Sunday, October 31, 2010

Personal Pursuit of Publicities

I am learning that this journey is a process that goes far beyond my daily training regimens and sacrifices.

This journey is about step-by-step tidbits like getting my name heard
by the right people. These "right people" could be those people with Paralympic ties or they can be people who are willing to donate to my cause; but either way, I know that I need to reach these guys.

It is a huge struggle for me to outwardly attempt to vie for others' attention, but I have taken a large gulp and stood out on this limb of uncharted and scary territory, in order to know that I have done EVERYTHING in my power to get me to where I know I can be.

Needless to say, I just spent the majority of this Halloween day contacting media sources from all over, ranging from big-time celeb-types, to local new
s vendors that may remember me from past. It has been grueling to sit out here amongst these sparse changing leaves hoping that this limb won't snap.

However, as I have said many times before, when you are on the right path you just know it. After spending nearly all of my brain capacity at my computer trying to connect with the media mongers of the world, I stumbled upon (I use this statement loosely, considering I "stumble" here everyday) the US Paralympic Swimming site a
nd noticed that my name has now made it on the list, four times!

All in a day's work, I suppose. Break time over, now back to my personal pursuit of publicity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Selfishness of the Sport

What sets apart a good athlete from a GREAT athlete?

Everyone can acknowledge the fact that it comes down to more than gear or coaching staff or (on some level) raw talent. A GREAT athlete has something much, much more.

It is my theory that these athletes are born. They are born, not necessarily just within a great gene pool or notable resources, but rather something more involving synapses and a mental capacity for the entire game itself.

This is an area in which I have always struggled. I identify with being an athlete through and through; however, that has never been enough. There has always been a missing electric firing that has kept me at more of a neutral than an acceleration. In high school, I never excelled to my full potential athletically. and I realize that now. Come to think of it, I realized it then too. I was afraid. I seemed to always be afraid. Afraid of being good. Afraid of failing after being good. Afraid of thinking I was good only to fail. Afraid of acting elite, when I was really a bouncy blondish girl from South Denver.

Thus, I never fully succeeded. I never fully pushed myself and I never found that part in my brain that sets elite athletes from the rest of us.

Lately, I have been thinking about this a lot. Comparing those that I know that ARE elite athletes and quietly picking at their brains and analyzing attitudes. In this, I have found that these individuals are, in fact, different than the rest of us, and that difference lies in the ego.

Outwardly, this sounds like a terrible notion. You need to be a selfish, narcissistic person to really succeed? Well folks, this is partly true.

I have never considered myself to be selfish, if anything I have always been consumed with the opposite: trying to do everything for everyone else and, many times, neglecting myself entirely. My personal position on this spectrum can actually be considered quite a detriment to me and has led to many a struggle both internally and externally.

However, in my research of the athlete's brain, it has suddenly become apparent that the more involved you become with the sport, the less involved you become with everything else-- thus becoming more selfish. Let me explain... The more I train, the less I spend those hours with friends and family. The more I desire to train, the less I desire to spend those longing hours with those same friends and family.

Here's another, fairly insignificant, yet noteworthy, example:
Yesterday I got my hair cut. I mean chopped. This occurrence isn't itself a huge deal; however, the timing is. I have been donating my hair for years. Growing and cutting, growing and cutting. It has worked well for me, bringing purpose to my hair and feeling satisfied for the cause. But yesterday, I cut it too soon. I selfishly cut my hair to make my daily routine easier in light of all my swimming. I sacrificed something very meaningful for me in order to pursue something equally meaningful... yet selfish.

I'm not sure what this all means. Am I on the road to becoming a selfish hermit who has self-ostracized from all human contact? I really hope not. Am I on a different, yet more subtle road, one that involves greater success and achievement as I become more competitive in the water?

Regardless, in the end, all of this swimming is really to provide an example to EVERYONE that dreams can be achieved no matter the actual vehicle for it. So, perhaps this selfishness can be counter-balanced...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A New Winding Path

Something that I've told myself all along, as experience electrifies lightning throughout the atmosphere, is that if it isn't a challenge, it probably isn't worth doing in the first place.

So far, my swimming journey has been rather effortless. I've been able to coast alone on good graces, karma, and luck. Don't get me wrong, I have appreciated every bit of it... being someone that hasn't felt that sort of forward propulsion much in her life in the last couple of years. I have soaked it all in, almost to the point where I have lost sight of my original mantra:

If it isn't a challenge, it probably isn't worth doing in the first place.

That's when, in my new-found habit of daily swim research, I came across the freshly published list of Paralympic events for London 2012. I quickly scrolled down the list to look at time standards for all of my favorite events. N/A. Wait?? What is that supposed to mean? I scrolled through the remaining events in my classification. N/A. Wait! Except for the majority of the freestyle and butterfly events, my classification events are "not applicable"? Could this be correct?

With all kinds of worries and questions and potential disappointments running around in my head, I quickly phoned the only source I could think of to set me straight. He was even uncertain. In light of my recent successes in confidence, I didn't even hesitate to go straight to the source. So, I emailed the International Paralympic Committee myself.

