So this happened. I showed up and I did it.
It was amazing being back in the pool that I swam at as a young child. Literally nothing had changed.
As we got closer to the pool, my friend, who is also a long time swimmer, and I began to get nervous and excited. This brought us right back to those old days of age group swimming. We giggled like little kids as we entered the pool.
But then it all set in, I was expected to actually race. Wait a minute… I guess I need to get a little more serious.
We got into the water, which was really cold, and started our warm-up. It had been so many years since I had either competed or coached, it took me a while to think about how I wanted to do this.
After a 100 yard swim, I settled in a little bit. We got out after warm ups and took a look at the heat sheets that were posted, wrote our events on our hands just like we did when we were little, and patiently waited for the meet to start.
My first event was backstroke, which used to be one of my best. I looked at the heat, and there were some youngsters swimming the backstroke as well. These 20-somethings were quite fast, and swimming in my heat right next to me. I clammed up. I didn’t want to look like I was so slow swimming next to such fast swimmers.
But, then I remembered why I was here. This was for me. This was something that I wanted to do and have fun with. So that’s exactly what I did.
When the race started I just begin sprinting as fast as I could. I figured this couldn’t be as bad as doing an Iron Man, a marathon, or even a 5K for that matter. It would all be over in a matter of a minute and a few seconds. It was a great race, and boy was I tired. I had forgotten that feeling of lactic acid in your legs after swimming backstroke and kicking your heart out. Totally different from running.
I went under the lane line and got into the warm down lanes so that I could try to get the lactic acid out a little bit. I felt much better after swimming a few hundred yards.
I got out and prepared for my next race, which was the 200 free. That one was a hard one for me. It’s not really a sprint, but it’s not a distance event either. Still, I gave it all I could. I did the best that I had in me on that day and that’s all that matters. Needless to say, I was pretty happy when it was over. That was my roughest event of the day.
Finally, I was getting close to my last event. The 100 free. This was not my big event when I was younger but I knew I’d be able to pull it off today. After all of the open water training and all of the swimming I had done that was freestyle-related, this just seemed like a good fit. Again, I had some really fast young people in my heat. But that was OK, I just wanted to see how fast I could go and how long I could keep up.
The race started, and I went out as hard as I could. I hung on and I kicked as long as I possibly could for that race. And when it was done, I looked up at the time clock and was completely shocked by my time.
I went over into the warm down lane grinning like a little kid. I had done it. I showed up and I had given it my best effort.
It was so fun to share this experience with my friends. Everyone did well that day, with one of my friends even taking the age group title for 40-45 year olds. It was a pentathlon swim, so she swam and won all five events. (I was thankful she wasn’t in my age group.)
When we got to the car, we had that old swimmer’s-hungry going on. This is very different from post race running-hungry and even from triathlon-hungry. This is the kind of hungry where everything looks and tastes fantastic. We stopped and got food and enjoyed every bite of it on the way home.
When I got home, I looked at my times and realized I’d actually qualified for nationals. This shocked me, because I didn’t think my times were going to be fast enough. I was so happy with myself that I had a big piece of chocolate , got on my favorite warm clothes, and settled in to watch the Buckeyes win the Big Ten Championship.
Man, this was the perfect day. To celebrate, I got up this morning, the day after the race, and had a great run outside in the sunshine on an Indian summer day. Life is good friends.
My take away from the experience? Don’t let fear hold you back. Just go for it!
Run Happy, Run Long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.