Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bringin' Home the Bacteria

You can pretty much set your watch by it: At the end of most indoor swim seasons, coaches will succumb to disease.

I think it’s a let-down effect. After expending Herculean amounts of energy for the last seven months, the first day these coaches don’t spend more than 14 hours on a pool deck, all the germs that have been camped out on the rims of their body’s orifices attack at once. Within hours, they are coughing, wheezing, sneezing and demanding to know who used up all the ibuprofen.

Mr. Coach is no different except that his post-championship let-down effect usually goes bacterial within a week but then it still takes at least three days to convince him to go see the doctor. Who has the Zithromax prescription printed out and waiting before he even gets there. (I have said it before and I will say it again: How my husband’s bloodline survived the Middle Ages is a mystery to me. The dust mites alone should have wiped them all out, and yet somehow they survived and the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t be happier.)

The worst part is, if you’re not careful, a diseased coach is going to infect the rest of the family. Usually I plan ahead and make sure that I don’t get behind on sleep, I keep eating right and – this has become critical – I keep swimming through the period of time when the let-down effect is in full swing. I am convinced that a moderately reasonable swim regimen exposes me to just enough chlorine to kill germs but doesn’t wear down my own immune system.

This year, it didn’t work out that way. One day, I was doing my usual noontime swim, minding my own business. I was coming into the wall on the 50 of a pace 100 free and – KABLAM! – I hit something so hard my first thought was I had somehow stupidly hit the wall. I recoiled and stood up, reeling, and what to my crossed eyes should appear but some barge of a human being who had decided to swim across my lane at the exact moment I was about to flip turn.

Now I’m sure to most experienced swimmers, collisions are not an unfamiliar occurrence, especially if you’re used to sharing lanes. But I am 1) not an experienced swimmer and 2) really, really adept at keeping people out of my lane, even when noontime swim gets crowded (it’s all about not stopping, even if that means turning a 100 into a 1,000). Long story short, my collision with the Unapologetic Human Barge (I know, right?) kept me out of the water for a couple days because of the bloody nose and internal nostril swelling, and that was long enough to let down the defenses on my germ portals.

Yeah sure, I could have and should have just done kicking those two days, but I didn’t, OK. And then Mr. Coach got sick. And then I got sick. And then the kids got sick. And then we were all sick.

Sickness – it’s the exclamation point on the end of a long season’s sentence.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Barbershop Blues

Not too long ago, I took Little Mr. Coach to the barbershop. Mr. Coach had been promising to do it for ages, but somehow just never seemed to get around to it. And I knew exactly why.

The minute we walked in the door, the barber – a tall, imposing ex-Navy man named Bob – took one look at Little Mr. Coach’s blond hair and rolled his eyes. That was probably because he knows Little Mr. Coach was born with brown hair.

“It’s your favorite chlorine-damaged head of hair!” I said cheerily. Bob muttered something under his breath.

Little Mr. Coach climbed into the chair and Bob tried running a comb through the fine, shiny strands.

“There’s breakage,” he said.

“What’s that?” said Little Mr. Coach.

“It means I can break your hair off without even trying,” Bob replied. He tried combing it again but couldn’t.

“Oh, this is so damaged, it isn’t even hair anymore,” he said. “I don’t know how far down I’ll have to go.”

“Will I be bald?” Little Mr. Coach asked enthusiastically. Appearance-altering damage is pretty much everything a 10-year-old boy lives for.

“If it’s any consolation,” I told Bob, “my husband has a whole pool full of college guys whose hair is in much worse shape.”

That did not seem to console Bob.

“What if we shaved a circle in the back, you know like make it bald in the middle with hair around it?” Little Mr. Coach asked, again with great enthusiasm.

“No, dear,” I replied. “They stopped doing that in the 1500's.”

Bob worked stoically for a good 20 minutes, chiseling down the strands on Little Mr. Coach’s head until a decent length brush cut emerged.

