While we all have unique goals and things we would like to achieve with our swimming, there are certain experiences that each and every one of us will have during our time in the sport.
Here are 7 of them that competitive swimmers know all too well:
1. The exhilarating and unbridled pride of besting a PB.
It all happens in a moment—you crash into the wall in a flurry of white water, look up, and see a time emblazoned in digital numbers that you always dreamed of, but never swam—until now.
In a rush you experience it all: pride, satisfaction, happiness, relief, and the sense of possibility at what is possible with hard work. You rip your swim goggles off your head and breathe in the realization that you are now a faster swimmer.
It’s a rewarding moment, and the exact feeling that pushes us through the morning workouts, the long test sets, the solitary laps late at night and early on Saturdays.
2. The impossible workout that suddenly wasn’t so impossible.
I don’t know about your coach, but I had one back in the day who would brag about that impossible workout. He would let us know 4-5 days in advance that a workout was coming that was so hard, so difficult, so impossible that he wondered how many of us would be able to finish it.
Looking back now I understand what he was doing, trying to build us to be mentally resilient to face challenges. Back then, however, all the advance warning did was cause a general sense of stress amongst the group. A couple swimmers would inevitably get psyched out enough to the point that they’d fall mysteriously ill the night before the big session.
But once we all got in, and the workout got going, and faced the challenge of that impossible set, and eventually overcame it, we realized we were a little tougher than we initially gave ourselves credit for.
3. The extra adrenaline surge of swimming really fast in a high pressure situation.
These are the scenarios swimmers dream of while they lay in bed at night: with the meet on the line, our swimmer stands up on the blocks to anchor the medley relay against their arch-rival.
They dive in, make up lost ground, and riding a surge of adrenaline, a 6th gear they never knew they had, out-touch the competition at the wall for the win. Jason Lezak described it as a second rush of adrenaline on the closing leg of the 4×100 freestyle relay in Beijing.
And yes, it is awesome.
4. Doing something in practice you couldn’t do a couple short weeks prior.
All that work in the pool, all those meters and yards back and forth, up and down, early and late in the day—it’s all for something, right?
Those moments where you suddenly realize—sweet molasses, I am actually getting in better shape!—are the best.
Whether you don’t get as gassed after warm up, or manage to perform on the main set and not just survive it, the validation of your commitment is a satisfying moment, and tends to encourage even more meters and yards!
5. The struggle that is choosing a lane during meet warm-up.
We’ve all been there. That swim meet. The one where there was a only 6-lane pool and 1,000+ swimmers in attendance.
You get to the pool for the first session, survey the stands overflowing with swimmers and then look at the pool, which resembles a colorful cauldron of bubbling arms, caps and bobbing heads. The walls are so clogged that you need to stop at the flags and wait in line to push off, and once a sprint lane opens up the line is so long it begins to look like the lane is having a Black Friday sale.
The only saving grace? You know the competition is getting just as a frustrating warmup as you are.
6. Swimming a killer race…and then getting DQ’d.
The start went off without a hitch. You nailed your breakout. Your stroke felt relaxed, powerful and smooth.
And then there was that one turn where your shoulder dipped a little too far in anticipation of a lightning-quick turnaround.
Nevertheless, you push on, touch the wall and look up to see a new personal best time. Jumping out a sense of dread has already enveloped you, and you hope and pray that the official at the end of your lane wasn’t talking about you when conferring with other officials after your race.
You even slink away in the hopes that if they don’t have a chance to talk to you, than the DQ won’t count.
But alas, as you make your escape, a brief announcement punctures the air, “We have a disqualification in the previous heat in lane 6.”
7. “Take your marks…stand up.”
Ah, if there is a way to frustrate 8 swimmers in exactly the same fashion at exactly the same moment this is it.
You’ve fully primed yourself up to race, beat your chest a few times, carried out your pre-race routine, and are ready to get down to business when the starter decides that he doesn’t like the cut of someone’s jib on the blocks.
“Stand down swimmers.”
Most swimmers will recover from this hiccup, and truthfully, we should be mentally resilient enough to refocus when this happens. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make it any less annoying or jarring when it does happen.