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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Brief Competitive Swimming Career of Jen Ster

Playing on the iPod: The Renaissance Lute, by Ronn McFarlane
Meters swum today: None. I can explain.

I think everybody has a period of time that they would cheerfully chop their own arm off rather than live through a second time. For me that was junior high school. How bad was it? Well, let's just say it's a really, really good thing that I didn't have access to firearms then. I can't often compare anything to what happened in junior high school but the "start and turn workshop" that I went to last night for my swim team might be close.

To start with, I was gonna enter a swim race this Saturday. My swim team has meets four times a year and I thought, seeing as I'm really good at butterfly and so forth and so on, that I might enter a 50-meter butterfly race. Not to win or anything, mind you. I expected to place dead last. But I thought, what the hell, the last time I was in a swim race I was like 14 and I'm not getting any younger. So I showed up to this start and turn workshop thingy on the argument that the last time I leaped off a starting block, I was a whole lot smaller than I am now. And, you know, it doesn't hurt to know how to do these things. What I discovered is that, basically, I can't do these things.

The pool where we met is a private boy's school in Preston Hollow. Where is Preston Hollow, you ask. Well, it's in Dallas, but it's the part of Dallas where George and Laura Bush bought a home recently, if that tells you anything. Anyway, the school was pretty fly. They even had their own observatory. And a pool of course. And here's where the problems began.

The end of the pool where the starting blocks live is 12 feet deep. There's no ladder or anything like that; one needs to brace one's hands on the edge of this pool, pull oneself up the side to about butt level, and climb out. I can do that in four feet of water. I can do it in five feet, six feet, and I think I once did seven feet. Twelve feet? Uh, no. Not gonna happen.

See, I push off the bottom with my feets. Given enough velocity and a firm enough push with the flat of my hands, I can raise myself up to the requisite butt level, and then gravity takes over. It's not graceful or pretty (I kind of feel like a sea lion scooting up a beach, and probably look like a whale in need of towing out to sea) but it can be done. Just not in twelve feet of water.

So what happened was, we did a dive off the blocks, surfaced, got critiqued. Then everybody else swam back to the blocks and pulled themselves up while I swam clear to the other end of the pool, the shallow end where it was only four feet deep, and rolled out of the water like the aforementioned leviathon in need of a trawler with a grappling hook. And then plodded back to the other end, where everybody else was comfortably standing. Over and over for an hour.

I mean, to everybody's credit, no one laughed or made fun. The coach was extra nice to me and several people came up to me afterwards and told me how brave they thought I was. And it's not like there were a whole lot of fat chicks at this workshop. Ie, there was only me and a bunch of Olympic contenders. But still.

Today I'm sore in lots of new and exciting places, I have bruises all over my knees and thighs, my ego may have suffered permanent damage, and I feel like a fool. So I'm skipping the swim race on Saturday. But hope springs eternal. Hm, the next meet is when? And I can lose how much weight by then?...

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