Jumping in Feet First

By Emily Mason

PHOENIX, Ariz. January, 1. TOMORROW is the day, day one of back to full training. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it to this point, the point of missing the water. It has been a long time since I felt the same love and same desire to train and compete that I know I need to swim my best. My four month hiatus had been a long time coming.

Those who might have read my diary entries from the World Championships in Montreal might remember the turmoil I was facing. Do I continue or do I quit? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was another meet had gone by, one that I killed myself training for, and I performed below par, again.

Nationals treated me better as I finally broke 2:10 in the 200 fly after sitting on 2:10.2 for four years, and the step was huge but so small. For me, and this is just the way I am, I saw a miniscule time drop not indicative of the work I had done. It is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because I know by the way I train and the way I race I am more of a sub- 2:07 kind of girl. This is why I suspect my brain and my heart needed a break, because if they are out of it, so am I.

September went by with me running a few times a week and swimming about the same. I was satisfied. I even started riding bikes outside. The bike riding ended up short-lived. I needed a bigger bike and triathlon bikes aren’t exactly cheap. I spent time with my family, visiting at my aunt and uncle’s cabin in northern Arizona and taking my dog for walks every day.

October was about the same. I swam mornings a few times a week with my club team (AFOX) and continued running. I also picked up Pilates and went twice a week with my mom. I went on a travel meet with my kids to California and had a blast. It was nice to be on the other side of the spectrum. What a novelty it was to watch a swim meet instead of spending it warming up and down as I always do. I thought about getting back in full-time and it made me cringe. I put a cap on my break. January. If I wasn’t ready to get back in by January I probably would never be. I did not want my fitness level to decline any further than that.

Finally! Toward the end of November a chord struck. I was on my way to a swim meet for my age groupers and I heard one of my songs on the radio, the one I listened to before I swam the 500 free at Pac 10s and NCAAs. My heart started pounding and I was instantly transported back to standing behind the blocks ready to race. I suddenly wished it was me who was swimming in the meet.

Working as a swim coach and writing here at Swimming World never really gave me the opportunity to step completely away from the pool, which is what I wanted. I see swimming every day, I see results from all over the world and watch multiple workouts daily. I see success too, and I miss it.

I guess I still hold a torch in my heart for the pool and the competitiveness it brings out of me. I love to race in practice and at meets, I love to work hard and I love the feeling you get after finishing a killer workout. There’s no way I’m too old for that. Swimming club will be hard for me because I know I won’t get the camaraderie of a college team but maybe I’ll learn something new.

So into the water I go. I’m trying not to expect too much and I know this will be a slow road to get back into peak performance shape, but I want to try and I want it to be for the right reasons, mostly for myself and no one else. I’ll try not to worry about what happens at the end of the summer and if I’ll be able to afford to keep swimming, but try to just live in the now and be happy with that. I’m more than a swimmer and there is more to life than chlorine, but for now it’s what I want and what I’ll do.

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