It was one of those practices where my forearms hurt, only because that was the last place on my body that wasn’t hurting.
While I have been swimming for 38 of my 41 years on this earth, I can honestly say that I have never loved swimming more than I do right this very minute. I can honestly say that I haven’t done this kind of work in years, and 20 years ago when I did this kind of work…. I didn’t appreciate it.
I appreciate the hell out of it today. And I am appreciating the hell out of our coaches Brett and Mike. They are freaking gold. SOLID FREAKING GOLD.
It’s exciting that after 38 years of swimming I am learning new things. I never use a pull buoy anymore. I never…. EVER…… EVER band feet. (I cringe that I have ever done that or even coached that, the banding, not the pull buoy). These days my main swim toys are a snorkel, fins and occasionally…. paddles. I am relearning butterfly (and swimming more of it than I swam as an age grouper), and learning the nuances of breaststroke.
And for the first time in 20 years….. swimming hurts.
In triathlon I haven’t had to work too hard for my swimming results, so I haven’t done the kind of sets we are doing now. I have forgotten what it’s like to feel so absolutely spent, with your forearms hurting, feeling like you might actually drown, and come up smiling.
I have forgotten the camaraderie of lane mates. The ones that can make you laugh so hard during a 25 of breastwork.
I have forgotten …. that swimming is hard.
There is no other sport that uses your body like swimming does. Once you forget about the easy aerobic sets with banded feet and paddles and get swimming….. holy good lord. When I was trying to get leaner for triathlon I often struggled. But when you swim, like this…. it begins to fall off of you.
I haven’t retired from triathlon, and I won’t. I get in a bike or run before I hit the pool every morning. I work on skills, I work on mechanics, I work on keeping those disciplines aerobic. But the primary piece of every day is the time I spend in the pool.
Our first meet is 5 weeks away, and there is much work to be done.
There are starts, and turns, and your underwater work. Your underwater work off each wall is critical. These are the kinds of things you can let slide when you are a triathlete, but that become the things that can make or break you as a swimmer. In swimming nationals cuts are decided by lengths of fingernails. Every little piece counts and I find myself visualizing those pieces as I fall asleep at night.
The swim focus has been full on. I am 100% in. No stone unturned. From swimming to nutrition to recovery to strength to …. everything it’s on. When people suggest I relax and have fun they don’t understand that this is how I do that. I am in bed early because it’s fun for me to have 100% at practice. I say no to ice cream (most days) because it’s fun for me to put everything forward to reach a goal.
It’s fun for me to have a goal that I am willing to put this much effort towards. It’s been a long time since I have had that. I am all in 100%.
From the outside looking in it appears this all comes easy. But I assure you, nothing is easy. If I get on a podium I have put in three times the work of everyone else. I don’t not run for weeks then… oops! Won a 5K! Not me.
Nothing I have ever done in my life has ever come easy.
I wish I could bring you on a journey of my day, what I do day in and day out….. to show you just how hard I work. At everything. Being a mom, a wife, at work, as a coach, as an athlete. What you see are the things I post on social media. You don’t see the sweat, the early mornings, the long drives to the pool and to work.
I can assure you, nothing, absolutely nothing comes easy to me. Not even laundry.
What drives me?
That process. Of mastering what’s hard. The process of putting in the work. Feeling my lungs burning on the 6th dolphin kick off the wall. Knowing that at the end of the day I am a step closer to something I chase.
I will chase something forever. When I achieve one thing I find another to chase.
Right now it’s USMS Masters Nationals. That is my chase. When the chase is on, all bets are off.
I am loving swimming more than I ever have before. Maybe it’s because I spent the last 20 years being an ex swimmer, a triathlete and swimming represented everything that I did to myself in high school and college. Maybe I love it because for once in my entire life the work feels good, and I am healthy as a swimmer (I have never been a healthy swimmer before). Maybe I love it because my coaches are the best I have ever had, and who knows how long we will have them? Maybe I love it because I am learning new things again.
The rest of yesterday my forearms ached. While I paddled, while I worked, hell while I drank coffee. It was one of those days where that swim wrecked me for hours. I love those swims. Where you go to hell and back in your mind and you pull swims out of your ass because you are just too spent to care so what’s a little more pain?
It reminds you that you are alive.