Our week in Montreal was a whirl wind of activity and excitement even in our down time between competition and sightseeing. The head coach for the Americans had started a Facebook page before the world championships began, so I found myself spending more time than I had intended sifting through the posts for any helpful information. Between intel being shared there and on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, and keeping up with e-mails, additional blog posts never got written.
I try to keep a very limited presence on Facebook but find it necessary to be on that site to keep up with swim team and meet information. In the case of Worlds, it was a must due to FINA (the world governing body of the five aquatic sports represented at the world championships) falling down on the job. Without getting into details as to why it was necessary, trust me when I say how crucial it was that the competitors and coaches themselves stepped in to help each other out.
The swimmers and coaches are what made the entire experience a fabulous one for me. The memories I will take away from the meet and our time in Canada are ones I will always cherish and hope never to forget.
In the pool, my race times were very forgettable. Bruce and I had way too much fun seeing the city of Montreal in between competition to be well-rested to race at my best! There was one race, however, that was special.
Most of the time when I race, I am unaware of where the other competitors are in the pool until after I hit the timing pad at the end. I put my head down during my race and just focus on my stroke and where I should be at any given moment.
During my 200 breaststroke race, however, the French swimmer in the adjacent lane was constantly in my peripheral vision, and we were matching each other stroke for stroke. I tried ignoring her, but as I focused on my stroke cadence, she was always right beside me.
After the final turn, I tried to shake her knowing it was time to go all out and sprint for the wall. Still, she was right beside me.
In the final 20 meters, I knew there was no way I was going to let her pass me after the fight I had put up over the past 180 meters. I dug as deep as I could to muster up what was left in my tank and sprinted to the finish, increasing my stroke rate the best I could. I had no strength left at that point in the race, so quickening my stroke rate was what I believed would make the difference.
It appeared in my peripheral vision as if we both touched the pads at the same time. Neither of us could see the electronic time board due to tents blocking our vision, so we didn’t know the results. We knew we came in 3rd and 4th in our heat, because the other gals were still racing after we touched the wall; however, they were in the next older age group, so they didn’t matter to us in the results. (There will be a combined heat when it is necessary to fill the 10-lane pool to keep the meet running more efficiently and faster.)
After exiting the pool, the French gal and I gave each other a high-five and a hug, congratulating each other on a great race– she in French and me in English. We didn’t speak each other’s language; however, we both knew exactly what the other was saying: “You pushed me to swim faster and harder than I thought I could push myself to swim during that race. Thank you.”
Not having access to our official race times (the timers at each lane are only there for back-up in case the electronic system fails), we left the pool only knowing that we had given each other one heck of a race, and I had just touched her out.
It wasn’t until I saw the official results that evening that I learned that less than a quarter of a second had separated us at the finish, and we were the last two finishers in our age group.
It didn’t matter, because I had the race of my life, and if the smile on my French competitor was any indication, I’ll bet she had the race of her life, too.