To say I was nervous would be a gross understatement. I had to follow through with the swims because I had agreed to “take over” Instagram for MySwimPro. I woke up at about 5:15 a.m. I packed my swim bag and then headed to breakfast which began at 6:00 a.m. My waitress was a young girl and we got to talking and I told her about what I was about to go do. I showed her my before and after (or before and during) photo. She was super kind. She brought me my food and then she brought me some food “to go.” I had no idea if the meet would have food and I knew I would be at the meet until at least 2:00 p.m. She wished me luck and I headed back to my room.
It was pitch black outside. So much for me not going last night to find the pool (because it was too dark.) I once again had to overcome anxiety and get myself in that car, type in the directions to Google Maps and start heading to the pool. There was just one part at the very end of the directions that rattled me. It was actually the right turn in to the venue that was difficult to see, but thankfully I noticed the “Senior Games” flags and turned in and parked.
I checked in at the front desk. I immediately realized a “camp” chair would have been a GREAT idea. We brought them all the time when my daughter was a swimmer, but it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Thankfully my nervous little self had arrived plenty early and there was a little picnic table at the end of lanes 4 and 5 with an open spot for me to sit. I set my stuff down and proceeded to go warm up. First thing I notice is that these women (who do not know me AT ALL) are kind to me. No college (or high school) cattiness. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
After my warm up I did an Instagram story post about the venue and then I prepared myself to swim the 400 IM. It was nearing 8:00 and even though there were still swimmers in the pool, I headed down to get behind Lane 6 as I was in Heat One of the First event of the whole meet. At the other end, I met a lady named Brigid. She was my age. I told her a little bit about myself and she told me about herself. She was just a few years back to competing and so she remembered very well being at her first meet.
The pool was cleared and the official blew three short whistles. WHAT? Wait, I should have studied up on all that. In my day it was take your mark and a gun was shot. Nowadays it was a series of whistles to indicate what to do. 3 short – get ready. One long, get up on the block, goggles on, ready to go. Take your mark, and then one beep was GO. And that’s how it went. Boom – I was in the water swimming my first 400 IM in competition since 1982. (36 years – wow!)
As I swam the 100 meters butterfly, I started to ask myself “Why did I sign up for the 400 free today?” I was really feeling that butterfly, especially the last 25. Just make it. Just keep going. Don’t forget to touch with two hands at the same time. Just keep going. And then just like that I was done with the fly.
On to the backstroke where at least your face is above water and you can breathe. Back in 1982 our backstroke turn was very different. I opted to do the touch the wall and go method, then to try and get the new back flip legal and competition ready. I’ll have to admit, I did push the backstroke, but I also used it to catch my breath. Then on to the breaststroke. My body was feeling the fatigue and lack of oxygen so I only made one of four underwater pull outs on the turns, but the breaststroke felt good. By this time, I think I was beginning to realize that this goal of mine was going to become a reality. I didn’t have a time standard I wanted to beat, I simply wanted to finish. The 400 IM is an endurance race and I wanted to prove to myself that I had that endurance. On to the free style and all of the sudden I was at the wall – exhausted but elated.
Brigid had finished at least a minute ahead of me, but she was there waiting for me to congratulate me and give me a hug. I was exhausted yet elated and emotional. It was like all my hard work since January 18, 2016 was culminating in this race. It is still very difficult to put into words.
I had hired a college student for swim lessons – Landon. Landon had gone over race strategy with me and he had told me to make sure I went immediately to the warm down pool and swim down to let my heart rate decrease. So that is what I did. After I got out of the pool I went to find Susan. I did not know Susan. I had only seen her on Facebook about 6 weeks ago. The Huntsman Senior Games had featured her in a video. She talked about why she swam and how she loved swimming at the Games. 6 weeks ago when I saw the video, I had watched it about 5 times and then I had asked Ryan what he thought about me competing in that meet and BOOM I signed up. I signed up just days before the deadline.
So I went to find Susan and tell her how watching her video had inspired me to sign up and swim the 400 IM. I told her about my weight loss. And then I couldn’t help it, I started to cry. She and the woman she was with immediately hugged me and congratulated me. Susan was so thankful I had told her. She found me later in the meet and asked for a photo together. It was just a real special moment for both of us. It’s important to me to tell people when they make an impact on your life. Preferably I would accomplish this without tears, but that didn’t happen.
To try and write everything about this day is difficult as it could be a book unto itself. But let me say this. The table where I was sitting was also where a 90 year old woman (swimmer) was sitting. She had 4 of her daughters there with her to support her. She had been swimming the games for years. They actually invited me to her 90th birthday party celebration which would be on Thursday night. I told them I was heading home on Thursday but could I keep the invitation to show that I had made a friend.
I went on to swim the 200 Breaststroke and 400 Freestyle in that meet. I placed 3rd in both of those events. I was completely exhausted at the end and hungry. I’ll put the Instagram story here. It is 4 minutes but it sums up the day very well.
Also since I had the okay to “eat” today and all I had eaten was breakfast at 6 am (I never ate the food they sent with me), I headed to Cracker Barrel. I ordered eggs, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy. When the server brought the food to the table, she looked for a second person. It was really kind of comical. First of all if you know me, I don’t eat much. I struggle with eating. But swimming makes me very hungry and I don’t think I had eaten a pancake in over a year and biscuits and gravy in over two years. It was delicious. (A lot of time people ask me what I eat. So I ate the pancakes with just the butter that was on them – no syrup. I ate what biscuit with a little gravy. I didn’t like the gravy. I ended up bringing bacon and biscuits back to my hotel room – and then they never did get eaten.) But it felt great to “think” I was going to eat all that.
After I got back to my room, I sat in a chair literally numb. I kept thinking how am I going to swim tomorrow? I would tell myself that tomorrow the total meters are 250 for your swims. Today you swam 1000 meters. And then I would say, I can do it. I reminded myself I came to swim, have fun, and complete the races. It was not necessary to eat any dinner that night. In fact, I think I was in bed by 8:00 p.m. What a day! I still was breaking into tears if I thought about it too much, so I made myself just go to sleep.