By Adam Button
I crawl on to the swim deck and look up to see swim team head coach Victor Delac hovering above me.
“I don’t want to be on the swim team,” I tell him as my stomach twists and groans. “Excuse me,” I mumble.
I begin to walk, then run, toward the change room. I stop at a garbage can and dry heave before I make my break for the toilet.
I get there just in time.
“Everything alright?” the custodian asks me.
“I got it all in the toilet,” I answer, resting my head in the puke on the ledge of the bowl.
When I look up, a toilet bowl full of spewy Honey Nut Cheerios is looking back at me. It’s only 6:15 a.m.
An hour earlier, I ate those Honey But Cheerios, looked out into the morning darkness and thought it might be a long day.
Sore from the volleyball tryout the day before and weary from only a few hours of sleep, I could hardly stay awake at the breakfast table.
Before I left my house, I grabbed the new Speedo I bought at Bikini Village.
I had crept into the store like I was buying condoms. “Are there any men’s bathing suits here?” I whispered to the cashier, as I checked over my shoulder. Then I grabbed the first suit that might fit. If I’m going to be on the swim team, I thought, I better look like a swimmer.
With my bathing suit, swim cap and goggles in tow, I hopped on my bike and headed to Ryerson. I couldn’t believe it was already 25 C outside.
I was exhausted, but I was on time for the 5:45 a.m. practice. Breast stroker Nick Jorgenson arrived 20 minutes late. Delac told him to do 100 push-ups for every five minutes of practice he missed (for those who flunked out of algebra, that’s 400 push-ups).
Delac stressed punctuality at a preliminary team meeting.
“There is no excuse for you not to be here for the morning practices,” he told us. I can’t think of an excuse to be out of bed that early.
But if the Rams are going to win, Delac will need total commitment. He even told us that we should time our bathroom breaks so we don’t disrupt our training.
“Just go in the pool,” joked team captain David Quane. Still, Delac is extraordinarily likeable. He’s young and always smiling. On top of that, he’s passionate about swimming — besides coaching at Ryerson, he is a public school gym teacher and a swim coach for the Toronto Swim Club.
Delac was happy to see a few new faces at the team meeting. A full swim team has 12 men and 12 women. Last year, only six men and seven women competed. When I counted the number of men around me there still were not enough people to fill the team.
“There won’t be any cuts,” Delac told us.
“Damn right,” I thought to myself, “without even getting in the pool, I’m on the swim team.”
I felt naked as I walked on to the pool deck in my Speedo. The rest of the men wore drag stuits, which basically look like trunks.
“Everyone warm up with four to five hundred yards,” shouted Delac.
That’s 20 lengths of the pool. I hadn’t been in a swimming pool in six years. I doubted that I could swim 10 lengths. When I took swimming lessons as a child I failed level blue, a basic level, three times before I gave up.
After eight lengths of the doggy paddle, I hunched over the edge of the pool and choked for air.
Beside me, two women were doing the breast stroke in the slow lane. By the time I caught my breath and struggles through two laps, everyone else was finished.
When I finally reached the wall, Delac handed me a flutter board and send me out for 500 more yards. One of the women in the slow lane asked me to go ahead of her, “I’m really slow,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it, you’re not as slow as me,” I told her.
I was right. After 12 lengths, she lapped me twice. “Are you alright?” she asked, “because you don’t look so good.”
That was the last lap I swam, and if I have my way, it will be the last lap I ever swim.
On my way out of the pool, with puke on my breath, I wish Delac good luck, but I head to the Kerr Hall Gym. At 7:30 a.m. the first basketball team tryout begins.