After the excitement of the big race I had another treat (it really was the best day ever!), I was able to go to the Josh Groban concert. I had gotten the tickets as a birthday present to myself months ago. In fact, I debated about whether to enter the race or not because I didn’t want it to spoil the concert. In the end I am glad I decided to do both. (I was really tired by the end of the day but it was a good tired! A well-used, exhausted kind of tired). Josh Groban has a special place in my heart for two reasons. First, he is the same age as me and he came into fame when I started college . It might sound cheesy but I feel like his songs could be a soundtrack to my life. I LOVE his voice. I know some of his songs are over-the-top but I still love them. I can think of countless times when I’ve felt depressed, turned on his albums and felt inspired, even comforted.
The second reason is in 2007 I was very depressed about my work when I decided to get tickets for Josh Groban’s Awake concert. I had high hopes going into the concert because Awake is one of my favorite albums by any artist, ever. Unfortunately I had terrible seats because I missed the purchase time while working at the temple. They were true nose bleed seats- almost as high as the arena went.
To make matters worse his opening act was strange African techno music that made me nauseous. (Saturday’s openning act was an amazing piano player named Elew. It was unlike any piano player I’ve ever heard before. He even reached into the piano and plucked the strings- so cool! Check him out on itunes).
Naturally after the opening act I was feeling a little down about the concert and my bad seats, when they announced the filming of Josh’s Awake album would be that night in Salt Lake! (To listen to the full concert that I got to hear check out Josh’s Awake Live album.)
In excitement I left my seat to get a drink and as I made my way to the foyer a woman approached me.
She said “Would you like to move to lower seats?”
“Of course” I replied and I went and got my friend Camille. We were moved to row 13 right by the stage! There were moments Josh was singing to me and he was so close I touched his fingers (sorry to sound like a gaping teen but it was exciting!). Particularly to go from zero to hero was so thrilling. It was much better then if we had bought those tickets out right.
Anyway, it was such a low time for me that I have always felt like the concert was a tender mercy. While this years concert was not quite as memorable it was still great! In a strange way it was actually more intimate because it wasn’t scripted like the last DVD ready event. It is awe inspiring to hear someone’s voice fill up a stadium like Josh Groban’s does. He is an amazing talent and I love going to his concerts.
I’ve sat down to write this post several times but each time I’ve struggled to find the words to describe my experience in my first open water swim. When I try to sound triumphant it seems cloying, when simply describing the event it feels ordinary.
Nevertheless, I will do my best to give you an idea of what the day meant to me.
Walt Disney once said that “the real trouble with the world is too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.” While this may be true with some adults, it is not the case for those of us who grow up overweight.
Believe me we remember what it is like to be 12 and fat.
I wish I could forget the searing images of being bullied and called terrible names. I wish I could forget being looked over and marginalized because of something that I had little control over.
How might you ask did I emerge from childhood with a happy disposition (the blog is after all called Smiling LDS girl!) and confident demeanor? There are many answers including most importantly my faith but one small answer is that I found swimming.
I have always loved to swim. In fact, anything with water has, and always will, make me happy- whether it is boating with my family or spending the afternoon at a neighborhood pool there is something about the water that is freeing. It was also the only athletic activity which I felt competitive and that did not flair up my asthma/bad feet.
When I was in high school I decided to join the swim team and thankfully they had an open enrollment policy- meaning every student who wanted to participate could. In my 3 years on the team I learned how to do strokes properly and competed in races where I actually turned in decent times. (I was one of the only girls that was willing to swim butterfly so that became a bit of a specialty for me!). Its amazing how once those strokes are in your head you never forget them. I still do my freestyle in the S shape that Coach Cowperthwaite taught me (yes, that was her name!). In fact, it is very difficult to change any part of my stroke because it is so ingrained in my body.
Seared in my memory is also the feeling of weightlessness (a big thing for a fat girl to experience) that would overtake me upon entering the water. I still love nothing more than diving into water, and I agree with my sister who once said- “swimming is the closest thing to flying we have on earth”. It is freedom, it is lightness, it is happiness!
In my sophomore year I took a life guarding course and believe it or not obtained my certification. I can’t explain what that meant for a fat girl- to complete a certification in something so difficult. I remember in particular we had to tread for 10 minutes with a 10 lb brick, and I did it!
Anyway, back to Saturday.
I awoke bright and early to face my challenging swim. I was a mess of nerves and emotion- what if I failed, what if I got a cramp mid-race and had to stop, what if my paddler didn’t show up or what if they had to cancel the race? (You get the idea).
As a nod to my former self I wore my old high school swim team jacket. (Yes, for once my pack-rat tendencies paid off! I have my old swim cap also but it has a rip).
After arriving at the race I met with my paddler who was amazing. Despite having never met, he seemed to get my story and believe in me. I am so grateful for his sacrifice of a Saturday morning sleep to help me. I told him he was my ‘guardian angel’ for the day.
Everyone associated with the race was wonderful and encouraging. Again, they seemed to all get that this was more then just a routine event for me. (All together I think there were about 65 racers- plus paddlers to accompany them, so it was a pretty big crowd).
Once we gathered to begin the race the day started on a good, surprising note! They had a raffle and I won the big prize! (I tell you fortune was smiling upon me the whole day!). I won a kayak! It is a one person seated kayak that will be great for future races and trips to the lake. I never win anything! (Thank goodness I have a van to take it home in. :))
Then the 10 mile swimmers started (can you believe that! 10 miles!), 10 k, 5 k (most popular) and finally it was time for my race. There were 10 other swimmers for the 1 mile swim including a little girl who proudly announced “I’m going to win. My sister won and so will I”. I think she came in second but still I admired her confidence.
With the sound of the whistle into the water I went swimming with all my heart. I was significantly slower than my competitors but that didn’t matter to me. I had the encouragement of my paddler and a lifetime of love for the water pushing me forward. Plus, I could just feel the prayers and thoughts of my family, friends and trainers who have invested so much in getting me in that water.
An open water swim is both a mental and physical game. I had done one mile swims before but never one quite like this. About 1/3rd of the way through it felt like I would never get to the 1/2 mile marker, and the same for the last stretch. It almost seems like a mirage and the end does not feel real until you are minutes, mere feet away. Thankfully I had my paddler and cheerleaders on the side pushing me to keep going.
When I finally crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotions and actually started to cry. The ending could not have been more sweet if I had finished first.
(Btw, I did make my goal to finish in under an hour by 6 minutes. 54 minutes!)
It was as if I was giving a high-five to the 12-year-old and 16-year-old me- saying we did it! I can tell you one thing- never was any medal more well-earned or more proudly displayed than the one I received for simply finishing!
At the risk of sounding cheesy I would just like to say something to the young girls out there who feel they are without worth- you can do great things in your life. You are valuable and important. If I can swim a mile today and could pass that life guarding test years ago, then you can do whatever you dream of doing. Just set a goal, gather a team to help you and go and do it.
There is no doubt that the year and half of this fitness quest has been full of difficulties but Saturday made it all worth it. It was truly one of the best days of my life. Thank you to everyone for your support and love. Now on to the next race- Slam the Dam in Vegas on October 1st. Life is good!
Thank you also to everyone who worked hard to make the event a success. Thank you especially to my paddler Neil and to Jim Hubbard who went out of his way to make sure I could race, as well as organizing the race for everyone else. Thank you so much. (Also, thanks to those who donated the kayak!)