Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out of the Deep

Posted by Amy Baranski

I did it. I swam laps. In the lap lane. In the deep end of the pool. With other lap swimmers. And goggles! Again: I swamp laps. First time ever. For approximately 40 minutes.

If you didn't know lap swim intimidates me.

I intended to go to Aqua Jog. But I was running late. So I thought - eh maybe I'll lap swim. I know, I thought it would be more of an event too.

Melissa, and I recently ran into a friend at Medgar Evers who was there for lap swim on her lunch break. In fact she started swimming during her first pregnancy and swam throughout each one. It turned into a daily practice. Her tip: go to the noon class. The serious swimmers show up for the 6:30am workout. Noon time is more mellow.

The timing seemed perfect. 

I rode the bus to the pool. Instead of striding past the front desk as usual with my Seattle Parks and Recreation FAST pass I stopped and chatted with the clerk like some earnest college freshman. "I'm interested in lap swim."

What counts as a lap?

This question had been of much concern to me. Is it there and back or just from here to there?

"It's two complete lengths of the pool."

Swimming a mile?

"It means you've swam about 70 lengths of the pool."


I need goggles right?

The clerk smiled and said goggles are good, you know, so you don't crash into anyone. I looked for a pair. After she delivered all the goggle descriptions in excruciating detail I selected the clear ones. I have no idea what I bought. I think they are anti-fog.

During the transaction a tall crotchety woman interrupted us and urgently said she needed to get to the Aqua Jog class starting in six minutes. The clerk helped her out after a minor tete-a-tete over who was in line first. It was me. I was there first. But I didn't care.

Later in the locker room the tall crotchety lady dropped all her quarters. As I told her where they were she simply said "I have a bad back can you get them." Grammatically it was a question. But it was not a question!

I thought: if you just turned around you'd see that I'M PREGNANT OVER HERE. You know, maybe my back doesn't feel so hot either. But I bent down and handed them to her anyway. Her gaze skimmed the top of my head and with blood shot eyes and decaying teeth she muttered: "That's why I'm here; I have a bad back."

It was a despairing mutter. I felt sorry for her, but a little irritated. Hormones. I smiled, somehow genuinely.

Why are swim caps so impossible?

I must have a big head. I suited up, wet my hair, struggled to put the swim cap on top of my head, fiddled with the goggles, and pinned my locker key to my suit. I looked in the mirror and watched the swim cap pull at my roots and slowly inch upwards to finally pop off my head taking the goggles with it. I shoved them back down over my ears. I showered and exited the locker room.

I felt ready. Here I am lap swim. Here. I. am.

Facing my fear.

I grabbed only a kick board feeling too intimidated to grab flippers as well. I love flippers. I used them for the first time in the Pacific Ocean during snorkeling last summer. Flippers are the best. For some reason they seemed like too much for this first lap swim attempt.

When I try something new, why do I feel as though everyone is staring at me, like I'm the 6th grade transfer student standing in front of class with my fly down?

I surveyed the lanes. The very easy lane (yes it is labeled that) was gone. They pulled it to make room for the Aqua Jog class. And the easy lane had one person in it. That seemed okay to me. I walked to the edge of the pool, laid down my kick board, and jumped in.

As soon as I hit the water...

...the locker key unfastened itself from my suit and melodramatically sank to the bottom of the pool. Twelve feet deep. There's no way I can dive that deep. And even if I could, or if I tried, it would look like I was drowning. This is the last thing I needed. I worried about this for several minutes while fidgeting with my goggles. How was I going to get the key? How are these goggles supposed to fit? I'd think of something. I better start swimming and stop stalling. I pushed off from the wall.

I've never swam with goggles save for snorkeling--but a mask is different.

You can see everything! It changes the whole experience of swimming. There's a whole world under there of weightless bodies and the pool floor. You can see precisely where the pool drops into the deep end. My heart fluttered a little knowing that part was coming up. Even though the wall stood immediately to my right I felt scared, like I might sink, as my nephew would say. I sink Aunty Mimi. I sink.

I started out with a freestyle stroke.

I never know which way to turn my head. I naturally turn to the left mostly. Breathing is difficult. How many strokes do I take with my arms before taking a breath? One? Two? Breathe. That seemed right. Do I keep my chin down? How do I gulp air and not water. I gulped water and spat it out. Start over. My goggles became unsealed--a rush of water filled my left lens. I swam one-eyed from 7 feet to the 5 foot mark. Finally the wall. Rest. That was only a half a lap. I turned around to finish.

On lap two I switched to breast stroke.

For yet another full lap! Wow. I'm totally doing this, I thought. Would it be super lame if I got out of the pool after two laps? It was time for the kick board. I alternated freestyle, breast stroke, kick board, and rest during each half-lap turn. Others did somersaults and swam around like fish.

Twenty minutes into my exercise, after loosing count of my laps, I worked up the nerve to talk to the lifeguard about the key situation. He gave me a look of pity. Then he offered to dive down and get it for me. I felt like an nonathletic super nerd. I showed him the key and he dove down all life-guardy and surfaced with it. Phew. Crisis averted. Man those life guards must have amazing lung capacity!

I stayed almost as long as Aqua Jog.

My swim lasted about 40 minutes. I swam consistently, with rests no longer than one to two minutes. I left when the Aqua Jog class neared its end. As I got out of the pool I had sea-legs. I don't get that from Aqua Jog (yet). It felt good.

I can't believe I did it. Yeah I was in the easy lane. Yeah I didn't do any flip turns. Yeah the other easy lane swimmers were more confident than me and had more endurance. But their form wasn't all that. Plus, I'm pregnant! (Gosh I love the sound of that).

So I'm feeling pretty good about the whole experience and I think I'm going to get into lap swimming. I even re-upped my FAST Track card for April. I love having a physical challenge, and I have one to look forward to. I think of myself as in training. Training feels good. Training feels right. And, by the end of it, who cares if I swim off key or if I'm too slow for the other swimmers. Where I'm at is just fine with me.



Melissa Baumgart said...

Loved reading about the lap swim adventure, Amy! And maybe you picked the clear goggles to match the ones in our photo!

Bob Redmond said...

Amers, this is one for the book... it actually almost makes me want to get out there and swim (but I sink!).

Amy Baranski said...

Definitely wanted the clear goggles for another future photo op. Thanks Bobers you're welcome to come to the pool anytime.

Nello said...

I love this post.

Amanda said...


Amy Baranski said...

Thanks Amanda and Nello!

Cassandra said...

I know I'm very late, but congratulations!! What an awesome accomplishment and I really enjoyed reading about it. Way to go!