Project Under: Back in Competition

When I stood behind the blocks last Friday, about to swim the 100 breaststroke for the first time in four years, I was smiling. Was I nervous? Of course. Where I once let my anxiousness overwhelm me to the point that was I relieved that my swimming career was "over", I was excited to swim.

I proceeded to swim a very sloppy race, and my time (1:06.11, with 30.1 and 36.0 for splits) reflected that. Afterwards, my instinct was to beat myself up. I thought about the people who would read this blog and think "this guy thinks he's going to break a minute?". Then I told that part of my brain to quiet down. I know it may always be there, but I don't have time for that crap.

Pre-meet doubt

Let me back up for a second. When I last wrote I was having trouble sleeping, something that has improved moderately since then. I cut back on alcohol and started drinking chamomile tea nightly. I began writing an occasional journal where I wrote out arguments against the nagging internal monologue that tries to convince me I'm a disappointment.

Two weeks before the competition, I was at pre-school picking up my daughter. I squatted down to give her a hug. I heard a loud click and felt my kneecap move sideways. Startled, I gathered myself and walked my daughter home with my adrenaline pumping. I woke up the next morning with my knee throbbing.

What should have been my mini-taper was full of limping, careful dadding (I dare you to try to avoid getting down on the floor with a three year old) and a slow progression towards being able to swim breaststroke. I was able to finally do breaststroke with light pain two days before the meet, and felt confident I wouldn't make it worse by competing.

Seeing What Happens

I know it may sound like i'm making excuses, but I'm not. I swam in the meet, unsure of how it would go, but knowing that finding out where I truly would help me no matter what.

And find out I did. My 1:06.11 was full of information for me. Here were my big takeaways:

  1. I need to do a lot more work on my turns, starts and breakouts. I skied my start, ended up too deep and broke out underwater. My turns were loose, especially my pushoffs.
  2. I was happy with how my pull worked, with the only minor quibble that I often went into a new pull without really finishing the previous recovery
  3. I need to get in better shape. Would I have come home better had I felt confident in my legs? Probably. Would I have an easier time finishing without poor starts, turns and breakouts? Sure! But it is also true that it is much easier to execute these skills when you are appropriately fit.
  4. To that end, my training needs more volume. I spent a lot of my breaststroke workouts chasing 15 second 25s, yet my final 25 on that 100 was around 19 seconds. I believe I could use a lot more volume of 16s before I try to build up 15 again.

Here's the race (I'm in the closest lane, lane 8, as my former college teammate Mindy Williams states off the top)

Back to work

This morning I was back in the pool. This afternoon I'll be back in the weight room. This last few months was only the beginning. not nearly the end. 

I swam a 50 breaststroke the next day, and already my start was better with one race under my belt. I even had the fastest reaction (.58) of my swimming career. I'm in the far lane this time, lane 1:

A time, like age, is just a number

This project is titled for the goal of two digit swim in a 100 breaststroke, but that's not what it's about. This project is about the process of achieving that goal. When I stood on the blocks last Friday, I felt like I had already won.

I knew that in the past year, I had worked hard to get to the point where I was, improved my fitness and put myself on the line. More importantly, I knew that I was a good father, a good husband and that I did it all while going through the hardest year of my life.

You can't measure that with a stopwatch.