Thursday, November 30, 2017

New challenges and old habits

This past month Multisport Mastery coaching has been putting on swim challenge November. It consists of getting points for everyday you swim and for various bonus challenges. This is the most I've swum since college. For triathlon training I usually only swim twice a week. As I wrap up this month of continuous swimming, I've realized how much I really love this sport and how much I miss the grind. God I miss it.

When I walked away from competitive swimming in 2007, my heart broke. It's a tough thing to walk away from the sport you love, but my NCAA eligibility was done and I was heading to grad school. Part of me wishes I delayed my grad school entrance and took the year to train for the 2008 Olympic trials, but it was time to let go. Only top two in my events make the team and that was a very very big long shot (although it would have been an amazing experience!). I had an amazing career and I left the sport when I was still improving and at the peak of my game. It was a hard transition to real life and not being an athlete anymore. I have always been a "swimmer."

I was never a naturally talented swimmer. I got asked if I was a gymnast more often than a swimmer since I was extremely muscular and I am not particularly tall. My body was not built for swimming. I had work extremely hard to get to the top. I relished my underdog status. I loved the grind day in and day out. There are workouts I still can't believe I did. I loved the rush of a 10 min race coming down to tenths of a second (0.01 a few times!!). I loved pushing my body to my absolute limits. Obviously there were days I didn't want to do it. I wanted to quit so, so many times, but there was something in me saying "don't". I'm glad I didn't quit because it was well worth it.

That brings me to this month. My coach recently wrote a blog talking about swimming and the MSM swim challenge. She had a quote in there that said "For others, it’s been a way to return to where it all started – in the pool, as a swimmer." I love this quote. While I love the sport of triathlon and it has given me a new life, my first love will always be swimming. There is something about jumping into a cold pool, staring at black line, and zoning out to just your thoughts. It is one of the few sports where it is just you, your heartbeat, and nothing else. Swimming is therapy to me. As I close out this month of swimming, I feel refreshed. My heart is full and I am more positive about life in general. This challenge came at the perfect time because it's given me a way to channel my grief. Between the Vegas shootings and my dad's cancer, I have been angry and overwhelmed. Most of you know that when I do something, I put my whole heart into it and this is no different. Every lap, every minute, every hour is healing for me. I can blank my mind in a way I can't do running and biking. There is no grief or cancer and I can just go numb, Like I said, it is just me, my heartbeat, and a black line. Nothing can compare to the serenity and quiet you feel underwater. It's cliche, but it reminds me that I am alive.

I have really enjoyed this month of swimming. It's been so fun and inspiring watching my MSM teammates get into swimming. I have loved watching them push themselves to new heights in the sport. Swimming often gets overlooked in the triathlon world, so it's been great to share a sport I love dearly with others. They have gotten to see how challenging swimming is and all the benefits it reaps. As for me, I actually accomplished something new in swimming. Besides being reminded that swimming was the hardest thing I will ever do, I set a new record for number of days straight I've swum. From Nov 1st to  22nd I swam everyday (our coaches told us to take Thanksgiving off - we got a point for that lol!). I am fairly certain this is the longest I have ever gone without a day off from swimming. In college, Sundays were off except during our January training camp. So I am pretty psyched about that. I may never be anywhere near PRs again, but I am finding new ways to challenge myself in the sport, even after 24 years. That said, I am looking forward to getting back on a normal schedule again. Swimming is much more tiring at 32 than at 22. I like biking and running since you only engage certain muscle groups, unlike swimming which is a whole body workout (not to mention all that resistance from the water!). This challenge certainly has given me a new appreciation for swimming in that I forgot how hard it actually is!