After my first Paris swim the other day and trying to understand the apparent chaos involved in French lap swimming I decided to give it a go at another pool. This time I brought witnesses, my friends Rip and Suzie to verify this craziness.
We met at the Piscine Suzanne-Berlioux in the Les Halles. Les Halles is a massive shopping center in the 1st Arrondissement and the subterranean pool is three floors down in the basement. It is a 50m pool in a clean facility with plenty of staff and locker room matrons (read-women in men’s locker room).
When we walked on to the pool deck it was pandemonium in the pool with perhaps 25 swimmers per lane. We jumped in and laughed and struggled for about 2000m before we got out. In the shallow end you can’t do a flip turn the pool is so shallow-maybe a foot high. Like the pool in the 5th Arrondisement, the French have made lap swimming a contact sport as you have to maneuver and manhandle others to get between swimmers.
With all this chaos it’s no wonder that the USA relay team beat the French in the 4×200 free relay in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (great race)!
I also learned in my Parisian swimming experiences is that pools require you wear swim caps (unless your bald) and that speedo briefs are the only suits allowed. No board shorts or bermudas.