It was about 2 years ago when I struck up a conversation with a woman who was a former Masters swimmer and a retired physical education teacher. It was because I noticed that her swim fins and her pull buoy had MY maiden name written on them.
It’s not like my maiden name is Smith, or Spitz, or Phelps. But like the old TV cop show “Dragnet” first stated, “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” So, we will keep these friends on a first-name only basis.
“Dianne” is actually married into the family that shares my maiden name. According to her husband, we may be cousins, but that is going to take some future research. Whether we are related or not, Dianne and I immediately struck up a swimming sisterhood of sorts, and decided that when we could, we would swim together. We picked Saturday mornings at 9:15, and it’s been that way for quite a few months.
Next joining the 9:15 group was “Shelly,” who is slightly younger than we are and a very competitive swimmer, whose family and my family have known one other for years. Shelly swam in college and eventually became a police officer, complete with that tough-spirited exterior. If we ever went to war, we would all want Shelly on our side. And oh, the colorful nicknames she has given to Dianne and me! She claims that I’m the competitive one of the group, but I’m just there to get in shape and have fun, since there are no meets to look forward to just yet. Someday, we are hoping…
A woman seen quite consistently on Saturday mornings was already friends with Shelly, so we invited her to join us in the 9:15 group. In her youth, “Peggy Sue” was an incredible butterfly-er, and still is. She won’t agree with us when we tell her her stroke is amazing, yet Peggy Sue effortlessly performs “fly,” as the rest of us can only slog through it with swim fins, and, if we are lucky, one length of the 25-yard pool. She also swims at 6:45 a.m. a few days per week, which tells us that early to bed and early to rise makes a darn good flyer even better.
Last, but certainly not least, is “Elizabeth.” It turns out I knew her long before I had met Dianne and the others….like really, really long before…say, when I was about 11 years old and a camper at an overnight YMCA Camp in Northern New York. There were several boys and girls who attended this particular camp while still swimming competitively over the summers, so Elizabeth created a unique camp session dedicated to kids like us. She helped install a piece of sanded, painted plywood against the floating docks for practicing flip turns. She helped us with our stroke and techniques while navigating through the dark northern lake water. I hadn’t seen Elizabeth since my late teens – yet she was one of the inspirations for me to become a camp counselor. She swam age group for a good part of her childhood, then onto high school and a prestigious college team, and has fire in her belly still.
Together, we all gather at 9:15 and do “our thing.” A pre-written workout is essential, since we have only 45 minutes to swim. Unless the “nice” lifeguards let us sneak in a few minutes earlier, that precious 45 minutes is all we have to squeeze in about 2,000 yards.
We don’t talk too much during the workout, since that wastes valuable time. With the lifting of the pool’s tight restrictions in the future, we are optimistic we can choose when we can swim and for how long. Our group has even considered competing in the next available Masters meet…but then again, we are still waiting for any announcements of these meets, which would be something to finally train for. We agreed we would have some kick-ass relays in our age groups, and look forward to keeping the 9:15 group – and the friendships we have forged – for a long time.