You start out lazily enough. Pick a lane that has a woman swimming slower than you but the other option would be a lane with a man using a flutter board. You do a few laps, waiting at each end for your lane partner to get far enough ahead before you begin again. She stops and rests and as you reach her, excited to for the chance to just continue without stopping, she jolts ahead of you.
This reminds you of the man on his bike yesterday who, no matter how many times you passed him, would get ahead of you just as the red lights turned green by luck of his slowness thus starting the whole cycle again. That was infuriating to you then and this is confusing to you now. Luckily she gets out the next lap and you are free to swim at your steady pace, unhindered. You use the front crawl for six swift laps, then breaststroke for seven before relaxing into a reverse breaststroke. As the lifeguard walks past, you wonder if you remind him of John Everett Millais' Ophelia. What frivolity! You do another three laps of freestyle before beginning a fresh lap of breaststroke, arms aching.
It is now that you notice the new swimmer in the next lane, formerly of the flutter board. You notice that the swimmer is only half 50 meters ahead of you. Challenge accepted. The rush of competition spurs you into a freestyle sprint. 50 meters, then 25, then 10. Your fingers scrape the cool tile of the edge for only a second before you're off again. Another 100 meters and you're upon him. Both at the end, tied. You push off at the same moment. The next time you look up, another lap is gone and he's 5 meters behind.
You tell yourself that you are a warrior queen. Penthesilea, Hippolyta, Camilla. 15 meters now. You imagine your woman ancestors: hunting, riding unbroken horses, giving birth squatting in fields with nary a grimace. They are watching. They are proud. 20 goddamn meters. Your mother and grandmother and sister are there watching, cheering, weeping. 30 meters. Your arms are screaming and there is a tightness in your side. Keep going, keep pushing. You lose track of laps. 10? 100? 35 meters. You are flailing, your form is all over the place, you are no longer swimming in a straight line but you are moving fast. So fast. 40 meters. This is your life. 45 meters. You hit the edge, your hands grasp the lip and you look back, the chump in the goggles (you do not wear goggles. You did not even lock up your bag) is a full half lane behind. Good enough.
You tread water for a few minutes, waiting for the strength to return to your arms so you can heave yourself out of the pool. You watch your un-knowing nemesis plod along. A new person comes out of the change room and watches the lanes before choosing. You try to somehow signal with your eyes that you are faster than his new lane-mate. He probably doesn't understand. That is ok, you know, your daughters will know.
Back in the change room, at the showers, you let the hot water beat a tattoo on your certainly more muscular back, subtly flexing your arms. There is a drain right at your feet but you're glad that you decide against peeing because even though you've been drinking a lot of water you also had that beet salad for lunch. Totally kidding, you would never do that.
You wander back to your locker, barefoot and grateful that your clothes were neither riffled through nor stolen. You get dressed and ride your bike home, satisfied with your pretty good swim.