Role Reversal: From Swim Mom to Swimmer

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US Master Spring Nationals, 2017 at Riverside City College.

Is it easier to watch your kids compete? Or, swim yourself? I found out the answer at the US Masters Spring Nationals in Riverside, CA this past weekend.

It was the second time I’ve competed in a swim meet in my entire life. I was nervous, anxious and wondered repeatedly, why on Earth did I sign up for the meet? Who do I think I am that I can dive in with Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian?

The answer from one of my fellow masters swimmers was “You’re not racing either of them!” True. I’m not in their age group, nor do I share their gender. But, still. Who do I think I am to swim at a meet with 2,026 swimmers and some of them Olympic champions? I am in my 50s, new to swimming—and slow.

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Me and two of my masters swim buddies.

While riding in the back seat to the meet, with my husband and daughter up front, I looked back at car rides to meets with my kids with a smile. The mornings were filled with anticipation as I wondered what the day ahead would bring. I wasn’t nervous at all then. I hoped for a successful, fun day and a happy car ride home.

But, when they were behind the blocks for their first event, I’d get a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d wring my hands and hope for a good race. I was a nervous wreck until their first race was over. Then I sighed with relief that yes, they actually could swim and I relaxed for the rest of the day.

Then this past weekend at the pool, it was my turn to be the swimmer. I had a pit in my stomach. It was all up to me to get to the blocks in time for my race. I had my daughter at my side. She helped me with my cap, sprayed on sunscreen and held my towel. She said she’d been looking forward to this day. I wanted to make her proud.

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My daughter in the 8-and-unders, when she swam 25’s.

She walked me to the warm-up pool and I stood there. She told me to get in and warm up. Each lane had seven or eight swimmers—real swimmers—not wannabes like me. They wore fast suits, flipped fast and hard. How could I get in with those sharks?

“Mawm, get in!” she said.

“How? They’re so fast.”

“Get in there, then,” she said pointing to the lane marked 65 and over.

I do have some pride, so for the first three-hundred swim part of my warm up, I jumped into the mosh pit and repeatedly felt my foot pulled, got flipped turned on and stressed out on how I was going to make it through warm up. For my kick and drill sets, I did move over to the 65-and-over lane. After all, it was empty and I’m really, really slow when it comes to kicking and drills.

It dawned on me that the race would be okay. I would have my own lane. If I could survive warm up, I could make it through my races in one piece.

My daughter was at the end of my lane cheering for me along with my husband, coach and teammates. After my races, she told me how proud she was of me.

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Role reversal: my daughter sitting in the stands reading a good book.

Sometimes it’s a good to switch roles with our kids. My daughter said after Masters Nationals, that she never wants to be a swim parent. After all, it was a long hot day, with two swims, hours and hours apart. But, in spite of that, she was a darn good one. She was encouraging, positive and her presence made me feel calm. I knew I had her unconditional love, no matter how I swam. She acted like a perfect swim mom. I could learn a few things from her.

My 50-breast with husband and daughter cheering me on. 

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What Have I Done Now? Or, Why Did I Sign Up for Masters Nationals?

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US Masters Meet in January at our Palm Springs pool.

 

In a little less than two weeks, I’ll be swimming in another meet. This one will be my second meet in my two-year swim career. I attended a meet a few months ago, but right before it was my turn on the blocks, the pool was closed. The transformer was hit during an accident and the power to the pool went out. I haven’t decided whether that was a good thing or not that I didn’t have to dive off the blocks and swim.

This time is a little more frightening because of the name of the meet: US Masters Nationals. Yes, I said NATIONALS! Six swimmers from our Piranha Masters have signed up and I get nervous when I think about it. There are more than 2,000 attending.

My coach says not to think about it, but just show up and swim.

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My daughter at a swim meet with her best friend and coach.

 

I made the mistake of looking at the psych sheets and names like RYAN LOCHTE and NATHAN ADRIAN popped out at me! Who do I think I am to be signed up for this meet? I’m seeded dead last in my events by a lot—in my age group. However, there are swimmers ages 18 to 95, so maybe I should focus on picking off the swimmers 90 and above.

Swimming at this meet does make me more than anxious, so I have to remember what I would tell my kids and other swim parents:

ONE
Don’t worry about other people’s times. That’s right. I cannot control the fact that my friend Bonnie is 20 seconds faster than me in the 50 free. Yes, 20 SECONDS!

TWO
Relax and have fun. Yes, I’ll have so much fun with all my friends and watch great swimmers. I don’t want to freeze or panic in the middle of my 50 free and have to be dragged out of the pool. That would not be fun.

THREE
Try your best. I’ve put in the hard work. I’ve made it to practice for more than a year since my first meet. I can flip turn and dive off the blocks without hitting the bottom of the pool. I can do this. 

