Day in the Life: Marcia Benjamin, Day 3

OAKLAND, California, May 17. IN the third edition of Bay Area Masters swimmer Marcia Benjamin's "A Day in the Life" series on, she writes about an interesting pool design, swimming as an associate member of Walnut Creek Masters and her enjoyment of the towel offerings at her own pool.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007: Day 3
I mentioned yesterday about my 82-degree training pool, with the perimeter swimming clientele and the flying beachballs and "Marco . . . Polo" ringing in my ears until I'm searching for a trade route out of town myself, but did I mention the current?

Being a distance swimmer, I'm used to the first lap feeling really good, but not acting on the impulse to sprint like a nut. But here, it feels re-e-e-ally good because it is two strokes less on the odd laps then the even ones. Some pool construction genius directed the incoming water pipe from the pump room down the side of the pool and pointing east. I'm thinking it was probably aftermarket. It's good, I guess, that I get used to overcoming adversity on the final lap (not to mention every other lap), but it's not something that, say, Teri McKeever at Cal probably has to deal with. You know, not that I would want her job.

My swimmers at Laney are completely loveable, even the ones who try to put the fulcrum arm paddles on their feet and the ones who balance a cup of water on the top of their head instead of their forehead. Even the ones that go out too hard on the first swim of the set and die like a pig. Every day. Over and over again. For, like, 10 freakin' years. And the ones who can't count their laps on a 15-minute swim. Or the ones who aren't sure if they've done five 50s yet. I know I'm lucky, because I have the absolute greatest job in the world and I love getting up at 4:48 a.m. every day. Well, the job part is great.

You're probably wondering why I train in Funkytown? Why, when the greatest Masters team on the planet (Walnut Creek Masters) is conveniently just 20 miles down the road, after taking four different freeways, passing through a tunnel so clogged it makes Dick Cheney's arteries look like drainage pipes, and then hitting 11 stoplights. Actually I am a Creeker, just an associate member. But I consider it more of a spiritual membership. After coaching for 20 years now, I can certainly train myself. I know what I need to do and don't back down from what I plan to do. Unfortunately at meets I want to be coached by someone else. I'm tired of me coaching me. Plus, I really like being on their relay teams. And going to their parties.

Long-time WCM Coach Kerry O'Brien is just wonderful – smart, kind, encouraging and funny. Coach Mike Heaney also has a great presence, whether he is running workouts or at a meet. Considering he'll probably be my daughter's coach before too long, I would say that he might just be the Greatest Coach in the World. In fact, I have a little altar set up at home where I burn things in their honor. Some people think it's just a fireplace, but it always gives me a warm feeling.

So anyway, today I had a good day in the pool. My main set was 2 x 800, negative splitting each one with the second 800 faster than the first (on 12:00.) I've always been a math-y person and am really good at watching my splits when I swim and figuring out times. One of my best coaching days is setting off groups going 100s at 1:40, 1:50, 1:55, 2:10, and 2:20 intervals – and calling out their times. Today I did the first one in 11:20 (5:45/5:35) and the second one in 11:00 (5:33/5:27). If I would have had a little more time I would have done a third, because that first one really stunk. It just showed me that I hadn't warmed up enough – which was probably my problem at the open water swim where I got 4th last weekend. I need to do less easy swimming on warmup and more heartrate stuff.

The perimeter guy wasn't there today, but there's always something interesting in Funkytown. I think I cut myself drying off with the pool towels today. You know how everything is getting bigger? Not just food portions, but towels have also jumboed up. Washcloths now are the size of hand towels; hand towels are the size of bath towels; and bath towels are the size of spinnakers. Except at Funkytown. We're allowed to take two towels each day, but the first one doesn't even fit around my hair. I have to use it as some sort of large headband. The second one has to dry only one limb at a time, but they are so sharp that you have to rub really slowly unless you'd intended to exfoliate. Down to the bone.

What the heck, less laundry for me. Tomorrow – my pet peeves. No, really, I haven't gotten to them yet!

Bubbling over, IM,

Marcia Benjamin

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