Countless times I have been the guy, standing patiently at the end of the pool, hoping the gentleman or lady swallowing one of the two lanes at the East Nashville YMCA would do the right thing. Depending on the pool, I learned sharing-offers from in the water can be few and far between. I vowed quickly not to be that guy.
Today, I was lucky enough to get my own lane (it’s a lot easier when you don’t have a job and go at 3:00). I’ve been winging workouts lately, so I stared at the water and decided I would simply swim 2,000 without stopping. Sometimes you just want to see if you have distance.
I warmed up slowly and by lap 10 I felt outstanding. I mean, it was one of those grooves where I barely felt like I was breathing. Just cruising along against the odds of gravity and resistance.
This feeling continued through lap 32 and I couldn’t have been more excited. I was visualizing that river in Knoxville and eating up the downstream assistance on my way to a Challenge Knoxville podium.
Lap 33 was heaven . . . until I hit the far wall to turn around. That’s when it happened.
Suddenly, the lifeguard was blowing his whistle uncontrollably. The shrieking sound cut through my ear plugs, but I kept swimming thinking it was some tomfoolery in the play area. But he didn’t stop, so I sighted him in the chair and he was pointing right at me. I did that little dog-paddle-slow-down, lost my pull buoy, and awkwardly sank under water in the deep end.
“What???, I asked in a confused but semi-salty tone as I came to the surface.
“I need you to share this lane with her.”
“What???,” I asked in a confused but semi-saltier tone as I sunk again.
“Can you share your lane with her?,” he said pointing to the end of the lane.
“Dude, really? You’re stopping me in mid-swim to ask if I’ll share? Of course I will.”
I pulled myself together and side-stroked to the end. My groove was gone, my temper was tested, and my desire to quit the East Nashville pool once again pierced my frontal cortex.
I assured my new lane-mate I was happy to share and pushed off to finish my forty. Three laps later, I was right back in the pocket.
When I pushed off the far wall on lap 37 I heard the whistle again. This time it was more urgent, maybe even multiple whistles. It sounded like the pool might have been on fire.
By the time I surfaced and started to slow down I felt another body swimming right over the top of me. Now, thanks to my coach’s intense open water training, contact doesn’t bother me, but when I came up for air, I realized it was the other lifeguard. She kicked me in the head, then jumped the ropes like she was saving someone.
My anger turned to fear as I sunk below the water to see if someone was at the bottom. I held the edge and scanned the water for someone struggling to survive. It was a scary moment that humbled me in an instant.
I was dazed, confused, and losing my mid-swim high when the same lifeguard who asked me to lane-share walked up and said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it was just a lifeguard test.”
I couldn’t believe it and gave him the kind of glare that makes my dog sheepishly wag her tail. “Seriously??”
I gathered my composure, tread water for a second, then launched my pull buoy the length of the pool at my gym bag.
Yeah, I was that guy and immediately regretted it.
I walked to the end of the lane and waited for my “lane-mate.” I told her I love to share lanes and wasn’t dissing her on purpose. She told me it was fine, and that I only swam about 4 laps while she waited. I must have been in a zone because I have no idea how I didn’t see her, especially because I don’t do flip turns.
I stared at the ceiling and decided thirty six and a half laps would be enough for the day. I climbed out of the pool, then slowly walked to the lifeguard . . . and apologized.