08 June, 2012

How Slow Can I Go?

PROMENADE AUPRES DE LA SEINE AVEC NAGEUR LENT - the Impressionists understood swimming. Can you name even one who had a pair of goggles?

With swimming, I don't know if I've yet plumbed the lowest depths of the slowest speeds. I was reminded of this yesterday while thrashing thru my 2500m workout. Doing laps in the outer lane at my pool put me beside some large picture windows that gave out onto the parking lot. Well, yes... technically the majestic Niagara Escarpment filled the backdrop, but from water level all I could see were car bumpers. And unfortunately, I could also see all of the pedestrians walking between their cars and the gym. And they were, all of them, walking much faster than I was swimming. Really good swimmers will cut through the water at a rate you'd need to jog to keep up to. Decent swimmers can match an average walker. But yesterday, my fears were driven home by the steady parade of Joes Public who were inadvertently handing me my Speedo-swaddled butt; no matter who they were, I was swimming uphill in a silent race they were all unknowingly, uncaringly, winning. The toddler who slowed down, fascinated by his reflection in the glass was bad enough, but the last straw for me came when I breathed to the other side and saw a water-walking blue-rinser in the lane next to me with a noodle tied around his waist, putting time on me. Clearly, an attitude shift was due. I had reached bottom. (Figuratively speaking, of course, being in a pool and all, with another 800m of intervals still to do.)

Luckily, while drifting into and out of hallucinations, as I am wont to do when in oxygen debt, I had an epiphany, and suddenly life became much simpler: rather than constantly fight my years-long current of frustration with my swimming speed, I realized I could just choose to accept it. For instance, I will never again refer to my swim speed, as that loaded word just sets me up for disappointment; henceforth I will call it my swim pace. It makes it sound more like it is a choice... no one needs to know that I have the needle pegged while people on crutches saunter past me - at least not until I come up spitting and gasping for breath at the end of the lane. And rather than see myself as slower than most every other hominid on the planet, I would imagine myself transported to where walking means something else all together. And what better place would that be than the City of Lights, Love, and Locomotion: Paris, France. I recalled - yesterday, just before my 4x200m on 30 secs. rest - that some people actually walk slower than I even swim, and I took solace in that. I remembered back to that time in 1984, in Paris, when I sat on the wall of the Seine, and watched as idle strollers, couples arm in arm, were taking in the romance of that magical city. No doubt they had just finished a multi-course meal at a fine restaurant, a shared bottle of Cote du Rhone coursing through their bloodstreams, and they were just sort of... moving along. You could call it walking, sure, because if you compared their position at any given point from a half hour before they were definitely in a different place. Good enough for me... I now have my new standard to meet. I am no longer slower than absolutely everyone else on earth. I might not be faster than they are, but I think I could match them. Especially if the river's current is flowing in the right direction...

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