40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#105: Roberto Clemente State Park

RCSP pool and deckLocation: Morris Heights, Bronx, New York

Configuration: 50 meters by 25 yards

Fee: $2

This state-run outdoor pool opened in early July. Unlike its Manhattan cousin, Riverbank, Roberto Clemente State Park pool does not have designated lap swim times. However, on a quiet day you can swim to your heart’s content. My summer pool buddy Alex was having good swims up there, so at his urging I ventured north on Saturday, July 11, arriving for the 9:30 opening and knocking out 5,000 short course yards. Even though the temperature was in the upper 80s, the pool was empty enough that I had barely any interference. Toward the end of my swim I moved to the far (south) end where there aren’t black lines to follow, but there was a seam that kept me straight as I crossed the long course markings. I was thrilled.

Post-swim selfie

How happy was I after 5,000?!

More recently, I’ve heard that the pool is not always staffed enough to open fully, and that the turnout has been higher, so be warned that you might not get your laps in.

Even so, it’s a nice place to hang out with spacious bleachers, a snack bar and picnic tables right off the pool deck, and entertainment in the form of fearless youngsters in the diving pool and spray park.

Hand and wirstband

The magic wristband. Pro tip: put it on tight so it doesn’t bug you when you swim.

There are many concessions to the pandemic. For one, make very sure that you arrive with your bathing suit on and that you’ll be able to show it easily more than once. (Actually, that might happen anyway.) The changing rooms are closed, and the showers are on the deck. Only if you have to use a toilet do you go inside. Your entry fee gets you a wristband that is snipped when you leave: only one entry per session. Hours are reduced from the normal summer schedule to 9:30-1:00 and 2:30-6:00. You’re not supposed to bring a bag, although I did and so did the people who entered in front of me. The wading pool is not opening.

Roberto Clemente statue

This statue by the entrance, whose sponsor I am not endorsing, gives a glimpse of the park’s scenic Harlem River-front location. Swindler cover in Manhattan is across the way.

This park, which abuts the Bronx’s tallest buildings — the nearly 1,700-unit River Park Towers housing complex — was the state’s first within New York City, opening in 1973. Soon named for the famed baseball player who died young in a plane crash during a humanitarian trip in 1972, it has been renovated and refreshed in intervening years. North of the pool complex is a lovely waterfront area that serves multiple purposes: greenway, passive and active recreation space, wildlife habitat, flood mitigation, and rainwater filtration. I also found it to be a fine changing area to get out of my wet suit before the ride home.

If you are coming here by bike from the south, note that online mapping directions have you use the Major Deegan service road. Do not get on the actual expressway. (Right, Brad?) A later stretch along the waterfront brings you to a parking garage that seems to have no way out, but miraculously a gate will open and deposit you by the pool. Enjoy.

Another view of the pool

The diving well is at upper right. I didn’t go up there — it opened late into my visit — but bet it has a great view.

Spray zone

Who doesn’t love a giant spray park?

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#101: Kelly Pool

lawn + pool

Location: Fairmount Park, Philadelphia

Configuration: 50 meters with 3 lap lanes during my visit; 8 lanes total

Fee: Free

I’d long been wanting to visit a public pool in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has the country’s highest outdoor pool-to-resident ratio (1:21,600 versus 1:150,000 in New York, according to the New York Times), and a higher total count of pools than New York despite having just a fraction the population. Their season starts earlier in June than ours (though it also ends earlier), and as is the case in New York, Philly’s outdoor public pools are free for all comers.

My anticipated end-of-summer weekend getaway to Philly turned out to coincide with a family emergency that would reshape my fall, yet somehow I still did most of the trip and got in some precious moments of outdoor lap swimming on a Sunday afternoon. Kelly Pool had the honors for this important mental-health duty, chosen based on a recommendation from Philadelphia’s pool blogger, who cited it both for its lap lane availability and its expansive lawn.

pool deck, museum in background

More remarkable to me was that we could just walk onto said lawn without showing our bathing suit liners and locks or submitting to a search for contraband items such as newspapers and colored T-shirts, as is necessary at New York City’s public pools. The only delay was that the pool area was at capacity, so we had to wait about a minute until other people exited to be allowed in through the gate.

