This is a picture of me celebrating that I FINISHED the 200 Butterfly at the @masterswimming Nationals. This is not the picture of a National Champion, but of a 41-year-old woman, mother of three who is having the time of her life, celebrating what her body can do and feeling the love and support from her friends and family.
I really WAS training for Nationals this year… but then COVID got me in June and re-inflamed old shoulder injuries. I spent most of July struggling to get my arms over my head, fighting with myself about when to rest, swim, or blow it all and play the weekly game of pick-up volleyball that I now live for 🙂
Honestly, I was devastated. I LOVE training with the community that I have built with my friends and teammates through swimming. I am also fortunate enough to train with Coach Don Easterling (Coach E) of NC State fame and I know he could have coached me to another National Title. Mostly, I was deeply conflicted about prioritizing this four-day meet over my family, business, vacation, dogs, all the things that make up my life… especially when my injury would prevent me from achieving what I had originally set out to do.
The Gift that is Coach E
Coach E knew my struggle and, like the genius coach he is, once again told me exactly what I needed to hear. He told me to go to the meet, compete as hard as I could and finish dead last in every event… unless there was a race in there for the final stroke, then I should go for it. “But the most important thing is for you is to hear the sound of the gun again.”
What a gift! He took the pressure to perform off my (already inflamed) shoulders and focused me on the feeling I get when I’m on the blocks, in the water, and at the wall. Because it is so damn fun.
About a week before the meet, and thanks to the physical and emotional therapy from the magical Caitlin @womeninmotion, my shoulder started feeling okay(ish). My friend, teammate and World Record Holder, Shirley Loftus-Charley, suggested that I try to swim the fly using the super long dolphin-y underwater kick that coaches desperately try to get their 8 and under NOT to do. We figured if I deliberately swam VERY SLOWLY, then I could possibly finish and get a few points for my team, maybe. So… I practiced it just ONCE and rested my shoulders until it was go time.
Take Your Mark…
You all, the swim was insane, featuring super long underwaters, some fast strokes, lots of slow one’s, sometimes taking two kicks, super deep dives, I did whatever came to me in the moment just to get to the final wall.
At the last turn Corey Krall, my other coach, screamed “Go get her!” He knows I don’t like to lose. I sprinted the last 50 and ALMOST negative split the race (unheard of in this event). It turns out there was no one to get. Our long and slow strategy worked. I won my heat!
I will remember the joy in that picture for the rest of my life. Coach E was right. I needed to hear the gun again. To see what my body can do. To spend time training with people I trust and deeply care about. To watch my friends who have worked so hard win their first National titles. To feel the adrenaline. To race. To show up and finish.
I’ve spent so much of my life striving towards achievement. To be fair, I’ve come to understand that I like the process of striving more than the results, but I still like to do well. And although I did not win this year, this meet was my best performance ever in the pool and was well worth missing a weekend with my very supportive family. I had the MOST FUN in a tight blue bathing suit that anyone has ever had, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go through it all again. Even the COVID.
From a mental health perspective, this journey of the race exemplifies the many, many benefits related to being active and connected in my life. Active and connected in my community, my body and my ability to learn and grow as a person. As well as a therapist, parent, partner, and a woman. Every single day I strive to honor these ideas as much as possible.
Finally, to all of you who helped me, loved me, supported me, and laughed with me as I prepared for and swam this crazy race, I am so thankful and grateful for each of you and the community that we are. I CAN NOT wait to do it again. And, while I would like to win, I care more about being active and connected with you all. Happy swimming and happy living!