The following is something I recently read that may seem quite basic, but it really hit home as I soaked in the atmosphere of the Georgia Tech competition pool this past weekend:
“Make a list of the things that make you happy.
Make a list of the things you do every day.
Compare the lists.
It had been since September, 2014 since I had last competed in a U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) meet due to my hip injury and surgery. Although I was able to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet last July, I popped the scar tissue in my hip the following month which set me back from race-pace training and competition for the rest of the year.
Over the past few months, I have been joyfully working my way back, savoring every day I’m in the pool. Swimming is definitely on my lists of what makes me happy and what I do every day (well, six days per week, to be more accurate).
Adding yoga to the physical therapy and stretching exercises I do on deck following my swims, I’ve been improving my flexibility, strength, and balance. As I see improvement and my ability to master more difficult poses, the resulting satisfaction I feel has convinced me that yoga is up on those lists right after swimming. The two go hand-in-hand as part of my regular routine.
Returning to competition, though, was something I was itching to add back to my “to do” list, even though it’s not something that can be done daily.
This past weekend, I was able to “adjust accordingly” and compete at the USMS Dixie Zone Championships at Georgia Tech, home of the 1996 Olympic swimming competition.
As my husband, Bruce and I entered the swim deck, butterflies returned to my stomach, something I hadn’t felt in a too-long period of time. I smiled to myself, remembering how it used to feel, and how I had to learn to embrace rather than fight it.
For this two-day meet, I decided I would go all in and sign up for the maximum events (ten) figuring I could always scratch races if my hip wasn’t up to the task. Practicing my chosen events in order over two days in March, I knew I could do it. The difference, however, was not having to swim the extra warm-up and cool-down yardage in between events that weren’t scheduled back-to-back. In practice, I had done all five events sequentially each day with only a couple minutes of rest in between each one. Although it definitely gave me the confidence I needed for the meet, I wasn’t sure how my hip would respond with the additional yardage, starting blocks, and cooler water temperature—all important factors.
In addition to signing up for the maximum events, I entered what is considered some of the most difficult events, because those are the races I enjoy competing in the most. I also threw in a couple of sprints for variety, even though I knew I would have to protect my hip by not going all-out in my kicking.
Saturday’s line-up: 400 Yard Individual Medley, 50 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back with 100 Yard Butterfly, 200 Yard Breaststroke, and 500 Yard Freestyle.
Sunday’s line-up: 1650 Yard (the “mile”) Freestyle, 200 Yard Butterfly, and 100 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back-to-back with 200 Yard Backstroke and 50 Yard Butterfly. The day concluded with me swimming freestyle on the Women’s 400 Yard Medley Relay.
Although my race times were (much!) slower than before my hip surgery, I enjoyed every stroke that I swam in that pool, and I was thrilled to end the meet in second place in my age group. (Ok, I’ll ‘fess up. There were only three in our age group, because several of the other swimmers I usually compete against didn’t enter the meet for one reason or another.)
Still, regardless of my race times or the colors of my ribbons, just being able to compete was a fabulous feeling. Just as wonderful, though, was seeing my friends and making new ones. That is what USMS is all about: Enjoying swimming and competing with others who feel just as passionately about it as you do.
Swimming is what makes me happy, and it’s what I will keep on doing as long as I can. It feels great to be back!