They say all good things must come to an end, and a swim is no exception: eventually, you have to get out of the pool. I don’t think that I have ever read a book or an article on the subject, I don’t remember talking to a coach or another swimmer about it, but nonetheless I have strong (if inexplicable) feelings about the topic, and I will not argue about them: I pull myself out of the pool at the wall by myself, with dignity. I believe that as long as I am healthy and able-bodied, I should get my body onto the deck by my own power and not by using the ladder or (worse) the steps to get out. Does Diana Nyad get out at the ladder? Does Mark Spitz get out at the ladder? Does Michael Phelps swim 10,000m and then duck under a couple of lane ropes and climb out of the pool using a tiny ridiculous ladder? No, he does not.
Ladders are fine for small children or people who are eight months pregnant (been there) or folks with other physical limitations. Otherwise, you swim your laps and you get out at the wall like a grown woman.
Now I have been having a good time swimming at Westside Aquatic this week, much better than expected. I knew the pool was beautiful and fast, but I didn’t know that people there would be so welcoming: the Masters coach greeted me on Wednesday by saying, “What’s up, killer?” which is easily the nicest thing anyone has said to me in months. The one nagging problem has been this one: how to get out of the pool.
Getting out of the Furman pool is easy. It’s three-and-a-half feet deep. You put two hands flat on the side with bent elbows, jump a little, straighten arms, and twist so that you are sitting on the deck. Piece of cake. My summer pool is only slightly more difficult: it’s a little deeper (four feet?) and the concrete deck is thicker, so it’s a bit higher up. Still, two hands flat on the deck, jump a little, straighten arms, put down one knee. Every year, I have distinctive seasonal shin bruises from the concrete. But I have shin bruises with dignity.
Getting out of the Westside pool, in comparison, is hard. For one thing, it’s deep. We’re swimming in the shallower end, but that’s still 6+ feet. And the side of the pool is complicated; there’s the drain at water level, then a space (you can stick your elbow in there and dangle between sets), and then a good-sized block of deck. Here’s a photo of the Westside Aquatic Center pool from Paddock Evacuator, the company the made the chloramine evacuator system:
Maybe it doesn’t look like much in the photo, but from the water it looks like the Cliffs of Insanity. You might as well hang there and yell, “Throw me the rope!”
So, three days running, the end of my swim, I waited until the lanes next to me were clear of swimmers, ducked under the lane ropes to the corner, and climbed out by the ladder. Like a little girl. It was hard on my ego.
On the fourth day, I could not stand the shame, and I tried to get out by pulling myself up by the backstroke start bar with my right hand and grabbing the step on the side of the block with my left. Then I grabbed the back of the block. Then things got a little messy, and I don’t really know how I got out, but it was not smooth or cool or dignified.
On the fifth day, I spent my last kick set sizing up the situation. Was the deck all that high? Could I pull myself out? What was worse, the blow to my ego of getting out at the ladder or the blow from trying to get out and f(l)ailing? Then I went for it, old school, hands flat on the deck (though well above my head), and hauled myself out by my arms, right foot on the grating, left foot on the deck. I was out.
With dignity, my friends. That is how you get out of the pool. I can’t wait till Monday to do it again.