There’s a sign at the Y informing swimmers that the presence of feces in the pool constitutes something called “code brown”. I made the mistake of thinking about this too hard while swimming and laughed underwater, sending a shot of chlorinated liquid up my nostrils. Swimming has gotten easier over the past few months, but it’s still the hardest of the three sports that make up the mini-triathlon, now just fourteen days away. I can swim 10 laps without stopping, up from three when I started training. There’s 44 laps to a mile at my local YMCA pool, and the swimming portion of the race is 1/3 of a mile, or just under 15 laps. I’m not sure how this is going to work on race day, unless I just go really, really slowly.
I’ve definitely gotten into better shape; I have noticeable triceps now and I can’t stop touching them and showing them to people, but being in good shape is all relative. The first time I ran around Horner Park without stopping, the music in my head shifted from the theme to Chariots of Fire to the Rocky theme song as I rounded the corner to finish the last fifty yards to my house. Some boys sitting on the porch across the street started laughing, and I wasn’t sure why until one of them yelled:
"Joo wanna take a breather?" I pretended not to hear them and ran up my front steps like Rocky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Once during Adult Lap Swim Time at the Y I stopped to ask the lifeguard how many laps make a mile because I’d forgotten. He couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, his straight brown hair hung down into his eyes, and the Beach Boys’ "Surfing USA" blasted from a portable radio next to his chair.
"How many laps make a mile?" I asked from the shallow end of the pool. He looked at me from his perch.
"What?" he asked over the music, a rescue tube hanging over his shoulder like a large, reddish sausage.
"How many laps make a mile?" I repeated, louder this time.
"Do you need help?" he asked.
"No," I said, the skirt of my bathing suit floating up to my waist in the water, did I really look that bad?
I haven’t lost any weight but my clothes are loose; I can pull my jeans off without unzipping them, which is a fun party trick. I thought I was ready for a new bathing suit - one without a skirt, but I just don’t have the confidence to flash my pale, meaty thighs to the world, powerful and muscular though they may be. Sometimes I feel like Bruce Banner’s half-creature, the thing he becomes just before turning into the Hulk, minus the shredding clothes and the rage. Sometimes people notice that there’s been a change in my appearance, and I’m always disappointed when they don’t.
Today I’m going to attempt all three parts of the triathlon, with breaks between them. Wish me luck.