Its been a few months since our last Masters meet but finally the QUAC meet arrived today. This is a meet sponsored by the QUAC swim group (Queer Utah Aquatic Club). And I will just start by saying I have no issues going to a meet sponsored by a gay group. I think it is important to focus on the things we have in common rather than our differences. How can a dialogue begin if we never converse on an equal playing field?
So, that’s that. The meet was a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone who helped prepare for the meet, scheduling the pool, administrators, volunteers and getting great goodie bags! I appreciate all the effort that went in.
Unfortunately I was on a bad stretch with my fibromyalgia. Three days of bad pain. (I had another reminder this week that enduring the pain is better for me than going the drug route. Its just too easy to fall prey to addiction and dependence).
I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to swim at all. However, I am not a quitter so I swam my best and had a great time. (btw, thank you to Doterra essential oils for getting me through the pain! I’m a preferred member if any of you want any oils. They are the best for pain.).
The first race was supposed to be the 50 free but I missed the announcement and didn’t get to swim. 😦 . The whole meet went by very quickly. They started way late but once it got going it really clipped along.
So then I swam the 500m’s. This is 20 lengths or 10 laps. Thanks to Goody for being my lap counter. Unfortunately I had forgotten my inhaler and I think that slowed my results. It was hard fought and just slightly under my best time coming in at 12 min 25 seconds. With all the emotional and physical stress I’ve been under lately I was very happy with that score.
I got out of the water and felt like I was going to pass out. I had a splitting headache and felt spent. I wondered if I could make it through the 50 fly. However, after a little rest and some nuts I swam the 50 fly and took 1 second off my last time! Wahoo!
My friends all did great as well. It was so fun to cheer them on and hear them cheering me on. Utah swimmers are the best!
Now I am resting, putting hot and cold on my muscles and hoping I am not too sore for church tomorrow. I should be fine but we will see. The thing that amazes me is this weekend is like a 3 day event for the QUAC members. A bunch of them are going skiing tomorrow. There is no way I could go skiing. I’ll be lucky if I can walk! 🙂
There is nothing like being in that water racing. Its like everything zooms up on you and all you can see is water. It is the most therapeutic thing I’ve ever done. I just love it! I’m not sure when the next meet is but I’m looking forward to it.
Thanks again to all who worked to make the day happen and for everyone that cheered me on.
I’ve been a bit delayed in posting about the meet on Saturday because I’ve been super busy and they didn’t release the results until today. This was my second US Masters Meet and it was a good experience. I really debated whether to attend or not because it required a lot of driving, but I decided that I need to take advantage of every opportunity I can to improve my swimming and test myself physically. The meets don’t happen very often so you can’t let one slip away. (I wish they would advertise the meets more. It would have been so nice to carpool.)
Compared to all of the open water/masters meets I’ve attended previously the USU meet felt very collegiate, young and competitive. Indeed, when they released my scores I was the only swimmer in my age group (women 30-34). This means I technically finished first in all my races! 🙂
It really felt more like Utah State’s swim team and 10 of their friends and while I don’t participate in the meets to win, it is more fun when things are a bit more casual. My friends Josh and Sabrina came and Josh posted good times, but aside from them there was nobody else to really talk with or get to know.
Anyway, it was still a fun experience. I swam in 4 races the 200 meter freestyle, 50 meter freestyle, 500 meter freestyle and the 50 butterfly. The latter two were the most difficult. The 500 was the longest meet race I’ve done (last time was the 400) and it was tough! It’s funny you wouldn’t think swimming 500 meters would be hard after swimming 1.2 miles but the pace is faster at a meet and the flipturns drain a lot out of me- especially towards the end when I am gasping for air.
However, I am proud to say I finished all my flipturns and made it under my goal time of 13 minutes with a time of 12 min 22 seconds. This was particularly satisfying as my swim cap kept riding up my head until I ripped it off and threw it on the pool deck. Thankfully I had my hair in a pony-tail underneath my cap or the situation would have been bad! Still, I was proud of myself for maintaining my focus and not letting the cap incident rile me.
