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Taking the swimming outside for a week…

August 16, 2012, 10:52 PM

So this week and next week are when Olney Indoor Swim Center, the place where I normally swim four days a week, is closed for its annual maintenance.  During that time, as I understand it, they drain the pool and acid clean the pool sides, do maintenance on whatever systems, change any lights that need replacement, deep clean the entire building, and then fill the pools back up.  I’m told it takes four days to properly drain the main pool so as not to overload the wastewater system by letting too much water come through at once.

In the meantime, I am continuing to swim.  This year, I know what I’m doing in the pool, and so the annual maintenance period does not coincide with a nasty case of swimmer’s ear.  Last year, you see, the where-to-swim problem resolved itself with the whole ear infection thing, since that kept me out of the pool entirely for that time.  This year, I decided I wanted to try an outdoor pool.  I’ve been to the other county indoor pools, and each of them had various qualities that made me pick an outdoor pool over them.  MLK Swim Center is really old and closes kind of early.  Montgomery Aquatic Center (pardon – “Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center”) is of reasonable distance away, but the staff there really gets on my nerves because they’re so uptight about everything and act like they’re doing me a favor for stuff that the staff at the other pools would do without all the whining.  That and aside from late night laps (i.e. 9-10 PM) on Mondays and Wednesdays, the pool is so booked up with other programs that there is no room for evening lap swimming anyway.  Now Germantown Indoor Swim Center is a gorgeous facility, which I’ve been to once before.  I love Germantown indoor pool, but Germantown is just too far away, being in the northern part of Montgomery County and all of that.  It’s a bit of a hike from my house, and if I left right from work, that would be double the distance and in rush hour traffic to boot.

So with that all said, I decided to give an outdoor pool a spin while Olney was closed.

I ended up going to Wheaton/Glenmont Outdoor Pool, which, for those of you familiar with Montgomery County, is at approximately Randolph Road and Dalewood Drive, next door to Wheaton High School.  I went over and toured the facility last Thursday (i.e. a week ago) to make sure it was well suited for laps, and it was.  That evening, however, was more memorable for the storm that rolled in shortly thereafter, making my final lap swim before Olney’s annual maintenance period into an abortive attempt.  Imagine if you will: storm going on like crazy outside, with heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and lots of wind.  I’m putting my earplugs in, putting my goggles on, and doing my stretches.  Then I start swimming.  Two and a half minutes later, the lights go out, meaning that the guards have to get everyone out of the pool.  Then five or so minutes later, the lights come back on.  The big lights in the pool start to come on, and a guard gets back up in the chair.  With the guard back in the chair, the swimmers can begin.  For another two and a half minutes.  And then dark again.  That time, however, the lights went off for good.  Well, crap.  So I got about five minutes of actual swimming in that day.  This same storm also took out my electricity at my house for a few hours.

So Monday, I was more than ready to go, having been forced to scrap one of my four workouts the week before.  This time, the weather was gorgeous.  No storm-related closures this time.  Put a little sunscreen on, earplugs in, goggles on, and in the pool.  However, Glenmont outdoor pool is definitely not a lap swimmer’s pool.  It’s designed more as a neighborhood pool for the kids to play in, while also providing a small place for adults to swim laps.  First problem was that the shallow end in the lap lanes was 4’10” – much deeper than a normal shallow end.  The stretching that I do in the pool requires that about half my body is above the water so that my feet are properly grounded on the bottom of the pool.  The 4’10” depth put me up to my neck when standing flat footed, which messed up my stretches.  If I got into position, my face would go underwater, plus the extra depth meant I was too buoyant, and so if I tried to put weight where it needed to go for the stretching that my podiatrist wants me to do, I would end up pushing myself up instead.  Pushing on the edge of the pool to hold myself down didn’t work, either, since that just transferred my mind’s concentration to my arms rather than my legs, and I still didn’t get the stretch done.  Then the deep end of the lap area is 12 feet deep because it’s next to the diving boards.

