Coronavirus Chronicle Day 105: Swimming in the Time of Coronavirus

One month ago today, March 14, 2020, was the last time I was at the swimming pool. In retrospect my masters swimming teammates and I were playing with fire at the time--other gatherings that happened on that same weekend in our province led to several coronavirus infections--but I'm still glad that I had that "last" chance to be in the water.

In happier days I've joked that swimming is the sport that requires the most expensive equipment of them all. You just need a bathing suit, a cap, a pair of goggles... and a 25m swimming pool with some lines on the bottom. Let me tell you, I'm feeling the reality of that requirement right now. While I've seen some social media posts featuring Olympians who have access to personal pools or who have set up endless pools in their garages, that's not the reality for most of the swimming community. Even if there were safe open water in Saskatchewan right now, open water swimming is being discouraged as well.

I've been swimming for basically my entire life, beginning with my grandparents' backyard pool, followed by swimming lessons in local public pools and a couple of lakes. I did one year of synchro and, when I was unemployed after finishing my engineering degree, I worked my way up to swimming a mile. I didn't start swimming competitively until I joined a masters team in 2018. I'd previously attempted to join a different masters team in 2010, but was foiled by my job in the construction industry and constant out of town work. This latest time it stuck, though, and I wish I could've made it work earlier because of how rewarding training and competing has been. I look forward to almost every swim (those 6:00 am practices are more of a necessary evil) not just for the chance to swim, but getting to spend time with my teammates.

Because swimming is hard and kind of dangerous, I think many people struggle to appreciate the joy of it. I love the feeling of floating in the water, of moving through it in different directions, of pushing against it or slicing through it. This is what I've always loved about swimming.

Last spring I dealt with a health issue that kept me out of the water for a month. I knew how long I had to stay out, and so I could count down the days until my return. I made it back after that month a little bit rusty, but it wasn't long before I was able to rebuild my so-called "feel for the water," an amorphous swimming concept based on the fact that moving through air and moving through water are very different things, and that you can only get that moving through water feeling in one place, i.e. the water. This is different. I have no idea when I'll be able to go to a pool or swim in a lake again, and so instead of counting down, I'm having to count up: every day is another day out of the pool until finally one day I'll hopefully get to go back.

I'm not an Olympian or training for a channel swim or anything like that. I'm worried about losing fitness and technique that I've gained over the past two years, but what upsets me more is not being able to see my teammates, not being able to tell my coach he's insane if he expects me to get all the way through a tough butterfly workout, not being sure whether I'll get a chance to add open water swimming to my repertoire this summer. In short, I miss the water, the people that I share it with, and my goals.

Hopefully it won't be much longer before I'm back there again.

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