Saturday, May 9, 2009

In Which an Hour of Swimming Nearly Kills Me.

Yesterday, I made the disastrously foolish decision to swim in a pool, for an hour, with triathletes. What compelled me to do so is completely beyond me; I just know I'm lucky to be alive (although my arms may never recover). I am currently in Boulder, Colorado staying with Brandon, a good friend, and bicycle-racer-turned-triathlete. We're on our way back from the Gila (Silver City is a loooo0ong way from Seattle), and Brandon offered to let me tag along to his 12:30 swimming class at the Flatiron athletic club. "It's only an hour-long class," Brandon said innocently. Somehow this seemed like a good idea, despite the fact that I hadn't participated in an official swim class since my first semester of college. I somehow missed the deceptive gleam in his eye that veiled the true nature of this swim class. It wasn't until I stepped outside the locker room and caught my first glimpse of the simple, eight-lane, outdoor pool that I began to understand what awaited me. The water looked like it was boiling: the surface a thrashing, splashing tangle of arms, legs, and really fast moving bodies. "This is Dave Scott's class -- they're almost done," Brandon said.

Dave Scott's class, huh? Dave Scott? As in the Dave Scott? Six-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman Dave Scott? Sure enough, there he was, triathlon legend Dave Scott, shouting his final orders to his swimmers: "Allright, easy 100 cool down -- nice work folks."

We set our towels down on a chair while the pool emptied. I stared, the expression on my face somewhere between amusement and terror, as the the athletes emerged from the water. Every last one of them looked like a statue of a Greek god, glistening examples of human perfection hewn from solid bronze! Tanned, toned, hairless bodies, one after another, emerged from the water and stalked off to the locker room. "There's Alan Reid -- he's an Olympian. Oh, and there's Chrissie Wellington -- she won the Ironman last year. That's Laura Bennett -- she took fourth in Beijing. Oh look, here comes Wolfgang, our coach," Brandon pointed out. Wolfgang Dittrich, a remarkably fit, fifty-something year old man wearing shorts, a sun visor and sporty-looking sunglasses strode confidently towards the pool. Unsurprisingly, Wolfgang is also a titan of the endurance sports world; he was routinely the first swimmer out of the water at the Hawaii Ironman. "Alright everybody, let's get vet," Wolfgang said through a thin German accent. I quickly hopped into the water to hide how badly my knees were shaking. I chose the second-slowest lane (seeing how the slowest lane seemed to be reserved for injured people).

Things started off well. (I wish I could say they stayed that way.) The first few laps, I felt fine -- even good. Despite being entirely out of shape, all those swim classes I took in high school served me well, leaving me with a (relatively) efficient stroke. During the warm-up, I had no problem going as fast as the others in my lane -- I even caught the attention of Wolfgang: "I sink you should moof to anoza lane, no?" Somewhat reluctantly, I ducked over to the next lane. Wolfgang proceeded to lay out the workout, which involved three complex sets of 100's with descending amounts of rest. I had no idea what the hell we were supposed to do, but my lane-mates seemed to understand, so I resigned myself to utter confusion and just started swimming when everyone else did. After a few laps, the pace quickened, and my lungs reminded me that we were over a mile above sea level, but I was hangin' tough with the others in my lane.

Until everyone started cheating.

We finished one of the hundreds, and a girl in my lane gasped "I can't make these splits, I'll get no rest at all."

"Yeah me too," I said hopefully, between labored breaths, "we'd better slow down, huh?"

The girl stared at me like I was crazy -- did he just say "slow down"? Triathletes don't slow down -- triathletes speed up!

The next thing I knew, everyone in my lane had donned swim fins and flippers and were zooming around the pool faster than a pod of dolphins. FUCK! I didn't realize triathletes were such shameless cheats when it came to their training, otherwise I would have brought an outboard motor to the class. As it was, I had neither flippers nor fins, and quickly found myself sucking more wind than a Bissell vacuum cleaner. I tried for roughly one lap to hold the pace of my newly amphibious lane-mates, and then promptly imploded so bad I had to pause in the middle of the pool and throw an arm over the lane-line to avoid drowning. I stayed there gasping for the next several minutes, marveling at the pool full of fish-men as they powered through the water. "I'm not cut out for this," I thought to myself, "these people are insane."

The rest of my day was completely ruined. I returned to Brandon's house and tried to nap, but my shoulders were too sore for me to fall asleep; I couldn't get comfortable. We drove to downtown Boulder to shop for a mother's day card on Pearl Street, but I was so dazed, shopping seemed like too much work. The only thing I could really handle was sitting motionless on a bench in the sun with a smile on my face. That's it. After dinner, we'd planned on going out for Cinco de Mayo margaritas, but I suggested an alternative: "hay guys, what if we just go to sleep instead? Doesn't sleep sound like a lot more fun?" 

Ok triathletes, lesson learned. You win this one....

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