A true and compelling story about sharing lanes in swimming

By Monte Wehrkamp

We share lanes in many endeavors in life.

TODAY’S BLOG is provided by my long time friend and fellow write Monte Wehrkamp. It was written in response to yesterday’s We Run and Ride blog on sharing swimming lanes. I loved the directness of this true story. It provides some inspiration for us all.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t exactly fat, I just wasn’t as slim as other kids by 1970s standards. My mother blames it on my extremely premature birth (did I ever tell you I was a twin? He did not survive, that’s how much of a close-run thing it was). Baptized in the incubator, I was. My home for six months. When I got home, I failed to thrive. I vomited up breast milk, cow’s milk, did not matter. The doctor put me on a diet of heavy beef broth. This I could keep down. Mom and Dad had to feed me with a toothpick in one hand in order to clear the nipple of beef and fat bits. Raised on such an unnatural diet (hey, it was the 60s, nobody had even heard of lactose intolerance or invented milk and formula substitutes yet), I was a chubby baby.
So it was I went through grade school wearing husky Toughskins from Sears.
And so it was I was an overweight kid in the pool, twice a week, every week, for 10 years.
With me the whole way was a girl named Diane. She was thin, fit, fast. In my grade, in my school. Some years, we’d be in the same class. Some years, we had different teachers. But every year, together at the YMCA taking, then teaching, swim classes.
Your WRAR article reminded me of how many hundreds of hours I spent lane sharing with her. And teaching tadpoles, then guppies, then frogs…class naming convention. She took the criers. I took the spastics.
When we were young, she always swam lead, slicing through the water with nary a wave or splash. I had good form, I just took up more space. It was an arrangement that worked perfectly till…
Seventh grade. I went from a 160 lb, 5′ 5″ chubby kid to a 170 lb 5′ 11 1/2″ regular kid. My stomach stretched flat. My shoulders grew by four inches. My arms and legs lengthened to proportionally fit a man 6′ 3″ tall. Then I took the lead in the lane, and slim little Diane fell in behind me for the next four years, as we completed everything, taught everything, received our lifeguard certification. Lots of kids came and went in and out of the program, but Diane and I were the only two in our grade to stick it out till the end. Survival swimming. Rescue methods. Kayak and canoe capsize and flip drills (which came in handy four years later when I was in college, I was with Diane’s brother in a half-frozen MN lake, we were drunk as skunks in a canoe at twilight when we flipped it. I righted the canoe, threw in the paddles, pushed Rich into it — it was still 80% full of water — and swam Rich and the canoe to shore while wearing cowboy boots and a jean jacket. The 33-degree water temperature ruined my Jim Beam buzz pretty quick).
Ach, teaching lane etiquette to a pack of 10 year olds. Like herding sunfish. But when we were done with the little kids, Diane and I would jump in and put in our laps. Then get out, write our totals in grease pencil on the board, shower, and go home to do homework (which sucked, because chlorine and my eyes don’t mix — can’t teach wearing goggles, and even the fumes off the water tear me up).
The thing with doing 25, 50 laps is like a long flat 50 mile ride on your bike. You get in this zone. Enveloped in a bubble, rhythmic, hypnotizing. Stroke-stroke-breath, stroke-stroke-breath. Or if it’s slower, gliding, more strokes between breaths, just letting the bubbles out your nose tickle down chest and stomach. The white churn and little peeks of Diane’s feet just a couple feet from my outstretched arm. She flips and I see her below and to my left and I flip, glide behind her. Over and over and over and over. Out of time. Tunnel vision.  Like the bike on a hot day with little wind on a flat straight road. The crank turns and turns and turns. Shift weight a little, relieve some pressure on hands or butt, but it’s unconscious. Unthinking. An hour goes by and you wonder where you are, startled out of the exercise trance.
It’s good to have a lane partner for 10 years, one that you learned to swim with from the beginning. All those things in your article that you’ve got to look for when lane sharing? Never occurred to us. We just swam.
Editors note: See what I mean? Sharing a lane really can change your world!

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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