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January 30, 2007

Swimming and Rambling

(Actually, the post title is deceiving, because you’re getting the rambling before the swimming. But the reverse title wasn’t quite as catchy, given the name of this blog. As usual, jump below the asterisks for the real post.)

Last week, the question was asked about whether I had gotten around to watching American Idol yet. This week, I can happily say yes. A few thoughts so far:

• You know how TiVo is supposed to help you watch your shows faster? Well, the first episode may have actually taken me longer than two hours to watch, on account of the number of times I paused the show to comment on how remarkably pretty Jewel is. In a related story, my wife has been controlling the TiVo clicker more often lately.

• When one girl sang the opening verse to “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot, my 5-year-old daughter looked at me and said “Hey – it’s the song from the end of Shrek!,” and we all had a nice laugh. The next day, one of her kindergarten classmates got in trouble for singing the song on the playground. Sometimes, context is everything.

• It’s somehow fitting to have a music video by Chris Daughtry in heavy rotation on VH1 this month, just as Idol is starting again. It’s a nice reminder that the best talent probably won’t win the show – and, selfishly, it makes me feel justified in that I picked this guy as a star way back at the beginning of last season. Every now and then I get one right.

But here’s what I can’t figure out: the artist name on both the album and video is simply Daughtry, without his first name. Which means that either: 1) He’s trying to go by a single name now, or 2) the whole band is named after him. Unfortunately, neither of these explanations is very encouraging. The first case is nearly impossible to pull off unless you’re a rock super-duperstar like Sting or Bono, and the second move is almost universally disastrous.

Does anyone remember Danzig? Or Dokken? How about Winger? I can’t think of a single case where a rock band called by the lead singer’s last name has prospered. (Note – Van Halen doesn’t count. There were two of them, and neither one was the singer.) On the other hand, rockers who use their full names – Jon Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix, Rob Zombie, even Courtney Love - frequently do pretty well.

Now, I sorted all of this out in about three minutes – so the idea that some agent is really giving Chris Daughtry career advice like “I’d name the whole band after you – it will be great!” seems unfathomable.

Or maybe that’s just me. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been known to overanalyze things. Let’s move on to the post …


If you’re looking to socialize while training, a swim workout is a lousy place to do it.

Ever since last May, I’ve been swimming on a somewhat regular basis with a group of 6-8 masters swimmers who meet at midday at the community college pool. We all have jobs to return to in the afternoon, so the group has a very businesslike approach to the workout: we briefly say hi to each other, then jump in and do a few hundred warmup yards, so we can get right to the workout and go our respective ways afterward.

Given the brief time frame, and the very short rest intervals between sets – not to mention the fact that our faces are underwater for 98% of the time – there’s very little small talk or goofing around at these workouts. Which, honestly, is just fine by me.

So it took me by surprise at the end of Friday’s 2500-yd workout when, as I was preparing to hop out of the pool, four swimmers stayed behind shooting the breeze and laughing. Whether it was the satisfaction from finishing another tough session, or the relief of the work week drawing to a close (or a combination of both), no one was in any apparent hurry to leave the scene. I figured I’d hang around for a few seconds to see what happened.

And when one of the guys said “Hey – want to do some underwaters?”, I knew that I had made the right decision.

Throughout my youth, underwater swims were the closing ritual to many swim practices, from the neighborhood grade-school team up to our high school varsity. They were a great way to have fun and challenge our oxygen capacities at the same time.

The task increased in difficulty as I got older: first just swimming across the width, then “cheating” across the length (by getting an additional push off the concrete downslope to the deep end), and finally being able to swim 25 yards underwater on a single breath. Sometimes we’d even push off the wall underwater and continue the other way, but I never made it more than 10 or 15 more yards (a couple of guys I knew could routinely swim 50 yards underwater). There was usually a lot of trash talking and showing off, and the scrutiny of my teammates probably pushed me another 5-10 yards beyond what I'd be able to cover otherwise.

I vividly recall the feeling that my lungs might implode just as I broke the surface on the far side, and I remember the pride of knowing that it was only our excellent fitness that allowed us to play such exhilarating games.

Those swim team practices were a regular feature of my youth. But somehow, in my reincarnation as an adult triathlete, I had forgotten how much fun we had at the end of those workouts, staying in the pool and goofing arounnd after practice, because there wasn’t anywhere else we’d rather be. It seemed unbelievable to me last Friday, but I hadn’t done underwater repetitions to finish a workout in several years.

So I stayed behind with the others and did four repetitions of 25-yard underwater swims. And in the deep water, as I kicked and pulled like crazy, exhaling in measured, incremental doses, straining for the cross on the far wall, I wasn’t a grown-up triathlete anymore. Beneath the surface, I was a child again – goofing around, challenging myself, showing off a little bit, and reveling in the remarkable things that my training enables me to do.

I was having a blast in the pool, just like when I was a kid. When I finally climbed out of the water, I made a mental note to myself: I definitely need to end more workouts that way.


olga 1/30/07, 4:45 PM  

Wow! I forgot when I was a kid, but reading this makes me want to be one:) And I can't picture myself to go under water for more than 10 meters total, but that is uniportant, right?

Backofpack 1/30/07, 6:26 PM  

Oh, the joy of being a child! Sometimes when I pull up to the preschool, I'll just sit in the car and watch the kids going in. Moms and Dads are walking along, juggling bags and babies, but the preschoolers...their hopping and running and twirling and dancing along. They squat down and peer at a crack in the sidewalk, then they jump back and forth, back and forth. A simple walk from the car becomes a dance of joy. Sounds like your pool finish to me!

E-Speed 1/31/07, 5:51 AM  

We used to try and swim around the perimeter of the pool underwater. I never quite made it. Maybe I will try this week!

Deene 1/31/07, 8:25 AM  

i have to learn how to swim.

Paul 1/31/07, 9:34 AM  

Those are definitely the things I look forward to when swimming. Chit chat is the best part. Swimming is just extra :)

momo 1/31/07, 1:27 PM  

i haven't done those in years, i'm going to add them to my next workout, thanks donald! keeping the fun in swimming is SO important!

momo 1/31/07, 1:28 PM  

oh, and i think jewel is lovely too, but her latest album is so whiny... it drives me crazy. :-)

Annette 2/2/07, 12:52 PM  

Sometimes being a kid is just what we need. I'm glad you were able to find some joy in your swimming workouts! :)

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