A Frightful List of Every Swimmer’s Worst Nightmares

Failure-swimming
Photo Courtesy: Aaron Doster

A Frightful List of Every Swimmer’s Worst Nightmares

By Olivia McKelvey

Life is full of the unknown. It likes to take abrupt twists and turns and throws the occasional curveball just to keep you on your toes. So, when it comes time to put on your game face and dip your toes into the immense puddle of competition, expect the unexpected. Compiled below are some of the most frightening scenarios that can turn any swimmer from calm, cool and collected to petrified, shocked and vulnerable. Enjoy this spine-chilling read!

1. Goggles Break Behind the Blocks

Robin-Sparf-goggles-race-before

Photo Courtesy: Robin Sparf

Fear engulfs your body as you hear the snap of the straps rip halfway over your head – or perhaps it was the nose piece that failed you this time as it split down the middle, preventing any unification of the right and left goggle. Before you realize what has happened, your legs are in a frantic dash to the nearest goggle back-up location. The question still remains though – will you make it back to the block on time?

2. Your Cap Falls off At the Beginning of your Race

As you begin your streamlined ascent to the surface, you feel the layer of silicone slipping further and further off of your scalp. By the time you reach your breakout, your cap is nothing but a floating duck in the middle of your lane. Whether you’re swimming the 50 or the 1650, that extra drag is the last thing you need to worry about. A race with no cap might just be the icing on top of the cake when it comes to meet-day dilemmas.

3.  No Cool Down Pool

warmup-meet-practice-team-lane-line-shallow

Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins – UVM Athletics

The lactic acid is burning up in your legs, your lungs are screaming for oxygen, and you have to find every ounce of energy left to pull yourself out of the pool. This is the routine many swimmers go through after hitting the touch pad. Next, you would typically begin the trek to the warm down pool. Yet, in some rare cases, no trek can be made. Some aquatic centers lack the ability to hold both a competition and separate warm-up and cool down pool, resulting in every swimmer’s competitive nightmare: they must resort to extreme amounts of rolling out and stretching to recover their sore and tingling muscles.

 4. Missing your Race

anna with snacks

Photo Courtesy: Julie Karl

It’s quite the whirlwind experience to read your name on the scoreboard and then realize that you should be in that lane swimming the 200 IM right now instead of sitting in a lawn chair eating a pre-race fruit roll-up. Panic surges through you as you sprint to the nearest heat sheet only to confirm your nightmare-come-true. Good luck providing a sound explanation to your coach about this one!

5. Your Tech Suit Rips, but the Show Must Go On

Evolution of Tech Suits

Photo Courtesy: Tony Lewis

What is a meet without a swimmer sporting some sharpie to cover-up any evidence of a torn suit? The lucky ones are those who are fortunate enough to have minimal damage and the option of using permanent marker to cover their exposed flesh. Others are not so lucky – tearing their suit right down the middle of the butt or yanking off an entire strap. Hopefully, you brought your back-ups and can prevent yourself from falling into the horror of this nightmare.

6. Jumping Early on a Relay Exchange

girls relay

Photo Courtesy: Travis Bender

As the woman at the end of your lane covered head to toe in all white slowly but surely raises her hand, you realize you’re watching your worst nightmare unravel right in front of you – and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. For you know just as well as the official that the swimmer in your beloved lane one jumped a hair too soon. So much for “outside smoke.”

7. DQ for DQ?

Flinch on the block, performing an open turn with one hand, mimicing the Lochte backstroke streamline push-off and BOOM, instant disqualification. Whether it be an average high school dual meet or the Olympic Trials, the news of any disqualification is a nightmare for all. On the bright side of things, many of us grew up with the old swim parent trick of disqualification meaning an ice cream trip to Dairy Queen to cheer up the kids: DQ for a DQ. Does this trick still work as we enter the open age groups years and even college swimming careers?

8. Missing the Wall

swimmer-flip-turn-feet

Photo Courtesy: Matt Rubel of Rubel Photography

This is the nails-on-the-chalk-board moment in swimming, as some might say. Nothing can break down your race mentality more than missing a wall. You can practically hear the “oh no’s” and gasps from your teammates as they witnessed the mistake. Swimming is a sport where every second counts. To make up for lost time, you feverishly squirm around to find any form of streamline possible, put your head down and get that hand on the wall.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

9 comments

    • Tony MacGuinness

      Kym Wood

      During intense training, a swimmer can drive their pH levels down into the high sixes. This is well above the pH required to produce true lactic acid. If our swimmer had lactic acid in their blood, they would have to have a pH under six, and they would be rushed to hospital.

      Why then do coaches and swimmers still talk about lactic acid in the body? Because of simple historical inertia. It has stuck in the minds of swim coaches and swimmers, but it is based on a misunderstanding about the chemistry.

      This then begs the question if we do not have lactic acid, then what do we have? What causes the burn? Simply put… Our muscles do produce acid, but that acid is simply the positively charged hydrogen, not lactic acid as coaches and swimmer believe.

      Scientists were long fooled because hydrogen and lactate exit the cell together in fact one cannot leave without the other. So when we measure lactate levels, it correlates with hydrogen+ ions.

      Coaches believed they were measuring lactic acid, but it is merely a coincidence that when we measure a rise in lactate it happens to match with a rise in the very painful hydrogen + ion acid levels.

      Note:
      A swimmer’s lactate threshold is simply the point where the swimmer’s body produces both lactate and + Hydrogen ions faster than it can clear them.

    • Tony MacGuinness

      Kym Wood

      During intense training, a swimmer can drive their pH levels down into the high sixes. This is well above the pH required to produce true lactic acid. If our swimmer had lactic acid in their blood, they would have to have a pH under six, and they would be rushed to hospital.

      Why then do coaches and swimmers still talk about lactic acid in the body? Because of simple historical inertia. It has stuck in the minds of swim coaches and swimmers, but it is based on a misunderstanding about the chemistry.

      This then begs the question if we do not have lactic acid, then what do we have? What causes the burn? Simply put… Our muscles do produce acid, but that acid is simply the positively charged hydrogen, not lactic acid as coaches and swimmer believe.

      Scientists were long fooled because hydrogen and lactate exit the cell together in fact one cannot leave without the other. So when we measure lactate levels, it correlates with hydrogen+ ions.

      Coaches believed they were measuring lactic acid, but it is merely a coincidence that when we measure a rise in lactate it happens to match with a rise in the very painful hydrogen + ion acid levels.

      Note:
      A swimmer’s lactate threshold is simply the point where the body produces both lactate and Hydrogen+ ions faster than it can clear them.

    • Tony MacGuinness

      Kym Wood

      Every book on swimming, every course, every lecture and especially tv commentators mention Lactic Acid… It’s about time it was corrected.

  1. avatar

    I lost my cap on an 800 free and my goggles broke just before a relay but coach asked a swimmer in our team to help me out. Our team won and we set a new record borrowed goggles and all!

    • avatar
      Gail Roper

      Goggles came down on the dive and I had to swim the whole race with my mouth.

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