It was also funny at the end of the 500 I was at least 2 laps behind anyone else in my heat. It seemed like the whole pool deck started cheering me on. I felt like the underdog in a sports movie. Never mind that they were cheering me because I was last- I’ll take what I can get!
Once I finished the 500 I felt spent and wondered if I could get through the 50 fly. The meet went along at a fast clip and it seemed I was always rushing to make my heat. (They didn’t have a loud speaker to announce which heat was going when and that would have been very helpful). I just wondered if I would have time to regroup and get through it. It had been since high school that I had competed in a butterfly competition and I knew even a 50 meters was going to be tough.
Never wanting to back away from a challenge or give up, I just had to do it. Into the water I went and I pushed through the pain to complete my 50 fly. I know I have tons of work to do but I was proud of my 1 minute 9 second time- only 3 seconds slower than I had done in practice.
My other times are 200 m at 4 min 31 seconds (better than my 4 min 57 sec at the last meet) and my 50 free was a personal best at 49.2o seconds- first time under 50 seconds!
If anyone is reading this and is interested in participating in meets look up the US Masters swim team in your area. I really wish there was some way I could promote or advertise the masters/open water swim programs in my area. I know there are people like me who would love to participate but simply don’t know about it. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, I will have to promote events from this blog- sending the word out in the best way I can. My only wish about US Masters is that they had some kind of participation award or medal- like maybe something for a person who participates in all of the seasons meets? I like looking at my medals for the open water swims and wish I had something for the meets. Plus, it is fun to show them off to friends and family! Oh well!
Today was another landmark day in my fitness quest! It was my first US Masters swim meet. I have not been in a swim meet since 1998 when I was in high school. What a great thrill to be back on the starting block again competing!
I feel so blessed to have discovered the US Masters organization which lists as its mission statement “U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions, clinics and workshops for adults aged 18 and over. Programs are open to all adult swimmers (fitness, triathlete, competitive, non-competitive) who are dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming.”
Now the question is why did it take me 12 years to find out about this great organization? I guess you find out about things when you are ready to embrace them in life.
Anyway, back to the meet. Since I had been sick all week I felt anxious about whether I would be able to participate. Even this morning I woke up with a sore throat, phlegm and a lot of congestion.
However, anyone who knows me, knows I don’t give up easily! I decided I felt well enough to at least go to the meet, and at minimum, swim the 50 free (for non-swimmers that’s one lap in a typical pool).
The meet was held at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Salt Lake- actually called the Jeanne Wagner Jewish Community Center- that’s right Wagner! I didn’t know Wagner was a Jewish name- pretty cool.
Anyway, there wasn’t a huge attendance but those who gathered were wonderfully encouraging and fun. I have been so impressed by the swimming community in Utah. There were even some college-level swimmers there; and they were really nice and welcoming. In fact, one group invited me to join in their swims (its about 25 minutes away but I may get there!).
Everyone cheered on each other and it inspired me to do my best. Congestion and all I swam all 3 of my races and did as well I could. (I probably finished last but I didn’t care.)
The hardest race was the 400 meters (or 8 laps). By about lap 5 my lungs were burning and I wondered if I could get through but I pushed onward. It was really hard but I made it to the end. I even got almost all of my flip-turns and starts in (the diving platforms were much higher than I remember them being in high school- I would say around 2 ft up!). Since I have only done about 5 flip-turns in 13 years I felt proud in pulling off so many.
It was a fun day and I think a day my young self would have loved. Its hard to explain, but I feel like in embracing swimming the way I have in the last few months I am now the best version of myself I’ve ever been. I look great, feel healthy (I think I actually felt endorphins today!) and am having the time of my life! It seems especially meaningful on a week where nothing went right and my body was fighting me all the way. Hurray for completing goals!!!
Thank you to all who volunteered their time to help put on the event on and all who cheered me on.
50 m- 51.18 sec
200 m- 4 min 57 sec
400 m- 10 min 24 sec
(One funny thing about my swimming is I’m remarkably consistent. Despite my best efforts to go faster I seem to have about the same lap time no matter what. The difference between my laps on the 200m and 400m is only 4 seconds! Of course, the 200 was my last swim so that may account for some of it, but still consistency is my game!)
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!)