Just keep swimming.
Those words actually hold a lot more meaning in my heart than a phrase from a silly, forgetful Blue Tang.
In September of 2012 I was preparing to run my second half marathon. It happened to be the Disneyland half marathon, I was a bundle of nerves because I was worried about the pace time, sweeper vehicles, and my overall ability as a runner. My first half marathon the month prior wasn’t the best experience – as it was more of a life lesson.
My sister was with me, and the day before the half bought me a Disney pin, which she told me to pin on and wear for the race.
It was Dory…that bright blue and yellow fish with a giant smile.
She told me that every time I wanted to give up during the race, I just had to look at the pin and tell myself to just keep swimming…
And that’s exactly what I did.
And I did it a lot during the final miles of that half marathon.
And everytime I did, I’d sing the song in my head.
And before I knew it….
I finished that race.
And it went much better than my first half marathon did.
It was also the best half marathon time I ever got.
That race, is one of 3 that stick out in my mind as the most memorable and life changing.
But those words go even deeper. Many of you already know that I ran track in highschool for one year, before switching to the swim team, where I swam for the final years of high school.
Both track and swimming gave me amazing memories, both changed me for the better and both molded me into the person I am today. High school wouldn’t have been half as memorable had I not done sports.
Since getting back into the pool in recent weeks, I have realized that in the almost 20 years (crap, where has time gone?) since I swam competitively with my peers – I have forgotten about a lot of it.
Maybe dealing with adult life has just taken over. It’s also a little weird to me that when my doctors told me I should not run and that swimming or cycling would be better for recovery – that I protested so much. One would think that as an old swimmer – I’d want to go back to it.
But I didn’t.
I protested it.
I fought it.
I avoided it.
And I don’t even know why.
It’s probably because I wasn’t ready to let go of running. But now that I’ve had time to better accept things, I realize that I didn’t have to let go…I could just do both.
Pulling on a competition speedo, a swim cap, goggles and getting into a cold pool has a way of bringing back memories.
I remember cold February nights under campus lights. Steam coming off the heated pool in the crisp winter air. Swim practice started in the winter, and went till the end of the school year in June. We practiced from 530pm-8pm five days a week. The locker rooms where far from the pool, so getting out after practice was always an adventure. We’d all run as fast as we could to the locker rooms so that we wouldn’t freeze in the winter air. As the seasons changed and the days got longer and warmer – I looked forward to practice. Getting into the pool on a hot day always felt great…even if you were doing 5×200 at race pace or something taxing like that.
The sound of splashes, the rhythmic sound of strokes in unison, the coaches whistle, and the sounds of your team mates cheering you on filled the night air.
Bare feet, swim parkas, and beanies…those were some of my favorite things.
Pasta parties and after swim meet pizza parties…where a weekly thing. Seriously we ate so much food! And yet, we didn’t look like we ate (practically) 10,000 calories a day. It was amazing. Seriously though, food and swimmers go hand in hand.
Meet days were the best. The butterflies I’d get when standing on the blocks waiting for the start where always there. The feeling of pure drive and competiton when I could see the other swimmer in the lane next to me – it would make me swim my hardest so I could beat them to the wall. It was a mix of adrenaline and anxiety…and it was awesome.
Flip turns were so much fun, they always made me feel like a mermaid…even if I happened to miss the wall every once in a while.
My prom pictures show my racerback tan lines, that I proudly showed off. I was literally in the best physical shape in my entire life. I still have the broad shoulders that I earned during those years. I’ve gone to doctors appointments for my asthma in recent years and have been asked if I’m a swimmer – because my lungs have the capacity that only swimmers have.
Swimming taught me a lot. My coaches taught me a lot. My team taught me a lot. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had because my time on the swim team.
I have wondered lately if I had pushed myself harder, or focused more on swimming and less on having a job (I was in AP classes, worked 2 jobs and swam) if maybe I could have been good enough to get a scholarship to a 4 year college. How different would my life be if I had tried harder?
Don’t get me wrong, the life path I took is not one I regret. I’m still a college graduate with a career…
I just wonder what would have happened if I had tried just a little harder – how much further would my life as a swimmer gone?
Either way – I will just keep swimming.