Monday, January 30, 2012

Time to Re-Think the Whole Athlete Thing

I have read that people who lose mass amounts of weight often have a hard time thinking of themselves as thin. I always wondered why. When the pants fall off and a new size is on the label doesn’t that say something? Well now I find myself in that predicament.
No I haven’t lost a massive amount of weight and yes the label on my pants still says the same number. I am talking about seeing myself as a new kind of athlete, more specifically as a swimmer. I didn’t start swimming until I decided to follow a very old dream of becoming an Ironman at the age of 35. I knew how to swim albeit not very well. First dip in the pool consisted of some sidestroke, some long waits on the wall and some backstroke (if it could be called that). I spent copious amounts of time trying to decipher the best way to count a 400 swim. Does one count lengths or laps and how does one keep track? I read everything I could on getting comfortable in the swim. I hired a few different swim coaches and improved. I “got through” a few swims in some triathlons and signed up for Ironman. I continued to “get through” the swim workouts and learned how to time my sets. I even, with enormous amounts of patience from lane mates and coach, learned how to do the math on the clock for timed intervals. It wasn’t that hard on a 2:00 min. interval – just go at the top every time.
Somewhere along the way I started to love swimming. I think it was between swimming being the only workout I could do post spinal surgery and having some success in the pool. I still would only swim three days a week and only with my masters group. Just joining Masters took a great deal of courage as I thought only former collegiate swimmers were Masters swimmers. All credit goes to having the best Masters Coach in the country – Susan Ingram for that one. I started to entertain the idea of being good enough to swim in the “fast lane”. Being goal oriented, entertaining “impossible” ideas like that keeps me motivated, as I am very hard headed. Five years later, I decide to hire a Professional triathlete, Hillary Biscay to help me accomplish one of those other goals – qualifying for World Championship Ironman in Kona. At the time, I just knew I identified with her on training philosophy. I really didn’t take into account that she is one of the fastest female swimmers on the Ironman circuit or that she swam in the Olympic trials. Maybe I should have?
Our workouts began with a bang. Before I knew it, I was swimming 6 days a week (much to the dismay of my hairdresser). I was introduced to the “Band”. I was still swimming with my masters group only now I had an “extra” workout tagged on to the beginning or the end of it. I was also seeing new personal records in all my swimming endeavors including the infamous 10k postal swim and my Ironman swims. Still, I had a hard time accepting that my swims were actually better and faster. I still put myself in the same lane. I still wanted to go off the old interval (although a bit faster than that original 2:00). Finally, I was nowhere near ready to even entertain the thought of getting in the “fast” lane. I was pretty sure those faster times were a fluke. Really? Everyday there was a “fluke”? Maybe it is time to shift my awareness of myself.

How is it that we can recognize greatness in others, but it is so hard to accept within ourselves. I am quick to see the progress that others make yet struggle with the recognition of mine. Now the clock doesn’t lie and the pool didn’t get shorter. No, this isn’t a fluke. This is the result on consistent relentless determination in pursuit of personal improvement. So move over lane 4 people, I just might be ready to try on a new lane. I am ready to rethink the kind of athlete I have become.