Coach Valeriy Boreyko handed me a personalized pool workout schedule for the last time before I leave for England. Except when occasional business travel has interfered, I’ve swum at the USF pool every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 am since last November when Duke Dahlin first shepherded me into the masters program. Today’s workout was relatively light. A year ago, swimming 3,200 yards in a pool would have counted as a monumental occasion. Today, it was barely a blip on the training radar screen.
At this point, my new stroke is thoroughly ingrained and Coach Val is all smiles and thumbs-up. He regularly gives me a wry look after a workout and says in his Russian accent, “I want complain.” Then he breaks into a grin, shakes his head and says, “But can’t complain.” Today, he advised me once again regarding the importance of taking measures to stay well. He wished me good luck; we shook hands; and I walked to the parking lot with a strange sense of leave-taking. The feeling was not like I’m going to England for a two week vacation. It was more like I’m relocating permanently to South Africa or India or the back side of the moon.
From USF, I drove the few blocks to Ralph Wenzel’s bakery. He came out from the back in his white chef’s coat grinning widely. I told him how much I appreciated all of his support in helping me prepare for the Channel attempt. I also wanted him to know how much I enjoyed his company in the process. Ralph was his usual gracious self and agreed that it has been a profound experience and one that he will treasure for years. We talked a bit about how well the remodelling project is going at his bakery. We shook hands multiple times and he offered several forms of encouragement. Once again, the leave-taking bore an aura of momentousness and finality.
I guess this is the way it’s going to be. Until we head for the airport, most everything related to swimming is going to seem like a final big deal. Perhaps that’s fitting. Regardless of how it turns out, this experience has already been extraordinary.
4 months ago