In the 200 meters breast-stroke there is a moment right after the dive in and the beginning of the race when everything is still. Your body is entirely underwater, you are gliding forward just by inertia and the water surrounding you feels as if it is smoothly caressing you.
That moment lasts an instant. But a very long, overwhelming instant. Then as soon as the head is above water and your strike your first stroke, it is all over… those 3 seconds of quiet and peace will soon be overpowered by the screams of the crowd cheering you, fatigue coming in, lactic acid building in your legs and a rhythmic breathless gasping for air.
Yet, in my 18 plus years of swimming that moment was all I needed to keep me going to the crack-of-dawn morning practice in a 60 degree water and the late afternoon second practice right before the last snow storm of the day hit the ground. Not to mention the sleepless hours of bussing across country to compete in the Division I, II, III meets in Omaha, Nebraska or to venture in Mexico for a “friendly meet” with a foreign team and getting stuck sleeping in 15 in a room for four for lack of funding.
Ohhhh, the good, old days of college swimming.
When studying and exercising is all you needed to worry about and the rest kind of just took care of it self.
No expectations if not a new PR every once in a while!
It has been almost 10 years since I was a competitive swimmer and just about as many since my last “real race,” but I can gladly say that, despite the age difference, the muscle cramps and the “non-olympic-distance” swimming pool I tend to drag myself too not-so-often-at-all these days, those 3 seconds of peace, those infinite 3 seconds of freely gliding underwater where everything is still, yes, those are bringing me back to life every time I jump in that pool, even if there is no race, no time to break, no PR to be made and no coach at the end of the lap to cheer me on to “go faster.”
And isn’t life all about those 3 seconds of freedom before and after the storm anyhow?
…And so the story goes that at 30 years of age I missed swimming so much I had to find an open-hour swimming pool in Red Hook where to go “pretend” to be the fast breast-stroker I once was. Oh well, whatever tickles my imagination goes, right?
So, swimming it is for the next few weeks of summer time.