This morning was the start to my first international swim meet. I swam the very first heat of the very first event, my favorite event, I think, the 200 backstroke. I bombed. I added about 10 seconds onto my time from my meet in Santa Clara. I immediately went into shock....
What did I do wrong? Did I not train enough? Am I not fast enough? Am I not fit enough? Did I not prepare enough? I couldn't say! So I did the only thing I could think of: got back in the pool.
I swam and swam and swam in the cool-down pool in hopes of finding an answer. I imagined being a fish that catches water within its gills, the way my epiphany would catch within me. No such luck. I composed myself again and began focusing on my final event for the day, the 100 breaststroke.
As I raced, I tried so hard to not let negative notions find their way to my stroke. I fought off voices in my head and tremors in my heart. I finished, fairly satisfied with my fight, only to look up to the time board to see that I had added an additional 18 seconds to my Santa Clara time!! What was going on here??
Shake it off, shake it off. We left and went to lunch and I tried to focus only on the fact that making it into Finals gave me one more opportunity to TRY.
When I returned to the pool, I made sure to be the first one in at warm-ups (for the second time today) and began reworking my breaststroke. I tried to pay close attention to the advice I had received in the past. I tried to pay close attention to my muscles and brain. I tried to pay close attention to the others swimming around me. Once my warm-up was complete, I leeched into the brain of one of my Paralympic coach friends to see what sort of quick-fix he could offer.
With some valid advice in tow, I headed back to the warm-up pool in search of my stroke. After a few alterations and some sprints, I had to reassure myself that I was okay and I needed to stop and get out.
The race came and went. The few glimpses that I recall from the event itself: feeling at ease with my start, hoping for a better time, gaining some pesky lactic acid in the second half, and feeling scared to look at the time board.
When it was all said and done, I took off 6 seconds from my time this morning... yet I am still nowhere near my Santa Clara pace and have even less of a clue as to why.
My discouragement has subsided for the most part. I am learning so much here. I am connecting with wonderful and beautiful people who want nothing more than to help. I am realizing so much about myself as an athlete, among other meaningful identities. I am working on figuring out exactly what I am missing. I am lucky to be here.