Every Race Is An Opportunity To Measure Yourself Against Your Own Potential

After weeks of training… 6 a.m. swims, night swims, open water swims, diet and dryland my race finally came.

Sunday I completed the Poseidon Swim Challenge in Indianapolis through the White Water State Park Canal.  It was a 2K swim, over twice the distance of any other race I have ever done.  Race morning I was nervous, but felt prepared.  I had trained hard and knew I could complete the distance, but I wanted to do it well.

Just as my nerves were getting the best of me, I arrived at registration where I chatted with one of my teammates that attended the swim practices I coached.  For some reason, just that little chat calmed me down, no more nerves, just ready to go!

We walked a little over a mile to get to the race start.  The walk was a good warm up for me to get my body going (not easy with arthritis and fibro) and I took mental snap shots of landmarks along the race path so I knew how far I had gone while I was swimming.

I would love to say that I was able to push my chronic pain issues aside and say the race felt great, but I would be telling a huge lie.  The first part of the race I was distracted.  It was a mass start and I had to fight my way through the crowd.  People in front, to the sides, to the back…it felt like people were everywhere.  A few participants couldn’t handle the intensity of the start and I watched some stop, and heard some even forfeited the race and go out!

canal1

 Because it was such a fight to see where I was going, it took a lot of sighting!  Sighting is an open water technique used to see where the heck you are going!  Swimming in open water is like swimming into a green wall.  There is no black line like on the bottom of the pool, no wall to reach for, no turns.  Sighting allows you to barely lift your head above the surface of the water to find your direction.

Hard to tell, but I’m sighting here:

sighting

With sighting comes a slight arch of your back.  While I had been practicing drills for sighting in my practices (also known as Tarzan drill…also known as if you coach, be prepared to hear some moans and groans when you have your swimmers do it!), my back gave up quickly.  Looking back on it, my back was mostly likely struggling from sleeping in a hotel bed the night before.  Only those with chronic pain can understand the chaos an unfamiliar/different padded/harder/softer bed/pillow, etc. can bring to your body.  My back pain really set in when my distraction was gone and I found my way out of the pack.

I felt pretty steady through the middle of the race, and then towards the end I met my swimming match.  A man from the 60+ age group who challenged me for the last, at least, 400-500 yards.  Don’t let the age fool you, he was good.  If I hadn’t managed to meet up with this man mid race, I’m not sure I would have done as well as I did.  He helped me keep pace, he kept me from slacking, and…HOLY COW…did he give me a race at the very end.

canal2

This was a quick realization for me at the moment the final race between us began.  I realized that because of my pain issues, my immediate instinct is to hold back.  I worry about over-training, becoming over tired.  I worry about pushing too hard….not knowing what exactly my body is going to do to me in response.  But then there is the competitive side of me that will never die.  I couldn’t hold back if I wanted to keep up, if I wanted to beat him, if I wanted to actually utilize all the training I had gone through.  I have to realize that when it comes to some things in life, I can’t be bogged down by the fear of pain.  I’m going to have pain.  Period.  Always.  It’s up to me to decide when I want to risk dealing with the possibility of a little “extra” pain in order to do the things in life that I want to do.

As much as I am afraid of the pain, I am more frightened by the idea that the fear of pain will scare me away from doing…well…anything!

The final results of the race?  Overall 36th out of 100, 2nd in the 30-34 age group and 4th in the 30-39.

I’m proud of those results, especially considering I’ve only been back to swim training for less than a year…oh…and of course having a baby and getting psoriatic arthritis.

…. I’m already searching for my next race!

Just Keep Swimming…

pool1

I was a competitive swimmer for many years.  I made it through 6 days a week practices morning AND afternoon, 5:00am practices, practices in the middle of winter in a pool with no heat, three hour “special Practices”, meets twice a week, frozen swimsuits, first place, last place, false starts, and personal records-some broken and some not broken.

I loved it all.

I’ve recently been given the opportunity to get back in the water.  Not only to swim, but to coach for a local Triathlon team, Illiana Multisport…check out their website here: http://www.illianamultisport.org/. It’s been great putting on a swim cap and goggles again.  I’m hoping it will also be good for my pain, as I’ve been struggling to find a workout since Baby A was born that doesn’t send me into a swollen, miserable arthritis flare.  It was an opportunity given to me by a friend who couldn’t have had better timing.  Just the week before I had (another) breakdown with my husband about my frustrations with getting in shape again.  I told him the only thing I think I could do was swim, at least twice a week , but I would have to learn how to motivate myself on my own …and then BOOM…the following week I’m asked to join!  Team motivation was just what I needed.

The practices have been great.  The team has been friendly and I admire these athletes and their determination, commitment and dedication to completing (what I consider) very hard races/Triathlons.

And then…well…I caught myself doing something unexpected.  I realized that (in my head) the people I’ve been coaching are athletes and I’m just guiding them along.  I realized my chronic pain illnesses are mentally keeping me from considering myself an athlete.  Almost immediately, there was a block in my head that told me, with my “defective” body, that being an athlete is something I just can’t be.

I can’t be an athlete if it takes me two days to recover from a hard workout!

I can’t be an athlete if I limp into practice from a swollen arthritis-ridden knee.

I can’t be an athlete who swims a practice and then goes home and gives themselves a shot to control their Illness.

It was a harsh realization of how much these chronic pain conditions change your thinking…

Into thinking you’re less of a person

Into thinking you’re incapable of things.

Into thinking you “CAN”T”.

I never thought I was this person-and it was a bitter pill to swallow when I realized I was thinking this way…or even worse…that I didn’t see anything wrong with me thinking this way.

So I jumped in the water and had a NEW realization.

I wasn’t so bad.

I was only a few paces behind the “top” swimmers in the pool.  I survived the workout, and most importantly, enjoyed it.  And I realized how much I missed it and how much I loved being in the water.

The “athlete” I always thought I “used” to be was still in me…just in a different form.

While doing Zumba, I never considered myself an “athlete.”  I was a “dancer.”  I had a way around calling myself an athlete officially…even though, by all rights, they most definitely are!

I’m angry with myself for not allowing me to see myself this way.

I’ll have to work harder than some.

I won’t have to work as hard as others.

My body will fight me and I will have fight back.

I’ll have to find my limits.

I will practice to my body’s ability and improve my skills at swimming…which in many ways is a simple definition of…an athlete!

I will stop defining myself by what I “can’t” do.

“Just Keep Swimming.  Just Keep Swimming.  Just Keep Swimming, Swimming Swimming.”

dori rocks