While just a quadrant of the pool was open for rec swim, in accordance with the lifeguard count, the three lap lanes extended the full length. Another novelty for this New Yorker was that the pool had actual lane lines corresponding to the black lines at the bottom. Interestingly, the “deep end” was in the middle of the pool, with shallow ends at both ends of the lanes.

The fellow swimmers were an eclectic bunch of chlorine addicts ranging from polite to oblivious and using all manner of gear. I enjoyed the view of the Please Touch Museum alongside the lawn. It seemed like there were changing facilities in there, but we never made it over that way because of a grumbling rumbling. About 20 minutes before closing time, we suddenly had to clear the pool and exit the lawn due to a thunder-like sound. We heard something, but the sun was out and there was so much noise in the park that we were skeptical of there actually being thunder. Still, the lifeguards were more than happy to get off a bit early.

Philadelphia Aquarium history posterThe park is a bit of a distance from the downtown area. Knowing we were short on time even without accounting for the possibility of thunder, we took a cab to get there. Heading back into town, we caught a direct bus just across the street from the park entrance. There was a lot of free parking by the pool, and correspondingly a lot of people fled to their cars when the thunder machine roared.

Earlier that same day, we happened to learn some pool history at the amazing Fairmount Water Works Museum. Kelly Pool used to be right here on the Schuylkill in the former water works building, but it was destroyed by a storm in the early 1970s. The National Historic Landmark site is now full of information about Philadelphia’s water supply and environmental stewardship — I highly recommend a visit.

Likewise, I recommend the pool. The Parks Department website is short on detail, so see the pic below for some valuable intel about when you might be able to enjoy the lane lines at Kelly Pool.

sign with pool hours

Post-thunder exodus. All photos courtesy of Neil.

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Wodny Park Pool

Amanda and Jack, lookin’ better than ever!

Location: Warsaw, Poland

Configuration: 10 lanes of 50 meters plus recreational pool

Fee: depends; see below

Ever-intrepid pool tourist Amander, aka Amanda, visited our beloved lane-mate Jack in his new home turf of Warsaw, Poland, this past spring. On a gray, drizzly, mid-March day, they ventured to an early morning swim with the Warsaw Masters Team at the Wodny Park Pool to provide this dispatch. I miss swimming with them both — Jack’s relocation coincided more or less with the closure of the pool where we all swam together — and love how their personalities come through in this post, which introduces a dialog-based format to 40 Pools. Not to mention, the pool is gorgeous! 

AmandaJack, how did you discover the team?

Jack: First of all, let me just say how lovely it was to host you, Ms. Amanda! As for team, one of the first things I did when we moved from NYC to Warsaw in February of 2018 was to start looking for a team. WMT is pretty much the only viable option in the city, but I found the whole process quite confusing. The website is in Polish (I didn’t speak a lick when I first got here), the whole structure of the team/payments/practices is different from our NY team, and their system doesn’t accommodate drop-ins the way ours does. In other words, you have to be cleared by the Team Administrator to attend a practice in advance, and I found it very difficult.

In the meantime, I swam in a couple of other pools that were closer to home and my office. It was a truly horrific experience. The pools were nice enough and it was beyond cheap, but there was no order in the pool whatsoever. Even lanes that were marked for faster swimmers had extremely slow sidestrokers in them. And forget about lane etiquette! Poland is a very individualistic society, so no one (even at the masters level) would think to stop at the end of the lane to let you pass no matter how much faster you are. So after several frustrating solo swims (one of which resulted in someone punching me in the water so I may or may not have kicked him in the face), I decided the only way to go was by finding a way to join the team and swimming at the Wodny Park Pool, locally known as “Warsawianka.” 

What did you think of Wodny Park, Amanda?

Swoon! (Yes, Jack, I am insanely jealous.)

Amanda: Plenty of aquatics facilities like to tout their “Olympic” pools, but Wodny Park can legitimately make this claim, at least in terms of size, with ten lanes of 50 meters. Additionally, according to the pool information on the Wodny Park website, “The first-class technical fittings include an electronic Omega timekeeper, an area for judges, commentators and trainers and appropriate lighting and sound systems in the swimming pool hall allowing for sporting competitions and television broadcasting to be performed. The water is maintained at a constant temperature. 600 people may watch sporting competitions in the auditorium at one time.”

