Every triathlete has a strong sport. I think, for many, it is running. And, conversly, for many, swimming is where they struggle. I am completely the reverse. I have always felt much more comfortable being athletic while in water than in any other form. My parents, much to my chagrin at the time, made me participate in the swim team in high school. Instead of musical theater. I was always really angry at them for it, but am, I hate to say it, thankful now.
You would think that, because of four years of intense training during the winter season, as well as a summer of swim camp at both Cornell and through the Nike program, I would have no qualms about my first swim GTS. Well, you would be wrong and have greatly underestimated the power of my mishagas. Between having had shoulder surgery a year-and-a-half ago and not having swam comptetively in over seven years, I convinced myself that I was not going do well in the pool. I also knew, however, that I should go to the advanced class because, well, the requirements for intermidiate were 4 laps of the pool without stopping and I can do that without thinking. So, I stressed about this for days. I worried, I planned, I visualized, I obsessed. I even gave myself a stomach ache in the hours before.
While my nerves were still in full force when I stepped onto the pool deck, the familiar scent of chlorine, the warm, thickness of the pool air, the rubbery cap in my hand, and the awkwardness of an athletic bathing suit all brought me right back to evening practices in high school. I jumped into the pool without hesitation and, within the first lap I knew I was going to be ok.
I put myself in the slowest lane anyway. The first half, everything was fine. We did some drills, most of which I was familar with and were easy. My legs got tired quickly on the kicking drills, and my shoulders got tired quickly when we were working on streamlining, but otherwise, but I expected that seeing as these are muscles I don’t use often, if ever. The main part of the workout was a timed trial of a half-mile swim (~800 yards, 36 lengths of the pool, 16 laps) in 20 minutes. This was the test. If we could comfortably finish this, within a few minutes, we were suited to be in the “advanced” group. Being competitive with myself, I was putting a lot of pressure on finishing this in the time allotment, because I knew I could do the distance. After a few minutes, while I didn’t know how I was doing time wise, I knew I was in the wrong lane. I was on everyone’s heels right away and had to constantly pass. We were told about pool ettiquette and I felt like I was being polite, but I still felt guilty. I felt like everyone in my lane was annoyed with me and thought I was being a show-off. And I wanted to make friends and wanted them to like me.
Despite that, however, I was incredibly proud of myself. Swimming came back like riding a bike (a bad metaphor in this situation), and I really ejoyed it. I worked hard, was completely exhausted by the end, am horribly sore today, but it felt good. Really good.
It also felt good to pass everyone. And that is something I have to work on. I should be happier being in a lane where I am with those going at my pace but, instead, I enjoy beating everyone. I enjoy “winning” even when it isn’t a competition. That is part of this process that I hope to learn a lot from. That, at the right time and place, it is perfectly appropriate to be competitive. But this instinct should have an on-off switch. There should be times when it is just fun, when I can ignore the successes and failures of others and the success and failures of myself. I should just be happy to be out there, with other people, doing something positive in my life. So, I’m working on it.