It started out innocuously enough. I was talking with Marissa Morris about our desire to see American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte hit his stride in London during the summer Olympic Games. “I’m worried, though,” I said. “He was swimming so well this past year, but he’s been way off in his last few races.”

“That’s because he’s in the thick of training,” she replied. “He’s tired. He’ll be ready when he’s shaved and tapered. Don’t worry. His sets have been killer.”

She spoke with authority. How in the world did she know what sets Lochte was doing? Seeing my confused face, or reading my mind — as people do when they spend a lot of time together as we, both swim coaches, do — she said, “I follow him on Twitter.”

That was the defining moment. I went to a place to which I thought I’d never go, and had never wanted to go. But if the path led me to one of my favorite Olympic swimmer’s thoughts and pre-Olympic preparation, I would do whatever it took. I would Twitter or tweet or play “Rockin’ Robin.” Whatever.

“It can be addicting,” Marissa warned, “But you won’t have that problem.”

How wrong she was!

Having not the slightest concept of what I might be getting into, I set up an account that night. It took me a while to fill in that egg-shaped bubble where a picture should go, and then even longer to find a picture small enough to fit inside the little egg-box. I wrote up a brief profile, linked it to an e-mail address, and I was in Twitterworld.

I found Ryan Lochte and clicked “Follow!” Almost all the great swimmers whom I admired had accounts. “Damn,” I thought to myself. “The whole world’s been twittering while I’ve been standing still, song-less.”

I kept clicking “Follow” for Olympians like Dara Torres, Natalie Coughlin, Michael Phelps, Amanda Beard, Brendan Hansen, Aaron Piersol. Twitter kept sending me more “people to follow” based on my choices thus far. Of course I want to follow freestyle sprinter Garrett Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak, the unsung hero of the USA swim team in Beijing 2008. Yes, I want to follow USA Swimming, Bob Bowman (Phelps’s coach) and Dave Salo.

My list grew longer and longer. And it did, so did the number of tweets coming in, many with links to interesting swim-based articles, interviews, reminders of which swimmer would appear on Piers Morgan’s show and at what time. Before I knew it, the real world had slipped away from me. It was 2 a.m.! I heard Marissa’s words echo in my mind as I crawled into bed, tired from doing nothing but Twitter-following.

 

Nah, I had it under control. Why should it be addicting, just because the US Olympic swim trials were coming up in less than a month, and after that the 2012 Olympics? And the NBA playoffs, the French Open and Euro 2012.

I would wake up most mornings excited to read the tweets coming over the wire. Phelps was headed to altitude training in Colorado. Lochte was “honored to be the fourth man ever to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine.” Bowman tweeted about horseracing and Belmont. Coughlin was going to train in the ocean. Weber-Gale had healthy recipes to share.

Everyone had me in tears on Mother’s Day with their sweet tweets to mom. “You get more beautiful every day, mom,” wrote Lochte. What a mama’s boy! I loved him even more now, and couldn’t wait to get the new edition of Vogue.

I started to get a trickle of followers myself, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They like me, they really like me!