The vision to in vision the splash to success is not an easy road for every competitive swimmer. But when I look back at my time as a competitive swimmer I have many great memories of time spent in the pool.
My typical day was long and began very early like around 5:30 a.m. The sun sleeps as the desolate city streets await the morning rush hour. Driven by the inexplicable compulsion I would enter the Forest Park Swim Center inching my way toward the cold dark locker room, I would slip into my still damp drags suites and make a mad dash through the chill of the morning air, stopping only to grab pull-buoys and a kick-board on my way to the pool. The pool artificially warmed to fifty-five degrees; the temperature differential propels the spooky ambiance of a werewolf movie. Next come the shock. Head first immersion into tepid water sends my heart racing with a quick set of warm-up laps. As I finish, the coach emerges from the fog. He offers no friendly accolades, just a rigid regiment of sets, intervals, and exhortations.
Thus starts another workout—4,500 yards to go, then a quick shower and five-minute drive to school. Then it’s back to the pool; the afternoon training schedule features an extra 5,550 yards. Tomorrow it all starts over again. The goal is to cut my times by anther tenth of a second. The end goal is to do that tiny, unexplained difference at the end of the race that separates success from failure, greatness from mediocrity. Somehow I accept the pitch–otherwise; I would still be deep in my mattress, slumbering beneath the blankets. In this sport, the antagonist is time. Coaches spend hours in specialized clinics, analyzing the latest research on training techniques, and experiment with workout schedules in trying to defeat time. Yet there are no shortcuts to winning and workouts are agonizing.
I took part in my first swimming race when I was ten years-old. My parents, fearing injury, directed my athletic interests away from football and into the pool. Three weeks into my new swimming attempt, I somehow persuaded the coach to let me enter the annual age group meet. To his surprise (and mine), I pulled out an “A” time. I furthered my achievements by winning “top 16” awards for various age groups, setting club records, and being named National First Team All-American in the 100-Butterfly and Second All Team in the 200-Medley. From that point, I moved up to the Senior Championship level, which means the competition now included world-class swimmers. making the finals was difficult from here, as I was aware–at this level, one measures success by mere tenths of a second. In addition, each new level brings extra requirements such as more weight training, longer weekend training sessions, and more travel away from home. Time with friends is increasing spent in the pursuit of the next swimming goals.
Sometimes in the solitude of the laps, my thoughts transition to events in my personal life. “My grandmother re-occurrence of cancer, which had spread to her lungs. She had always been driven by good sprites and independence, but suddenly my family had to except that she now faces a limited timeline.”
Then I few weeks later, I learned that my grandfather who lived a good distance from me had stomach cancer. He had successful sugary but my family knew back then that a full recovery was not guaranteed.” When I first learned they were both struck with cancer, I felt as if my goal, to cut my times by fractions of a second, seemed irrelevant, even ironic, given the urgency of their goals: to prolong life itself. Yet my family has learned to draw on each other’s strengths for support–their fortitude helps me overcome my struggles while my swimming achievements provided them with a various sense of victory. When I share my latest award or triumph story with them, they smile with pride, as they had stood on the awards stand. A grandparent is the only one who would understand what the medals mean to them.
My grandparent’s strength has shored up my determination to succeed. I have learned that, as in swimming, life’s successes often come in small increments. Sometimes even the act of showing up at a workout when your body and psyche feel like it separates a great result from a failure. The difference between success and failure is defines the ability to overcome strong internal resistance. I know that by consistently working towards my goals–however small they may be-I can do whatever I set as my goal, both in and beyond the swimming pool.