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My son (front) with swim buddies at a meet having fun.

P.S. My daughter, who’s a swimmer in college, will be home that weekend. She told me she plans on driving me to the meet, will stand at the blocks holding my towel, and will make sure I talk to our head coach Jeff Conwell before and after each event! Somehow, I think she’s looking forward to this more than I am!

 

It’s the Little Things in Life that Count

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The view from our pool makes me happy.

 

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

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Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

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Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

“Everything I’ve Gone Through Has Made Me Who I Am Today” —Michael Phelps

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I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team 

 

 

How Does Belief Translate Into Results?

 

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Palm Springs Aquatic Center, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

A friend of mine talked about a desire to get faster in swimming. I want to improve, too, although we’re at different levels. We’ve been friends since our college-aged daughters were in kindergarten together. We’ve been through all phases of parenting together—from academic, swim parenting through volunteering with our daughters in NCL. Now we’re sharing the experience of Masters swimming with the Piranha Swim Team.

Honestly, I’m one of the slowest swimmers in our Masters group. My friend, Linda, is much stronger and faster. Her goal is a “national time.” She knows what time she needs, how much time she has to drop—and she’s talked to our coach Jeff Conwell about what she needs to do.

We both swim three times per week. She was told by our coach that she needs to swim five days a week to make her goal. My goal is skill specific. I want to be able to flip turn rather than stop at each wall and take a big breath. I realized I needed to do this after my last meet and I tried “flip-turning” two days before the meet. That was a big mistake. If I plan to swim in a meet, I cannot hit my head on the bottom of the pool during a race, nor should I get water up my nose. Without practicing flip turns consistently, those two scenarios are more than likely!

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At my first meet with my good friend, Linda.

I was talking to a former coach of my kids, Tim Hill from the Sharks Swim Team in TX, and he sent me several links to an incredible website that’s useful for parents and kids about sports training and life in general called Train Ugly.

This link from that website really struck a chord with Linda and me and our goal setting.

It comes down to this. We need to start with the belief that we can improve and reach our goals. That will come down to action, such as Linda going to more practices weekly, and me adding flip turns in my workouts, plus working with the coach to improve my turns. The action will eventually turn into results.

That sounds simple, correct? It looks like a foolproof plan for success.

BELIEF — ACTION — RESULTS

The catch is in our beliefs. We’ve talked about the little voice in our heads that in her case says, “That’s way too much time to drop. I can’t do it.” My voice says, “Why do I even care? What difference does it make if I swim open turns or flip turns?” We both have self-defeating words bouncing through our brains.

Linda said, “We get comfortable with where we’re at. We get to a certain number of yards and if we don’t push to improve we really stop growing.”

That’s one reason why I want to improve. I look back at when I started Masters a year and a half ago and I have improved a lot! Yes, I’m proud of that but it would be easy to stay stagnant where I am now. After the swim meet and struggling with flip turns, I thought, “Whew! I’m done with those. I don’t need to bother anymore with being uncomfortable and getting water up my nose.” But, then I went to practice and thought, why would I give up on a skill I’m learning?

According to the Train Ugly website, it’s a difference in our mindsets. Do we have a fixed mindset or an open mindset?

“People with a growth mindset believe that they are in control of their abilities, that they can learn, grow, and improve their skills. With this belief, they’re more likely to put in the action (working hard, taking feedback, overcoming challenges – all the stuff that helps them get good at things). Action leads to results and the results confirm the belief – the cycle continues upward. This is WHY people with a growth mindset learn, grow, and achieve more over time.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities, intelligence, skills are set. This makes them less likely to put in the action (do any of the work that actually helps them improve). When they don’t put in the work, they don’t get the results. This confirms their beliefs and the cycle spirals downward.”–TrainUgly.com

You can replace our swimming experience with any aspect of your life, from parenting, relationships to any activity such as swimming. Ask yourself, is the little voice in your head helping you improve? Or, has it already decided you don’t need to try, or you’re not worthy?

I’m going for getting out of my box and continuing to grow. I have goals in many areas of my life and I’m going for it. How about you?

 

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That’s me going off the blocks…

 

Round Two: Why Parents Need to Compete, Too

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Our beautiful Palm Springs pool.

This past weekend, I was at my second swim meet where I was the swimmer. I made the plunge once before—a year ago at the Palm Springs Piranhas hosted meet. I worried all week as the date of the meet approached. What had I done to myself? Why did I sign up for the meet?

Here is a partial list of things I worried and stressed about:

ONE

Standing on the blocks. It’s scary up there.

TWO

Diving off the blocks. I was afraid my goggles would fall off and I’d lose my contacts.

