, the 500 was the best event in the whole meet.
Fast forward a decade and a half.
I looked at the description of a triathlon, repeatedly, last year while I was busily learning to run and deciding that I was capable of actually doing this competition thing after all. 800 yards? I can do that in my sleep, I said. Mind you, I hadn’t been in a pool seriously training since 1995, but I swim every once in a while — read: I goof off in a pool for an hour, punctuated by the odd 100 or 200 where I pretend I’m actually there to work out like a grown up. (But I totally still do headstands if nobody is watching. Sometimes I do them even if people are watching. Actually, I DO THEM ALL THE TIME. Headstands are fun. I won’t say no to the odd somersault here or there. I like to dive underwater and dolphin kick. I also like to walk on my hands underwater and see how far I can go before I lose my balance and fall over. …See what I mean about goofing off? I can’t help it. Water is where fun lives.) Anyways, I looked at the triathlon distances and was like, oh, piece of cake. I pretty much just have to show up the day of the race and I can do that.
But I did end up starting training, when I signed up with T2 (give me all your moneys). Once a week I show up for an hour and someone who actually knows what he’s doing tells me what to swim. We do timed intervals and things that suck, like one-armed freestyle (no fun). But we do get to do some somersaults too, which I approve of. Anyways, the difference between me showing up to the pool and going ‘ehhh…. I guess I’ll swim another 200 free’ and having an actual coach who knows how to plan swim workouts is pretty dramatic. It’s made me kind of want to find a masters team to swim with, except for, in what magical dream world do I have the extra time to do that? But I’ve also been going out on my own to swim, at my gym at home as well as with spinning and now triathlon buddy N., over by Union Station.
So last Tuesday, a week ago, we were just about to finish up our workout — before we got kicked out of the pool by the masters team, actually — and had time for one last thing. We both picked out our goals. I decided to swim a 200, and time myself. I looked at the pool clock, since I wasn’t wearing a watch, and carefully noted the starting time — eight minutes and thirty seconds. And I swam my 200… and then another 200 for good measure, because I didn’t feel like stopping yet. I stopped at 400 because I knew the masters people were probably getting impatient. And I was all excited to see my time, which would be the first time I had a time in years. I sprinted my last 25, finished hard, swam into the wall, popped up and yanked my goggles off, and then looked at the clock. Eight minutes and thirty seconds. What.
Of course, the clock wasn’t working, and I hadn’t noticed. Doh.
So I got myself a little watch. I used to wear a Timex Ironman when I was swimming, and truthfully, I wanted one exactly like it. I searched and finally found one that I thought was just like it — another Timex Ironman, not fancy, the size sounded right, only $25. It came today, and I stopped by home to pick it up before I went to the pool, so I could time myself. I figured out how to work the chronometer so I could time myself, and headed out. I warmed up briefly, then swam my 800. I lost count around 300 so it’s 800 +/- 50, actually. It was going to be a 400, like last Tuesday, then I figured, might as well go for 500 like my old 500s. Then I felt like I could keep going, and I figured that at that point I was halfway there and I might as well see if I could do the full 800 triathlon distance. So I just kept going, until I finished my (probably) 800.
My first race, at 8:30 for 500 yards in 1991 when I was 13, works out to about 1:42 per 100. This 800 at 14:31 works out to about 1:48 per 100.
Not too shabby for a total dilettante whose idea of a hard swim workout is one where she accidentally snorkels water up her nose when giggling underwater from falling down out of a headstand. I think maybe I can pull this thing off after all.