I would be a terrible tri-athlete. I can run – and with proper training (which I have decidedly NOT been doing this summer) am not that bad at it. Not so bad so far, right?
Then there’s the bike. You see, I haven’t had a bike since I was 10 (they kept getting stolen in Camden where I grew up and so we just stopped buying them. Really). In college and grad school, I always walked or took public transportation, and in my adult life, I had tennis and running and racquetball and so never bothered. I would be a perfect test for that adage about “you never forget how to ride a bike”.
And finally, there’s swimming. You see, when I was a kid, we never had a pool, or had access to one. When we would want to cool off from the summer heat, we’d play in a fire-hydrant sprinkler — think slip-n-slide except that it has to be turned on by the cops and you slide by accident because you slide on asphalt. At least it's right there to wash out the scrapes.
Anyway, fast forward through the years and nowhere in my education was “learning to swim” required for anything. And so I never did. Always stayed near the shallow end of the pool. Always wore my life preserver on boats. I’d tell people that I couldn’t swim and they’d look at me funny – though not as funny as when they do when you tell them you haven’t ridden a bike since the Ford Administration.
Well – this year for my birthday, a gift from one of my friends was a series of private swimming lessons, and today I had the first one. It was very cool – we had it early in the morning to protect my skin. My instructor Jerry (a super-fit guy in his 60s who says he’s been competitively swimming for 50 years) asked me to swim halfway out into the pool and back. I did my best and was happy that I could indeed at least do that. His appraisal: Don’t fall out of a boat.
The lesson was really fun. He learned I was a scientist and we talked about the biomechanics of swimming and hydrodynamics. I learned the basics of keeping my head in the water and breathing on one side. By the end of 45 minutes, I could do 6-8 strokes without a) sinking, and b) inhaling any water. Jerry seemed pleased and said that I’d be wanting to get a dolphin tattoo very soon. I told him that I’d settle for a turtle.