40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#2: Columbia University Uris Pool

on January 5, 2012

Location: Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Configuration: 8 lanes, indoors

Fee: $25*

Total to Date: $27

Not only was today’s swim in a lovely pool full of friends, but it took me half-way toward accomplishing my other birthday-related goal. Colubmia’s Uris Pool hosted my first One Hour Swim of 2012, which I did as part of my team’s regular workout in order to squeak in as a 39-year-old. I am taking advantage of a special privilege only available every fifth year to USMS swimmers with January birthdays, i.e., doing the One Hour Swim in two different age groups. Today counts for the 35-39 age group, and when I do it again later in the month it’ll be for the 40-44s.

lion roaring at swimmersBefore I get even more excited about the One Hour Swim, a few words about the pool. My favorite thing about swimming here is passing back and forth over the roaring lion who looks as if he is about to claw out of the bottom right at you. I mean, he’s pretty fierce, right? The picture from the pool is not the best, so below are a few more images from within the fitness center to give you a sense of this ferocious creature. I smile every time I pass him.

Lion logo for Columbia Women's Swimming and Diving Columbia lion on wood wall Lion logo for Columbia Sports Medicine

Another plus for this pool is its good maintenance. It’s usually just the right temperature, and the water is clear. It’s deep and has well-designed gutters, making for fast times, and with eight lanes, it’s relatively spacious. Alas, that roominess does not extend to the women’s locker room, which is smaller than my kitchen. My team practices here a few times a week, but I don’t go that often because the workouts here are just an hour, and I prefer more swim time when possible. For tonight’s purpose, however, an hour was perfect. Unless you’re an Hour Swim junkie, that’s all you need to know about my second pool of the year.

The junkies know, of course, that the USMS One Hour Postal Championships is an annual meet held throughout January across the country, the goal being to swim as far as possible in an hour. It’s called a “postal” event not because it makes people go postal, but because back in the day teams from near and far would stack up their split sheets and mail them in to be tabulated. My team takes part religiously and adds a fund-raising component to make it extra motivational and meaningful. It is always a highlight of our season.

Coincidentally, I joined my team in early 2004, as the training was building up for the Hour Swim, and I loved it–lots of freestyle pace work. I would be happy doing workouts like that all year round. Just last week, my love was rekindled when coach Conrad had us do a 15-minute straight swim at an LIU workout. I swam a bit farther than I would have expected then, and my swim today was exactly four times that. I am nothing if not consistent. (My yardage was right in the middle of all my Hours: higher than 2004, 2005, or 2007, and lower than 2008, 2009, and 2010, when I was doing more distance swimming.) I’m pretty happy with the result given that I haven’t been doing workouts that are longer, distance-wise, than I swam tonight, and I’ve been fighting a nasty sinus infection all week. In fact, if Conrad hadn’t reserved a lane for me, and John hadn’t volunteered to count, I probably would have saved my trip to Columbia for another day.

It was fun to see some teammates who I hadn’t seen for a while, and to watch them underwater in the lanes next to me doing their regular workout.  It was also incredibly luxurious to have my own lane for the swim instead of splitting the lane with another Hour swimmer. The lanes on my other side had open swim, with a kid playing on a floaty noodle, an interesting contrast to the fast, hunky TNYA swimmers.

As always, I loved my Hour. The time flew by as I pondered things like what workouts Cristina Teuscher swam as a Lion, whether I was going to have to stop and cough, if counting for an hour is more work than crewing for five-plus hours during the Ederle Swim (as I did for John in October), and whether time passes more quickly as you get older. I most definitely did not keep track of my laps, and I couldn’t see the clock, but I had John stick in a kickboard every 1,000 yards to give me some sense of where I was. It ended much too quickly. I look forward to more distance work the rest of the month, and to seeing if my 40-year-old self can do better in a lesser pool. Thanks, Conrad and John, for helping me fulfill this swim-nerd challenge.

Columbia staff, students, and alumni can join the fitness facility and bring in a guest for an added fee.  Otherwise, I think you need to be part of a team that’s practicing there to get in.

*This payment covered participation in the One Hour Swim, including the USMS fee and proceeds to the charity beneficiaries.

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