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Friday
Aug282015

Swimming into the End of Summer at the Red Hook pool

Today was the last early morning lap pool swim of the summer of 2015 at the outdoor Red Hook Pool. This is the melancholy of the end of summer. The air has been cooler these mornings, and the light even more beautiful and rich--the last of the yellow-gold and the beginning of the crisper fall light. I am sorry the photo here is so uninspired, but I had to sneak my camera out onto the pool deck just to get this lame shot.

There is something so reassuring about swimming with the same distance between my body and the bottom of the pool, just over four feet away. When my goggles are clear I can scan the painted cement pool bottom. I see the occasional oak leaf and the places where the light blue paint is broken, or chipped or poured over old breaks. I can detect color changes in the paint here and there. Approaching the pool wall can be tricky--if the light changes from bright and contrasty to flat it is hard to distinguish precisely the distance to the wall. When my feet hit they often slide on the painted surface which is slippery with a kind of gummy chaulkiness, and send me into an awkward turn. You can see the same stubborn chaulky residue on the bathing suits of all the swimmers at the pool.

Today I pulled into a mile slowly, taking the first ten lengths slower as usual and then speeding up after 20. I kept my mind on the goal of 42 lengths, forcing myself to keep count, and pushing on through the choppy water. Sometimes the currents in the pool change in strength and sometimes they seem to change direction. It is impossible to know for certain, but at some point the harder side switches. This might be perception, but I doubt it. I know other swimmers have noticed it as well. Usually the lane heading out that is the hardest, with the return trip feeling more like the downhill side. 

Sometimes the current and chop is so strong that I was literally thrown around and dropped, as if in the ocean, and I might breathe water by accident. The current made it feel uncannily as though I was swimming uphill. I swam in the fast lane, close to the wall. This was a very choppy lane, but I found I liked the challenge. I entertained the idea that these conditions would prepare me well for an open water swim in September. One day last week I tried the lane next to the fast lane and realized that the cross-current was even stronger there, and then I understood why swimmers in that lane had often drifted into the neighboring lane. Swimming in the seemingly placid Red Hook pool was closer to swimming in a light blue, chlorinated river than a lake.

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