Well perhaps I didn’t shout loud enough. In excitement. Because Friday was the day I got the green light and returned to masters!
Truth be told I love to swim. But listen – it was not always that way. Yes, I used to be one of them. A triathlete with a disdain for swimming. Who really would be better off in duathlon. Because if you don’t like swimming why do triathlon? See my logic here? I knew that if I was ever going to get really good at triathlon, I had to embrace all three sports. And so I did. I made peace with swimming and ever since then it’s been nothing but splashy good times.
And I kept getting faster!
Funny how that works.
Anyways. I swam through all of pregnancy. At week 39 I was still swimming over 4000 yards at a time. It felt great. Different – because I had no core, no ability to rotate and moved along at a very very slow pace. But still it was swimming. I kept going to masters. And got used to be in the slower lanes. But secretly wanted to be back in my old lane, hitting my old intervals, discretely racing the guy in the lane next to me.
He knows that I know he knows I’m racing him.
Finally, when my 6 weeks was up, I returned to swimming. And what better way to return than at masters!
I was giddy. Honest to god. I told Chris I cannot wait to go to masters today. Someone remind me of that in 6 months when I’m in the middle of some awful set of 5 x 1000. Or hypoxic 25s. Or 100 IM with 1:30 send offs.
I walked into the gym with my swim bag in hand and who did I see….
Oh how I have missed my all time favorite lane mate! All season I’ve been watching him make up his own interval, skip 50s here and there, chat excessively at the wall as I’ve been out of that lane. I’m like the lane sergeant. We don’t talk at the wall, we don’t negotiate and we never EVER miss the interval. He promptly gives me a (I’m so glad you’re back because our lane has really gone soft) hug and congratulates me for having the baby.
I walk on to the pool deck in my new – albeit bigger – swimsuit which still makes me feel way too big. I’m stuffed in all the wrong places. When I put it on the other night I actually cried but then quickly got over myself. I just needed a moment to mourn everything that used to fit snugly into the smaller suit which now fits snugly into a bigger suit. But once I walked out on to the deck I didn’t feel a thing but excitement. I could have been 300 pounds and it didn’t matter. I was so excited to be swimming with masters again!
I scan the lanes and realize I have two choices here: I could go into the slower lane, probably where I belong, because I got used to swimming over there during pregnancy or I could hop into my old lane. Ready or not, I thought to myself, I am going into my old lane. There’s a good chance I will either lose an arm or soil myself because I am nowhere near ready to swim my old paces but…I’ve got to start someplace and what better place than in Tom’s draft!
We warm up an easy 300 and then wait for the coach to give us the workout. All of a sudden, I see something on the white board.
30 x 100 on the 1:40
Perhaps I should leave.
Can we talk? The 1:40 interval is not a problem. In fact, that’s a very generous interval in my pre-pregnancy days. However. In the final weeks of pregnancy, I was swimming 100s in 1:50. I don’t know who these people are that swim faster in pregnancy or how but I was definitely not one of them. For every 5 pounds I gained, I think I added 5 seconds to my 100 pace! So doing 30 x 100 on an interval that I could not even swim 6 weeks ago did NOT sound like a possibility.
But before I knew it the clock was counting down and Tom was pushing off the wall. There’s no time to think just time for action. Which is the best place to be when you are on the edge of something frightening. As the clock hit 10 seconds, I had no choice...I pushed off.
Ah, the draft of Tom. HOW I MISSED IT! 100 down and it feels – dare I say – easy!? I come in with plenty of rest and before I know it we’re at 5, then at 10. And, let me shout it with my fully capable lungs…..I LOVE NOT BEING PREGNANT! I can rotate. I have a core. I CAN BREATHE AGAIN! (which is very important when swimming)
After number 10, I look up and the coach says to me:
MAMA! If you can do this set post-partum, you’re….and she stuck her thumbs up at me.
I looked at her and said: I WILL!
And it wasn’t easy. I haven’t swam in weeks and I should probably just be swimming easy. But it’s time to get back into things. Months ago Chris told me that the hardest part about returning to form would not be finding the motivation to do things. That’s easy! I’ve got nearly a year of pent up motivation. The hard part is learning how to hurt again. I’ve spent that same year going easy. Easier than easy. To make intervals, to suffer – I am going to have to roll in lactic acid and teach myself how to hurt all over again.
Somewhere around 15 I thought to myself that I will get this done – just like I told the coach. I will. There’s a big difference between I want and I will. I want to be fit again. I want to get fast. The only way I will get there is if I will do what it takes – get out of the comfortable zone I’ve sat in through pregnancy and hurt again. I am willing to do those things. Not only that but I will do them – every single day.
We’re at the last 10 and I’m still swimming. In fact, I don’t feel bad. Cardiovascularly I feel ok. I’m not huffing or puffing. It’s just that my form and my fitness are not working together. I have them both, they are just a bit disjointed. It’s going to take some time to get into the rhythm again but I’m guessing it will happen sooner than I think.
The last 2, Tom looks at me and says “two more, we can do this.” I suspect he’s saying it more for himself than me but it helps. Two more! We finish the set with a good job to each other and a bump of our fists. It’s good to be back at masters. It’s even better to be back in my old lane.
As I got out of the pool, I told Tom that vacation is over. From here on out, this lane means business. And, next year, we’re setting big goals. I’ve got some times floating around in my head and little does Tom know that he is going to be pulling me to each one of them.
The next swim I did was in Lake Michigan. I had a little meltdown that morning because the night before I found myself wearing maternity pants.
But they’re really loose on you, Liz, Chris said.
That is not the point. The point is that I am not pregnant and I AM WEARING MATERNITY PANTS. Right now, I can’t fit into my old pants. Not even the pants I wore when I was 5 months pregnant. They won’t go past my hips. I’m sure my hips will shrink (I’m totally not sure) but until then I guess I’m going to have to walk around in maternity pants.
Right now there is literally a party in my pants about that.
The next morning, I woke up knowing that I would have to attempt to squeeze myself into my old wetsuit if I was going to swim in Lake Michigan. I got all antsy and teary until Chris made me try it on before we left. He helped me into it, pulling every spare centimeter of neoprene as far as it would stretch. Of all the things that don’t fit me right now, the irony is that my wetsuit fits me.
Which means that until further notice, I will be walking around in neoprene.
Just like being at masters, as soon as I was at the beach I felt ok. No matter how big I felt, no matter that I needed a shoe horn and some Body Glide to squeeze into my wetsuit. I was going swimming. Triathlon, heck just fitness, feels like my natural habitat.
I am so glad to be working out again...I finally feel like "me".
Sure enough, the swim was glorious. It was my first time in the lake in well over a year. I usually have a freak out my first time in cold water for the season but this time – I told myself I didn’t have time. Really, I don’t have time to freak out, overthink or be wishy washy. It’s time to mentally connect and be fearless. There’s a lot of work to do between now and my next big thing. FOCUS!
The most exciting part about swimming again is that I get to keep getting faster! The strangest thing about working out through pregnancy is that you keep doing work but you keep getting slower. Huh? To know that every time I get back into the water it’s going to feel a little bit better – that makes me want to go back again. NOW!
As I swam back toward the shore, I started to pick up the pace. I could see some swimmers ahead of me and worked to chase them. It took focus and it felt uncomfortable. But that’s the good stuff. That’s when you know the work you are doing is making a difference.
I’ve got a full plate of workouts this coming week and honestly – I cannot wait. I’ve never been this “out of shape” before but also never this excited to work myself back into shape, to gain fitness and hopefully not just find my old pace but surpass it.