THREE

Doing a flip turn. In practice, I stick with slow open turns. While practicing flip turns the day before the meet, I got water up my nose and hit my head on the bottom of the pool.

FOUR

Breathing. I worried that halfway through my 50 free I’d start to panic and revert to breath-holding.16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_n

Then, I realized that last year I couldn’t get out of the pool and I had to swim to the ladder. This year, I didn’t have to worry about that. I can now get out of the deep end. That thought made me realize all the things that I had done to prepare for the meet and what was under my control:

ONE

I had gone to practice consistently for an entire year.

TWO

I had improved my diet to make sure I was properly fueled.

THREE

I stayed hydrated.

FOUR

I worked on dives and flip turns with Coach Jeff and felt more confident.

FIVE

I started a stretching regime that included warming up my shoulders.

SIX

I was one year stronger and better at swimming than at my first meet.

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Here I am with a few of my Piranha Masters friends.

 

I was mentally prepared. I was physically ready. I know I’ve made huge progress. Maybe at the next meet, I won’t get so worked up.

My only regret is that I didn’t start swimming when my kids were young. I’ve learned so much from swimming masters about how hard they work, how great their technique is and how hard it is to swim fast. I took it all for granted. I would have had a different perspective on swim meets and practice if only I had begun swimming years ago. I would have shared this bit of wisdom my favorite ref, Paul, told me at the meet, “Relax and have fun. It’s only a swim meet!”

Why do you think swim parents should compete? What makes you nervous before swim meets?

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Me and Linda. Two swim moms and swimmers.

P.S. One of my most favorite things this weekend was to see and talk with three “kids” who swam with my children on Piranhas at my Masters meet. They are all grown-up and continuing with the sport they love.

Photos courtesy of Piranha Swim Team.

 

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

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The snowy view from our hotel room.

This weekend, I had a couple things happen that weren’t supposed to and could be described as downright awful.

First, the diamond fell out of my ring–at the airport.

Second, our flight turned around and returned us to Salt Lake City because of bad weather at home–when it was time to get back to work.

Through these unexpected turns and twists, I found myself calm and accepting. I certainly couldn’t control mother nature. But, I could control how I reacted to our plight. In fact, the only thing I can control in life is my attitude. I learned this fact from a sermon by Pastor Scott McKinney at CenterPoint Church in Orem, Utah. Scott is a childhood best friend of my husband’s and during most trips to watch our daughter swim, we visit him, his family and church.

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Seniors made their way through the tunnel of teammates during their last home meet.

This weekend was special because we took my 85-year-old dad to visit Utah for the first time and went to the big rival meet between Utah and BYU. Utes won! We also went to watch the Red Rocks gymnastic team win a quad meet. We shared delicious meals together as a family and with my daughter’s friends. We stayed in our favorite hotel, the Little America, and for no reason, they upgraded our room. All in all, it was a perfect weekend.

But when we were headed home, things went wrong. We had a late night flight at 9:35 p.m. While sitting at Gate B 73, waiting for our flight home, I noticed my ring felt weird.

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Something major was missing.

I retraced my steps from my seat by the gate to the bathroom several times, bent over and shining the flashlight from my iphone. Several strangers stopped me and asked what I was looking for. I showed them my ring and they were horrified. My husband surprised me. He was also very calm and said, “Oh well. I guess it’s time for a bigger diamond.”

We were minutes away from boarding time and I looked around me and noticed almost all of the people in the terminal were on their hands and knees searching for my missing diamond. In this moment–that should have been panicky and stressful–I was amazed and hopeful about humanity.

My dad, sitting in his seat, digging through my purse, raised his hand and said, “I found it!” Applause broke out, whoops of “Yes!” and high fives surrounded me.

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Our favorite hotel, the Little America, with the Grand America across the street.

We were halfway home when I felt the plane take a sharp right turn. The pilot announced that we were headed back to Salt Lake City because the weather in Palm Springs had deteriorated to the point where no flights were landing or taking off.

We landed and waited in line to find out what our choices were. We decided to fly out the next morning on a flight to Seattle, followed by a flight to Palm Springs. I saw people visibly upset and yelling at the poor airline employees like they played a dirty trick on us for fun!

My husband and I stayed calm, we got our new tickets, found our way to a taxi with my dad, and directed the driver to return us to our hotel where we hoped to catch four hours of sleep. The taxi driver was very philosophical and said, “You guys are okay. You’re alive and this is just an experience. Embrace it.”

That’s what we did. We were inconvenienced but we survived–others in our country over the weekend who experienced bad weather were not as fortunate. Yes, we were delayed for a day and traveled with only a few hours of sleep. But, a situation that could have been ugly was okay. Because we decided that it would be.

Below are short clips from the Gymnastics and Swim Meets: