Friday, April 15, 2011

Don’t be afraid.

This past weekend my masters swim team and I competed in the Illinois state swim meet. Over 400 swimmers came to give it their all. Our team took 3rd! Congrats to all who swam!

It was over 2 months ago that I signed up for my events and was a little nervous about my selections. You see at state, swimmers come out of the woodwork, and there are some amazingly fast times for the short distance events. So our coach encouraged us to race in the longer distance races. 

If you know about swimming I apologize, but Im going to break it down for those of you who are unaware of what the distances are. 

Laps = down and back , lengths = just down
50 meters  = 1 lap (down and back)
100 meters  = 2 laps (down and back x 2)
and so on….
IM = Individual Medley (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle are all swum during this one event. Distance varies but is broken up evenly among all the strokes)

These are the events I signed up for:
1650 Freestyle (that is 66 lengths!)
50 Fly
200 IM (50 of each stroke)
100 Backstroke
400IM (100 of each stroke)
200 Freestyle
100 Fly
100 IM
I was also in 2 relays-
200 Mixed Medly
200 Freestyle Relay

10 events in 3 days…. Coming off of being sick and donating blood. Whoa boy!

I was freaking out about some of the events I signed up for… 1650? 400IM? Just who did I think I was – Michael Phelps? Ha! The week leading up to the state I was crazy nervous. I did not get the practice in that I needed in order to feel confident on the 400 IM, which is the event I ended being most worried about.  Earlier in the week I received a newsletter that had a little excerpt about fear. 

[During a sleepless night back in February, I sat at my desk and scribbled three words repeatedly:
Don’t be afraid.”
That moment was a catalyst for change. The next morning I decided to press the restart button on my life. After years working as fitness editor for Men’s Health magazine, I found myself drawn to LIVESTRONG.COM. It was a chance to help even more people establish a healthy life balance. But before I could move forward I had to learn to embrace the uncertainty of a new challenge.
In many ways, my story is your story. Maybe you’re not considering a new job, but at some point we all realize that taking action is the only thing that separates where we are from where we want to be. For me, leaving Men’s Health meant abandoning an amazing job, selling my home, and saying goodbye to friends and family. But I relied on my firm belief that new beginnings are always a step in the right direction if you have passionate intentions. And that the real secret to success is finding support, and recognizing that fear is nothing more than an illusion designed to silence confidence.]
I pulled two small phrases from an e newsletter:



I printed these two phrases out large and hung it on my wall at work and in my bathroom. Every time I got freaked out – I repeated this to myself. 
Friday night was the 1650, and surprisingly it came and went without much nervousness. I got to chat with some of my swim friends that I don’t see very often. Cheering each other on, being supportive and talking “shop” about triathlons and swimming. This is what I like best about meets. LOVE IT!   

My main goal for my first ever 1650 race was to make sure I held a steady pace and flip-turned every time. 26:00 mins, and only 1 missed flip turn. I’ll take it. Next time, I know I can push harder and NOT to tighten my goggles down so much- eegads my face still hurts! Friday night I got home late and went straight to bed- I was tired and knew I had a long weekend of races ahead of me.

Saturday’s line up was filled with ups and downs, good races and not so good ones. My body was still tired from the previous night.
I had a few PRs – 50Fly; 100 Back and my freestyle relay team took 1st. All in all it was a pretty good day. EXCEPT for the knot in my stomach about my first race on Sunday- the 400 IM… I kept asking myself – WHY did I sign up for that??? One of my line mates signed up for it as well, and we were a bunch of nervous nellies all day Saturday. In fact, I am willing to bet that we burned more calories and energy worrying about the race than ACTUALLY DOING it!!

Sunday morning:  I talked to my coach again, still unsure I could do it… hoping she’d say don’t race (yeah right!) She encouraged me and told me it’s all in my head, I can do it…even if I needed to stop and rest along the wall --- I would finish it. We’ll that was that, and I knew I had no other choice but to just get in and see what happens. Chevy Chase from Vacation kept popping into my head “This is crazy, This is crazy, This is crazy!” My heat was next… and up onto the blocks I went. Stomach in knots, I took a deep breath in and said a quick prayer for God to give me the strength to get through this. And we were off. The first 100 was butterfly. Now I’ve really only done a 75 of this in practice not a full 100 so I knew the last 25 would be hard. And it was… I felt like the commercial where all the swimmers jump into the caramel and just stay there… I got super tired and ooops I did a single arm drill followed quickly by my other arm once I realized what I did! I saw my teammate looking around frantically to see if the judges saw… All I kept thinking for the rest of the race was “Dear God, please just DQ me now if you’re going to do it- DON’T wait until the end!” Nothing. I continued onto backstroke where I took my time and caught my breath, and then came breaststroke. This is not my strongest stroke, but I’ve gotten better at it. I was so freaked out that all my technique flew right out the window… it was ugly and costly, in terms of time. By the time I finished up with freestyle, I was breathing really hard and did not filp turn once (Shame on me!!!) I finished with a blazing (actually slow) time of 7:20. (Yep, 7 mins and 20 secs!!)  I have some work to do next year, but as much as I freaked out about this event… I MIGHT  just do it again to vindicate myself. The best news was – I didn’t get last place in my age group!

The rest of Sunday was fun! I did well in all my events… even did the 100 fly, 
which I know next year will be my focus to slow my fly down. 
I only have one speed for fly and that is fast. I don’t know how to slow 
it down…so I’m going to work on that one ;) 

When all was said and done John, Jack, Mom and I all went out for Pizza 
and a few beers…. I earned it. It was so nice to be able to say thank you 
for their support, it's not easy spectating a swim meet (booooring)! 
Thank you also to my ultra cool nephew, Devin, who came on Sat!

Event Recap: 

1650 Freestyle - 26:14 – 9th place

50 Fly 34.00- 7th place

200 IM 3:10.85 – 13th place

100 Backstroke 1:26.92 – 5th place

400IM 7:20.91- 6th place

200 Freestyle - 2:40.90 7th place

100 Fly 1:25.82 - 5th place

100 IM 1:21.38 – 11th place but PR’d 
200 Mixed Medly - 2:10.52  - 6th place
200 Freestyle Relay - 1:56.41- 1st place

10 events in 3 days…. Valuable lessons learned by being pushed beyond my comfort zone, and dealing with fear. Now I know that I can do these events. Next year I'll know what to expect. Hopefully, I won’t be sick for 2.5 weeks prior to the state meet and decide to donate blood the week before. All that really drained me!!!

All valuable lessons I can apply to Ironman. My focus now turns
to Ironman. 
I'll leave you with a quote and a short video about the Ironman journey- enjoy!
“Ironman has always been about finishing what you started. About being able to do what you’ve set out to do. Maybe not as fast as the person in front of you, but certainly faster than the person who never started.”

– John Collins, co-founder of the original Ironman.


PS- Thank you for your continued support!


  1. YOU did awesome! I love that you swam all those events too - STUD!
    And, YEAH for our 1st place RELAY!!! CONGRATS again Cheryl! :)

  2. Thanks so much for the comment on my blog. Nice to know others have been where I am going. And way to rock the swim meet! I will always be too terrified to go to a swim meet.

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