There are few experiences more satisfying than pulling on a pair of shorts, breathing in perfectly chlorinated air and basking in the glory of an 80-degree natatorium while the rest of the world faces the 10-degree January afternoon with thoughts of windchill and frostbite.
I’ve spent more blustery winter days at the pool than I can count, yet I shake my head and laugh as I respond, “I don’t really have time to swim at school,” when people ask if I’ve continued swim on a regular basis at college.
“Not having enough time to swim” is a sentiment I’ve been trying to convince myself of for years. In fact, it’s the very reason why I decided at the age of 11 that I would never be a year-round swimmer.
Never, if you were wondering, ended a few months later when I found myself clothed in a swim suit and goggles in the middle of November after suffering through my first swim meet as a spectator.
I decided that if I was going to be spending my weekends at endless swim meets watching my brother, I might as well be swimming too.
My very first swim meet with the Vermilion Torpedoes took place at the West End YMCA, a four lane pool so infamous for its 12-hour-long swim meets that seemingly every swimmer and parent on its team sported a tee-shirt with the phrase “If I had but one day left to live, take me to a swim meet– they last forever!” printed on the back.
That day, I wasn’t all too worried about the last day of my life lasting forever because I knew exactly the moment when it would end: The moment my head entered the water for the 100 IM. I had never attempted to swim the four consecutive laps of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle in a meet, but I had a hunch that it would neither be fun nor survivable.
After a crowded, uncomfortable warm up in the 85-degree pool, I emerged from the water in tears, bundled up in my towel and ran to inform my mother that I had changed my mind about swimming year-round.
It was the first of many times that my nerves would get the best of me; my mother, the now self-nicknamed “Swim Meet Junkie” who had not yet learned the ropes of being a knowledgable swim parent, offered advice by wrapping me in a hug and enlisting in the help of Miranda Mlincek, a more experienced 11-year-old swimmer who dutifully approached us and assured me that the 100 IM was nothing to be afraid of.
I don’t remember exactly what Miranda said to console me (probably something motivational), what the results of my race were (I probably finished last) or what happened throughout the rest of the meet (it probably lasted until midnight). However, I can say one thing for certain: I survived the 100 IM.
The daunting four laps that loomed over my head like a torturous death sentence all at once seemed like a manageable 1.5 minutes of my life that was almost, dare I say, fun (even if that fun was just relative to the amount of “fun” that I would have had as a spectator).
Yesterday, for the second year in a row, I spent my last full day at home for winter break helping out at another notoriously long swim meet– an afternoon that, while entertaining, was certainly more fun when I was a swimmer.
As I watched 202 heats of jittery, adrenaline-filled athletes approach the blocks before their races, I fought back nostalgia for my days as a swimmer and welcomed in my own nerves about the workload I will be diving into this semester.
I don’t know exactly how difficult my classes will be (hopefully not too overwhelming), what the results of my grades will be (hopefully a 4.0 GPA) or what will happen throughout the semester (hopefully I will win the lottery). However, I can say one thing for certain: I will survive the spring semester.
Yeah, I’m gonna miss the days when I had nothing to do but eat copious amounts of leftovers and watch endless episodes of Friends.