Courtesy of David J. Dallmer
Years after the alarm stops ringing, teeth cease chattering, and the perpetual stomach retching settles, that sweet and tingly chemical aroma catches you off guard and you hear yourself saying “I think I’m ready.” Far removed from the intensity only an overzealous parent or coach can conjure up, something deeper starts to rumble. It’s quiet at first; a subtle glance at the latest meet results, a quick peek at the lap pool that lingers just a moment longer than usual, the all-to-familiar cadence of a coach’s “take your mark” while you walk past the local summer pool, and just like that… you’re back.
A lazy Saturday afternoon swim becomes a Monday night Masters practice racing against the clock. Flip turn after flip turn (oh and by the way, those hurt now) whir by, and unsure if it’s adrenaline or today’s lunch, you welcome back the queasiness with a smile. Something magical has happened, it’s like you’re twelve again and equipped with the times to prove it.
Those swimming archetypes, you know, the lane line pullers, early starters, perpetually injured, and ahem… edging towards the term “exhibitionist,” the gang’s all here! Sure, some of us are a little rounder, a little slower, a little older, but none of that matters. There’s an energy in the air and it’s palpable. You’re crushing sets, signing up for meets, working on your walls, and the best part is, no one is making you do it.
For the first time in far too long, swimming isn’t about pleasing parents or fulfilling commitments. There aren’t scholarship offers on the line or high school spots to clamber for. All Conference, All County, All State, All American, the only thing that matters now is ALL YOU. Sure, there are times to hit, relays to make, and the occasional praise from Coach still feels great, but this new world of swimming, it’s different.
After a few painful weeks it starts coming back. Clunky and tight becomes smooth and free. The water rushes over your head and with it, work, stress, money, all of it vanishes. Nirvana exists and it’s starring at a pool near you. You ask yourself, “what is this?” Yes it’s hard, sprint sets still hurt and distance sets awaken old insecurities; that little doubtful voice that says “will I be able to make it the whole way?” creeps in. Just like always though, you answer with a resounding YES. There’s only one word to sum it all up: it’s love, and it’s been love all along.
That goofy 10 year old with shark goggles hoping Coach doesn’t ask him to swim the 100 IM, even though he secretly kind of wants to, he’s still in there. The confident 12 year old that can whoop every boy in the league, capping it off with a well-placed raspberry, she’s still in there too. No matter what you were or wished to be, swimming isn’t reserved just for the superfast or super strong. It’s for every person out there that was giddy the first time they dove off the block without belly flopping. It’s for everyone who challenges themselves to do something most people are too scared to do. Swimming is for every person who found a home in the water.
So next time an overly chlorinated pool starts to whisper your way, answer the call and jump back in, the water’s just fine.