Impressive numbers aside, this is a truly beautiful pool. In spite of the dreary early spring weather during my visit, the vaulted ceiling with wooden slats arcing gracefully over a full wall of windows on one side of the facility provided generous natural light. The water was a perfect temperature, and the pool is deep with well-marked lanes. Swimming long course was an extra special treat. And our hosts, the Warsaw Masters Team, were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Although the workout was given entirely in Polish, some very helpful lane-mates translated for us.

Jack, are they always so nice?

Jack: For the most part, yes. As I mentioned before, I had a hard time at first getting “invited” to join the team. My husband had the brilliant idea of basically stalking them – going to the pool while the team was practicing, swimming near them, and then introducing myself to the coach afterwards. It worked like a charm!

Once invited onto the team, most of the men and women could not have been more lovely. The main coaches I swim with, Milena and Patryk, always make sure to take time to explain the set to me in English (I’m the only non-Pole in the water on most days) or they ask one of the better English speakers to help me out. At the end of my first practice, I was even welcomed by one of the guys named Bartek to join them for breakfast and a fruit smoothie he had brought in for the swimmers from home!

Amanda – did you notice anything other than the gorgeous pool in the Wodny Park facility?

Family area with yonder water slides.

Amanda: The facility has so much to offer. There is a separate recreational pool with slides and toys for families; sadly, we did not partake. We also skipped the saunas, steam rooms, “snow cabins,” and solariums, but judging by the photos on Wodny Park’s website, it seems like it would be worth the splurge to pay the 79 Zloty (about US$21) for a full-day ticket to enjoy both the pool and saunas. The locker room, in the usual European fashion, is co-ed in the locker area, with private stalls for changing and single-sex shower areas. It is clean, well-lit, and spacious, with amenities like vanity mirrors and hair dryers. There’s even a bowling alley, spa, and full gym in the space!

Jack, have you tried out the snow cabins or the solariums?

Jack: I have gone to the “Russian Bania” once or twice, which is right off the recreational pool. It was quite an experience. I had assumed going in that it would be a more conservative (i.e., clothed) experience, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Fully nude men, women, and children are all about using the several saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms, and even sunbathing outside on one of two all-nude sun decks. I mean, I’m from freaking Connecticut, you know? This was not normal for me – especially seeing a dad and his 12-year old girl chillin’ naked together in one of the steam rooms! – but when in Warsaw, you know?

Amanda – given all they had to offer, what did you think of the pricing?

Amanda: It’s very reasonable, although it is definitely a better value if you purchase a full day ticket and really take advantage of all the amenities. As a one-time visitor to the facility, I paid for a 2.5-hour single-entry swimming-only ticket for 35 Zloty (about US$9.25). Upon leaving, my ticket was scanned and I was reimbursed for the portion of time on my ticket that I hadn’t used (about 30 minutes). Aside from being a spectacular place to stretch out some sore traveling muscles and enjoy a fun organized workout, it was a really special part of my trip to be able to swim with Jack again and to have a little glimpse into his life in the place he and James are calling home for the next few years. 

Jack, how much did you love having me there??

Amanda: Honestly, it was one of my favorite practices of the year – except for the fact that you are now officially faster than me 100% of the time. Ok, well – we didn’t do any backstroke sets but otherwise you totally owned me!

Seriously though, it was lovely showing you off to my new Polish Team. So happy you came, and to finally be a part of this blog! Thanks Hannah – miss you and hope to swim with you soon!

To close, here are some of Amanda’s views of Warsaw’s Old Town Square, plus a current shot of what we are all missing at John Jay.

pool construction shot

Swamp no more? Reconstruction proceeds at John Jay College. (There’s a broken water pipe somewhere in here.)

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#99: MIT Zesiger Center

MIT pool - long viewLocation: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Configuration: 12 lanes of 25 yards plus diving well; 50 meters long in total

Fee: $10 day pass with non-MIT student ID, $15 day pass without student ID

A work event brought me to Boston in late September, so I seized the opportunity to try out pool #99 for a Friday night workout with MIT Tech Masters. What a good choice this was! The MIT Zesiger Center pool turned out to be the nicest indoor facility I’ve swum in on the East Coast. Opened in 2002, it still feels and looks brand new. The temperature was perfect, underwater visibility incredible, and my times faster than usual. If there had been a hot tub on deck, I’d probably still be there.

