I swam in junior high and high school. Not super fast, but proficiently. My first taste of an organized swim team was when I lived on Governors Island in New York. We swam under the auspices of a local YMCA, coached by the indomitable Captain Cadigan, who was a tad scary looking only because he was like a million feet tall. But he was really a gigantic teddy bear.
He used to requisition the big blue GI school bus and drive us up the West Side Highway to swim team practice every Saturday. I don't know how all those kids and all that noise didn't drive him out of his mind.
One meet we participated in was an overnighter. We spent the night camped out in what I think might have been a church, then bombarded a local McDonalds or donut shop (I don't remember which one) for breakfast the next morning. Captain Jack and 30 kids. The place may never have been the same again.
I remember this meet and this one race like it was yesterday. We were at Marist College for an invitational meet. The fastest swimmer on our team, Kaela Kozlovsky, had to scratch from the 500 meter freestyle. Lucky her. So Coach Cadigan thought it would be a good idea for me to swim it.
I am a go-out-quick, give-it-all-you've got kinda swimmer. Sprints. 100 meters tops. It was kind of like sending your 50-meter dash person to run a marathon.
50-meters in I was thinking this wasn't so bad. 100-meters, I was still hanging in there.
By the time I got to 250 meters I thought I was going to drown. Thank God there was someone flipping a "laps swam" card at one end of the pool. It was all I could do to keep going, forget counting how many laps I had done.
I kept plodding along like an injured whale. The rest of the field finished. I was still swimming. For a while.
When I saw that orange card get flipped over, I heard the Hallelujah Chorus in my head. One lap to go and this would be over. I got out of the pool and promptly threw-up.
I never swam that distance again.