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Word Count: 720
The sun is still asleep while the empty city streets await the morning rush hour As in a ritual my teammates and I assemble into the dank dimly-lit locker room at the Rinconada Park Pool One by one we slip into our moist drag suits and then make a mad run from the locker room through the brisk morning air to the pool stopping only to grab a pull-buoy and a kick-board Coastal California cools down overnight to the high forties The pool is artificially warmed to seventy-nine degrees and the clash in temperatures creates a plethora of steam on the waters surface casting a scene more appropriate for a werewolf movie Now the worst part diving head-first into the glacial pond I think of friends still tucked in their warm beds as I conclude the first warm-up laps Meanwhile our coach emerges through the fog He offers no friendly accolades just a stream of instructions and exhortations Thus begins another workout 4500 yards to go then a quick shower and five-minute drive to school Another 5500 yards are on our afternoon training schedule Tomorrow the cycle starts all over again The objective is to cut our times by another 110th of second The end goal is to have that tiny difference at the end of a race that separates success from failure greatness from mediocrity Somehow we accept the pitch--otherwise wed still be fast asleep beneath our blankets Yet sleep is lost time and in this sport time is the antagonist Coaches spend hours in specialized clinics analyzing the latest research on training techniques and experimenting with workout schedules in an attempt to unravel the secrets of defeating time My first swimming race was when I was ten years old and an avid hockey player My parents fearing that I would get injured redirected my athletic direction toward swimming Three weeks into my new swimming endeavor I somehow persuaded my coach to
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