40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Signing Off at 50

on January 8, 2022
photo of water bottle with sticker by pool

After my illness last spring, I gratefully affixed this “I Survived COVID-19” sticker from Lisa Lisa to my water bottle. When older and wiser swim pal Kathleen saw it a few months later at Riverbank, she deadpanned, “So far.” It took me a while to appreciate her perspective, but she was absolutely right. We are in the “so far” phase of whatever is happening, and we continue to face many unknowns.

Despite much recent introspection about highs, lows, and hassles, I don’t know what I feel about swimming right now, or maybe I just don’t feel. But as 40 Pools turns 10 – and I turn 50 — I’ve decided to release myself from this project. I’d be pleased to continue pool tourism with friends, and I’ll leave this blog up assuming Word Press cooperates, but I won’t feel compelled to post if I am fortunate enough to log pool #108 and beyond.

The Roaring Forties

The 40 Pools Project has had a good run, if I do say so myself — educational, healthy, challenging, FUN! Since starting this effort a decade ago, I’ve:

  • visited 107 pools on three continents;
  • published 192 posts including some awesome guest entries further expanding the blog’s geography;
  • covered some iconic non-pool swim spots such as Aquatic Park (San Francisco), Manly Beach (Sydney), and Barton Springs (Austin);
  • opined on swim-related books, exhibits, and even a film and a play;
  • had my 15 minutes of fame in the New York Times;
  • swum nearly 8 million yards; and
  • best of all, made and reinforced numerous aquatic friendships.

From my bubble of privilege, I’ve also touched on issues from the broader world including environmental challenges, racism, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, out in that same world, blogging has come to feel old-fashioned, the cool kids prefer platforms like Instagram and TikTok, and I can barely navigate Word Press’s latest interface. Changes in my own life include a new job, new cat, new bike, new relationship, new nephews, new eldercare responsibilities, new degree, and, is it just me or is it getting hot in here?

Brighter Times Ahead?

We have a lot of tools at our disposal to keep on surviving, and to keep on swimming, even though maintaining a consistent routine has gotten harder. Fact is, there were issues aplenty in the Before Times. To name a few challenges stemming from pathetic underinvestment in social infrastructure: John Jay’s reconstruction kept – and is keeping – it closed years longer than expected; Riverbank was unreliable (my last indoor swim attempt there in 2020, on Monday, March 16, was thwarted not by pandemic but by mechanical problems); and a plan for a new Lasker pool means a plan for a few years without any Lasker pool.

photo: backhoes attack the remains of Lasker pool
Bye for now, Lasker (photo from November 2021).

Channeling some optimism, on the other hand, I can point to instances of progress. Riverbank recently got many of the repairs it needed. The Plus Pool is creeping closer to realization in the East River. At CCNY, where I work and eagerly anticipate to being able to swim before I retire, I’ve seen the dust and heard the sounds from the pool renovation in progress – although I agree with whoever scribbled “No it’s not” under the “Coming Soon!” headline in the poster.

Coming Soon! headline with pool renderings
CCNY’s “Coming Soon!” sign shows a rendering of the renovated pool — and some well-deserved skepticism if you look closely in the header.

John Jay’s renovations were completed nearly two and a half years ago, so one hopes it will actually reopen some day. Meanwhile, my team has sourced new training options on the Lower East Side and in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I hope to check these out sometime and to make use of my NYC Rec membership in the months ahead, especially if the recently reopened St. Mary’s pool adds lap swim sessions.

John Jay pool with Bloodhounds sign
My team’s leaders toured John Jay’s beautiful renovations in early fall 2019, and yet the pool has remained closed. (Photo courtesy TNYA.)

An Invitation

I’d planned to mark this milestone birthday at Riverbank with some of the same folks who inaugurated this project 10 years ago. However, we are amidst what I can only hope is Peak Omicron, and it feels foolhardy to encourage friends to cram into in a pool lane for 50 reps of anything. Instead, I’m shooting for a belated birthday swim in 50 days, on February 27. You’re invited. Message me if you want to join in.

