When I am asked what I do, or who I am, often the word “swimmer” comes up on that list somewhere, but it is not always at the top. I am a mom, and a wife. That alone has many responsibilities involved, and even without the demanding hours my husband’s job requires I would be pretty busy. So my schedule as a swimmer is squeezed in between these activities, with my swim practice at noon for me, coaching in the evenings and seasonally on Saturday and Sundays and working with a trainer when there is time. I also have to attend meetings at school, performances and classroom parties the same as other moms, so sometimes swimming is part job/part hobby. It’s something I have to do to keep my brain in the right order, stay healthy and happy, but it I have done a lot in the years since I left my full-time work to put swimming on the list of musts—must take care of kids, marriage, school things, house, groceries, SWIM. I have found, though, that if I don’t have set goals in mind in my life, though, I flounder and lose sight of purpose (swim to stay healthy and keep brain fuzzies out). So when I realized how much I enjoy open-water swim, races became the goal I set my eyes on.
Now I train for these races, held outside in rivers, lakes or on beaches, and my season runs most areas in May-October. I focus on racing this time of year because the biggest ones are in the late summer or fall and it makes it easiest for my children to come and be part of my “team” when I do have to travel. Some of the people at these races conjure up the ideas of the swimmers you see in the Olympics, tall, lean strong-shouldered young athletes. I am a 30-something curvy five foot three girl. But the incredible thing that keeps me from being overwhelmed by feeling like I showed up at the wrong swimsuit model event is that there are people of all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of training waiting to jump in with me at an ungodly hour to go for a dip. It’s hard to find an area where athletic enthusiasts are so wildly diverse, but open-water most definitely is. And I am never the “winner,” the person first across the line in any category, but my “winning” at a personal level is 1) get in 2) swim hard 3) get out at the end. And so far I have done that in every single race!! (And hopefully, I always do, too!)
So I have been doing this for the last six years (My first swim was August, 2011) and I’ve had to relearn what I was doing back in the 90s, as a kid, with someone else telling me what to do each time. And I have gone from swimming short course to open-water distance, so I have had to completely change how I swim as a competitor, coach, and in training. I started by working out on my own and using the internet as a resource for workouts, then I swam with a “Virtual Team” for Team in Training, and then I took a cardio/extreme fit class at my local gym and continued to swim distance events. At this time I was competing in 1-2 mile races mostly, although Team in Training was a 3 mile crossing swim. At this point in my training (and bathroom demo in our 1960s ranch-style house), I blew out my shoulder and went into surgery and rehab for the fall and winter months. I got back into the water in March with a private coach to help rebuild my stroke. I continued to swim on my own though. She suggested I take a Red Cross course to be certified to teach swimming since I was out of work anyway, and from then on, my goal was to teach swimming as well as compete. And as I improved as a teacher, I learned more about my own training, having to break down the strokes day after day teaching the youngest Age Group Swimmers in our year-round USA Swimming program.
My goal is to compete in as many races as I can, usually once a month, during the summer open-water season and take my family to a destination each year that allows us to travel, sight-see and compete nationally. We have been to New York and Chicago so far, and this summer I hope to swim in Wilmington, NC to prepare for a relay in Portland, Oregon, and go visit some sights and tours they've never had a chance to see. I love travelling with them because my children are extremely curious kids and so we enjoy seeing monuments, historic sites, museums, and new cities. But one of our favorite things of all, almost as much as swimming, is ordering room service!