Friday, June 24, 2011

What's So Scary About Today?

The plan was to get up at 6AM to finish packing. In all my years of setting alarms, I can think of only one other time in which I actually managed that quintessential time-oopsie of setting for PM rather than AM.  My subconscious was probably requesting the additional sleep.

Regardless, I arose at 7:23AM, a little groggy from extending frantic packing late into the night, but refreshed and ready to take on today.

So few people really understand these intense emotions that I have while preparing for this training camp. Words that should make me feel better, reducing the pressure slightly, tend to send me over the edge. I realize that the Jimi Flowers Meet is not a qualifier for anything, and merely timed-finals. I realize that I have made the ParaPan American Games Team and that they aren't going to kick me off of it for no reason. I realize so many things that are rational and true about this experience, but there is so much more to it that is difficult for me to explain.

But nevertheless, I'll TRY...

No matter the meet, big or small, it is no different to me. I will not try any less this weekend than I did at Nationals. I will not treat the meet with any less seriousness or ferociousness. I, wholeheartedly, acknowledge the fact that I am a complete lunatic for signing up for 10 events in two days, but I need to swim as much as possible to give myself the opportunity to improve. If you don't compete in it, you have no chance of improvement.

I need to put my best foot forward, figuratively. I know myself well enough to know that when I am driven by nerves, I tend to shut down socially and crawl into a dark space, deep within my psyche and stay there until I feel safe again. I cannot afford to have this happen. I want my coaches and teammates to see me for who I really am. I want so honestly to be an asset to this team, being one of the--if not the--oldest member. I want to be able to impart certain wisdoms and mindful thinking to those that I interact with most in my professional life, the fifteen-year-olds-- of which there are a ton of. I desire to be an athlete that is as good in the water as out of the water.

Lastly, knocking down the walls of my character is that ever-present notion of confidence. Why can I STILL not shake it? There are voices that swirl inside of me questioning everything. At one point, in fact, I had convinced myself that the Paralympic Committee had made a mistake with me, accidentally put me on the email list and now they felt too bad to tell me the truth. Seriously? With thoughts like these its no wonder how I even manage to function during the day. I have spent the better part of the last two weeks really searching for that confidence-- I know it's in there somewhere. The negativity has so much power, to the point where it steals my breath and attempts to choke me. BUT I know that I am better than that. I know that I deserve this. I know that it is okay to let my hard work pay its own way. (Even writing this, I feel those emotions start churning from deep within, like an impending hurricane, shoving glimpses of the tide upwards through my eyes.) I guess the scariest part of it all is the fact that I am well-aware that the only thing that may hold me back from utter greatness... is me.

However, I am ready to face it. I am. I really think that this week is going to be a true testament to the power my mind has and the urge to collaborate with success. I am ready to move forward and to be able to say that I deserve to be on the US Team and that I AM part of the US Team.

So now I am off to swim, all alone, one last time for the next several days. I will head down to Colorado Springs to check-in in the dorms sometime around 3PM. Once I get settled in, my brain should follow...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Less Than A Week

In less than a week I will be finished with my first swim meet at the Olympic Training Center.
In less than a week I will be staying in a dorm for the first time in over a decade.
In less than a week I will be quietly nervous, yet soaking it all in.
In less than a week I will swim a mile race for the first time.
In less than a week I will be able to swim in front of family and friends like I had when I was a kid.
In less than a week I will be challenging myself with the continual overwhelming battle of self-confidence.
In less than a week I will know if that strange breaststroke I've been training is working or not.
In less than a week I will absorb all of the coaching and criticism that I have been significantly lacking this whole time.
In less than a week I will meet my team.
In less than a week I will pack suit after suit, all the while dreaming for one that says, "USA".
In less than a week I will put those fears and worries of the unknown behind me, because I will be DOING it.
In less than a week I will have swum 10 events in a 2-day meet.
In less than a week I will take a moment to realize that last year at this time I was on bed rest.
In less than a week I will feel comfortable with the likes of so many amazing, elite athletes.
In less than a week I will know what it feels like to come so far.
In less than a week I will be reminded why I took this leap in the first place, since my checking account tends to remind me otherwise.
In less than a week I will feel proud and inspired and ready to propel forward.
In less than a week I will, once again, find that inner fire that keeps me going and knowing that this is RIGHT.
In less than a week I will be ready.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Changing the Challenge, Challenging the Change

The alarm went off Tuesday morning at 3:15AM for the last time--officially. I am certain there will be others, but just not in the frequency of this last year. That morning was not unlike all the others, however. I still woke with a smile, grunted out an effective streamline stretch, and acknowledged that I am still NOT on bed rest.

As I drove to the pool, I did so with a fair amount of excitement about it being the last, but also a little fear and sadness of its finale. I believe that this schedule has truly played an enormous role in my confidence level over the past several months. Virtually EVERYONE has something to say about 4AM workouts, and that alone has made me feel like a strong, motivated, challenged, and deserving competitor.

I will miss those early mornings for the camaraderie of those crazy enough to join me, for the pride knowing that I was well accomplished physically every morning before most people even get out of bed, and for the challenge of telling myself that I could do it every single day.

Perhaps I will just have to find a new way to challenge myself and to seek that radiant confidence that is found most readily in doing rather than thinking.

So far this week has been about recovery from those moments, but also discovery of new ones to come. I am anxiously awaiting new moments of joy and pain and sunshine and rain-- to quote some guys that became the face of unseen voices once upon a time ago.

Nonetheless, I am taking my time to soak in all of the emotion that goes along with the training and looking forward nervously to the preparation of Parapan Am Training Camp soon to take place near the end of June. Looking forward, yet covering my eyes with one hand in fear of those unknown and complicated emotions connected to competition.

My hands can't seem to hide nor console, but that is exactly how it should be. And THIS is exactly how I should feel.

I have never been so nervous and full of anxious fear... yet so extremely happy and fulfilled.

This is exactly what life is all about. Accepting challenges and altering your experience based upon that. Seeking out new challenges when old ones aren't as affective or desired anymore. Living for the challenge of today and hoping for another tomorrow.

I am ready to take on these new challenges and face my fears of moving forward. I live for the challenges that make me feel vulnerable and awkward and uncomfortable-- because those are all emotions that are raw and, more importantly, true. Those emotions, catalyzed simply by the challenge, create more of a life for me than I could have ever imagined on my own.