There were many moments I should have filmed, if i was cinematically inclined. You'll have to settle for my description instead.
I arrived at Attleboro High School at 6:15 AM. A few other people were there, waiting in their cars. I popped out of mine to sit on the bench.
Chuck Batchelor had warned me that I need not show up so early, but I did anyway. He rolled in a few minutes later, and what followed could only be described as some light acrobatics in order to get some air flowing into the pool area.
It didn't help much, and by the end we were all sweating through our shirts.
Chuck was a welcome host. My mind plays tricks on me when I think about the team he has crafted in southern Massachusetts. I got disavowed of many of those expectations when we spoke on my podcast earlier this year.
I imagine that the team has spread to many sites (it hasn't). I imagine that there were 400-500 swimmers on the team (more like half that). Somehow, I expect to watch kids grind out some long repeats, and instead the majority of practice is spent doing 25s and 50s. Chuck tells me I came at the wrong part of the season for that.
Also there is Greg Gillette, who's now in his third year of his third stint working with Bluefish. The two work pretty seamlessly together, managing different ends of the pool and comparing notes while I distract them a little. I tease Greg as he unveils a seemingly unending amount of technology from his bag.
What I've always admired about Chuck is that he is such a happy warrior. Although he does believe in some old fashioned meteryards, there is no chest pounding or false bravado. He is confident in what he's doing, happy to be there, and kind.
He needles me about the fact that he sent me a text after our podcast laying out a great argument for why we should swim (a lot) that I never replied to. The message is lost to history but suffice it to say I took it to heart.
Outdoor for the 4th
The next morning, I got to attend a joint practice between Bluefish and Chris Sheppard's Commonwealth Current. We practices at the Latta Brothers Pool in Somerville MA.
New England swimming has been plagued by a lack of 50m facilities over the years. The dirty secret is that Boston has a bunch, but many lack basic necessities to be used for practice, much less competition.
Sheppard has put some work into shaping up Latta Brothers. Paint buckets filled with cement hold the lane lines in place. The bottom of the pool has been striped. There is some talk of possibly bubbling over the pool so it can be used year round.
The Current are quite a bit younger than Bluefish, but they hold their own just fine. Again owing to the time of year the practice is quite heavy on intensity and race pace swimming.
I love the fact that someone is taking these pools and using them for someone. An animated Aquatics Director was there talking all of our ears off about how poorly utilized many pools are in Massachusetts. Facilities just aren't used enough, and then people see them as a liability and a nuisance. At least in this instance, there's some work being done to change that.
Between Sheppard, Gillette, Chuck and Sheppard's assistant Michael Prout, I am the only clean shaven individual stalking the pool deck. They didn't give me too hard of a time.