Coach Bill welcomed me to the workout, the club’s first on a Friday night since the spring. I shared a lane with just one other swimmer and somehow ended up doing about 14 laps of butterfly and 12 of breaststroke during the workout. Ouch!

The existence of a second pool (upper right) didn’t even tempt me, this one was so nice.

MIT pool artSwimming in the shallow end had the added benefit of proximity to a multipart art installation by Matthew Ritchie. The view at left, taken from the hallway outside the pool, is not as good as the one from within. Every time I breathed facing that window, I tried to figure out if it was a giant equation or other key to the universe. MIT takes its public art seriously, with a Percent-for-Art program of which this piece is just one example.

If the pool is any indication, sports facilities are taken seriously too — even though MIT is Division III. I wish schools in New York could do the same.

 

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Oh, What a Beautiful City!

A friend came across this gem of a video set at Hamilton Fish, a gem of a pool on the Lower East Side. I implore you to watch it and then watch it again, because it’s just as good the second time, music and all.

Years ago I saw a longer treatment of the same place, called The Pool, that explores a different day in its life (sans cell phone promo). It’s a good one too, if  you ever get a chance to see it. Differences among people from all walks of life all melt away when they are together enjoying the water.

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Cal Legends Aquatic Center


pool view through front door

My recent visit to the Bay Area did not include a swim in one of its newest pools, Cal Legends Aquatic Center. It’s unavailable to the likes of me, being reserved for the sole use of UC Berkeley’s renowned intercollegiate aquatics programs. The Golden Bears were constrained at the workmanlike Spieker pool, so a group of alumni up and bought the land for “more water,” had it built, and donated it to the college. How’s that for being true to your school?

I came by early on a Saturday morning to peer in through the fence at the year-old facility. The boxed-in setting is so similar to Spieker that I thought I might be in the wrong place, but the new diving tower is the giveaway. No more do Cal divers have to travel to Palo Alto to practice their high dives.

A group of women were nervously huddled on the highest platform, jumping one by one, so I’m convinced I was lucky enough to see varsity swimmers or fledgling recruits.

Meanwhile, Spieker and Cal’s other pools–Hearst, Golden Bear, and Strawberry Canyon–remain open to the rest of the community. Sources tell me that it may be possible to get into Legends if the other pools have to close unexpectedly, something not uncommon based on my experiences trying to swim at Cal, but in that case you get the water only and not the heated locker rooms and hot tub. (If any pool closures happen during my visits, I hereby plead the Fifth.)

As a staunch supporter of public education, I was glad to see that Cal beat the Cardinal team last year (in the Spieker pool no less). That said, I do find Stanford’s facility to be much more inspiring even than this new pool. Perhaps getting past the chain-link fence would change my mind.

pool view through the fence

Are those varsity swimmers up on the tower?

pool view through the fence

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Piscine Blomet a Paris

Lisa Lisa’s European vacation was not limited to Munich. Ever the diligent pool tourist, she also traveled to Paris and filed the following report. (To all other pool tourists and would-be correspondents out there, yes, 40 Pools welcomes guest entries from you, too!)

long view of the pool

Photo courtesy of TNYA member Ed, who also visited Paris recently.

Location: Rue Blomet, Paris, France (15th Arrondissement)

Configuration: Five 50-meter lanes, subject to rearrangement

Fee: €3, approximately $3.20

According to the New York Times, Paris has 38 municipal pools, but I only managed to visit one during my whirlwind trip to France. However, what I lost in quantity I made up for in quality.

After saying auf Wiedersehen to the Olympia Schwimmhalle, I took a side trip to visit TNYA mates John and Mingwei, who are halfway through a three-year Paris posting. And whenever/wherever TNYAs get together, there is swimming to be had.

sign: Paris Piscines BlometOn my first day in France, Mingwei and I walked over to their local pool, the Piscine Blomet. (John claimed to have to work. However; given the number of times I have seen them in the pool together, I still hold that the boys are only in possession of one suit between them.)

The Piscine Blomet is trés magnifique, a five-lane, 50-meter Parisian beauty. Entry is obtained for a mere €3, with another €1 required for changing room deposit. (Note to self: I owe Mingwei €1.) The locker room, as in Germany, is co-ed.

