June 01, 2007

My Life As An Impala

OK, OK... if you insist, I will admit that I'm not a bad freestyle swimmer. Not great, but definitely not crappy.

I thought I was decent at the backstroke too because, after all, how hard can it really be. Yet the more I try it on for size, the more I realize I must either be deformed or doing something completely wrong. I'm kicking like a madman to stay afloat, which kinda leads me to believe that my ass is heavier underwater than on top. I don't sink when I swim freestyle, not sure why I'm fighting gravity on my back.

By the time I struggle to the end of a 50 meter backstroke, hopefully avoiding the inevitable bonk of my head against the wall, I am left gasping for air. I feel like a frail, petrified impala that just outran the growlingly hungry pack of hyena. If there's one thing I've learned from backstroke, it's that I don't want to be reincarnated as an impala.

I throw in the breaststroke every now and then during my swims, mostly because my workout plan tells me I should. I've always looked at the breaststroke as one short step up the evolutionary chain from doggie paddle. I had a good friend in college who was on the swim team. His main event was the 200 meter breaststroke. I never really understood that. I used to tell him jokingly that my main event was the 5 minute water tread.

He didn't laugh.
We're not friends anymore. Probably cause I was such a dick.

Up until recently, I thought I was good at the breaststroke. Again, how hard can it really be. Recently though, I've realized how inept I am. Somewhere within the first 25 meters, everything seems to fall apart. I don't quite feel like a run down, gasping impala when I breaststroke. Instead, the muscles in my legs get all tired and crampy and, within a few seconds, they decide to stop working. It's as if my legs had narcolepsy. One minute their breaststroking, the next they're comatose on the bottom of the pool.

I don't know what really prompted the desire in me to learn the butterfly. One would think I'd want to get the more basic strokes taken care of before I tackled the tough stuff. Unlike the breaststroke and backstroke, the butterfly just looks intimidating. Without a doubt, it is far too complicated for someone of my feeble mind. Yet every time I see this fast swimmer-guy do the butterfly at the pool I can't help but think, hey, that doesn't look too tough at all. In fact, that looks kinda fun. I think I can do that.

Mind you, I haven't actually TRIED to do the butterfly...until today.

I was sharing a lane with Catherine during our speed swim workout at the Santa Monica College pool this morning. It was about 7:55am and what with the pool closing in five minutes, there weren't a lot of people left - maybe 6 of us scattered across 20 lanes. I had already finished my workout and was just piddling around, waiting for Catherine to finish hers, or for us to get kicked out of the water - whichever came first.

I figured this was as good a time as any. Nobody to see me in my feeble attempts at the butterfly. Nobody to laugh. Nobody to judge. Nobody but me and my undoubtedly innate abilities to butterfly beautifully.

Besides, if a man tries to do the butterfly in a pool and nobody is there to watch, did he really even do the butterfly at all?

Catherine had just passed me on one of her 25 yard sprints, so she was out front and I was on the side of the lane. I had about 25 seconds before she turned around to watch. Now was the time. All's clear.

I pushed off the wall with all my might and channeled my inner dolphin. As my glide began to slow down, I reached both arms behind me in pre-butterfly pose. Then, just like I saw the fast swimmer guy do time and again, I committed. I rotated my shoulders, bringing both my arms up at once, and lifting my hands out of the water from behind me. I tucked my head down like it seemed I was supposed to do. I focused. I'm a dolphin. Probably not as fluidly as I wish I felt, I rotated my arms high above my head. And just before I should bring a smile of accomplishment to my face, I brought my hands and arms down in front of me, getting ready to arch my back then dolphin kick my legs to butterfly beautification.

With nervous anticipation, my hands approached the water and....


My right hand SLAMMED against the pool lane buoys. SHIT!!! I yelled underwater, wondering if I tore through my skin. I stopped moving and floated, not wanting to lift my head up and face the undoubtedly staring bystanders. Shit. That clearly didn't work out.

I exhaled, then came up with a plan. Breaststroke. I went directly into a breaststroke. As if that was what I was doing all along. As if that were my plan from the get go. I'm just a breaststroker. Don't mind me.

Oh, and by the way, rule number one of butterfly: make sure you're in the center of the lane.

Now why don't we just forget this whole incident ever happened.


No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

It sounds like you were doing everything right in your butterfl... I mean breast stroke. But you're right, be sure you're in the MIDDLE of the lane! Ouch!

I think if you concentrate on keeping your head back on back stroke you'll find that your butt stays higher in the water and you don't have to kick so much. My old swim coach used to make us take off our goggles and ballance them on our forehead. If they roll down your face you're lifting your head too much and dropping your hips. Hope that helps...

Trihardist said...

Oofh. I've been there. Hurts like a bitch. Yow.