Inevitably, part of this journey would include a major disappointment, a moment where my goals and expectations were not met, where my efforts fell flat.
I’ve been in the pool nearly every day for three weeks, working hard to try to improve and seeing nothing but positive numbers. That I might not get things right started to become an afterthought. I expected success. I expected improvement.
Today, I learned a valuable lesson.
It was my third timed swim of this Diving Back In journey, and after dropping six seconds last week I expected another drop — hopefully somewhere around two or three seconds. Instead, I fell well short of my goals.
This morning I swam a 100-meter and 50-meter freestyle race for the first time since my very first day of this blog — I swam yards last week — and this was my chance for an apples-to-apples comparison. I expected greatness, somewhere around 1:16.00 in the 100 and 30.0 in the 50, or about three seconds faster than my yard-conversion times from last week.
Instead, I ended up going a 1:22.10 in the 100 and a 36.0 in the 50.
I can’t print the words that came out of my mouth after I touched the wall in the 100. Or after the 50. Let’s just say I threw my goggles and vented.
Both times were faster than my initial swims in a meter pool on July 20 — that day I went 1:26.95 and 38.67. But the times were well short of the efforts I put forth last week.
So I guess the simple question is: Why?
In the 100 meter race, half of my goggles immediately came off. My depth perception was non-existent. Instead of stopping and starting over, I kept going. And I panicked. My first 25 I went out in 15.4 seconds, a split I was aiming for in my 50 free. That’s not good. When the goggles came off, all I could think was, ‘Go.’ The strategy I had discussed with my coach, Jeff King, went out the window.
Gone was the idea of taking a breath a couple of strokes out of the dive — I took just two breaths in the first lap. Gone was the idea of a strong, but not ridiculous, pace in the first 37 meters or so. Instead, I sprinted. I actually did well in my second and third laps, going 20-second splits in both, but by the time I got to the fourth lap I was gassed. I couldn’t breathe, I could barely get my arms moving and my legs were just dead weight. I had burned so much in that first 25, I left nothing in the tank.
And with just five minutes (instead of 10 or 15) in between the 100 and the 50 races, you can imagine why my 50 time was so slow. I was dead tired. My fastest 50-meter swim of the day wound up happening in the first split of my 100 race — I went out in 35.40. I guess that number should go into the chart instead of the 26 since it was my fastest 50.
But I’m not going to lie and say that I am not upset about what happened this morning, that I don’t wish I could take it all back for a re-do. I’m extremely competitive, probably to a fault, and I am not happy with what I did this morning. Jeff may say it’s not a “failure,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of it that way. No matter the spin or the excuses, I feel like I let myself and my coach down.
Still, there is no doubt that what happened today is probably the best lesson I’ve had this whole time.
I have to learn not to panic. I have to learn how to stick to a plan. I have to remember what I do in training and how it translates to a race. Throwing my plan out the window and letting my adrenaline and panic take over was the worst thing I could do. And it showed on Jeff’s stop watch. What happened today is just as much a part of competition as the practices, as the improvements, as the dropped times.
I feel motivated to prove this was just a minor blip. I want to dive back in tomorrow and swim for another time. I want to remember to keep my head down, reach on each stroke, breathe with consistency, keep a good pace and push in the final 50. I want to go into Jeff’s vacation week feeling more positive.
My buddy Corey Inglee is probably coming out to practice tomorrow morning and I know he wants to race me, so maybe I’ll get another chance. If I do or I don’t I can promise one thing: The lessons I learned today will be in the FRONT of my mind the entire time.
I won’t make the same mistakes again.
Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio will train with a swim club over the next few months and chronicle his journey as he attempts to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer — everything from his waistline to his best times.