France’s national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité is nowhere more evident than in this pool. With one lane set aside for the local team, and another strangely formatted into two 25-meter halves (see top image, left), the remaining three lanes were available to anyone, regardless of speed or ability. My lane-mates included a grand-mère, two débutants, one backstroker inorganisé, and that aggressive triathlete guy you find in every pool. Mingwei opted for the 25-meter area, knowing it was less populated.

Getting by anyone was accomplished via passing, turning, swimming over, swimming under, or any combination thereof. This was common, and expected. The traditional foot-touch signal must have lost meaning in translation, as this rendered no response at all.

As someone who is usually the slowest in the lane, I did experience un petit frisson in passing so many fellow swimmers. However, this quickly wore off, and I debated the option of joining Mingwei in the 25-meter area. I’ve followed him in the lane for years, after all, and can attest that it is a comfortable place to be. But before I could make the move to the familiar territory, the gendarme blew the whistle and we were required to clear the pool.

Mingwei promised croissants for breakfast, and so begins a typical day in Paris. C’est la vie!

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Throwback Thursday: Olympia Schwimmhalle

Inspired by posts covering the pools from the Sydney and Montreal Olympic Games, pool tourism comrade Lisa Lisa petitioned for a guest spot to cover her favorite competition venue, the Olympia Schwimmhalle in Munich. I was more than happy to oblige! I love the architecture of this place, which I’ve only seen from a bus window–and from knockoffs like Vassar College’s pool. Her post exemplifies one of my favorite themes, namely, what lasting memories pools make. Future guest entries welcome!

snow-covered SchwimmhalleLocation: Olympiapark, Munich, West Germany (in 1985)/Germany (in 2016)

Configuration: 9-lane 50-meter pool, with separate platform and springboard diving area

Fee: see below

Germany has hosted the Olympic Games twice, in Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972, and neither the XI nor the XX Olympiad was without incident. The 1936 Olympics were the first to be televised, and the leader at the time manipulated the media to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy. (Sounds familiar? No comment.) In an effort to counteract this negativity, the 1972 Olympics strove toward an ideal of openness and freedom, unfortunately leaving the athletes’ village open to a terrorist attack. This was also televised. The world watched it all, and I was no exception.

As a gymnast, swimmer (see pool #13), and Fräulein, I was obsessed by these Olympic Games, and the competition at Munich was tremendous. Gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the games (at age 17; practically geriatric). Mark Spitz went on a medal-winning streak that was not topped until 2008. The East Germans won everything–and later got busted for it. And I inaugurated a fantasy of swimming in an indoor venue that wasn’t dark, cold, or dingy.

Munich Schwimmhalle front doorMy fantasy was fulfilled in 1985, when my sister and I made a pilgrimage to the Olympia Schwimmhalle while I was participating in a junior year abroad. Munich is a city that has truly Munich Schwimmhalle price listmade use of its Olympic venue, and many local masters’ teams are lucky enough to call the Schwimmhalle their home. Visitors are welcome, and my sister–also a member of the esteemed Sandpiper Swim Team (and now a bona fide pool tourist)–and I were excited to check it out. My picture is blurry (likewise my memory), but as a college student on a budget, I can’t imagine we paid more than 10 Deutschmarks some 30 years ago.

I can say with certainty that at the time, it was the most spectacular pool in which I had ever swum. It snowed the day we arrived, covering the “sails” of the venue with a light dusting and providing a picture-perfect Bavarian image (upper right).

The pool itself had more than 3 lanes, a rarity in our world, and to be able to swim and see the light of day concomitantly was a feat previously unheard of.Olympia Schwimmhalle interior

hair dryer at perfect height for author

Editor’s note: A hair dryer that is the right height for Lisa Lisa may be low for many of us.

sisters in the locker room

Pool tourists investigate the co-ed locker rooms, 1985 style.

The hair dryers were at the perfect height, something I have been unable to find anywhere else. And what’s that guy doing in the women’s locker room? As it turned out, the locker room was co-ed, with patrons paying a deposit for a private changing cubby in a large hall, open to anyone.

Finally, the Olympic gods/German engineers ensured that the water temperature was perfect, the lockers pristine, and the pool Band-aid and hairball free. Yes, 1985 was a very good year.

