Take Your Marks... | Teen Ink

Take Your Marks...

August 10, 2022
By isaactroy BRONZE, Auburn, Alabama
isaactroy BRONZE, Auburn, Alabama
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Jumping into ice cold water, or swimming laps first thing in the morning isn’t the hardest part of being a competitive swimmer. The hardest part is getting out of bed when I hear the “ring, ring, ring” of my alarm going off at 6:45 a.m. Waking up is the most dreadful part of the day. My mind keeps telling me to go back to sleep. It requires tremendous mental discipline and effort. After all, it's summer. 

While my vision of a utopian summer definitely isn’t getting up before sunrise to go to swim practice, some part of me likes this morning routine.  It’s actually enjoyable to think about swimming early once I’m actually out of bed. My energy continues to rise as I quickly eat breakfast. My awesome, dedicated mom is up before I am, preparing my breakfast while I sleep. I wouldn’t be even close to where I am today without the sacrifices my parents make for me each day. After breakfast, I brush my teeth and rush into the car. The drive to the pool takes around 20 minutes. I arrive around 7:20 a.m. and go to the lockers. I change into my swimsuit before joining my teammates on the pool deck. They are huddled like trees in a forest waiting on the coach. My team coach tells us what our warmup is. Before I dive into the water, I think about all the people and events that have come together to get me here. Swimming is a team event. No one participates, let alone wins, without the sacrifices of family and friends. I jump in the freezing water feet first. Practice has begun. 

As I'm swimming, I feel the frigid water swirl all over my body. I ignore the cold and keep swimming. I know that if I keep swimming, my body will get used to the temperature. Discipline keeps me moving. After warm up is over, coach tells us to begin our next set. It's a “pace set” and I know that it will help me with my breaststroke. Just one week ago, I attended a swim meet in Birmingham that didn’t go the way I’d expected it to. Right after my 100-breaststroke, I was disappointed in my time and knew it was due to my lack of stamina. Today would be a great day to work on endurance. If I could increase my endurance, I might be able to drop my time in the 100-breaststroke and possibly qualify for Southeastern Championships. I wouldn’t think about winning my next race, just qualifying for Southeastern.

I swim the pace the coach has set for me; however, I can tell my stamina needs a lot of work. As each lap goes by, I become sloppier in my turns and strokes. However, I do manage to keep a high effort for each of the 50s I’m swimming. After the main set, we begin to warm down. I assure myself that It's going to take more than one day for me to improve my stamina. But time isn’t something I have. There’s roughly three weeks before the Columbus meet which is the last chance for me to make the Southeastern cut. 

After practice, my friend Austin tells me that he and Alexander, another swim friend, are going to the gym to work out. He asks me if I want to join them. I realize that it will be a great opportunity for me to work on improving my endurance and getting stronger; I enthusiastically agree to join them.

During the gym workout, I quickly realize that I’m always falling behind in the circuit set and I'm more tired than Austin and Alexander. This just motivates me to work harder. I know that if I train with them, I certainly will get better. Day after day I go to swim practice, then workout with Austin and Alexander after practice. After each day, I feel stronger than the day before and I fall less behind in our workout, and I become less tired after each set. 

The date of the Columbus meet quickly approaches. Before I know it, it's the last day of swim practice before we head to Columbus GA for the swim meet. During swim practice I feel very smooth and calm in my breaststroke. The Coach makes sure we taper well before we head for the meet, so practice is very unchallenging. I still feel very nervous and uneasy, but my friends assure me it will be fine. The next day, my mom wakes me up early in the morning to head to Columbus which is a 40-minute drive from where I live. Once I arrive, I change in the lockers and begin my usual pre-meet warm up routine. After warming up, I calmly wait for my event, which is the 100-breaststroke. I move into place behind the starting blocks as the time for the 200-breaststroke event counts down. There I stretch my arms and put on my cap and swim goggles while waiting for my event. Suddenly, the official blows his whistle and I get on the blocks. My hard work and discipline of the past few months is about to pay off.

“Take your marks,” the official says and pauses. “Go.” I quickly dive in the water and do my underwater pullout. After the pullout, I get to the surface of the water, and I do stroke after stroke. As I'm swimming, I can hear my coach whistle every time I come up for air so I can create a pattern in my strokes. As I'm nearing the wall, I make sure I put more effort into my strokes and kick. I know that I must drop 0.5 of a second to make the cut. As I reach the wall, I make sure I waste no time on my turns. After my turn, I do my underwater pullout. My lungs are gasping for air, but I hold my breath and maximize my distance in my pullout. After the pullout, I reach the surface and I begin my strokes again. This time I look to the left of me to see my competitor neck and neck with me. Major mistake. That quick glance cost me one second of time. Will it hurt me? I don’t know. As I'm nearing the wall, I make doubly sure I'm giving it my all. I can see the white water I'm creating. My heart is pounding, and my arms are aching with the exertion, but I keep swimming all out. As I'm closing on the end of the lap, I take one last stroke and I finally touch the wall. 

I look up to the screen, searching for my name so I can see my time. If I get a time faster than 122.19, I will qualify for Southeasterns. I see a 121.70 alongside my name! My heart explodes with joy and my pain is forgotten. I can barely contain myself. I slap the water with excitement. That's when I think about the sacrifices my family and friends made to help get me here. The time and effort those who love me gave me each step of the way, are just as critical in contributing to my qualifying time as all the hard work I put in. Discipline and practice in swimming are critical, but just as in life, success is not possible without those who care about and support us.

The author's comments:

My name is Isaac and I am 14 years old. This piece is about my passion for swimming. Thank you for reading!

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