Thanks for reading. Happy swimming.

16 responses to “Signing Off at 50

  1. Ralph de Rijke says:

    Thanks for all the poolstuff Hannah! I’ve enjoyed keeping up even though I think the last time I swam in NY was when we met… (2011?). Anyway, enjoy your well-earned retirement. 🙂

    Regards, Ralph


  2. Tina says:

    I loved reading this blog when I was living and swimming in the NYC and I loved reading it when I began living and swimming in upstate NY a few years ago. Alas, I’ve not stepped in a pool for the past two years, miss it intensely, and wondered what happened to you. It was a small pleasure to see 40 Pools pop up in my email again recently – a sign of hope – but retiring the blog now makes perfect sense for where you are in your life. I hope WordPress does let it stay up for a bit. It’s a great reference and a service to all of us swimmers, yet I’ll miss your choices, descriptions of your swim adventures and above all your distinctive voice that made it so special.

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks Tina! I definitely had a lot of fun with it, but it feels good to be “unburdened” of all the rules I made up for myself about swimming and posting. Hope you are able to get in the water again soon.

  3. Debbie Friedman says:

    Although I’m not any kind of swimmer and haven’t been in a pool for at least the last 3 years, and our acquaintance began as fellow cyclists, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your posts and getting in the water with you and your buddies vicariously.
    I’ll miss reading your posts and following your adventures. Keep on swimming and riding.

  4. Anne says:

    I have thoroughly loved following you and your adventures, …not sure how long I’ve been following-seems like it was since near the inception? Anyways–From So Cal, never met you, but share the same love for swimming, our pools finally stopped doing the covid “reserve a lane” system-which was near impossible to beat those waiting for the minute they released the lanes, and I’m finally back to swimming- but now share it with kayaking, which during Covid I took up to keep me at least on some water.
    I love your enthusiasm and so many fun and educational insights you’ve shared. (I love pool design in general-am a landscape architect) Kudos and Congrats for getting through COVID! Stay healthy and strong and like Dori (from Finding Nemo)-just keep swimming.

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks Anne! I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed the ride. Abby of the Quarantine Beach Club I wrote about is now in So Cal, so perhaps you will share water with her.

  5. Steven says:

    Hi Hannah,

    I found your blog about 7 years ago when I first moved to nyc and was searching for an affordable place to swim (Metropolitan, thanks for the rec). With so many challenges over these last few years, it was a delight to get a glimpse into your swimming journey and an inspiration countless times to get back in the pool myself.

    While distance from a pool, time and, let’s be honest, motivation have kept me out of the water for the past 2 years, I just wanted to send a quick thank you for brightening my days and the lovely reprieve you provided each time you posted. I wish you my very best and hope your swim journeys continue even if it’s not for the blog 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad this effort was helpful to you, both practically and in terms of inspiration. Amazingly, no sooner had I signed off than I got an invitation to a pool I’d never even thought of (SUNY Maritime). Hope to check it out in the spring — and just enjoy without thinking about how to write about it. I hope that your motivation returns in due time.

  6. Margaret says:

    Just wanted to say thanks! I’ve been following since I moved to NYC seven years ago and your pool descriptions have been so helpful. I really appreciate the time you’ve devoted to this project. Happy birthday!

  7. David Cohen says:

    Ms. Hannah,
    (which is how I address our 15.5 year old granddaughter, also Hannah). I will miss your adventures in, and comments on life as seen through the lens of swimming, which is what we all do, but most of us without water and with less clearly defined intermediate goals. If you start another blog, please include me.
    Thanks and Happy Birthday. Fifty used to be old until I got to be 78.
    David Cohen

  8. Marcus says:

    Just adding another thanks! Moved to NYC 5 years ago and this site has been invaluable for discovering new pools and exploring the city to find them. Very sad to see it ending but wish you all the best in the future, and again thank you for your insightful and helpful posts.

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