But so was 2016–for pool tourism, at least. Remember when I said the Olympic Schwimmhalle was the most spectacular pool in which I have even swum? Well, it still is, and I know for sure because I recently popped over to the Schwimmhalle for a repeat visit.Olympia Schwimmhalle today

sign in 2016two photos from 2016: hair dryers and locker roomNot much has changed since 1985. (Well, they did get a new sign, at right.) The pool was as clean and beautiful as I remembered. The grounds were immaculate and accessible. The locker rooms were still co-ed. The painted lane lines were as dark and clear as the days when Mark Spitz stroked over them. The hair dryers remained at the perfect height, albeit more modern.

One thing that changed is the price, since Germany bid auf Wiedersehen to the Deutschmark in 1999. The current price, €3.20, is the equivalent to $3.50.

In keeping with my travel trend, I look forward to returning to the Olympia Schwimmhalle in another 31 years.

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#94 and #95: Olympic Training and Competition Pools, Centre Sportif, Montreal

Competition pool

Location: Olympic Park, Montreal

Configuration: Two 50-meter pools, one with 5 lanes (the training pool) and one configured with oodles of 25-meter lanes across (the competition pool)

Fee: CA$6.50 plus tax, or a bit under US$5

Many of my fellow Americans are clamoring for information about Canada, and 40 Pools is here to assure you that there is good pool swimming to be had in our friendly neighbor to the north.

How do I know? I visited Montreal last month over the U.S. Columbus Day weekend and swam in the pool complex from the 1976 Olympic Games, now the Centre Sportif. Through researching the schedule I realized that my trip encompassed a national holiday, Action de Grâces–aka Canadian Thanksgiving. This tidbit provided helpful focus to the holiday weekend, and I timed my visit to swim in two pools for the price of one.

The swim competition at the XXI Olympiad benefited from a number of now-standard pool innovations, including an extra lane on either side of the 8 lanes of competition and turbulence-damping gutters to ensure the smoothest swim experience possible. While gymnast Nadia Comaneci was racking up the perfect 10s and the former Bruce Jenner broke his own decathlon records to become the “world’s greatest athlete,” the East German and American women duked things out in the pool. The U.S. women’s only gold came in a dramatic upset in the 4×100 relay [video]. (Host Canada took bronze behind the East Germans.)

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

I was very excited to take in these waters, my second Olympic pool experience. (The first was in Sydney.) Though the weather was dreary, anticipation built as we wandered through the Olympic complex, the first to have its swim hall connected to the Olympic stadium.

My swim started in the training pool, which paralleled the competition pool in a side room. It lacked the bright, inspirational feel of the main pool but had some nice touches such as its tiles and cutaways in the ceiling to reveal the underside of the bleachers. Although I was more rapide than most of the patrons, I placed myself among the moyen, where there was better lane etiquette.

training pool

Training pool

I got in a nice warm-up before this pool closed and we all shuffled over to the main event, the fully renovated competition pool. It’s looking and running great at 40! Cool temperature, crystal-clear water, a nice wall surface, skylights, motivational decor, a view of warm-ups for a diving competition, and my very own lane added up to a perfect swim experience.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool

Banners tout the laurels of the aquatic facilities: 7 pools, more than 9 millions liters of water, and more than 40,000 dives and 1,000 water polo matches per year. With lap lanes open more than 80 hours per week, this is the place to be for Québécois swimmers.

After my swim, we watched a bit more diving–up to 10 meters! We didn’t make it to the exhibit of 40th anniversary Olympic exhibit due to rain and other sightseeing plans. Imagining the excitement was easy enough.

diving pool

Plongeons!

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#90 & #91: Eriksdalsbadet

empty pool

Eurogames competition pool. Photo by Janet.

Location: Skanstull, Stockholm

Configuration: Indoor 50 x 25- and 25 x 25-meter pools with lots and lots of lanes. More pools outdoors that I didn’t swim in.

Fee: 90 kronor for a regular visit, lots more for Eurogames meet entry

Dear Eriksdalsbadet,

Please accept my apology for taking so long–three months!–to write about your wonders. You have so much to offer. If only we had met under different circumstance, it would have been magical. Unfortunately, Eurogames got in our way.

highway over Eriksdalsbadet

Just like the highway above it, Eriksdalsbadet goes on and on. Hints of its nearly 100-year-old history as a swim site are scant.

