Yesterday I decided it was time to hit the pool, but not before sustaining a minor injury at home while cleaning the kitchen. For months now I’ve been meaning to go through the cabinets and sort everything into piles: one for the trash, one for recycling, one for the Salvation Army, and one to keep; then put everything back in a way that makes sense. I've never gotten around to it, because it seems too huge of a project and I get overwhelmed. I started with the microwave nook. We have a miniature purple microwave that only has one setting, and it lives in a cabinet under the kitchen counter. Crammed above it on a wobbly shelf that’s missing two pegs is my mother’s dark orange cast iron Le Creuset stock pot from her first wedding in 1964, and resting on top of that is an inverted tray. I pulled the tray, sending the cast iron cookware on a short trip to the floor, connecting with my shins on the way down. I actually cried, I felt like such a baby but no one but the cats were around to witness it so I indulged. The stock pot had a scratch in the orange enamel that ran from top to bottom, and I had the beginnings of at least three bruises.
I spent the next six hours taking things out of cabinets, filling up bags of recycling and taking them into the alley, dusting, vacuuming, and putting things back. Intermittently I checked the Irving Park YMCA pool schedule. Along with the schedule was a page listing pool protocol, and information on pool closures:
The pool will be closed for the following reasons:
The pool with NOT be closed for the following reasons:
Severe tornado watch/warning or weather alert
I was amused and horrified, and chuckled at the misspelled “Lightening”. I couldn't imagine how a swimmer would go missing in such a small pool, or how a fire could break out, and decided right then and there that if I ever saw vomit, bodily fluids or feces I would withdraw my name from the triathlon, or just skip that part of the race.
By early evening I was tired from housework, and my shins were angry from their run in with the stock pot, but I couldn’t possibly let another day pass without swimming. This is sure to be the hardest part of the race for me; while I have the stamina for it I’ve never been technically proficient at swimming. I took lessons when I was about six or seven, and was afraid of putting my face in the water. At summer camp I never moved beyond Advanced Beginners, and though I've participated in a few distance swims, I always bring up the rear.
I piled everything I needed into two pannier bags and set out into the cold rain on my bike. At the front desk of the Y I bought a swim cap and a Master lock from the same woman who'd taken my registration a few weeks ago, and as soon as I reached the women's locker room I had to go back upstairs and ask her for the pass code to get in. I almost forgot it again on the short journey back down, and had to try it twice before I got it right. I’d reversed the numbers in my head, something I do frequently with phone numbers and addresses. At least twice in the last month I’ve gotten lost looking for addresses that I’ve written down incorrectly. I’ve never been tested for dyslexia, but if there’s a dyslexia specific to numbers I’m sure I have it.
I chose a locker and set my things down, and realized I’d have to remember the combination on the Master lock. Great. I left the sticker with the combination on the back in case I forgot it between now and when I came back for my things, which proved to be a useful strategy.
I suited up and went into the humid shower room where a woman with a tattoo on her shoulder was rinsing off, then opened the heavy door to the pool.
It was even more beautiful than I remembered it. Besides the words “deep” and “shallow” spelled out in tiny blue tile, there were intricate designs along the walls, and numbers indicating how many feet deep the pool was in any given spot.
Along the shallow end of the pool was a banner reading:
Irving Park YMCA Iguanas
Boys division, age 8 and under
The banner was flanked by two shelves covered in trophies. Along the length of the pool were two large boards spelling out the pool rules, the first one covering rules A through G, the second H through P.
There were four lanes, and five people in the pool. I took the far left lane, next to a dark haired man in goggles, his eyeglasses folded neatly at the edge of the pool. I wore my glasses into the pool like a ninety year old man. My father once lost a pair of glasses this way while swimming in the ocean, and I lost a coveted pair of vintage sunglasses by diving into a lake with them on my face, but I figured someone would come to my aid if my glasses slipped off at the Y. I swam the length of the pool and saw a sign off the deep end that read: “44 laps to a mile”. I swam a few more lengths before realizing that I didn’t know if a lap meant the length of the pool going one way, or both. I asked the distracted lifeguard, a serious woman in her early twenties who clutched a clipboard to her chest. To my dismay, a lap was both ways.
“A mile is 88 times back and forth” she said, and dribbled a red rubber ball onto the damp floor from her perch.
I’d lost track of how many lengths I’d swum, so I made up a number – 8, and decided I would try to swim a quarter mile, or 22 lengths. By the time I was done I could hear the pulse of my own blood in my ears and was breathing hard. I was so tired once I got home that I weaved up the back stairs, and almost dropped the bike a couple times. This morning I registered for the "Adult Intermediate" swim class to get some help with my form. I wanted to sign up for "Adult Stroke Clinic," but it had been canceled due to lack of interest. It's just as well I guess, it's a terrible name for a class.