Monday, 24 August 2009

Standing on the end of the diving board

On Saturday I visited Manchester Aquatic Centre for the first time. What a lovely pool! I don't know why I haven't been before. It is light, airy and with everyone intent on their training, it felt like a university library during exam season, or early morning mass in a cathedral. I slipped into the water and joined the congregation. Now that I've stepped up to swimming a mile, my goal was 32x50m lengths. I immediately felt overwhelmed. This is exactly how I am with writing. I will make up a thousand reasons why I can't sit down and just get on with it, yet when I force myself onto the chair, I am fine.

At 50 metres, the lengths in the pool seemed wonderfully/scarily long. I started with breaststroke to calm myself down, and I cut in a few lengths of crawl which left me gasping but ok. After 11 lengths, we were asked to transfer to the diving pool, while the main pool was split into two for the family session at 9am. Very deep water makes me panicky and excited at the same time. I feel anxious with that volume of water under me. I did a width (25m) of breast stroke and forced my eyes open to the blue tiles on the bottom. What spooks me when I look down? For one thing, the grille in the stripes on the floor of the pool. There was something silvery in the cracks, probably part of the filtration equipment, but it gave me the heeby jeebies. When I put my head under, I scrunched my eyes shut and forced the scare to subside.

I decided to bite the bullet and to continue the swim with crawl. I swam one width. Then another, and another. Then another, and another and another. My breathing calmed down, I opened my eyes. One width I breathed to the left, the next to the right, the next bilaterally! I started to revel in the fact that I was doing it, that I could do it, that I was freestyling and I wasn't even out of breath! My eyes were wide open and I delighted in the scare! My final width, and I chose breast stroke. I powered forward like spurts of air from a bellows. By the end, I swam about 400m breaststroke and an amazing 1200m front crawl.

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