Ode to Lane 3
by Caroline Stanistreet
(This is dedicated to former competitive swimmers who loved to swim back then, and may return to the pool someday.... even though the whitewater we make these days may not be as white!)
I had to briefly share you, Lane 3, with someone who was unsure of proper "circle swimming etiquette" but we got through it. Sharing you with someone else challenged me to swim harder and faster. I made small goals of passing the swimmer - and catching up again.
Your close-to-the-middle spot in the pool enabled me to look at other lap swimmers on one side, and secretly cheer on the children taking their deep water test on the other side. Their goal? Swim one length, pass and graduate to the Almighty Water Slide. But you're not a proving ground, Lane 3, you are there for people like me who get the privilege to escape for an hour and simply forget about the day to day challenges in life.
My arms felt weak when I started, but you were forgiving and allowed me to warm up and take as much time as I needed to get used to you. The instep of my right foot even cramped up like it used to (I forgot to eat a banana prior to heading to the pool). Hey, it's been more than a few years since I swam "for real" in a 25-yard pool, having enjoyed much shorter laps in my backyard pool in the summer.
Common sense also told me not to overdo it on my first day back. So I stopped at one of your ends and used a starting block to stretch my arms, rest briefly, and return to my private workout. You and your fellow lanes were non-judgmental, and remained completely unconcerned about my age or ability if I had to stop.
You were also the perfect distance from the side with the pace clocks, one which was digital - and the other clock that most competitive swimmers grew up with. From you, Lane 3, I could see that large white face and easily read the single black hand for minutes, and the red sweeping second hand...which at times seemed to spin too quickly.
Thanks to you, Lane 3, I was able to simultaneously swim and fill my head with an array of songs and even a few memories of past swim competitions. I'm pretty certain that I solved some of the world's problems - without the use of a cell phone and social media. Imagine that!
I may have brought home a little bit of you...I swallowed some water after a flip turn, which I can still do fairly well after so many years. But my memory must've shorted out since every coach will tell you NOT to breathe out of your turn! (Gulp)
It's no secret that swimming is THE best sport when it comes to maintaining flexibility, improving endurance and strength, and increasing lung capacity. So working toward those fitness goals may cause some aches and pains. But they don't stem from you, Lane 3. I am not pounding my feet on pavement or jumping up and down on a floor. You are so kind to my joints and knees. You allow me to pull myself through you and resist just the right amount. For that I am grateful, especially on my first day back.