“Conditioner,” Bob said when he was done. “Don’t even think about bringing him back unless he starts using conditioner because he won’t have anything left to cut.”

“Okey doke,” I said cheerfully and added a generous tip to the bill. Just like I always do.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Title X for Men

(And now, for something completely different from the Fun Department)

MUNCIE, Indiana – The Man Institute today announced the results of an extensive study examining the effect of Title IX legislation on men’s sports – and the Institute says one of its findings is especially revealing.

The controversial piece of legislation, enacted in 1972, was part of a U.S. Congressional initiative to provide equal opportunities in sports for females. Since that time, arguably millions more females have been able to participate in sports, thanks primarily to increased funding for girls’ and women’s sports. However, one of the effects of Title IX legislation has been the gutting of many men’s sports, and Man Institute representatives say their study may have uncovered a reason for that.

"We have amassed quantitative proof," said Man Institute Executive Director Biff Winkershott at a press conference this morning, "that the men’s sports most affected are those in which men are clad in the most physically revealing and/or skin-tight outfits."

Winkershott went on to list the sports whose ranks, he said, have been stripped because of how academic institutions interpret Title IX’s mandates.

"Swimming," Winkershott said. "Gymnastics. Wrestling. Track. Diving. We are talking about every sport where men – and well-developed boys – have historically felt free to show that they are in fact men. Or on their way to becoming men."

Winkershott added, "These are not athletes who are hiding behind baggy shorts, loose-fitting jerseys and other types of bulky, form-altering attire. These are males who are not afraid to put it all out there. Whether this chilling effect is intentional or not, we cannot say, but certainly our research raises the possibility that apparel-based discrimination may be a factor with the shrinkage that has occurred in these sports’ numbers."

As a result, Winkershott said the Man Institute has drafted and is seeking Congressional sponsorship for a piece of legislation it has dubbed "Title X for Men."

The Man Institute’s legal analyst Harlan C. Trunkmeyer unveiled the proposed amendment to the Education Amendments of 1972 act.

"We are going to challenge the inherent prejudice head on," said Trunkmeyer, "and for that reason, we’ve chosen to word the legislation thusly:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex-revealing apparel, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Winkershott added: "Every male athlete in this country needs to understand that he needs to start watching his own hind side because somebody else already is – and it’s somebody who doesn’t want the rest of the world seeing it."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spouse Coaching, The Return of

So, people ask – with some trepidation – how’s the swimming been going, Mrs. Coach?

Well, I reply, not half badly, thank you for asking. Mr. Coach and I have settled into a viable situation where he writes workouts for me and occasionally wanders through the pool area when I’m swimming to make sure I’m not violating any fundamental rules of the sport.

The workouts he writes keep me moving in a forward direction with my acquisition of both fitness and swimming competency. And Mr. Coach and I have agreed after intense negotiations (including but not limited to the continued availability of my sausage calzones) that what I need most for now is to "refine my feel for the water" and that’s just going to take a couple hundred thousand flip-turns. That’s because in many ways, I’m still the equivalent of an 8-year-old in the water but, as I like to remind Mr. Coach, that’s an 8-year-old with a full range of cooking skills.

So, as I was saying, most of the workouts that Mr. Coach writes for me are productive. Many of them involve coaxing me into doing more backstroke for more laps because, as we have discovered, I’m not bad at this stroke (Mr. Coach says I have "good natural body position in the water," but I know that’s just coach-speak for "doesn’t totally suck").

However, there occasionally pops up a workout which is not to my liking (and mind you, I am a woman whose motto during my track career was: "Go Anaerobic, Early and Often," so it’s not like I’m a wuss). These workouts fall into two categories. I call one of them the "Honey, Do We Need to Talk?" workout. These usually involve creatively varied sets with diminishing amounts of rest. Crossing the anaerobic threshold is fine. Anything where the line on the bottom of the pool starts talking to me is not.

