Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Am Ready...

One week from today I will be in Minneapolis swimming my little heart out. If I haven't really mentioned it yet, it is probably because I have been too extremely focused on this task at hand, ironically enough, to write about it.

The event is the Can/Am National Para Swim Meet, and from what I can gather, much like the last Can/Am meet but with an increased "nerve factor". This meet will also provide as a qualifier for both the Pan/Pac and Para Pan Games held later this year. My results will directly result in whether or not the US will take me with them. No pressure, right?! Ahh!

At any rate, I am feeling much more prepared this time around. That's all that any of this is anyhow: practice. The main event is yet to come.

I have been practicing my muscles to utter exhaustion and am proud of that. I have never given up, not once. I wake each morning at 3:15 with a smile and the math to figure my sets for the day. I have diligently compiled the most awesome of awesomes in terms of music playlists. I have read books and created visualizations for myself. I have reminded myself that I AM prepared.

So here it goes. I am currently tapering down my workouts and paying special attention to my body. I am constantly fueling and refueling. I drink my weight in water daily. I say no to perfect scoops of ice cream and the rest of those pesky refined sugars. I search for confidence where ever I can imagine it. I soak in the sunlight and pool water as if it were a gift from the Universe to me.

I am ready... finally.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Goal Can Make You FLY!

Goal-setting is crucial for creating progress in one's life, just as seeking out a challenge creates these such opportunities.

It has been a well-known fact of my lack-of-hip-function-body, that swimming butterfly is simply just not an option. In my 14 years post, I had little hope of ever being that "fly swimmer" that I once used to be and almost forgot about it entirely.

That is, until I needed a new hurdle in my swim journey.

After my meet in December, actually we hadn't even left Toronto before I consciously decided that I wanted to be able to swim fly in the next meet. So, it was decided and now the training had a clearer focus. I have been training with this goal in mind since, some days with great hope and encouragement, and others with the notion that I had completely lost my sanity in making such a pronounced statement for a goal.

Now, I realize that this may not seem like much of a goal or challenge to some, but to me it represents so much more. Being able to complete the fly opens my mind up to more confidence than I could have ever imagined before. Like literally being able to fly; this concept had always been so far from my reach, almost to the distance of Jupiter, I had no clear sight of it at all. However, putting that very idea in my frontal lobe and churning and yearning for it--even dreaming about it--I have found that all things can be possible.

On a daily basis, I attempt with great gusto to be the example of what could come from a little human effort. Getting up at 3AM makes sense when you think in this manner. BUT, for some reason, with all of my training day-in and day-out I hadn't gotten the guts to try a whole 50 fly (the exact length that I would need to complete for my meet in 2 weeks!) I am not sure if it was more about the risk of failure or the feeling of failure itself, but for whatever reason, it was far more powerful than actually trying.

I realized this yesterday as I returned to the pool for the second time that day--which has been my routine for the past month. Throughout my entire workout, this nagging sense of disappointment repeatedly piped in at every wall stating, "You've just got to TRY! You owe it to yourself"

So, I finished up my workout and yelled out a mental, "Ready? Set...GO!" and gave it that TRY.

And... I did it. It was slow, but strong and I am sure that there was a smile on my face the entire time. My body had known it all along. I was physically capable. I had trained over and over again and prepared my body for its challenge. Again, it was my own lack of self-confidence and pre-programmed doubt that had led me astray.

Today, I am so proud to say that I did it. And I will continue to do it. This milestone is slight and small in presence, but ever so impacting in the overall journey that I am on.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

These Are the People

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Sportswomen of the Year banquet honoring female athletes all over the state of Colorado. There were dozens of sports represented and a variety of women ranging a complete spectrum of ages. However, it was the three para athletes, and me tagging along, who--in my eyes-- stood out in the crowd with the most courage, strength, and motivation to be there.

To be an athlete is hard enough. You must be equal parts disciplined and determined. You must be willing to make sacrifices for your sport. You must believe in yourself above everything else. You must be willing to try.

For that alone, athletes of all kinds are inspiring; but I now know that the athletes that I most admire are those involved in para sports or disabled sports or adaptive sports or whatever you want to call it. These people are athletes above athletes.

These are the people that have overcome obstacles that most people can't even imagine.

