40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#76: Hopkins School Pool

on July 12, 2014

Amanda and me at the Hopkins poolLocation: New Haven, Connecticut

Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards

Fee: Free as visitor to Hopkins Masters Swim Team

In addition to the California trip during my time off in May, I took the opportunity to visit friends and cats in New Haven. Amanda had long been lobbying for me to join her for a masters swim there, and I was glad to finally do so, even if it was more of a hot cocoa kind of day than you’d expect after Memorial Day.

She used to do morning workouts at a certain Ivy League college but decamped for an even older school: Hopkins, home of the Hilltoppers. Founded in 1660, Hopkins moved to its current location atop a hill on the west side of town in the 1920s. Students here follow a traditional curriculum including the study of Latin. My friend Karen is an alumna, and she said the smell of chlorine at a recent reunion instantly evoked her school days.

Amanda’s first dip there was last November. “The pool is beautiful, water temperature is perfect, the coach was lovely, and the workout was challenging without being impossible,” she reported. All of this proved true. The evening masters workout with Coach Bob was nicely tailored to the various goals of the small, friendly group. We used three lanes, and the Hopkins girls’ team zipped around in the other three. The pool somehow reminded me of my own school training grounds: Poughkeepsie Middle School. Perhaps it was the shape of the room, the position of the bleachers, or the corner door to the outside.

pace clockThe real curiosity, though, was the clock. As Amanda described, “the coolest thing (I thought) was that they program the entire workout, including rest, into the digital clock, so you don’t ever have to keep track of where you are on the intervals. The clock tells you which set and repetition you’re on, so you just leave at the appropriate time.” My photo does not do it justice.

I have never seen such a thing and didn’t fully grasp it. As Coach Bob said, it’s idiot proof but not fool proof. You still have to know the number of repetitions and the interval for your set. If, say, you’re in lane 2 doing 6 x 100s on 1:30, you’ll use the second row of the clock. The rep number displays in the second column, and the time ticks away to the right of that. When the clock shows 1:30, you take off, the time switches back to 0:00, and the rep changes to 3. It requires the coach to plan ahead–even the rest between sets is preprogrammed–but that groundwork means that swimmers do not have to calculate intervals.

Little did we know that my swim was especially well timed. Soon after my visit, Amanda up and got herself a job in New York that starts next week. She’ll really miss Coach Bob and the hilltop pool, but she’s glad to be returning to the Big Apple after an eight-year exile. Carpe piscinam, as the Hilltoppers might say.

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