It was Friday night and what better to do than swim. This is what happens when you start to love the sport. So much you marry the sport by marrying someone also really into it. You find yourself at the gym, Friday night, technically the “off season” and you are thrilled.
All good swims – especially on a Friday night – begin in the hot tub. Physiologically there is good reason not to do this but who cares. Physiologically there is also good reason not to do Ironman, not to eat cookies for dinner, and not to drink coffee every day.
After warming up in the hot tub, and then the pool, after some drills, we start the mainset. Ok, it’s not really a mainset. A mainset is something your coach writes for you, something serious that follows the clock. But not today. I’m not even looking at the clock. I did the other day and realized it took me almost 45 seconds longer than usual to swim a 200. I chalked it up to clock malfunction. But something about two weeks completely off suggests otherwise.
No clock tonight but still for the sake of trying to look like/act like/be like a swimmer, let’s call it a mainset. 6 x 300 – all out. Just kidding on that part. These days “all out” means ok, that’s it, all out of the pool, everyone, out, let’s go wine tasting instead. So really it’s 6 x 300 mainset made up by me. The best kind. Because I can do whatever I want and boss Chris around (told you I was bossy) – as in, you will swim 6 x 50 fist, you will swim 4 x 100 all fly, you will swim with me on your back (good for building strength). Chris stands there attentive, captive, really an imprisoned victim of my swim set waiting for directions about the first one.
“Do you have your leash?” I ask. There is something priceless about asking your husband if he has his leash. You know, the leash I use to keep him from going to far astray, from making other lady friends. All right, you got me – it’s the leash we use in the pool. How boring is that. I like the adultery leash much better. Or the bedroom leash. But since my mom reads this I prefer not to talk about things like that.
He looks at me, a bit puzzled but then he says “Yes, it’s in my bag.” Like an obedient little puppy (BOSS!), he walks into the locker room and returns a few minutes later with….the leash. Before you wonder why we have a leash...in Chris’ defense he won it at a race. Yes, triathlon really goes all out when it comes to prizes for winning a race. Here you go – you just suffered 2+ hours after training all the fat off of your body for months. Here’s that ankle leash you were hoping for.
The ankle leash is technically called a pulling ankle lock. As your ankles are leashed together, they sink lower and lower in the pool. With your rear sagging and your feet scraping the black lane line, you are forced to think about and find what it takes to keep your legs afloat. Which you can usually do by way of two things, (1) pressing your chest, or (2) turning your arms over faster and faster to try to get down the last as fast as you can while the entire therapy pool whispers to each other “oh my gosh that poor guy his wife tied his ankles together and now he’s trying to get away.”
He’s not getting very far.
I got the idea to use the leash the other day when my coach explained that she had spent a winter working with the leash and felt it really helped. I’ll do anything to improve my swim stroke - heck if my coach told me that I could swim faster by giving up coffee I might give it a try.
Don’t get any ideas, Jen.
But that’s how serious I get about swimming. And how serious I am about getting faster. I mean, we all want to get fast. Think of all the stupid things you’ve tried- biopace, filling your water bottles with sand, 650 wheels on a 6 foot tall man, running with a weighted vest, attempting a flying mount on an uphill grade (not that I saw this at this year’s short course Nationals or anything). We toss all vanity and common sense aside for the sake of speed.
Enter the speedo pulling ankle lock.
Chris shackles himself first. Securing his ankles together with two Velcro straps is his first challenge. Doing the next 300 while wearing a ball gag and a metal choke collar was his next. Oops, sorry about that - took the leash fantazy a bit too far and got a bit too carried away.
So there I am, finger tip dragging my way across the 300, leading the lane (ever tried swimming behind a man with a leash?) when I notice something in the corner of my eye. Something large and looming coming my way. It’s Chris. Actually it’s his legs. They are literally dragging the bottom of the pool floor. Imagine legs pointing 90 degrees downward from his ass to make a perfect right angle with his body.
I turn to breathe but turn myself right into the perfect view of this. For some reason, this is the funniest thing I have ever seen. I start laughing. My poor husband. I can’t believe he let me talk him into this. All in the name of speed. But no matter how sorry I feel for him, I start to laugh again. Big belly laughs that you can only hold in for so long under the water before you start taking water in so I finally just pop up and laugh.
The therapy pool looks at me like I am crazy not just for leashing my husband but for erupting mid-lap in laughs.
Ok, focus, Liz, focus. Back to that 300 drill/swim. I continue with my swim, hit the wall and start back the other way. But as I come off the wall and again see Chris’ feet dragging the ground. I laugh. I have to pop up, laugh some more, then jump back in. I swim a little further and see him flip turn with the leash around his ankles and have to pop up again to laugh. Seriously – flip turning with the leash? It just didn’t look right.
Ok, last 100. I can do this. I can hold in laughter and finish this up. This is the longest 300 of my life and I’m sure Chris feels the same. Except he is leashed and I am just laughing. I start swimming along and as Chris approaches I tell himself “don’t look don’t look don’t look” just so I can finish without laughing again. I make it to the wall, hypoxic at this point because I haven’t breathed for the past 25 yards because I couldn’t turn his way. At the wall I start laughing so hard that when Chris finishes he can’t help but laugh too.
“But it makes you fast,” I said in between laughs. He laughs some more. He tries to take off the leash – as challenging as swimming with it – while saying something about it being impossible to flip turn with the leash and I say to him that I can’t believe he even tried.
He takes off the leash and throws it my way. In a few short yards I am feeling myself with feet dragging on the ground while I flail down the lane trying to figure out how to keep my chest pressed, my ass afloat, and my toenails in tact. But it makes you fast but it makes you fast the coach says it makes you fast.
In the name of speed, I’m sold.
After the leash, some pulling, and other things you do in November to fill 300’s and pass the time, we decide to go into the sauna. As we walked towards it, someone in the hot tub signals our way. You know how when you do something that makes you feel really awkward and makes you look even dumber you hope that no one is watching? Well that’s never the case. Apparently this man was swimming next to us and wanted to know more about the leash.
He asks why we are doing it and we say that our coach suggested it to help our swim stroke. Then he looks at me and says “Will it makes me fast?”
Oh you bet. Or, that’s what we’ve been told. Our coach uses one and she’s really, really fast. So I’d say it works. He listens to all of this and pauses to think before he asks “where do you buy one of those?”
All in the name of speed. We will tie our ankles together, try anything just to get fast. Or will we. Is there something more that I am missing? Speed is my motivation, but with a man is it really the same?
To find out I ask Chris what he thought about swimming with the leash. “It sucked,” he said in between bites of pumpkin pie.
“So why did you do it then?” I asked.
“Because you told me to.” Ah, so now the truth comes out. The woman says get your leash, tether your ankles together and swim and the man says all right. In the name of obedience or the name of speed? It’s your call.