Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pool and track etiquette

It was my first week of classes, which could be the subject of a very bland blog post.  (I panicked.  I wrote a syllabus.  I made last-minute photocopies.  I broke several pieces of chalk.)  Instead, I'm going to write about etiquette at the pool and the track.

The pool: I read a great article once about lap swimming etiquette, and it scared the daylights out of me.  I am doing well to execute all my flip turns without a noseful of water, so worrying about the correct way to pass another swimmer is, um, terrifying.  But then I realized that article was for serious swimmers at a serious pool.  I swim where I work, and while there are occasionally good swimmers there, many times I am one of the fastest swimmers in the pool, and I spend virtually all my time on the dark side of 1:30 pace. There are masters swimmers some mornings, but they stay in their own lanes, where the high-level etiquette referenced above applies.  Theirs is the etiquette you might need for attending a state dinner; I'm just looking for the etiquette you need to eat at Friendly's.  (Which also requires some fortitude, because as you may know, Friendly's does not have a liquor license.)

So today when I went to our pool halfway through lunch hour, it was packed, and I had no choice but to join two other swimmers and circle swim.  One of the swimmers was the daughter of a friend of mine--she's a good swimmer, and very pleasant.  The other swimmer was also pleasant, but he was pretty slow.  Like I lapped him when I was doing single-arm drills.  I am not mocking his pace--good for him for getting out there and swimming, and I am just as slow compared to an accomplished swimmer.  Also, I credit him for being friendly when I asked to join his lane.  But it is kind of hard to circle with someone that far off your pace.  And then to top it off, partway through my warmup, he started coming down the wrong side of the lane.  I stopped, he realized his error, laughed apologetically, and said, "I'm like a rat in a maze!"  At which point I mumbled something friendly-sounding, swam to the end of the lane, and hightailed it into a different lane.  Because while this was sort of distracting during a warmup, I had immediate visions of starting the hard part of my set and plowing headfirst into him, requiring an embarrassing swim rescue by a guard who would no doubt turn up next semester in my class.  The perils of swimming where you work.

The etiquette point: even at Friendly's, you should chew with your mouth closed.  Or more specifically, I think my pool needs some kind of vague lane categories if it's going to be busy enough for circle swimming.  Like "Fast" vs "Slow."  Or "Can remember to stay on the correct side of the lane" vs. "Kind of meandering randomly."  Both models are fine, in my book, but I don't think they mix well.

The track: This should be easy, because we don't have our heads down in the water.  And yet I'm mystified by people who don't seem to see the signs that tell you "Walkers and joggers should use the outer 2 lanes."  All tracks I've used have some kind of sign like this, and I think all tracks I've used have on occasion sported walkers in lane 1.

Last week there were a few people on the track when I went at 6:30 to do my intervals, and one of them was an older gentleman walking in lane 1.  I almost said something to him, but then I started thinking about how he was probably there recovering from illness or surgery, and how it was great he was exercising, and really, couldn't I just pass him when I needed to?  Here I have to explain that I was doing 200's, which are, as a friend of mine would say, all rainbows and unicorns.  When I'm doing 200's, your dog could pretty much pee in my water bottle, and I'd be OK with it.  If I'm doing mile repeats, you might look at my water bottle the wrong way, and I would cry.  (I had a hard interval workout on the bike trainer last winter, and my husband came into the room to check on me and breathed, and I was so furious at him I could barely speak.)   So I decided I would wait to say something to this guy (I've seen him there more than once) until mile repeat day.  Which, if I'm lucky, will not come for awhile.  Plus, I noticed that once a few other people started doing harder-paced stuff, he moved out a couple lanes.  And I chatted with him briefly during my cooldown, and he was quite nice.  So probably I'll never say anything to him, because really, do I want that karma?


  1. I completely agree with labeling lanes for speed during busy times. I pass others and am passed too. Everything is easier if there is less passing going on, both for the faster and slower folks.

  2. I can totally relate to the whole interval workout comment. I remember last winter when most hard bike workouts on the trainer resulted in a tantrum that would put a 2 year old to shame.