July 13, 2006

The Bully And The Retard

Morning Workout
20 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

2000 meters straight. Well, not counting the 11 times I had to stop to get the water out of my goggles.

Random Comments: Catherine summed it up best: Whenever you're swimming in a lane with three people or more, there is always the Bully and always the Retard. The Bully is that overly-aggressive swimmer forcing his way upon others as the annoyingly naive Retard remains oblivious to the pool politics as he cluelessly frustrates all around. The question is figuring out who is who.

I usually don't go swimming at 5:00 on a Friday and last week's swim made me remember why. Of the 20-odd lanes, only three of them were available for non-swim team folks. Which led to three extremely crowded lanes. I stood on the edge of lane two, mentally preparing myself for the plunge as I watched the chaos of the lane's three swimmers crowd the water with their back and forth.

Standing on the edge next to me was a 60-something fatherly-like fellow. He too, seemed to be preparing himself for the crowded lane as he stood there in his wee-bitty Speedo, the grey hair on his chest matching his finely combed coif. I was moving slowly that afternoon, not eager to get in to swim. It seemed Mr. Grey felt the same way as we stood there silently, side by side, in a pre-swim quasi-meditation. Suddenly, though, things changed.

As Mr. Grey started walking backwards away from the lane, I turned my head to see where he was going. And just as suddenly, he started a quick sprint and, as his toes touched the edge of the pool, he vaulted into a effort-filled jump and, floating in slow-motion through the air, he tucked himself into a ball and - SSSSPPLASH!! - cannonballed right into the swimming lane.

Clearly I realized very quickly which one of us lane-mates was going to play the Retard.

As Mr Grey started swimming away, I eased into the pool to commence my workout and began to take inventory of my lane mates.

Let's start with Mr. Grey. It took me a few minutes to figure out what the hell he was doing. His swimming style was some type of overly zealous mix of the breast stroke and the butterfly, all done underwater. I guess you'd call it the Underwater ButterBreast, which sounds eerily like a holiday meal gone wrong. So Mr Grey would ButterBreast himself across the 25 yard lane and then stop and rest right smack dab in the middle of the lane, all stretched out on the side making it pretty damn difficult to turn around without smacking into him. Yet as each person tired to squeeze by, he didn't move. Cluelessly naive, The Retard didn't move.

My frustrated focus on Mr Grey, though, soon got sideswiped by another guy in the lane who either had the worst swimming form in history, or he had multiple sclerosis. I'm still not sure which one it is, but he was flailing about like a dog with three legs. I'm hoping he just had bad form or I'd feel really crappy.

The other two swimmers in the lane were quietly doing their business, swimming quite slowly but with little event or fanfare. As for me, I was clearly the fastest swimmer there, having to sprint past the unbearably slow Mr. Grey and the Flailer about every other lap. With so many people there, I'd have to rush around, nearly cutting people off as I tried to hit the wall and push off before anybody got in my way.

And so Cat's maxim had once again proven itself true. Five people were in the lane. Three of them were minding their own business. And then there was Mr Grey acting as the Retard, and me, the Bully.

But life can sometimes change so quickly. And what we thought was heads soon becomes tails.

Within thirty minutes, Mr Grey had left the pool along with all but one of the slower swimmers. And just as quickly, a very tall, very streamlined chap hopped into the lane all decked out with his swim bouy and paddles. And let me tell you, he was flippin' fast. Really fast. So here he was in the 25 yard lane, zipping back and forth so quickly it made me look as if I were treading water. And everytime I'd get to the edge of the pool, he'd charge in front of me and do his flip turn as if nobody else were around.

Every once in awhile as I sensed him nearing me, I'd push with all my might to get to the edge of the pool and turn around before he got there, inevitably getting within inches of his flip-turn.
I was getting frustrated with him cutting me off and, at the same time, feeling like the inadequately slow person in the unusually fast lane. And so it came to be, that my role changed so dramatically. Where I was once the Bully, I had now become the lane's Retard as a new Bully took the helm.

It's the constant, ever-changing politics of swimming. Next time you're you're out there at the pool in a crowded lane, go ahead and assess the situation. You'll see... amidst all the exercise, there's one person playing the over-aggressive Bully and the other the annoyingly naive Retard.

If you don't recognize both of them, you can bet you're the missing one.