Shouts From the Stands: One Second Too Slow

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Lauren Langford, the Aquatics Director for YMA of Alaska.

We’ve all been there: months of dreaming, hours of training, and an absurd amount of meticulous planning for the day when you meet that coveted qualifying standard.

And then you don’t.

To say that you’re crushed is the understatement of the century.

What went wrong?

There are so many factors that influence a bad race and not a single one of them has anything to do with your level of effort. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, ability to focus on race day, etc., but that is a separate conversation altogether.

Bottom line? Your teammates are traveling to that championship meet and you will be staying behind; the sting of that reality is almost too much to bear.

So, what next? How do you live with yourself after failing to rise to your own standard of excellence? How do you maintain or increase your level of intensity when what you thought was your best effort was not enough? How do you preserve your spirit after missing that qualifying standard?

Focus on the positives.

When a race falls short, we pick it apart searching for what went wrong and then we dump it in the dust bin without further discussion. But every race, even the bad ones, contains positive elements and you need to identify those and preserve them in your race plan to be used next time. Perhaps you nailed your turns and breakouts or maybe your kick was particularly effective. When you get another chance, combining the positives from the race that fell short with the things you work on in the interim will increase your odds of success in the future. Even if the only positive thing you can say about yourself is that you never gave up, you begged your coach for every time trial available after the first race was too slow, that is still something worth praise.

Trust the process and the timing of your life.

If you adore instant gratification then swimming is going to infuriate you. There are no short cuts and no quick way of doing things to get where you want to go. All you can do is put one foot in front of the other with the utmost level of care in each stage of the journey and trust that you are filling the bucket one drop at a time that will pour out all the achievements you seek when the moment is right.  You will find your strength and develop your character during the seasons that test you most, and that is what this process is really about anyway. If you missed your qualifying time in this season, it is not because you are not worthy and it is not because you are not capable. ‘Not now’ does not mean ‘not ever’, it just means you have more steps to go in your individual journey towards your end goal, and don’t you dare compare your journey to those of your teammates because everyone’s path looks different. Stay the course, trust the process and the timing of your life, and know that all the pieces will fall into place when you are ready, and not a moment sooner, so long as you never give up.

Change your perspective.

Chances are you are beating yourself up over missing the time and the whole endeavor feels like an utter failure. Falling short of your goal feels like a bitter end to a journey in which you gave so much of yourself to get nothing in return. Right now you are looking at your failure from the wrong perspective and you need to turn the whole thing on its head. You see, failure is only a bad thing if you let it defeat you, if you never get back up and try again. In fact, failure is perhaps the best opportunity in the world because you get to go back to your training ground with a blank slate and some helpful knowledge to begin anew. You have some idea of what worked, because you are focusing on the positives, and you are quite certain of what did not work, too. This failure is perhaps a blessing in disguise because the next time you get the chance to go after that standard, you won’t just attain it by hundredths, you’ll blow it out of the water. It just depends on how you choose to view the work you’ve done up to this point and how you approach the next opportunity that is already on the horizon should you choose to take up that journey once again.

There’s nothing easy about a season ending earlier than anticipated. What you do next depends on how bad you want it and how much more you are willing to sacrifice to see it through. You are capable; you are worthy; you have what it takes; you are enough. Focus on the positives, trust the process and the timing of your life, and change your perspective in your noble struggle towards the top.

Your time is coming.

Don’t give up.

About Lauren Langford
Lauren Langford is the Aquatics Director for YMCA of Alaska at the facility where she learned to swim, she is the head coach of swimming and diving at West Anchorage High School where she competed all four years of her high school career, and she is head coach of swimming at Anchorage YMCA Swim Team, a program that has stolen her heart and inspired her to introduce young people to the best version of themselves through the challenges and triumphs of competitive swimming.

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