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Posted On May 1, 2006 By In The Phast Lapp And 540 Views

Fin-ished

I am an addict. I have an addiction.

The name of my addiction is officially known as Lowsykiker, but also goes by commons names such as sincorswim, finsarbetter, fin-als, and fin-alization.

I am attending meetings on Tuesday evenings for my problem. There are several groups, including FAKE (Fins: Alternative Kicking Equalized), FOE (Fins On Everyone), FAST (Fins of America Swimming Together), and Fin SPEW (Fins, Swimming, and Pulling: Equalized in the Water).

My addiction stems from being a runner with stiff ankles; they do not flex like the better swimmers.

Each time I go to the pool to swim, I must walk past the fin bin. “Do I or don’t I,” I struggle. Do I partake of the silky smooth rubber in marine colors made to make me glide through the water with confidence and ease like those natural swimmers in the fast lane? Or do I walk past and accept the fate of whatever workout the coach throws at me, knowing full well it might include a monster kick set, and that I may never return to the pool’s end wall again?

I admit it: I have fin envy. While I look more like a rhinoceros dancing than a swimmer trying to make the length of the pool without my beloved foot extensions, I look across the watery world and see others in the next lane flying through the pool with their fins on. I pause, holding my stroke and breath to stare longingly, lustfully, at their firm, tight movement of weaving water for propulsion. I want their fins. I want to touch them, hold them, put them on my feet, and swim with them. I look so intently at them, I forget I’m also in the water, and shoot to the surface, gasping and coughing for air. The swimmer behind me wonders what I’m doing. I smile meekly and gesture I’ll be alright. They swim by looking at me from the side of their goggles. They TOO have fins on!

I shiver as I grab a kick board and pull buoy, and begin the walk past the fins. I’m talking about long, elegant fins, not the stunted, bulky Zoomers in muted colors. Nope. I’m talking about the real deal. I want long fins; the longer the better. If I could buy them three feet long, I would. As soon as I put them on my feet, giving me an additional 12 inches of flex in front of my toes, I feel my body whole again. To me, fins are the appendage God forgot.

They help me to not just swim, but swim faster, with the long stroke the coach is praying I’ll find somewhere between yelling at me to get. I’m able to breathe smoother without gasping and blubbering, drinking half the pool. With my trusty kick board held out in front of me, my face stays IN the water with fins on, instead of the turtle pose I take when kicking, desperately hanging on to the kick board for dear and precious life and air, while my back end drops to the pool bottom to touch the remains of other non-born swimmers who attempted to do a kick set with OUT fins. With fins on, I laugh at their foolish behavior. “HA!” I scoff.

I feel confident, as well. I rule…with my fins on. Freestyle? Got it. Backstroke? Yup. Butterfly? You bet! A hundred IM? I’m in, coach. I’m ready. Bring it on. OK, breast stroke is a little weird with fins, but other than Paula, who does that anyway? With fins on, I do not have the same death wish the coach has for me when she either demands I lose the fins, or doesn’t allow me in the water in the first place. HOW can someone have such a perverse perspective of life, liberty and the way of the fin?

Once during a kick set, Coach Liana STOLE my fins. You can not begin to imagine my horror. “Surely, they are just misplaced,” I thought. “Maybe another swimmer in my lane took them by mistake.” Maybe-shmaybe! I looked up to her grinning. While she smiled, she ordered me to continue the set. She was sending me to my ultimate demise: death by kick set! If the anaerobic workout of kicking without wearing fins doesn’t get to you, that sinking feeling will.

For now, I must try to continue past where the fins are kept. The doctor says to keep my medicine steady while going through this phase of with drawl. He has me on 2mg of chlorine daily.

I think the other swimmers have noticed. They saw me fight a seven year old on the pool deck for a particular set of brand new fins. I just had to have them. HAD TO! Although he won the fight, I later stole them when he wasn’t looking. But the other swimmers have also noticed me sagging during swim sets, passing me, lapping me even, when kick sets are called for. I heard a rumor they might demote me to a slower lane because my kick is so slow without fins. Actually, I barely move. I used to go backwards when Coach Bobby first saw me. I improved a little,…until I found fins. Oh, baby! You were made for me. I don’t remember who introduced them to me at first. It was for just a little bit, once during a swim practice. “These will help you,” the coach said. Soon I found I was wearing them for my entire practice, leaving the pool with them still on my feet. It was embarrassing. I knew I had a problem after the first year, but thought I could break it any time I wanted. I just didn’t want to. Then, when I realized I was addicted, I tried to hide it from everyone. Finally, I was caught, confronted by Coach Jim, Liana, and Bobby. It was an intervention.

I was giving swim sets to do that included kicking where I wasn’t allowed to wear fins. It was horrible. I would shiver, shake and get the sweats. I felt my entire swimming was based on wearing fins. I could no longer shower without wearing fins.

I’m better now. I’m getting better at swimming without fins, too. But, …still, …I love fins.

Long live the fin!

Chris Phelan has written, laid out, photographed, and published The Phast Times News since 2001. He’s crisscrossed Texas on his bike three times, swam 5 miles across Lake Ray Hubbard three times, completed three Ironman triathlons, and has represented the US in completion three times, and run with the Olympic Torch. He maintained All-American status for five years and has also biked across the country, 3600 miles in 30 days. The running/triathlon coach has PR’s of 2:27 marathon, 15:40 5K, 3:55 at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and 10:00:52 Ironman. Chris is the only person to have won overall and Master’s at Dallas’ Crosson Dannis road racing series, DRC road racing series, and the USAT/SMW duathlon series. In 1988 he began Dallas’ oldest track workout, 1998 started north Texas’ first treadmill class, and 2003 he founded the world-wide Ride Of Silence. He’s been twice nominated Master’s Road Runner of the Year, highlighted in a variety of magazines and is frequently asked to speak at camps and organizations about fitness. Outside of swimming, biking, and running, Chris has summited several mountains including Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.