“Was the pool too cloudy or are you just done?” Pool Guy asked me as I left the pool deck after a quick 20-minute set. 
The water was very cloudy today. Last Friday it was ridiculously clear and refreshingly cold, just the way that a pool should be. It was also insanely crowded, with people trying to figure out where they were going to swim. Pat, who showed up late, didn’t like Pool Lady’s suggestion: “I don’t wanna circle swim.” It was bad enough that Pink Suit Lady (Jennifer) asked if she could swim next to me and then proceeded to lap me a dozen times or so over the next 5-10 minutes before she gave up in frustration after being bumped into too many times on the other side.
Today was completely different. The pool was cloudy enough that I could barely make out the bottom of the deep end and had to pay more attention to the location of the wall. It was also quite warm; despite Pool Guy’s repeated attempts to convince the maintenance staff it was too warm, which had recently been working, someone had ratcheted up the temperature over the weekend. And there was no one there.
I was the first to arrive today and actually waited a couple minutes to start so that I could get the attention of Pool Guy, who was sitting in the pool office doing who knows what. Once he waved back, I slipped in the water and started my five-minute warm up. I had already started my first set of 4×50 sprints before the first of The Old Ladies arrived.
I like these early morning swims. They’re a nice bit of socialization, a transition from sleeping and trying not to make too much noise around the house to being at the office and working with people. I see people I kinda know, and I’m talking to a few of them more than in the past, but the water provides a buffer where I can do my own thing in the presence of other people. Despite being a bit (unconsciously) competitive when I’m around other athletes, a few things—my awareness of my relative slowness, the knowledge that I’m the doing the best that I can right now, and trying hard to keep to a training plan—all help me not to feel bad as I watch people swim along just a bit (or a lot) faster than me.
Swimming also gives me a nice opportunity to clear my mind. Most of the time when I’m swimming I get into a rhythm where I’m very much present in the moment. I think about the stroke, my breathing, my lap count, where I am in my training set, and what’s going on around me in the pool, instead of the voices of self-doubt and worry that I too often hear or the thoughts about everything else going on my life, which have recently clouded my mind a bit. And when I get done I feel refreshed and ready to take on whatever the day brings in a clear-headed fashion.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I answered Pool Guy. “All done. After all, it’s an easy recovery week in my training plan.”
I love recovery weeks.
1 — The older high school swim coach started appearing shortly after Pool Lady had her “Being here at 5:45 three times a week isn’t worth $10/hour” flake-out in February, leaving us wondering whether we would still be able to get in our thrice-weekly morning swim. Pool Lady (Sue) still shows up every Friday morning and is interested in us. She’s kind of like an auntie. “Oh, you got rid of your beard; I didn’t recognize you. I was always seeing you running around town, and I would beep you.” Beeping is New England speak for honking politely. I always figured the random honking was just that: random. “But now I’m going to have to start looking for the new you.”