These are the people that take their health very seriously and with one step at a time. These people know all too well that, at any moment, their sport could give way to their health, or lack there of.

These are the people that are forced to start at a level below the norm and exceed so far beyond it that it is, from then on, forever out of sight.

These are the people that keep the world remembering that there are limitless possibilities to what a human being can REALLY do.

These are the people that get out of bed every morning with a smile, because they know what it feels like to not be able to.

These are the people that, while simply striving to be normal and ordinary, raced much further and became extraordinary in their own right.

These are the people that give every ounce of all that they have, because they have to. They have spent so much time trying to compensate for something that they have lost or something that they may have never had; that without this struggle, would never have been able to put their WHOLE self into it.

These are the people that smile in the face of troubles and woes, and react with grace and fervor to every complication thrown their way.

These are the people that, without them, the world wouldn't be able to recognize a true hero.

These are the people that I strive to be in every single moment of every single day, because I can...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Dialog of "Can't"s

A few nights ago while coaching practice, I came across a very disgruntled and mood-struck preteen swimmer. Somehow this brief interaction stuck with me. I think that it may have been far more important and metaphoric than I was willing to admit at the time. It all went something like this...

Preteen Swimmer: "I'm not going to do that. I can't--cannot." (She says as a way of evading the noted dime that was agreed upon for using the word can't in practice.)
Me: "You're up... go!"
Preteen Swimmer: "But I can't!" as she pushed off the wall to attempt that infamous set of underwater dolphin kick on her back. She was most upset about getting water up her nose every single time.

Once she returned back at the wall, she had developed some ammunition--no doubt, from the combination of the two laps of swimming she had just done and that downward spiral that she was headed quickly for.

Me: "Five seconds, get ready..."
Preteen Swimmer: "No! I'm NOT doing it!"
Me: "Go!" And she went, most likely trailed by a rain cloud and look of disgust as she blew not-so-fierce bubbles which lacked the necessary gusto to keep the water out of her sinuses.

After this, I knew that I had pushed her hard enough and now it was time for a lesson. Little did I know that this lesson would apply to me as well.

Me: "Okay Preteen Swimmer, I understand that you don't think that you can do this set. I get that. I really do. There are so many times in life where you doubt your talents, but the important thing is to find the courage simply to try."

Wow. Was that a famous quote? How did I get so smart? Remember that...

Preteen Swimmer just nodded, and almost with a smile pushed off the wall simply to try again.

She completed the set, not perfectly and not without getting water up her nose; however something had changed completely within her. She now saw the set for what it truly was: a challenge. It was no longer a punishment or a way to self-ridicule. She now saw promise in her abilities, both mentally and physically. She, more importantly, saw the promise of those two identities melting into one. For the first time, Preteen Swimmer and I were one in the same. At the same moment, we both encountered the realization of infinite self-capacities and the endless opportunities that lay ahead when understanding the weight of such power.

We both left practice that night with a new smile and a new lesson.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Asking For Starlight

Asking for things like help or attention has never been something that I have done well or done often. For some reason, in my growing up I equated asking for things as weakness or selfishness or irresponsibly. I remember many a painful birthday of overflowing gifts and back-to-school shopping sessions with Grandma that left me so uncomfortable and upset.

For those who know me well, they would tell you that this trait, as admirable as it may seem, is present to quite a striking fault.

However, lately in my pursuit to be the best swimmer/human being I can muster, I have learned to overcome quite a bit in this arena. From asking for swim gear to requesting flight donations to adjusting my teaching schedule, I have been my own best advocate.

Everyone is wonderful in their support of my endeavors. Both Speedo and Out of Breath Sports have willingly (and encouragingly) offered up all of the equipment I could ever need for my training. Continental Airlines graciously waived their $300 ticket change fee to allow me to get to my meet in time-- seeing as I had previously accidentally and regretfully booked the wrong flight. School has welcomed my desire and need to focus on my training and overall goals in the not-so-distant-future. I never realized that asking for things could be so easy!

I suppose when you are asking for the RIGHT things, for those things that have the potential to make a change in someone's life and provide with the possibilities of stars in the sky, people feel it and respond to it with shooting stars.

I am feeling that brightness.