A long time ago I wrote a couple of posts about lane swimming and lane etiquette. They regularly pick up ongoing viewers and have been read and maybe even used by a share of swimmers.
Recently Simon Griffiths, editor of H2Open magazine, dropped the links into H2Open’s weekly email newsletter. He shortly received a Mr Angry from Tunbridge Wells type response. From Bob. Bob is furious. We know he’s furious because he says so right at the start. Bob is furious at H2Open. Bob is furious at me. Bob is even furious at you by default. Furious Bob.
H2Open was attacked for not catering for ordinary or slow swimmers just because it linked my posts. It should be noted, no comments were left here on my blog where the articles appear.
Anyway, Furious Bob’s letter is worth reading with the insults before I get to my response. There’s no option for me to comment over there by the way.
Furious Bob fails dramatically on a few points.
At no point have I ever claimed to be a fast swimmer. Regular and even irregular readers will know I describe myself as an average swimmer. With training, and doing it as a time trial, I can do 1k in 14:30 to 15:00 minutes, on the right day. I’ve hit 3k in 45 minutes and never hit 4k in an hour (but I got close). Hardly ocean-shattering performance. Respectable. I’m not a teenager and I’ve put in my miles and my years to even get as far as I have. What performance or ability I have comes, like all swimmers, at the cost of training and time. I’m not stopping Bob or others doing the same. In fact, as you will see, Furious Bob would surely improve if he embraced some of the most common precepts of swimming.
It’s useful here to understand both my speed and Furious Bob’s for context: A world class distance swimmer like Chris Bryan or Trent Grimsey swims five thousand metres per hour. I swim about three thousand six hundred. Furious Bob swims two kilometres per hour. The point isn’t to embarrass Furious Bob but to contextualise this properly before progressing. In swimming there is always someone better than us. Always.
Since he makes that invalid assumption about my speed, he implies that I’m advocating that everyone moves out of the way for me. But I apply those rules to myself also. As every experienced swimmer does.
I get out of the way for faster swimmers.
I/we can swim comfortably with swimmers of all speeds who understand basic lane etiquette. Furious Bob equates driving a car to lane swimming, and says they are virtually identical. Of course it’s a false assertion. Driving a car is a civil matter bounded by legal rules and laws, optimised for the efficient and safe running of everyone doing so in what is a potentially lethal environment. Swimming though, is a sport.
A better analogy is to compare swimming therefore to other sports. If you are playing golf, and someone joins you who is using a baseball bat instead of golf clubs, Furious Bob’s analogy would be that you allow them to play with you. Or maybe a baseball bat is too extreme. Maybe they just have a putting club/thing (whatever they’re called, I don’t play golf!). But hey, that’s ok, we’ll all just use our putting club. And maybe you’d do that. Most wouldn’t. You can substitute almost any sport as more relevant analogy than Furious Bob’s assertion that lane swimming is like driving a car.
The fact is that most people try to recognise a shared set of sporting rules for every sport. It doesn’t mean you agree with them all, but you stick to them. I didn’t invent lane swimming etiquette, nor a single one of the guidelines, I just wrote them down that way (as others have done, and others will do). (In fact, I instigated a discussion of those etiquette guidelines on a swim forum with about 5,000 members before writing the article. Swimmers of all levels agreed).
Furious Bob is furious because he want to play with Furious Bob’s Special House Rules. In Furious Bob’s Special House Rules, you check over your shoulder and look behind you five metres from the end of the pool! Then you make an immediate assessment of relative speeds and vectors, during this instant, before deciding on the next action. Furious Bob considers this a reasonable request! Less ludicrous than allowing a faster swimmer to pass by at a turn!
Do you think Furious Bob has done a lot of lane swimming based on this? Or in fact, any? The problems with this are so obvious that I can’t understand how anyone with any swimming experience would think them more workable than simple universal lane etiquette.
Etiquette that has been written about by
Mauritio Emily, Evan and some well-known others. By breaking away from this etiquette, which works when everyone adheres to it, Furious Bob is essentially saying that instead the slower swimmers get to dictate how swimming session should be organised. Let me give an example. I’ve written about the long pool sessions that take place in Source Pool in Cork, which started the year I was training for the Channel with the rest of The Magnificent Seven. We would also be joined by other local distance and actually fast swimmers such as Eddie Irwin, Ned Dennison, Carol Cashell, etc as well as a range of other speeds and abilities. Source keeps two lanes open at all times, a fast and slow lane. These 10k to 20k sessions still occur if someone organises one. The group ranges from 3k per hour to 4k+ per hour and we all swim in the fast lane. Carol, Eddie, Liam or Ned lead out so we are not in their way. We try to hang on to each other in descending speed order. Then Furious Bob joins. We never stop swimmers like Furious Bob joining, we just continue on, after all he must be able to assess speed from simply watching us for a few seconds, right? Furious Bob will soon have two to six swimmers completely disrupted. Everyone will be looking behind them right at the point where other swimmers are breaking out from a turn.
