Just over a year ago I committed to participating in the FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest, Hungary. If you have no idea what that sentence means don’t worry, about a year and half ago I didn’t either…we have a bit to catch up on.
Rewind to summer 2015: My Tri-riffic Summer, where I swam, biked and ran my way to a whole new obsession over the course of three sprint triathlons. Three weeks in Vietnam to recover and eat everything in sight, and I was back to Vancouver and back to work for the next tri-season… and this meant swimming. For data/numbers/stats geeks like me, triathlon and the ever-popular training tracker Strava are the two best things since sliced bread. There are so many numbers, comparing so many things, and so many people and it’s just the best. The numbers, however, don’t lie. And the numbers were telling me I was a crappy swimmer. I was still volunteering at Yyoga, and chatting to all sorts of awesome triathletes on the regular, and one of them told me this: “take Masters 101 with English Bay Swim Club. I did and it’s what helped me survive the Ironman swim.” SOLD! I looked into it and sure enough, this course was on offer in a couple weeks time, they had space for me and at $60 for 6 weeks I couldn’t say no! The registrar at the time suggested I also come and try the club out… maybe I’d like to join? I took him up on that kind offer and swam my first ever swim club practice at the age of 31: and didn’t die. I should probably also mention that I was in the slowest lane, but I’m still friends with the people I met that night so I’m considering it a win.
I joined the club, took the course (learning that my breaststroke was so bad my coach actually guffawed on deck and begged me to stop so he could re-teach me) and just kept swimming. Within a few weeks I’d made some pretty great friends and by Christmas had moved up a lane and was entirely hooked. It was winter, I wasn’t running or biking but I could swim, and swim I did! Valentine’s Day 2016: our club’s annual swim meet, Love to Swim. My lane mates had finally convinced me to try a swim meet and as my coach had taught me to dive 10 days before, I was all set! Kidding, I was so nervous I almost puked. But it was the Most. Fun. Day. Ever. I didn’t come dead last the entire time (I don’t think), didn’t drown, didn’t die (though I almost blacked out during one race), swam relays, did the club cheer and generally acted like a swimmer for the day. Afterwards we helped put the certificates together and then went out for burgers and beer. I liked this whole swim meet thing.
Follow that meet up with another couple of meets, the famous Mermaid suits (now in teal AND purple!), a provincial swim meet (where I took silver in my age group in my first-ever attempt at 200 breaststroke) and it was time to join VOWSA – the Vancouver Open Water Swimming Association. Other than the swim tests I’d had to do for my Divemaster, swimming in the ocean was really not a thing for me. But as my 2016 summer goal was the Vanocouver 5i50 Olympic Distance Triathlon, complete with open water ocean swim in Coal Harbour, I needed to don my new wetsuit and get cracking. The practices made a huge difference, and by the middle of the summer, I could comfortably swim the 1500m in the open water with or without a westuit.
Race day last year dawned the only sunny day in a couple weeks! The water was freezing but manageable, and after a less than 32 min swim I was on the bike. Three loops of Stanley Park, with plenty of encouragement from my swim family and I was on pace for a fantastic 10K to finish it all off. It was the most prepared I’d ever felt for a race, and the most fun I’d had: every picture from that day is just me grinning ear to ear. I exceeded my expectations and finished the tri in my dream time of 3 hours.
At the beginning of last summer’s ‘Fat August’ (the month you have to take off from training because you got shingles after your epic triathlon performance) I started hearing whispers of the World Championships. Inspired by the awesome season and new friends, I committed to going to worlds in the spirit of the Masters philosophy of fun, fitness and friendship for life. I didn’t know how fast the qualifying times would be, or that I would actually have to be super human to make them: I had a goal, I was going to worlds.
Training started in September, and since then I’ve hit the pool at least 3 times a week, every week, in preparation. I’ve conquered some massive swims in the last year, including Bex’s Farewell 50 x 50m, The 12 Days of Christmas 7800m swim, Swim Camp, and Nicole’s Farewell 60 x 50m. I’ve been to 8 swim meets and done two open water races in the last 10 months. In July I swam 50 kilometers in total. Have I done absolutely everything possible I could have done to be the most competitive I could possibly be at worlds? Heck no, I have a life! In late October the qualifying times were released and I did the math: I just wouldn’t officially qualify. I was very, very upset, and worried that I wouldn’t be able to go, until I read the rules a few more times: “you must register with a qualifying time” WELL, I can do that! So I kept biking, and running (both awful for ankle flexibility, which is necessary for swimming). I went hiking when I should have been swimming, and hung out with friends, and made new friends and made sure to keep doing all the things I loved while swimming more and more.
After a year with EBSC I’d moved up three lanes, and in the last few months I’ve moved up another one. Right in the middle of the pack, swimming my little heart out and trying not to be too hard on myself. I am totally the person who can get a 6 second personal best time and then cry about it because it’s not what I wanted or thought I could achieve . . . Yeah, I know, I can’t stand my stupidity either sometimes.
I’m leaving for worlds in about 30 hours. My bag is packed, my suits and caps and goggles are all bought and ready to go. If I have the races of my life I might make some of the qualifying times, but I’m pretty sure there are many others who are in the same boat as me: swimming with everything they’ve got while trying to savor every moment. One thing IS for sure though, I’m going to win at having the most fun #worldshereicome!