40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Signing Off at 50

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.


Bring on 2016

Happy new year! It’s also the three-year anniversary of this project, which means I’m about to turn 44. I closed out the year with a swim at–where else?–Riverbank. Here we are bright and early yesterday morning.


Fernando, Alan, David, Amanda, me, Lisa Lisa, and Joe do a final swim in 2015. (Thanks to Amanda and Fernando for the pic!)

Lisa, Joe, Piez, and me doing our first workout of 2012

Same place and some of the same people in 2012: Lisa Lisa, Joe, Piezy, and me.

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Swimming My Age

Swimmer Magazine Fourth of July group photo at Riverbank

Look, kids, we made Swimmer! This picture from our early morning Fourth of July swim at Riverbank’s outdoor pool accompanies an article about age-related swim quests in the January-February issue of the USMS magazine. The other main subject is a gentleman who set out to swim in all 50 states as he approached 50. Hmmmm. . .

I like the title of the article, “Swim Your Age,” and think it works especially well with this picture showing friends ages 26 to 50 all doing the age-appropriate activity of swimming on the nation’s birthday.

My only quibble with the piece is that it got my age wrong! At the time it was written in the late fall, I was up to 53 pools and still just 40 years young, but it says I’m 41. That was a bit of a shock to read when it came in the mail, a few days before I marked that milestone.

Read the full article here.

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2012 in Review

annual report "cover"

A year ago today, I began counting pools with a swim at Riverbank State Park’s indoor pool, the same place I found myself this morning. I was pretty sure that I’d be able to meet my goal of 40 pools, but I didn’t necessarily expect to average slightly better than a pool a week, or to become nearly as obsessed with blogging stats as I am with pool stats.

Interestingly enough, that very first pool turned out to be the most popular post, followed by Manhattan Plaza in second and the Asser Levy indoor pool in third. With one being a massive state outcropping, another a highly covetable Theater District-flavored private club, and the third possessing more old-world charm than lane space, these pools couldn’t be more different from one another, or better indicators of the variety of swim options available to local pool tourists.

Down in the dregs of the popularity contest, meanwhile, is the Vanderbilt YMCA East Pool. I’m going to attribute that lowly ranking to it being a relatively recent post published at a time of year when most people aren’t focused on swimming, and not as a slight against that perfectly adequate, well-run pool.

Computers from 103 countries found their way to 40 Pools. Traffic peaked in July soon after the city’s outdoor pools opened. We’ll see if we can top that record next summer.

For more stats, check out the 2012 annual report prepared by the WordPress.com helper monkeys.


Author, Author!

40 pools book coverI got the most amazing present courtesy of this blog’s number-one fan*: a book of the first 40 pools! The layout and cover were designed by a talented graphic designer who skillfully incorporated the blog’s visual theme, and it’s so shimmery that it looks like you could dive in. Instead, you can page through electronically or get your very own copy at blurb.com.

Perusing the book brings back memories of wonderful pools and wonderful friends, old and new. It’s fun to see how the project took shape throughout the year, bringing me to pools far and near, more exciting and diverse than I would have thought possible.

It’s really neat to have a tangible souvenir from the project, too. I used to work on books and always felt such pride when they came out, whether my name was buried in the acknowledgments or not listed at all. That feeling is multitudes greater with my name on the cover, never mind that there are only two copies in existence.

I couldn’t bring myself to stop at just 40 pools and don’t plan to stop at 54. Here’s to more pools and friends, old and new, and unexpected pleasures in 2013!

*Number-one status earned by being the blog’s first subscriber and maintained on many a swim. Thanks, Hug!

40 Pools displayed on a coffee table

40 Pools, the book: suitable for a coffee table near you.


Approaching 40

40th birthday cakeAlthough there are still several months to go in the year of the 40 Pools Project, I find myself one pool away from the original goal–and having way too much fun to stop. With so many pools left to check out, I am looking forward to those far past number 40 and plan to continue posting “new” pools as I visit them.

It has been far more meaningful than I expected to intentionally seek out new swim experiences and friends to share them with. I’ve really enjoyed the stories of other people’s swim memories, and I’m grateful for the way friends and strangers have stepped up to literally open pool doors for me. I’m also glad to count some non-swimming, or rather not-yet-swimming, friends and family members among the readers, and I hope this project has given them some insight into what I love about swimming. Finally, I’ve appreciated the input from strangers just looking for a pool. Even in this Internet age, it is not always easy to find good info about pools, and I’m glad to help fill the void.

Much as I am enjoying this project, I am actually enjoying being 40. I get so much respect when I state my age! I really do feel wiser, more self-aware, and less worried about other people’s judgments. (Youngsters, you have a lot to look forward to!)

One thing that has become increasing apparent is my true need for the pool. Swimming is not optional, to use a phrase from a swim parent who described her daughter’s parallel condition to me recently. Swimming is a very important part of what makes me happy, worth making sacrifices for in other areas–even sleep. Having a goal or two in mind makes the swimming, and the life, that much better.

Thank you for being part of this project so far. If it does not inspire you to stop by your local pool, I hope it motivates you to increase the presence of whatever you are passionate about in your own life. Here’s to lots more!


Swimmers Circle Interview

Thanks to fellow USMS swimmer and pool tourist Patrick from Arizona for taking an interest in the 40 Pools Project! Take a look at Swimmers Circle for his interview about the project. Patrick is working on his own quest to swim in as many pools from Olympic Games as possible, so perhaps our paths will cross in Sydney one day.

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The 40 Pools Project

This blog is about my 2012 project to swim in 40 pools. I came up with this idea to mark the occasion of a big birthday that falls early in the year. January is not the most exciting time for celebrations, or for pool tourism–one of my favorite activities–so this project is a way to spread the fun throughout the year.  Whenever possible, I hope to share the pools with friends, and those who can’t join me in person can follow along here.

People have been curious to know which pools will “count.” The answer is that any pool will do, as long as it’s possible to do a real swim workout in it. It can be a pool I’ve visited before, although it doesn’t have to be, and it can be anywhere in the world. I am happy to consider suggestions and welcome invitations to visit pools.

New Year’s Day is a pool holiday here in New York, so I made no headway on the project on the first day of the year. Fortunately, there are still plenty of days and plenty of pools.