Three months ago, I walked out of the pool on a typical Thursday night alongside my teammates. As we shut off of the lights at the pool, we laughed and smiled awaiting our next practice on Monday. What we failed to realize is that there would be no practice for many Mondays to come, and those lights would never come back on.
This Monday I sat in my car outside of a new pool, anxiously awaiting my return to the water. As I noticed my new teammates exiting their cars, I followed as we all walked up near the doorway. My coach looked at us, smiling under his face mask and said, “stand on the marked spots, six feet apart.” We all assembled in a line according to our predetermined lanes and our coach called us in one at a time.
Finally, my turn came and I was able to walk up the ramp, leave my shoes outside, and head to my lane. Placing my stuff on the bench, I took off my clothes to expose my bright red swimsuit and put on my cap and goggles. For the first time in my life, I felt slightly unnatural in this position, and noticed that my cap was hurting my head. Taking a deep breath, I shook it off, dove into the water, and began my first 200.
Initially, I felt weightless as the joy of swimming overtook me. After a 50, though, I felt exhausted as my arms began to ache from the repetitive freestyle motion. By the 75-yard mark, my legs were screaming and my mind began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Luckily, my body went numb by the 100 mark, which made the last 100 years longer but less painful. I was finally able to stop the wall and catch my breath, which was heavier than after an open water 5k. It was only 5 minutes into practice, and my body was already done.
Somehow, I struggled through the next 55 minutes of pool time. The entire time, I felt my arms slipping through my strokes, and my breathing getting heavier by the minute, but I did it.
Afterward, my coach looked at all of us and said “I’m proud of you, this is going to be a long road back but we just got to keep working.” That made me think of all of the other teams that I had heard about over the past few months, those struggling to get into the water and just swim. All of us are in the same situation, rebuilding ourselves and our teams back to where we were before. It won’t be easy, but we’ll all get there.