What effect do you think “simply looking behind you” will have in a multiple swimmers situation? Especially on everyone holding a straight line? Have you ever “simply looked behind you“? Some swimmers will have to decide which side they are turning on. Chaos. Furious Bob however will assuredly be happy. Until he is not, because then he’ll likely come up with another of Furious Bob’s Special House Rules for when his first ones don’t work. Why should that one swimmer have the power to dictate everyone else’s swim? Which is exactly what Furious Bob wants; the power to disrupt everyone else even if it’s not an overt statement or even conscious desire.
My title is editorialised, Furious Bob isn’t directly calling for slow swimmers to have the right of way. But that’s the consequence of his proposals. There’s a hint of his disdain for swimmers when Furious Bob says that “fast swimmers can cause major problems in lanes if they are swimming “sets” because every time they stop, they break the pattern“. In other words, in Furious Bob’s view, not swimming up and down at two kilometres per hour is somehow wrong. Furious Bob doesn’t seem to know that all swimmers should be swimming intervals. He did say he was a swimmer, right? Furious Bob (he’s like an avatar of the swimmers who can’t understand all this) says that for a slower swimmer to have to pull over for the faster swimmer is sheer arrogance, conceit, ignorance and utter selfishness by those of us who who try to communicate correct lane etiquette.
Furious Bob says that slower swimmers are just as entitled to their workout. No-one has ever said otherwise. (Once again I’d point you to the fact that is a speed-agnostic site. I write for swimmer’s of all abilities, except those really fast swimmers!). Furious Bob seems to entirely miss the logical point that one slower swimmer has a far more negative effect by disrupting multiple faster swimmers, than visa versa. In fact on the day that I write this, to use Furious Bob’s own driving analogy, United Kingdom police have announced the introduction of penalties (point and fines) … for drivers going too slow on motorways!
Furious Bob also mentions driving on a single track road, (what we call a Primary or Secondary road in Ireland). If I’m driving slowly on one of those (I’m a slow driver funnily enough), what I actually do is try to move over the side just so those faster vehicles can pass. I don’t want to disrupt others because I drive slowly. I suspect Furious Bob’s driving awareness and swimming awareness and sense of entitlement are on a par. I don’t have to pull over, but then I never said a slower swimmer has to “pull over”, only that they let faster swimmers by on the turn.
As I said, I reject the analogy even if it does actually suit me better than it does Furious Bob.
Faster swimmers generally don’t get into lanes of slow granny-stroke swimmers. I certainly don’t. But one person in lane tootling up and down? Sure. One thing is not the same as the other. But even if a swimmer was to do this? Lane etiquette still applies.
Swimmers regardless of speed who understand this etiquette aren’t making up their own rules. They are implementing rules developed and understood by competent swimmers around the world. It’s a global and communal and indeed often unspoken set of guidelines, which is why I and others I wrote them down in the hope that they would help some people.
I’d respectfully suggest that some more time swimming with a swimming or Master’s group would help Furious Bob’s (and of course other’s) appreciate of why and how lane swimming etiquette works.
All of this is of course illustrative of different mindsets. I get the pool to train and since there is no local Master’s club training happens during public lane swimming. The original online discussion of and subsequent posting of those guidelines, lead to pretty universal agreement from swimmers.
I call these characters the Who the f*ck do you think you are Brigade. Because when you try to either help them out with stroke or training in a polite unobtrusive way, or point out that maybe not turning just in front of a faster swimmer would help both of you, that’s sometimes a response.
(I’d also point out, that I’ve never once had that response from a woman. and thanks to the Who the f*ck do you think you are Brigade, I long ago stopped offering help to anyone). You have got to loneswimmer.com for it. Furious Bob came to this blog, then decided on his Who the f*ck do you think you are Brigade response.
I’ve previously said that lane swimming could be condensed to one golden rule; that you should be aware of what’s going around you. If you are an experienced swimmer, you’ll have noticed how the Furious Bob’s seem to dismiss this simple fact. We’ve all been stuck behind the person who is doing head-up granny-stroke, and is pretending to be utterly oblivious to you trying to turn and avoid them, yet they are sometimes actively trying to impede you.
Every pool has a Furious Bob. Every swimmer has encountered someone similar. We bite our lips, try to swim around them, and get on with our own stuff. After-all they’ll usually be gone in a few minutes. Furious Bob, should you be in the fast lane? Furious Bob, did you miss the last point on this list?:
- You think that when someone faster than you passes you, they’re being rude.
Finally, I’d like to say thanks and no hard feelings to Furious Bob, he gave me something to write about. I find it an strange viewpoint, one I don’t understand. I might change my name for the Who the f*ck do you think you are Brigade to The Furious Bobs.
- How To: lane swimming etiquette (loneswimmer.com)
- Should you be in the fast lane? (loneswimmer.com)
- Pool etiquette (freshwaterswimmer.com)