Swimming Bear

Deciding who to ask to share their lane.

Our gym has a four lane, 25 yard pool, and it’s very rare to show up there and find an empty lane. If you do, chances are you won’t finish your workout before someone else comes in and needs to share with you. No big deal…I don’t mind sharing a lane. But I’d rather be the one who does the asking instead of being asked. The reason is simple–if I’m doing the asking, I get to decide what kind of swimmer I’ll be sharing with, and who I’ll be accidentally punching in the face. If I get asked, I’m obligated by the social swimming contract to say “sure”, but whether or not I’m about to get accidentally punched in the face is a crap shoot.

Choosing lanes is a little like choosing urinals. There’s an art to it. Today’s swim put all of my lane choosing skills to use.

  • Lane 1: a pool walker. This lane was automatically ruled out since the first lane is supposed to be reserved for walkers anyway. Plus, I like to avoid swimming next to the wall if possible. It doesn’t have any give to it when you accidentally punch it in the face.
  • Lane 2: a swimmer. Not going fast, but an able swimmer.
  • Lane 3: a swimmer. But not a freestyler, a breast-stroker. She was getting into the pool just as I showed up and seemed to be stroking as wide as she could (and eyeballing me the whole time). Obviously, not the choice.
  • Lane 4: a swimmer. Going about the same speed as the Lane 2 swimmer.

So the dilemma was Lane 2 or Lane 4. Again, I’d rather not swim on the wall, but Lane 4 is extra wide, so that usually isn’t a problem in this lane. So I watched. Even though they were going the same speed, the Lane 4 swimmer was working harder than the Lane 2 swimmer to maintain the pace. And her form (I may not be able to lay an egg, but I can tell a good one from a bad one) wasn’t nearly as clean as the Lane 2 swimmer’s. Finally, the clock is directly in front on Lane 2. I don’t like to wear a watch while I swim and depend on that clock, so I prefer having it right in front of me if possible.

I chose correctly. Not only did I avoid making contact with Lane 2 swimmer during my workout, there was only one time during the session that we were side-by-side. I must have walked in during one of her rest sets because she picked up the pace with some sprints while I was in the pool. In fact, even when a lane became open I opted to keep sharing Lane 2 instead of jumping over to the empty lane and taking the risk that I’d end up sharing again with an unknown entity.

I need to do a post soon about choosing where to line up for the start of an open-water swim. Note: the decision is heavily skewed if you’ve already caught someone moving your stuff in transition set up and would like to kick them in the face.


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