Pool Talk

The sun was shining through the big windows, warming the air in Dishman, reminding me of the days when I swam inside at Exertec. This was when I began triathlon, January 2002. I was biking. I was running. I guess somehow, someway I was going to get my ass into a pool, some day, since I was telling myself I was training to do a triathlon, but that Christmas gift certificate to the gym from Rebecca made it easier. It was for a massage at the gym, but I needed to swim more than I needed to get a massage, and I needed to use the gift certificate—it would have been ungracious not to, and I wanted to—so off to the gym I went. I could barely swim a 50-yard lap. It took a few weeks to get to 500 yards. That was way back at the beginning.

But what I wanted to talk about was the air at Exertec. The pool had a low ceiling and apparently poor ventilation. All those pool chemical fumes volatilizing into the warm air, just waiting for hard-working swimmers to draw them deeply into their lungs. Whatever health enhancement came from the swimming surely was canceled out by breathing that toxic air. I can hardly believe I did it, but the place was literally around the corner from where I worked and lunchtime quite easily became swim time. I progressed.

Then I heard about Healthquest. (This is very tangential, but history should know I heard about Healthquest first from the vine geneticist Carole Meredith. We were discussing delivery of my annual shipment of Lagier Meredith Syrah, and Carole, who lived up at the vineyard on Mount Veeder, said something about coming into town to go to Healthquest. Healthquest? I had no clue, so I looked it up afterward and found they had a pool. An outdoor pool.) Healthquest required a drive of a mile and a half, which compared to a walk of a block or two struck me then as a real pain. It's amazing how spoiled we can be sometimes. But from the first time I swam there I loved the fresh air. And even the water seemed cleaner. There were two challenges with this pool. First the winter rains. I rather liked swimming in the rain, but that part involving getting from the locker room to the pool, God I hated that. But after a few laps, generally, the blood would be flowing again and the cool rain falling on me, in the warm water, was wonderful and invigorating.

The other challenge? That would involve the pool heater. Generally the pool was just a little too warm, but a little-too-anything I could deal with. Problems arose when the thing went haywire and the temp fell to the mid-60s. This I could handle in the summer. On a blazing hot day it was quite refreshing, actually. But in the winter? I remember one swim where I felt like I was suppressing a scream of agony for at least a thousand yards. I kept waiting to warm up, to acclimate, but it wouldn't happen. But more frequently than that—seemingly and cruelly always in the summer—the heater would go wacky and the temperature would shoot well into the 80s. This might have been worse than the cold. No, this was worse than the cold. It was OK for the old ladies in the plastic shower caps, floating around, but not for a bad swimmer like me, plundering the water for a couple thousand yards and sweating like a pig. Usually, though, there'd be one—rarely more than that—hot chick around to take my mind of the misery.

Now Dishman. Today: A couple thousand yards, hard 200s, easy other stuff. Felt pretty good. Later, on what allegedly will be our last nice day for weeks, I ran in a short-sleeve shirt for five miles. Tomorrow: four-hour bike ride.

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