The rain got heavier and the traffic came to a standstill heading south on Lavaca. I was afraid it would be my second straight day without a swim. I might go insane. I thought of heading home, but kept the faith. The rain was but a trickle when I got to the springs. There were about 15 cars in the lot, a very small number for a spring day. It's usually packed, even during the week, with hundreds of cars. I was afraid that I'd get to the cashier window and be told that they were closed due to the incoming storm. Word was that a tornado watch was in effect. But I was lucky. I flashed my season pass and the goateed young man waved me in. I saw two people swimming laps. My spirits lifted.
I rushed to the dressing room and got into my wetsuit.
I sprinted down the hill to the springs. The sky was darkening.
"Just one lap," I pleaded with the heavens. Just one. Something to set my head straight again.
I hit the water fast and swam fast. I am not a fast swimmer, but today I was going faster than usual. I hit the far wall in about 4 and half minutes. It usually takes 5 or more at my normal leisurely pace. I stood at the end and took some deep breaths. My routine is to spend a couple of minutes at the end recovering, preparing my body and mind for the return trip. Not this time. No time to wait today. The sky was ready to open. Per the local NPR station, Marble Falls, a small town some 40 miles to the west, was getting bombed by softball size hail and it was heading this way fast. I took a few last breaths, a peek at the ominous sky, and commenced my return trip.
I usually keep an eye in front of me, watching out for people coming my way. Head on collisions are common among lap swimmers at Barton Springs. Today, I didn't care. I was gonna finish my lap if a I had to finish the last 70 yards with a concussion. I kept my head down and my pace up.
I made it back. More people were doing laps. I think there were now three other people in the pool. I stood in the shallow water near the west end. I pulled out my earplugs. No thunder. I went for the second lap. I got to the opposite end. 5 minutes. The wind was really kicking up. The water was getting chopping with the westerly gusts. I fought my way back. It still took less than five minutes. I got out and headed for a bathroom break. I was ready for a third lap. I'd come back down to the water and put on my fins for the next one. I can do laps under 4 minutes with those on. I was feeling great. The water was washing away the tension of too much work. I was feeling great. As I walked back to my stuff on the hill, I thought I saw the sky flash. It was just a mind trick. I was sure. The spring water makes you high. I was tripping.
But then a thin bolt of lighting shot down from the sky no more than a mile away. It's crackling whip echoed off the cliffs surrounding the pool. Lifeguard whistles blew. My swim had come to an end.
The rain picked up as I headed to the dressing room to get back into my street clothes. There is one little trick about the dressing rooms at the springs. They don't have roofs. At least the men's doesn't. There are some small shelters over some benches. But in a heavy downpour like the one which ensued, they are useless. My clothes were soaked by the time I got them on. I looked like had jumped into the springs fully clothed.
I jogged briskly out of the dressing room and stood under the substatial overhang in front of the bathhouse with about 5 other guys, watching the rain, looking like a wet rat.
I wondered around and got some photos.