The Final Showdown (of Ben vs. Brian) – 400 Medley Relay

Visiting Spencer Chiropractic has become among the most anticipated parts of my schedule, which already has an abundance of fun and interesting activities.  (Bear with me on this jarring subject transition). Today I swam the 100m butterfly at a pool in Federal Way, Washington (where Phil Spencer lives). Brian Davis was also swimming it, and this would be the long awaited final showdown of Ben vs. Brian in the 100 butterfly. The first duel, of course, was at the Seattle Open, where I was still doing one-legged flip turns to protect my tender hip. At the first wall I had a small lead, but in the second half Brian was able to pull me back and put a full second on me at the finish. This time, I swore, would be different.

The meet today was prelims and finals, and between sessions Brian and I two different  preparatory tactics. I went to Panera Bread and ate, then went to hang out with Phil, and finished off with an adjustment – including something called something like the “cervical awakening”. My neck cracked so loud I thought I might be dead, but instead I went from my morning feeling of sluggish and moody to feeling good, even hyper!

Courtenay doesn’t like it when I get hyper. Like during the tour when I’m talking nonsense and distracting her from watching Thor and Bradley in their sexy pants.

I got back to the pool and did a nice 1000 warm-up, went over to Issaquah Swim Team’s area and talked a decent amount of shit to Brian and his teammates, then headed back to Cascade Swim Club’s area to motivate my team. (did I mention the 100 fly was part of the 400 medley relay?) Brian’s relay had a combined age of 85, which is ancient in the world of age group swimming. My team, however, edged them out by two years at 87 (26, 25, 20, and 16). Plus, we had a guy named Thor doing the backstroke.

Phil and Courtenay were sitting in the stands making fun of people’s lack of fashion sense. She was anyway, I figure Phil probably just responded with a nervous laugh to try to hide the fact that he didn’t see anything wrong with walking around the pool deck in a full body Blue Seventy Nero suit with Uggs and mascara.

Let me set the scene for you: It’s 7:45 at night at the Wherehouser King County Aquatic Center, Issaquah Swim team is in the preferred lane four, Cascade in lane one. The sweat is dripping from the caps of the heat favorites from the east side, while the Seattle boys stand calm and ready, fearless of defeat. The fans are relentless in their lack of enthusiasm, and the quiet of the crowd seems eerie – it’s the quiet before the storm. The magnitude of this event weighs down the hearts of the onlookers, grasping them with suffocating anticipation.

The gun sounds and the backstrokers leap from the wall, Issaquah edges away over the first 100m and Cascade starts the breaststroke with a 1-second deficit. On breaststroke it’s a battle between 29 year old Peter and 25 year old Andy, but youth shows its virtues and Andy reels in the Issy boys so Brian dives off a mere three tenths of a second ahead of me. I bury myself into the most powerful butterfly I’ve done since I actually trained for this type of event. At the turn I can see the embodiment of evil still half a body length ahead. I put my whole body into an undulating frenzy of aerial churned cream. My arms begin to tighten, I can feel my stroke shortening, by 75 meters my mind is consumed with visualizations of hitting the pad before my nemesis.

20 meters left – I try kicking harder

10 meters – my shoulders are paralyzed

5 meters – just touch the wall

My timing is perfect, my last stroke is neither too long nor too short. I look at the clock, we are less than a second down – there is no time to think about my split vs. Brian’s, and I cheer for our freestyler, who is holding even with his evil counterpart in lane four.

In the end we were 4:07 something, about 8 tenths behind Issaquah. It was a righteous battle, and hopefully not our last. Brian split a 58 something, and I was a 59 something, meaning our loss was my personal responsibility.  The disgrace has me with no choice but to perform seppuku. Had I worn a Blue Seventy skin suit, I may not have let my team down.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. You neglected to mention that you have the singular and unsavory misfortune of losing twice in the same race.

    Let me explain…

    You see, many years ago — before you switched allegiances — you and I were part of a relay. This relay was more than just fast, though… it was special, and we all knew it. It was as if the stars, in their fateful alignment, unlocked some secret and beautiful parallel reality, a blissful place in which friendship and rivalry were not mutually exclusive, a place of striving and of companionship.

    We were a homoerotic, apocalyptic force. In our wake, we left the shredded tatters of old, legendary records (and the occasional devastated hotel room).

    We were young, cocky, and utterly unstoppable. But those days are gone and we are now far past our swimming prime. What were once dreams for us are now ghostly memories. We have learned to embrace a lesser greatness as time has tempered our competitive fire.

    And so we found ourselves on the pool deck this fateful evening, on opposite sides of that great, shared history. You had chosen to turn your back on our once-epic partnership. I, ever the loyal one, embraced the memory of what we had together, even though I knew that I would now carry the flame alone.

    To bear arms against a brother, I thought to myself before the start, is the ultimate test for the righteous. And yet, I knew in my heart that I fought under the one true banner. My cause was just, and so I suited up for battle, hardened even to the foe I once called friend. I would fight for what you once strove for, too, before you turned. I resolved to be merciful in victory, but to show no quarter until my win was assured.

    And so we met. And so I triumphed, but by the company of a new fellowship. And it was with a heavy heart that I smote you, my brother. For I knew, even as I struck you down, that I had also killed the last outward-facing evidence of our former allegiance. The record was crushed, and with it, all trace that we were once striving as one, not at odds.

    In the end, the same banner fluttered defiantly over the field of our latest sacrifice. The good guys once again had won, but it was a bittersweet victory, for they had slain one of their own not once, but twice.

  2. You simply cannot grasp the breadth and depth of our shared experience. You non-swimmers are a sad and passionless breed. I pity you.

  3. Oh but a sense of woe and pity I have for two lost souls of the ones known as Ben and Brian. Have they all forgotten of the numerous duels of the days of youth. When the field of competition was only seperated by the time one had spent post puberty to fill their body with an new powerful substance, testosterone and ego.

    Have you forgotten the power of competition towards all athletes? Have you forgotten the time shared in rooms of changing? Have you forgotten simple things like how to tie your shoes? If you have consult a physician, but do not feel weery or distraught, for these are the signs of experience and longevity. Though you may be but relics of competitions past, your spirit lives on. It lives in the form of new pursuits, it lives in your loins.

    I with you the best of luck in your races albeit not the all consuming fire in your heart. You will use your new talents and gifts to be looked at by a new, hungry generation, wondering why you are still around the pool, simply to be considered “legends” and wise men who still have the strength of those twice their age.

    And if you ever want to compete in slalom skiing it’s on(eth). I’ll break you! Hi Brian, I miss your smell.

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