December marked the third month I’ve been training. There’s an Earth law that dictates after spending so much time with something you get so annoyed by everything it does and/or doesn’t do that you just need a break. I have been so blissfully in love with the sport for three months, day in and day out. I’ve relished the time I spent in the pool, thought about it while I wasn’t in the pool, and dreamt about it while sleeping. It was bound to happen eventually, and with my track record I’m surprised it took this long, but I’m sad to report that swimming and I have had our first fight. It came in the form of “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? You want me to do what? …As a warm-up?!”
Two weeks ago my Master’s team had our last practice of the year and I was super excited to kill it. I’ve recently pushed past my consistent yardage limit and at the beginning of that practice could swim a 150. I know, I know… not really impressive – but remember that I started only three months ago with absolutely no prior experience! Our coach had gotten sick and didn’t show up (along with the rest of my teammates save one person; go figure). Another employee at the pool ended up substituting for that night and she definitely overestimated our capabilities, or at least mine. I’ve grown accustom to the sets that our regular coach writes for us, and I’m not going to deny that variation in training is good, but what this girl had in mind was a little out there. I had gotten there early and had started on our usual warm-up of 3×150 s/k/p, so at least I had gotten my feet wet beforehand. I introduced myself to the girl who held my life in her hands for the next hour and made small talk about going easy on me since I’m still a newbie! I don’t think I made my point clear because she threw a 200 IM at us for a warm-up. I kind of wish someone was on deck with a camera to capture the face I pulled. I understand that this would be a perfectly normal for a seasoned swimmer, and I appreciate having someone around to push me but I know my limits. Anyway, that was the third time I’ve done a 2IM. They’ve been mid-way through, or at the end of my swims and they usually make me cramp. I certainly did not have the proper attitude pushing off that wall, but I did it. I thought ‘okay cool… that was kind of difficult but maybe the rest won’t be so bad!’ Think positive thoughts and all. I was wrong… so very, very wrong. Our main set consisted of 2×300 + 50 sprint in the order of free/back/breast/fly followed by an 8:00 timed swim.
I said earlier that I know my limits. Up until this practice the farthest I had swum consistently was 150 yards. The Sunday before our last practice I did a 10×100 set that was a huge milestone for me and was able to squeeze out another 150 the following day, so when I saw the 2x300s I freaked out. How can I do this? I can’t do this! 300 yards? That is just… what is she thinking? Did she think I was joking at being a new swimmer? Maybe she was confused. Yeah – she probably thought I was just coming back to swimming. Then I realized wait… stop being so conceited, Ashley… you’re not the only one here. Sometimes being an only child gets the best of me. I was so intimidated that I couldn’t even push myself past 50 yards at the beginning. I kept thinking ‘you’ve got 600 yards of this… even if you swam 100 you’d have to do that six times!’ and every time I got to the wall after 50 I couldn’t push myself to flip again.
For most of my life I’ve had the obnoxious perfectionist mentality of if you can’t do it right why bother? Swimming has mostly replaced that voice in my head with determination and resilience, along with teaching me how amazing it feels when you’re able to push yourself and do something you never thought you could. The sub had just said to me “just relax and follow the black line!” I sucked up my pouty attitude and pushed off the wall once again and decided to just go for it – swim as far as I could. 100 yards passed and I was feeling good. 150 came quick and I felt peachy and proud so I decided to go for 200 since what’s two more lengths? The one good thing to come out of that practice was that I built up a little more endurance and pushed past my previous limit. The power of positive thinking is astounding. I completed the freestyle part in full, but could not hang with backstroke (it’s my least favorite as of now – probably because I suck at the turns). In the end I swam about 1,500 yards of the 2,700 she had written for us. I left the pool that night feeling a little discouraged and a lot annoyed.
That Sunday following our last organized practice I got back in the water feeling better than when I left the last time which I was very thankful for because I definitely don’t want to resent the water for my own lack of propriety. My question for anyone reading out there is what do you do to shake it up, or to rekindle the love so-to-say?
We have time trials coming up again next week and I’m hoping they bring good news. There’s a long journey ahead for the pool and I – it would be silly of me to not expect there to be bumps in the road. I think the greatest lesson I can learn along the way is how to take the bad days and learn from them. After all, we’re in control of our own success.