It’s awesome that the tradition of swimming on your site goes back to the closed waterworks in the 1920s, although I wish there were more traces left from those days. Still, I get that the Swedish national team needed a cutting-edge training facility–and how exciting was it that your very own Sarah Sjöström was off in China breaking world records during our visit?! (Do your pros really like the water that warm? It sure got hot with the afternoon and then evening sun streaming in.)

I was psyched to beat some of my times from Iceland ever so slightly during the three-day competition. True, I was wearing a $190 technical suit thanks to my team’s new sponsorship deal with Speedo, but I’m sure your infinity gutters, deep water, and normal ceiling played a role.

48500010

Speed slide (right) and lazy river slide.

The tiered showers in the locker room are a great idea–people’s heights vary, so why shouldn’t shower heights vary, too? I also really enjoyed the water slides, once they reopened after some undisclosed incident the first day. The split clock added a whole new dimension to our sliding. Try as I might, I could not break 9 seconds to match my teammates’ times on the fastest slide. Perhaps my technical suit was not optimized for this purpose?

Yonder outdoor pool and grassy lawn.

An early morning view of yonder 50-meter outdoor pool and giant grassy lawn, which all filled up with Stockholmers on these beautiful days.

How about the outdoor pools? I only made it as far as the lawn, since we’d been told that our meet entry did not cover the outdoor part of the complex and I was all pooled out anyway. The natives sure seemed to enjoy themselves out there–and the warm, sunny weather that came with us to Stockholm.

Of course, the competition was fierce. Our TNYA contingent alone was more than 80 swimmers, divers, and water polo players strong. The combination of many of my favorite people traveling to one my favorite places to participate in one of my favorite activities seemed like a guaranteed success.

25-meter pool

25-meter pool, used for warm-ups and cool-downs during our meet.

The lead-up to Eurogames–a major international competition that required signup months in advance and significant travel by most participants–should have given me pause. First the meet was going to be four days, then it switched to three. The registration site flummoxed some of my very intelligent teammates and me. (In fact, I almost got pulled from a couple events due to not having seed times with my entries. I thought I had entered times, mind you, and would have gladly provided them had anyone asked in the intervening months.) Important details such as the event schedule were scant and poorly communicated. All along, though, I reassured myself that everything would go off without a hitch in ever-so-organized Sweden. How organized? This is a place where all the bus stations have countdown clocks and the grocery store check-out conveyors are split by a chute so that a customer who is slow to gather her wares does not impede the person behind her in line. For example.

Smörgåsbord

I swam extra-hard in my 1500 so I wouldn’t be late for this smörgåsbord at my favorite building in Stockholm, Stadshuset. It was a model of efficiency, with hundreds of people enjoying Swedish delicacies and hospitality simultaneously. Photo by Janet.

Things went downhill as the meet drew near. Just a couple days before the start, the meet director realized that the time allocated was impossibly short given the number of competitors. How this was not clear from the data the moment registration closed is beyond me. The “solution” at this late stage was to drop the slowest and no-time entrants from all events and to limit options for distance freestyle swimmers such as myself. Many participants and teams raised a ruckus about these changes, given the long tradition of inclusion in our competitions, and so the schedule was changed yet again and all entrants were reinstated. The catch was that the meet would run loooong, a situation exacerbated by failure to implement various efficiencies such as fly-over starts. Also, the reconfigured schedule had the 800 and 1500 back-to-back. I decided that would be too much at the end of a loooong day so did just the 1500 with the consolation that my 800 split would be recorded. As far as I can tell, that did not happen.

In a different setting–a developing nation, or a culture less known for precision–I would have taken it all in stride. However, because I hold Sweden to such a high standard, because I wanted more free time to enjoy the rest of the city, and because 80 of my friends were watching and griping, the failures large and small were major disappointments.

But, like I said, you’re a nice pool. With a few months’ perspective, I’m clearly still frustrated that the experience could have been even better, but those are the breaks. There were plenty of highlights, and I’m very, very glad to have had the excuse to check out some new water, swim in a technical suit, and visit some old friends and old haunts along with one of Stockholm’s newest museums.

Next time, I’ll make sure that we have more quality time together (not quantity). Until then, thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Hannah

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