I had my answer within a few, nail-bitting days. Apparently, it has been decided that any of the events where there isn't enough of a population to inhabit them will be eliminated in the events list; therefore, 99% of all of my classification events.

Immediately, I was crushed. My heart sank deep into the folds of my intestines. I was lost. My journey had always been very specific in terms of being a linear progress starting from now and ending in London 2012. Now what was I supposed to do?

The answer: WORK HARDER.

The process, the step-by-step venture, is what this journey is all about. Glitches in the system and bumps in the road should be clear indications that there are lessons to be learned and emotions to be felt. They are all reminders that I am alive and reaching for more. The news about the Paralympic events list is a neon sign reminder that I must push harder than ever before. I must gaze inside of me deeper than I had ever dared. I must trust in myself in ways that I have always feared.

This news is no longer a setback to me; but rather a twist in the pathway of my dreams, winding to challenge me to accomplish new heights that have been left unimaginable otherwise.

So, my plans have changed, but only slightly. My goals are greater. Now, I have the opportunity to attempt to qualify to the Paralympics in events that are ABOVE my current classification, swimming with athletes with more functional abilities. I also have the opportunity to concentrate on strokes that I would have rather left for dead than swim in a meet-- the dreaded freestyle and butterfly.

The path hasn't changed. The path has only become more beautiful; being able to see the outline of endless fields and sunshine, in the midst of that very-purposeful, winding earth for only me to follow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dancing & Debriefing

Of the many things that keep dancing through my head as I return to normalcy and out of my "swim meet" brain, one jive in particular keeps twirling around and around and around...

For those who know me personally, I have always been my worst critic. I have never been known as a negative person, nor even much of a realist-- until it pertains to ME. I will be the first to point out that flaw, or to stifle and undue happiness, or to disregard any kind of praise whatsoever-- only when it pertains to ME.

However, when concerning the other 99.99% of the world's population, I am much more likely to be called a dreamer, or an optimist, or maybe even just a really nice person. But for one reason or another, it is so difficult to behave in that normal nature within myself.

Throughout the course of the swim meet, that pessimistic me was going full force. When people referred to my American records, I scoffed and usually added something about it being "silly" or "not real records." I created this nasty little voice inside of my head that was unwilling to let me be happy.

It wasn't really until I had some time to debrief and let some of those other dances in that I realized something quite profound for that nasty me: I obviously wasn't able to accomplish such a feat before.

Somehow in some sort of double-negative existence, that pessimistic view canceled out the prior one and.... POOF!... they both disappeared.

What I was left with was this: The realization that at a decade in time before today I didn't have the strength nor the courage (either physical or otherwise) to compete in a manner that I did this weekend. I hadn't had that power inside of me to experiment upon my own will and challenge the value of that conscious effort. I hadn't deserved any of it, until now.

And that was that. All of those notions of negative blankets no longer covered my mind, nor my eyes. I feel a giant release in my own self-discovery.

I knew that this process was about more than just swimming, but I am so curious now to challenge that very idea just to see how far it actually takes me, inside and out.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Own Meet Results

Wow. What a weekend.

There are so many things running through my head... ranging from, "You shouldn't have taken that extra breath to the wall in your free," to "What the heck? American records? Plural?!"

I couldn't have planned out a better meet for me if it were me playing the part of the fateful Universe. My events were grouped well. The climate of the meet was both a huge event and-- at the same time-- a very casual event, which I think helped calm my nerves while giving me a lot of education in the expectation of future meets to come.

Being the only swimmer in all of my classifications (S5-SB3-SM4) I received medals in all 8 of my events. I shattered most of my entry times, seeing as I picked them like the most random lotto numbers in a row-- made up of favorite date numbers and numbers of luck. I set 3 American records (officially) that have never been set before, and I broke 1 American record that was set in 2001 (unofficially still at this point).

The buzzing in my brain and body is so electric. I am so proud of my first endeavor and so blessed that the experience became so much more encouraging than I had ever planned. I had several coaches and Paralympic-involved folks come up and offer up their own encouragements and advice for moving further. It's officially GO TIME!

So, what's next? I have qualified for the Can/Am Games in Toronto in December. I guess I don't have a lot of time to rest and celebrate, but I am psyched to be living in this moment. In the next few weeks I will have to really do a lot of work to find additional sponsorships and monies to fund the trip in Toronto, namely, but also the future training and preparations. But, I feel like I am doing everything right. My goal from this meet was to get my name buzzing in the manner my brain is moving at this moment. I'm on the right track. Being told that there could be much use for me in future teams and events is exhilarating.

I have never been so pleased with my own efforts. I am so quick to give credit to others, which there is definitely some of that to be mentioned. However, I have gotten myself to this point purely by making a promise to my own self to try. And I will continue that promise through every stroke and through every breath and through every turn and continue through beyond...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Santa Clara Disability Meet Results

And So It Begins...

I am sitting here all suited up in my hotel room waiting to head over to the pool. I swear my nerves haven't quite set in, and I can't really figure out why.

Is it because my body and brain are so baffled by the sense of athletic competition because they haven't seen it for over a decade?

Is it because I know that this is the place I am supposed to be and I just can't wait to put all of my hard work to use?

Never mind, I just figured it out... Off to the pool!