Then I also found that Glenmont outdoor pool isn’t exactly the cleanest pool in the world.  First, there was a lot of debris from nearby trees in the bottom of the pool, like leaves and junk.  I will forgive them for this to an extent, owing to the aforementioned thunderstorm the week before that likely blew a lot of that tree debris into the pool.  However, I will not forgive them for all of the hair that I found in the pool.  This has got to be the kinds of stuff that pumps and filters are supposed to get rid of.  There’s just no excuse for clumps of hair to be floating loose in the water like I found.  On Tuesday, a few long, blond hairs floated into my mouth – gross.  I got that out of my mouth as fast as I could, for sure.  And then I was also surprised that the water in the pool seemed to not be chlorinated.  I know of chlorinated water, because the county indoor pools use a healthy amount of chlorine in the pools, and normally I can detect a faint chlorine scent on my  skin after swimming in a county indoor pool.  Coming out of Wheaton/Glenmont Outdoor Pool, the scent on my skin was closer to what I get after swimming in a freshwater lake or stream rather than a swimming pool.  I would love to be wrong on this, but the smell test, along with a lack of any eye irritation in the pool when swimming without goggles, leads me to think that the water is not chlorinated, nor treated with salt.  Translated: gross.

Then there are the children.  First of all, I don’t mind having lap swimming right next to the diving boards.  It gives me something to watch, and it amuses me to see the people go into the water and see how they recover from their entry and then resurface.  Some people do it with grace and style, while others are a little less refined.  Either way, it’s amusing.  However, when the children do not respect boundaries, it starts to annoy me.  Occasionally children would start playing in the lap lanes, and the guards would have to shoo them out of the lanes.  Then the other thing the children would do was to dart into the lap lanes right in front of me and do some poor excuse for a stroke down to the other end of the pool.  I don’t attribute it to malice at all, but rather that they’re just not paying any attention to their surroundings.

And finally, however, after the lap swimming was fun.  Glenmont pool has a slide tower with two slides on it, and I put them to very good use after I was done with my laps.  One has two loops with an open top, is longer, and has a shallower slope, making for a slower ride. The other one has only one loop, but is shorter, steeper, and is fully enclosed, which makes for a faster ride.  You can also control your ride on the open slide some more by sitting up or leaning back.  Sitting up makes a slower ride than leaning back.  If it tells you anything, I get flipped around on the final two turns and then flung out at the end when I’m leaning back, but when I’m sitting up, I get to the end of the slide and land on my feet every time, and usually do that ending pose like gymnasts do.  However, I don’t think that McKayla Maroney would be impressed with my pose.  Then I also proved that competition grade swimwear gets a faster run on the water slide than boardshorts. Another guy at the pool who was about the same size as me and I actually ran trials on this on Wednesday.  He was wearing boardshorts and a shirt, while I was wearing a speedo.  When he was on the open slide and I was on the closed slide, I was through and then standing up waiting for him to come out.  My response when he finally came out: “Took ya long enough!”  When we switched and he was on the closed slide and I was on the open one, we landed in the water at the same time.  This held true for two trials each way.  The speedo wins.  I’m sure that the result would have been the same if I had been wearing one of my loud jammer suits instead.

Of course, American men in general need to get over themselves and invest in some real swimwear like they do in Europe rather than those stupid boardshorts that you see most American men wearing in the pool.  I hate boardshorts in the water.  Too baggy and too floppy.  But that’s beside the point.

Meanwhile, I don’t quite know what next week is going to entail.  All four county indoor pools are closed for general maintenance next week, and the indoor pools go into their post-season period, meaning that they close at 7:00 PM rather than 8:00 PM.  That precludes my being able to go swimming, because I can’t make it to the pool until around 6:30, which doesn’t leave me enough time for my hourlong workout.  So I will be seeking alternative activities for that week.  The temperature is going to be cool enough that it might be worthwhile to just walk it home from the Metro, but I’ll see.  I might also give Capital Bikeshare a spin on my lunch hour at work.  Who knows.  Could be amusing.

Categories: Swimming