A little over a week ago, I competed in my first swim meet. Now, yes, I’ve been swimming against other people in triathlons for, well, a while now, but a meet is a whole different animal. You do your specific events and you dive in instead of running and there are far fewer people grabbing at your feet and kicking you in the face and clawing your back. Plus, I was going with my team (from swim class), so even if, like, I fell off the side of the pool and clunked my head, I’d have people there who would care enough to make sure I was okay.
So, you know, you’d think doing a meet would be no sweat, right?
HAHAHA NO, as it turns out.
The drive down was great. We chatted and laughed. It was basically like going to swim practice. Even upon getting there, it was really no big deal — it was a small meet and not a lot of pressure.
As we got our things together and started to warm up, I felt the first butterflies. I wasn’t worried, though; I get butterflies before most of my races, and it’s never a problem. They tend to go away as soon as it’s time to get serious, so, I assumed that this would be the case here as well.
Now, here’s where I should explain what I was nervous about. I know how to swim. And I was not doing long events — 50 butterfly, 50 free, and 100 free) — so I was really only racing for a couple of minutes. But, I’d only learned how to do a butterfly turn two days prior, and I’d never done a dive off the blocks. And, I don’t think I’d ever really done a 50 butterfly. At least, not as if I was racing. I was maybe a little nervous about some of those things.
Near the end of the warm up, we got to practice (or, you know, try for the first time) diving off the blocks. Umm, they are high off the water. In case you didn’t realize that. Because I didn’t.
This was when my knees started to shake.
I practiced quite a few times, and then we all gathered in our little area and prepared to cheer for our teammate competing in the first heat of the first race. I cheered as loudly as I could, but those butterflies in my stomach were really going at it, and I felt a little choked up.
A few races went by, and it was time for me to take my place for the 50 fly. I held my head high, rolled my shoulders back, and walked toward the blocks. My coach, Karyn, who’d been in the heat before me, saw through my nerves, possibly because I said something like, “Holy shit Karyn I AM TERRIFIED WHAT AM I DOING OH MY GODDDDDD.” She’s pretty astute.
She had me take a few deep breaths, and, well, it didn’t help much. I couldn’t tell if I was going to cry or vomit, but I was pretty sure one or the other was going to happen. Still, I climbed onto the block. Literally, climbed — I had to use my hands because my legs wouldn’t quite hold me. I got my feet in place, and looked at my competition.
Now, here’s the part where I tell you that I went into the race with no times, so I was seeded with those who’d submitted the least fast times.
I should also mention that one of the coolest things about a Masters swim meet is the inclusiveness. There are people of almost all ages — hell, I was the second youngest one there — and pretty much all sizes. My competition for this heat truly reflected that variety.
The horn blew, I dove in, and … I didn’t drown. I didn’t get disqualified. I didn’t even throw up in my mouth. I just swam, exactly like I’ve been doing for the last couple of years, only harder and faster and with more determination than I’ve ever felt in the water. I finished in what I consider a totally respectable time — 40 seconds and change. Which means, obviously, that the next time, I’ll aim for sub-40. I think that’s a good goal.
Now, I wasn’t over the nerves when the race ended. Between the nerves and the adrenaline and, you know, the swim, my legs were full on not working. I was really thankful that it took one of the other women in the heat a little longer to finish. Otherwise, I think trying to get out of the pool could’ve been a bit of a disaster.
My other races were less eventful, as far as nerves were concerned. I got my breathing under control shortly after the 50 fly, and that helped me calm everything else (legs, tummy, etc.) down. I left plenty of room for improvement, but did well enough to feel proud. And I’m excited to have real, actual times to beat next time.
And also, maybe I’ll feel less like throwing up for the next one. We’ll see.