Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flip-Turn Frenzy

My parallel life as a small, freckled cetacean reached an interesting juncture last week: I returned to flip-turning. Lest this admission cause JSH to choke on her coffee--have I really managed to swim mile after mile without a trusty flip-turn?--I'll simply say that in the recent past my flip-turning has mostly resembled the pathetic half-somersaults she describes here. Back in my middle school swim team days I could flip-turn with the best of the other seventh-graders, but ever since I left California, swimming has assumed a role that emphasizes languid fun over focused speed. I suppose that's the enjoyable price one pays for demoting a sport to cross-training.
This is not me.
Recently, however, I've found myself becoming both faster and more focused in the pool. Perhaps it's because my three main sports--running, swimming, and cycling--are all on a par at the moment; I spend a roughly equal amount of time on each, and am not currently training for events in any of them. At the same time, I've noticed that the more hours I spend in the pool, the greater my desire grows to go faster (is this inevitable for any endeavor that involves moving forward?). And so, over the last few weeks, I realized that I was regularly looking at the clock after my 500 meter segments, and that I was finishing my standard mile and a quarter significantly faster than I had been earlier this spring.

Neither is this.
All things considered, only one habit, or lack thereof, has so far prevented me from gaining real speed: engaging the almighty flip-turn. Unfortunately, the JCC pool does not lend itself well to flip-turning; with three to four swimmers in a lane at any given time, and all usually going at different speeds, there's often someone spread out at the end of pool, with his or her flippers, snorkel mask, water bottles, kickboard, and other detritus creating a beautiful yet annoying whirlpool of flotsam right where I want to tuck my body under and push off the wall in a sleek slipstream. As a result, I haven't really practiced my flip-turns, not only because it's so much easier not to, but also because I can pop up and push off faster than I can half-somersault my way through this aquatic garbage eddy.

This *is* me, not flip-turning, in France.
And yet, one late evening last week, my lane emptied as I neared the end of my swim, and so I vowed to myself, "CGC, you will flip-turn your way through the next 250 meters". Which I did, sort of. After two flip-turns I found my nose full of burning chlorine, and my heart racing due to my ill-timed strokes, breaths, and flips. Obviously, my flip-turns demand more work, and so from now on whenever I find myself in an empty lane, I'm going to practice. Speedy swimming, here I come!

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