First Day in Mesa
I am writing this blog from Mesa, Arizona where Coach Casey and I are for the fourth stop on the Arena Pro Series meets. For those of you that may not be familiar with the Pro Series it is a series of six meets that travel across the nation and serves as an opportunity for some of the fastest swimmers in the country (and world) to compete against the best. These meets operate in a way that allows the elite of the elite to race one another and maintain a level of high competition. With an Olympic year just around the corner any meet at the national level is an opportunity to fine tune race strategies and figure out where you stand individually and comparatively with the best. I want to start off with describing my experience waking up this morning for prelims. Coach Casey and I ate our breakfast at our precise predetermined time. I touched up on my shave job, and packed my swim bag for the first day of the meet. We stopped to grab coffee, which has always been a part of my morning meet routine, and as we waited in the drive-thru we heard a series of helicopters hovering over the competition pool. Driving to the pool, coffee in hand, we noticed a series of police cars and security at every possible entrance. This is the sort of thing that happens when Michael Phelps and the rest of the national team are preparing to race. Three years ago, which happens to be my last time swimming in a grand prix (this meet’s former name) and long course for that matter, I could not believe just how much attention a swim meet was getting. Between the livestreams on USA Swimming’s website, screaming fans, autograph signings, and the media attention and celebrity status that many of these athletes now have, it is very easy to become overwhelmed and feel a bit insignificant in the grand scheme of this meet. That is one way of thinking. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that we are able to control our thoughts although I must admit it takes a ton of practice. I acknowledged that thought and decided that it was a negative take on the situation. I had to qualify for this meet just like anyone else here, and I deserve to be here and race among the best. That being said I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t at least a tiny bit nervous. I mean not swimming a long course race in three years and just recently figuring out a new way to train has been a little nerve racking but at the end of the day I figured I had to trust myself enough to just have fun. No one’s past accomplishments or setbacks matter when you stand up on the block. Each race is an opportunity to start fresh. Today was the 100 breast, an event that used to be my focus for majority of my college career and is the event I thought would take me to trials in 2012. I missed the cut by .4 at least a half a dozen times that year and to be honest it put me in a rough place. But like I said, this is a new meet, new perspective, and new opportunity. I raced my 100 breast this morning like I usually do: strong and smooth the first 50, build and finish with whatever I have left. Going about the race like I had in the past yielded the same results it did in the past: CRASH AND BURN the last 15 meters. Ouch. I was honestly a bit disappointed but luckily I swam fast enough to make finals and earn myself a new opportunity. Speaking with Casey on the positives and negatives of my swim really helped me try to think about this race in a different way. I didn’t want to be afraid of hurting at the end anymore and knew I just needed to stay long instead of spinning my wheels. Tonight was going to be a completely different approach to this event. Instead of freaking out that I want to rip my arms off I relaxed and focused on every single movement individually.
I have always been a finals swimmer so I allowed myself to use that part of my past as a means to gaining confidence. I swam finals and won my heat with a time that was a full second faster than the morning swim and only .3 off of my all-time best swim ever! The best part was I DIDN’T DIE! Thinking about one little detail made all the difference and each stroke made me excited and confident that I could finish my race strong. I still think I could have swam another 10 meters through the wall and maintained that speed. I walked over to Casey and we talked about the race, again both the positives and things that could be improved and although I’m typically reluctant to admit it, I was genuinely happy with my swim. I’d even say I was excited and proud of it. 1:05.48. The most elite breaststrokers were 1:02s. To be within three seconds of the top breaststrokers right now blows me away. Especially if this is an event I really have not focused much on and is not my strongest. Putting my race into perspective in that way is still crazy to think about. But it isn’t crazy at all. That is the exact beauty of this meet. It makes me realize that I am included in that label of elite. I am competing at this meet, and am part of what makes it so fast. I am so excited to see what the next few days have in store, and am honored to be putting on my Lyons cap before each race. Thank you so much for all of your support, and am honored to represent Lyons in this way.