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Becoming a master of the pool

After my basic swim lessons were completed, my triathlon coach decided that I really should look into joining a Master's Swim program.

Yikes.

The idea was a bit daunting, even if master's swim teams aren't only for strong, accomplished swimmers. Beginners are welcomed, too. It's pretty much an all-level team practice where swim coaches structure workouts while helping you correct things in your stroke.

I decided to try the master's program at East Aurora High School run by Greg Murnock, a USA Triathlon Coach and an XTERRA event director.

We exchanged emails and I felt pretty comfortable and Mary, my tri coach, thought it would be a great fit. So off I went Monday to my first master's swim practice.

Greg explained the set up. Monday's are long days. The warm-up is 300 yards of swimming. Then 500 yards worth of drills. Then 200 yards of swimming.

Yes, the warm-up is 1,000 yards.

I started to feel parts of my body seize up. The scheduled workout was about 3,000 yards for that day.

Ok. Go and start.

I jumped in a free lane. (This master's program has no advanced and slow lanes. We are all equals.) I started off on my first length and .... floated on my back. I must admit, the skill of turning over, onto my back and then back into swimming position, is my most honed skill.

I knew what was wrong. I was nervous. Very nervous. About a new coach. About new people in the pool. About being in a new pool. I was jumping-out-of-my-skin kind of nervous. I'd make the analogy to Megan Lyte of the Canisius women's basketball team before they won their conference tournament a few years ago, but only about three people would grasp the comparison, such is the obscurity of my life.

But back in the pool, I got myself together. I pushed off the wall and did a few underwater fish drills to acclimate myself to my new surroundings. I took off on a nice and easy lap. And I was fine.

I didn't swim 300 straight. In fact, I spent most of the 90 minutes doing 50 intervals. But I did it. And I enjoyed it. Greg gave me pointers to work on: My head needs to hang straight and my hips need to rotate more on my right side. I concentrated on those issues for the rest of practice.

It was challenging and hard and I got winded pretty fast.

"So, there's hope for me?" I asked Greg as I was the last one out of the pool.

"There's hope for anyone who gets off the couch," he said.

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