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June 22, 2007

Pale People

On any given weekday, it’s easy to find an open lane at the Hartnell College pool in Salinas. The 50-meter by 25-yard outdoor pool offers almost 20 lanes to choose from, so the odds of having to share with anyone are exceedingly slim.

Unfortunately, last Monday wasn’t any given weekday.

It was the first day of Swim Fitness 1.1, a summer session class offered by the Physical Education department for novice swimmers to brush up on their skills under the supervision of a dedicated instructor. Somehow, the class was scheduled at the same time of day that the masters swimmers usually meet for their daily workouts – and inevitably, at high noon, the two worlds collided.

I’m used to hopping into an open lane next to 4 or 5 other masters swimmers to do whatever group workout is scheduled for the day. We typically occupy the same section of lanes each day, and it’s usually all I can do to keep up with the others through a workout of 2500-3000 yards.

At the pool, it’s easy to tell who the regular swimmers are, because swimming outdoors year-round under the California sun tends to keep our skin a little darker than usual. It’s also pretty easy to pick out the masters swimmers, because … well, I guess just because they look fast, or have at least some semblance of a swimmer’s build.

But on Monday, instead of looking to my left and right and seeing the well-toned physiques of speedy masters, I saw the simultaneously amusing and frightening shapes of newbies. Glancing around under water with my goggles, all I could think of was a whispering horror-movie voice reverberating in my head:

“I see pale people …”

I was surrounded by pale people. And tubby people, and wrinkly people. People with baggy suits, and people with overly revealing suits. (And for some reason, the flabbiest people seemed to have the skimpiest swimsuits. Let’s just say I saw some things I wish I could un-see.)

Predictably, most of these people weren’t really swimming. There were snorkel/mask/fin guys and water noodle women and bob-up-and-downers and various other types of “splash around but don’t really go anywhere” people.

Most horrific of all was that I didn’t get a lane to myself for the workout. Six of the lanes had to be doubled up, so I spent the better part of 40 minutes dodging the breaststroke kicks and yellowed toenails of some elderly guy while still trying to keep pace with the masters group. Needless to say, it didn’t go well – although I was fortunate enough to escape any broken ribs or bruised thighs.

Thankfully, by the end of the session the lifeguards had recognized the problem, and spoke with the instructor of the class. By the next day, there were 5 lanes reserved for the masters group. But that single workout was all I needed to appreciate the situation our group normally enjoys, and to be thankful that I don’t have to battle for lane space on a regular basis like so many other swimmers I read about.

It was also a nice dose of perspective about my relative ability as a swimmer. Since I’m usually trailing the masters group, I consider myself a fairly subpar swimmer. So in that regard, it was kind of nice to have a day when being the slowest masters swimmer also meant being the sixth fastest among 30 people in the pool.

I mean … sixth best out of 30 will always feel a lot better than sixth best out of six, right? So I guess as far as my swimming ability is concerned, I’m pretty satisfied with the way things are going.

Now if could only get these images of pale, flabby people in speedos and thongs out of my head, everything would be just fine.

18 comments:

Laurie 6/22/07, 9:55 AM  

Thongs!?? Really?

Yikes. I am so sorry.

Makita 6/22/07, 10:16 AM  

Oh my. Until recently, I've always been the slowest at Masters, too. I could use a little dose of perspective - but w/o the thongs and speedos. :)

Phoenix 6/22/07, 10:24 AM  

Before I grew a pair (how's that for an image!) and hooked up with my local Masters, I swam at the local Rec Center indoor pool and often had to share a lane with "Floaty Lady", a rotund, elderly woman who lived up to her nickname slowly floating back and forth with a random kick/arm type motion that resembled freestyle on crack. Talk about perspective. I'd much rather be the slowest person in the pool!

Deene 6/22/07, 10:51 AM  

haha,now i'd be afraid to get in a pool anywhere near you despite not wearing thongs. at my pool we have the masters' folks trying to intimidate the newbies out of lanes and the life guards have to remind them to free up some lanes.

Bolder 6/22/07, 12:09 PM  

there was pale people?

i don't remember you in lane 6??

we always swim 4-5 deep in a 25 yard pool at masters...

if that helps...

stronger 6/22/07, 12:13 PM  

Water came out of my mouth when I read "I see pale people". Bold is of course referring to me.

IM Able 6/22/07, 1:31 PM  

That's why I hang out at the park on the swings. Always nice to be the smartest out of all those kids. :p

Mia 6/22/07, 2:17 PM  

"I saw the simultaneously amusing and frightening shapes of newbies"

I laughed my ass off reading this post.

Thanks!!! And good luck thinking 'happy' thoughts, err, images.

Cliff Tam 6/22/07, 2:58 PM  

Consider that as a training in those mass swim starts that us triathletes have to deal with.

:)

I do laugh at the fabbiest ppl wear the skimpiest swimsuits..that's just wrong!

SkiRough 6/23/07, 9:12 PM  

"I see pale people" I think you were over on Greyhound's tri blog because his post today was titled "I see thin people" :)

And um, dude... seeing pale people is WAY better than seeing hairy people!!!

rick 6/23/07, 10:44 PM  

And that is why I avoid the pool, that and I'm just a lousy swimmer. I used to swim in my local YMCA and we had that problem all the time.

Annette 6/24/07, 8:47 AM  

Too funny! I, too, am one of those horrible swimmers. I promise to stay out of your lane. :) (In fact, I usually don't even try to swim laps - it's downright pitiful!) I bet that was very intimidating for the "pale people!"

Good luck on your future swims. And when you're feeling 6th out of 6 - remember the pale. (Just don't visualize them!)

Darrell 6/24/07, 2:40 PM  

You crack me up for sure.

How lucky we are to be in California, but sadly going to the beach is much the same in terms of swimsuit coverage on the things no one should see.

Bruce 6/25/07, 2:30 AM  

Yes it can be interesting find some space at a pool. We've just got five dedicated swim lanes in our pool , one slow, two medium and one fast. I just 'qualify' for the medium lane and end up geting 'lapped' most times.

Its indoors though so most of us a pale.

David 6/25/07, 9:55 AM  

I can live with pale people and I applaud the ones - no matter their shape - who came out and KEEP coming out to get in shape. They have hope.
Even better is realizing how fit you are compared to them.

robtherunner 6/27/07, 7:38 PM  

I am not much of a swimmer and if I ever decide to become one I definitely plan on going to an obscure pool where no one else goes and I can always have a lane to myself. I am not sure I will ever be able to wear a speedo though no matter how fit I am.

Anonymous,  6/28/07, 1:23 AM  

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Spokane Al 7/4/07, 6:39 PM  

Be nice when you talk about those elderly guys with yellow toenails. With a bit of luck you will be one someday.

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