This past Sunday I had my swim lesson at Mission Bay. Mission Bay is the newer part of UCSF and it's quite the campus here in SF. It's not far from the Giants' ballpark. On Sundays the indoor pool is reserved for family swim classes so I have to swim in the outdoor pool on the roof. It's a beautiful view to be sure, but also freezing on certain days in the morning.
I sat in my car in the parking garage because I'd gotten there a little early. I heard the sound of the wind and looked out the window. I could see the wind blowing the rain at a diagonal. It seems both natural and counter-intuitive to be swimming in the rain. On one hand, you're already wet so what does it matter? On the other, you have to get out of the pool and walk the freezing few steps to the stairway leading down to the (warmer) locker room. Those few steps can be hard.
I told my swim instructor, who arrived wearing jeans, a baseball cap, black fleece jacket and large umbrella, that I never imagined I would be here swimming in the cold rain. He laughed and told me only hardcore people swim in the rain and I was one of them.
The majority of the lesson consisted of my instructor running back and forth in the pouring rain yelling "faster, FASTER!" as he put me through my paces with many drills. The lifeguard on duty was kind enough to lend him a huge waterproof lifeguard jacket, but he still got soaking wet. I asked him if he had to swim later, he nodded. He's taking a course or renewal of some kind so he had to swim about an hour after our lesson in the same pool.
As I swam as fast as I could back and forth I could feel the rain thumping me on the back. It was an odd feeling. It felt alien, but not wrong. I kept telling myself I was already wet. The wind started blowing the rain almost horizontal. It was affecting my ability to breathe as I turned my head because of the surface waves. I wasn't cold, my instructor made sure I kept my heart rate up. In fact he was kicking my ass. I was so winded after the last drill it was hard to take a breath as I slowly made my way down the stairway to the comfort of the women's locker room.
During the second to the last drill where I had to swim three laps without stopping I kept turning my head to breath and was sucking down water instead because of the waves. It scared me, as usual, but I had a different thought. Whenever something like that happens I always think something like "the pool is shallow enough so I can put my feet down if I need to" or "my swim instructor would never let me drown, neither would the lifeguard for that matter." This time I thought something different for the first time "This isn't that scary at all because I can swim and I'm going to keep swimming even when I'm swallowing water."
It's a new, marvelous place to be.