Friday, October 8, 2010

Shrines to Nike

This morning one of my fellow masters swimmers basically called the pool where we swim a dump.  And I was like OH NO YOU DID-IN'T...hold on...well, yah, when you tilt your head, squint your eyes, and say it like that, it kind of is.  But it has a certain depth of warm-ish water to recommend it and there is a roof...did I mention the water was wet?

Over the past few years the private club (our group just rents lane time there) had updated the entrance, gym, and locker rooms, but not the pool.  It remains a shrine to 1970s-era athletic construction and design - too few lanes; too narrow lanes; too little light; badly painted follow-the-black lines; the propensity to erupt into a whipped-by-hurricane-wind-like furor whenever the second fastest lane is doing the last (and fastest) part of the main set and the fastest lane has moved onto the first part of the IM set (meaning butterfly), or whenever, you know, more than one person swims in each lane at any given time.

But it also remains my swimming shrine to Nike.  The alter on which I have placed daily devotions of hours, effort, and sweat in order to breathe bi-laterally and develop a balanced stroke.  In order to drop tens of seconds from my base time.  In order to swim under an hour in IM. 

It may be a dump if you don't tilt your head and squint your eyes, but who cares about the view when the work is done face submerged at the edge of the Black Fog?  It may be a dump in the eyes of some, but for all it's given me in return, it's an open-air crystal clear salt-water oasis with a mosaic-tiled deck and a view of the mountains. 

In high school, my "home" cross-country course was on a landfill.  It smelled like methane and I could never shake the thought of "what exactly are my spikes sinking into right now?  Is that coffee ground juice on my shoes?"  But it will always remain the place where I took 5 minutes off of my 4k time between my freshman and sophomore seasons.  For that reason it might as well be my personal hallowed Boston Marathon course or Van Cortlandt Park.

I can still remember the stale stench and early morning classic rock radio station of the place where I learned to lift weights from the previous coach of the football team; every divot of the well-worn warm-up loop for soccer practice; the nondescript-ness of the racquetball court where I did circuit training with my Dad....

Sometimes the places we train and the equipment we use take on more meaning and look more beautiful with every drop of sweat wrung instead of every extra dollar spent.   Which is probably why the yoga-mat-sized spot in the middle of my living room, in front of my TV,  looks like this:

The View From My Living Room
Some might recognize this view, but even if you don't, all that is important to know is that the more time I spend offering sweat to my yoga mat (aka bike shrine) the more likely I am to see this up close and personal again.  Some shrines do come with a view.

Where is your shrine?  Have you visited it today?

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