(Although, to be fair, the only time that’s happened was during a race when I didn’t realize that Mr. Coach’s parting words "...and don’t breathe," were more of a suggestion than a mandate.)

The other type of objectionable workout is the one that ends with me getting a cramp in the arch of either foot. Toe cramps, I can handle. Arch cramps, no dice. So when that happens, Mr. Coach knows he’s got some serious choices ahead of him that night. Thin crust or original. Pepperoni or extra cheese. I call this category the "Get Your Own Damn Dinner" workout.

Which reminds me. Eating. The gargantuan appetite that goes with doing Mr. Coach’s workouts does not, in and of itself, bother me. I enjoy eating. I drink whole milk with impunity. My idea of heaven is a big bowl of Cheese Jax, a glass of pinot grigio and a new episode of "Top Chef." (Hootie!) But the greedy leap that my appetite took after I began swimming Mr. Coach’s workouts took even me by surprise.

"Why am I eating so much more now than when I ran?" I asked Mr. Coach one day.

"Well," he replied, "you burn more calories swimming because you’re biomechanically inefficient in the water."

Guess who made dinner that night.

(and here's the first blog about Spouse Coaching:

Friday, March 6, 2009

A quick update

Hey and hi and thanks to all who've visited the site this week. The response has been amazing and much appreciated.

In answer to a question I've gotten a few times, I'll be adding a new blog each Sunday morning. Just a little something fun to go along with reading your Sunday paper and gearing yourself up for the week to come.

Cheers and thanks again!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earning the Perks

Hopefully other coach families out there won’t mind if I dish on one of my favorite coach-family perks – having the keys to the pool. It’s not exactly a secret but it’s not exactly something that non-coach families love to hear about. Understandably so. When other families live at the mercy of the pool-scheduling gods, they don’t want to hear about me working out in lanes 3, 4, 5 and 6 if I feel like it.

But you know what? It makes up for a lot. Let me just give you one example of why having the keys to the pool is a perk you should never begrudge a coach family. That example would be my most recent New Year holiday.

This year, the Little Coaches and I didn’t travel down to Florida with the team. So, on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we bid Mr. Coach and his sun-hungry swimmers a cheery adieu as the bus headed out. Three hours later, I was reading in the living room when Little Miss Coach went sprinting past me to the bathroom. The sound of vomiting ensued.

"This better not be bulimia," I muttered as I headed up the stairs. Thankfully it was just a nasty 24-hour stomach flu that took another 24 hours to recover from. Little Miss Coach recovered and then, a day later, I came down with it. (Spectacularly, I might add.) Here’s where it gets a little poignant.

You see, most collegiate and many large-club coach families don’t live near family. That’s just the nature of the job: You go to where there is a job. And though the people in your community very often become your family, you still have to be very self-sufficient. The Coach Family has relied on the kindness of some amazing friends when kids have been born, new houses have been moved into, or the family patriarch ends up in the ER because his bike is a magnet for idiot truck drivers. But stuff that involves a toilet? Sorry – but that’s immediate-family territory.

So the Little Coaches and I hunkered down and got through it. As I was recovering, though, I found myself thinking, "Dang, that molar hurts." About 12 hours later, when I couldn’t see straight on account of the shooting pains in my head, I called my dentist – whom I found on a day cruise off the coast of South Carolina. The long-distance diagnosis was that a root canal was needed. But it couldn’t be done until the following Monday, three days later.

So I got through it all and I recovered with such admirable speed that by the time Mr. Coach returned home, he was able to insist that I didn’t look at all like I had lost and regained five pounds (the hard way) since he last saw me.

Yes, this year finally trumps the year that I spent six days snowed in with a 5-year-old, a 6-month-old and half a bottle of cooking sherry while Mr. Coach was, again, in that lovely land called Florida.

So do you get it now? Hearing that the Coach Family makes selfish use of the keys to the pool might make you seethe with jealousy, but we’ve earned it.

Oh yes, we have earned it.