I signed up to swim in the Huntsman Games on August 22, 2018. The deadline to sign up was September 1st. I had been kicking the idea around in my head, but it would mean traveling by myself which causes me anxiety on its own. Then IF I signed up I wanted to attempt the 400 IM which is difficult and up to this point, I had only attempted a 100 IM. While scrolling through Facebook, I saw this ad and watched it.
I remember thinking this woman is my age. If she can do it, I can do it. I signed up and I decided on two days of swimming instead of three. I signed up for six events. The first event of the meet would be the 400 IM. I decided if I wasn’t ready by October 10, I just would drop the event.
I have used the MySwimPro app for all my workouts since getting back into the pool 2 years ago, so I checked their “Training Plans” and found that they had a Training Plan called IMX Pro Challenge. It’s design was to help you train for the 400 IM. Who knew? It is a ten-week training plan and I only had six weeks until race day.
So I committed to four swims a week to stay on the training plan. The training plan was great. There was stroke work complete with drills and then there were freestyle days to switch it up. It started with getting you ready for the 100 IM and then the 200 IM and then the 400 IM. What I really had been praying and believing for though was someone who could teach me a swim lesson or two. So much had changed in swimming over the years, I just could use some reassurance.
Two weeks into the training plan a college swimmer/lifeguard asked if he could see my workout. We got to talking and he agreed to work with me once a week. He helped me with my strokes, my start, my dive, my turns, my stream line, and most importantly my confidence. The week before the competition he timed me in a 400 IM and the most important thing I learned was that I could make it. I wore my Apple Watch for that swim and basically I was at my peak heart rate for the 8 1/2 minutes I was swimming. I found it difficult to catch my breath, but I used the backstroke for doing that.
In case you haven’t been following my journey, in January of 2016 I weighed 276 pounds. A trainer reached out to help me and still helps me today. He’s the one who encouraged me to get back in and swim. I thought I was much too heavy to be swimming. When I started swimming two years ago, I could swim 100 yards and with that 100 yards, I could flip one turn. I felt extremely “heavy” in the water. I swam about once a week in the beginning. About one year in, I started to get a lot of training “overuse” injuries and swimming was bumped up to twice a week. Swimming was “hard” for me (but made me very happy.) But because it was hard, it wasn’t my exercise of choice.
I think the shift in my mentality came when I honestly stopped “freaking out” about the number on the scale and started to “enjoy” the journey like everyone was encouraging me to do. I enjoyed swimming – A LOT. I loved the solitude, I loved that I could listen to music while I swam, I loved that I could swim at a beautiful pool at our college, I loved that any swelling I might be experiencing disappeared when I swam, I loved that a genuine smile came across my face each time I jumped in the pool. It was then that I started using the training plans on the app and they required three times a week in the water. But the training plan for the 400 IM required 4 times a week in the water and I was committed – so I stepped it up.
The more time I put in to swimming, the easier it got. I could now flip every flip turn even if I was swimming 3000 yards. My butterfly was coming back and I loved that. I used the MySwimPro Community to ask questions and found out that it was OKAY to swim with fins. I used to think that was cheating. The fins actually really helped me in my workouts.
I deal with anxiety and even though I have learned a lot of coping skills, I was feeling anxious about my trip. I rented a car, just in case one of our 9 year old cars failed. Utah has long stretches of “no services.” I didn’t want to get stuck. When I went to pick up my rental car, he said, “I hope you don’t mind a two-door.” I said, “Oh, no. That’s fine. I’m by myself.” When I went out to the car lot, I found a Ford Mustang convertible. Alrighty then.
It was my 57th birthday and I was driving 6 hours alone to St. George, Utah. All I could think about was when I was 54, I didn’t think I would see 55. And now I was 57 and I was about to compete in a swim meet. My how my life had changed. I will shout it from the rooftops that I am 57. I’m very proud of it.
When I arrived at the hotel, I found that my sisters had sent me flowers for my birthday. It was my first time ever using the digital key option. THAT was COOL. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was 4:00 so I walked across the parking lot to get some food. I’m thankful for that original trainer I told you about. I texted him and said, “What should I eat?” He said, “Carb up.” And he said, “Have bread.” So I ordered Chicken, spinach, baked potato, and bread. I could only eat half. I just wasn’t that hungry.
After dinner, I received a few phone calls and I walked about 100 yards to register for the Games. The registration process was very easy. I loved that they had these motivational footprints for me to follow. I received my name badge and then went to another room to receive my packet. Then I checked out their ginormous gift shop. I bought a few items. As I was about to walk back to the hotel, I noticed a “photographer” booth. Turns out you can give them your name and your event and they will make sure they get photos of you. I was elated as I had no one to take pictures of me and I’m a huge picture person.
I had wanted to go check out the swim venue before the race tomorrow. I was told it was about a 15 minute drive. I looked to see what time sunset was (7:00 p.m.) and decided I did not want to drive in an unfamiliar town with an unfamiliar car in the dark. So I decided to get up at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow so I could eat breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and then head to the pool early arriving before the 7:00 a.m. warmup time.
I prepared myself for the MySwimPro Instagram takeover that I was doing the next day. I tried talking to myself a lot as I was getting very nervous about the 400 IM. I was super thankful it was the first event. I headed to bed by 9:00 p.m.