Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Olympic Trials

One day, I will go to the Olympics. I will. No, I am not deliusional, I don't mean as a competitor. Though, I can't say that dream of mine has completely fizzled. Every so often, I think about how much I have learned, how much wiser I have become, how much I now know that eating right and sleeping right makes a huge difference on how your brain and body performs. I think back to high school and college, and how I often got only 4 hours of sleep. Then, I would swim for a couple hours, then go to school, then swim. How did I expect to perform at my peak on that amount of sleep? And sometimes I would eat a whole row of oreos for a snack, or half a bag of Twizzlers. I would bring 5lbs of sour candy to swim meets and eat only that and a few bites of lettuce the whole weekend because the nerves destroyed my appetite. A common theme to my swimming career was "inconsistency". Now, I think I could buckle down for a few years. Quit staying up late, eat right. I could do all the things necessary to perform at my full potential. Now, does that mean I could be or could have been an Olympian? Probably not. But maybe. But seriously, I will attend the games as an excited, nervous, sympathetic spectator.
Recently, I drove to Omaha for the night to watch finals of the 2012 Swimming Olympic trials. I went partly because a couple of my college teammates were there, but mostly because I love feeling part of my sport again. I miss it. I feel at home near the pool, surrounded by beautifully sculpted, half-naked bodies built for performance. I watch those kids parade out for finals, and I remember that moment. I remember trying to stay loose, shaking my arms and legs, jumping, doing "Nordics" behind the blocks as were customary for a Blazer kid. Wondering if I had warmed up properly. Trying to remain confident, focused, excited. For me, there was a perfect balance of adrenaline and composure that I could rarely find, but when I did, the race was over before it started. I could feel it as soon as I stood behind my block. I was going to win. Coaches even told me they could see it. They knew when I was "in the zone". Watching trials, I could see those swimmers "in the zone". Witnessing 8 people swim for 2 spots to compete in the greatest meet in existence is exhilarating and nostalgic. When they step up on that block, I know exactly how they are feeling. I remember the desire to win, deep in the pit of your stomach sensation to the point of making you feel sick. Every event. To represent their country by doing what they love and doing it the best. I love being the best. I like to think, at this moment, I am the best and greatest person that ever existed. But alas, I am not. I am a spectator. And always will be. I can say I tried.

I did compete in the Olympic trials. I remember it as one of the most exhilarating, exciting events in my life. I felt like the best. At least, I was walking around the deck and sharing a pool with all the best swimmers in the world (as USA dominates the sport.) I remember being told by my coach not to get DFL (dead fucking last, as we would say). I was swimming the 200 butterfly. My best, and probably most inconsistent event at that time. And it was a long course (50 meter) pool, I was more of a short course (25 yards) girl. I liked my turns. I was known for my underwater swimming. Fairly certin, if there was a 50 meter, underwater with fins Olympic event, then I would have been there. Just saying. I ended up getting a best time by almost 3 seconds. I didn't get even close to semi-finals. I didn't care. I was starting my Senior year in high school. I had all the time in the world to improve. How was that 12 years ago? Michael Phelps was a 15 year old baby, shocking the world with his 200 fly. Now, he's the veteran swimmer. Back then, I couldn't imagine my swimming days ever coming to an end. Ever. Inconceivable.
I am happy where I am in life. I had a great time, reminiscing with Susan Woessner and Megan Ryther, Seniors when I was a Freshman at IU. We stayed up late, we drank, we talked, we acted as though no time had passed. And despite being out of the sport for 7 years now, I still ran into people I knew left and right. It still felt comfortable to be in that arena. I got to talk to Dorsey, my IU coach for an hour. I got to brag about my children, and my career. I have succeeded. And I have won. In so, so many ways. I look forward to continuing my journey. But, I love catching a little whiff of my past, and feeling part of that world again. For a brief, wonderful moment, I imagine being the best, being an Olympian. And it is awesome.
Now, I mostly start imagining my sons competing, in some way, in some sport. It almost brought tears to my eyes seeing the mothers of new Olympians sitting by me in the stands. I sympathize with both sides, the competitor and the spectator. How amazing to know you created and raised an Olympian. So many emotions in one little 24 hour trip (literally, I left the house at 3:32 on Saturday and pulled in the driveway at 3:32 on Sunday - weird!) So much fun. And THAT is why, one day, I will go to the Olympics.

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