I could see it from the moment I left on the 30 second mark. I could see it in my mind’s eye. I knew it like I knew any truth, with the confidence of both faith and experience. I could see it; I could see the clock hitting the 25. I was going to finish on the 25.
200 yards in 2:55.
I hadn’t been so certain when I began the set of four 200 yards. Each one was supposed to be faster by 5 seconds. My fastest to date had been three minutes. But that was working hard. One of those swims where you feel like throwing up and like you’re swimming faster than your blood can circulate. You can feel yourself sweating and your face reddening. That was one of those swims.
I wasn’t so confident of my capability to achieve that tonight, so I had said 3:05 to be safe. I had gotten up at 2:55 am that morning and gone non-stop all day. By 9:30 that night I would have driven somewhere near 500 miles, worked a half day, gone to the dentist, run a bunch of errands, and was now at Masters. I was so tired, I almost hadn’t come. Almost…
To be honest, the thing that cemented my decision to go… was the Newtown tragedy. After hearing about it, and watching some footage on the news, I knew I had to swim. I had to. Because swimming is a good thing. For me, it’s an incredible gift. I see it as a tool with which I can build other good things and help people and change myself and help change the world! I could not do anything to help any of those people in Newtown by watching the news on TV. But I could go and swim and get faster and get better and improve and inspire people to try things for themselves – goodness! Don’t you just wonder how much good we can build?! Maybe enough that everybody would find a place to belong and people to encourage them and peace with themselves so that things like this would end. In the wake of any tragedy, death or sorrow; what I most want is to take the passion of the emotions behind that loss and use it to build something good.
So to the pool I went, my heart burdened and determined to give it my best. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, being as tired as I was. Not only that, but I had just adjusted my stroke, again. I hoped it was smoother and more efficient. I had picked at it all week the way you would learn a guitar solo. I had gone slow and steady, just trying to get all of the notes and to get them right. I didn’t try for speed. Just slow and steady. Of all of the changes I had made, this one seemed the easiest one. I took all of the words used to describe it to me and somehow made them into literal, physical translations that carried me to the other end of the pool. Length after length.
However, having not demanded speed from this new stroke, I wasn’t sure if it would let me go fast at all. That was, after all, what we were trying to do. Go fast. Not just work harder, but actually go faster. Sometimes, there is a difference.
But the first three 200 yards, I was astounded at how well I hit the times. And I was equally astounded that I didn’t seem to be working too terribly hard. I didn’t feel sick to my stomach or like death. I actually felt quite… comfortable. Like I was simply gliding forward. Steady. Certain. Sure.
I smiled to myself when I stopped at the wall and waited for my sendoff on my last one. I watched the clock approach the 30 second mark. I stared. I knew it. I knew I would leave on the 30 and I would get back on the 25. I knew it. I knew where I needed to get faster and when I needed to hold back. I knew it. I knew this swim before I ever began it.
Anticipating the 30 by a moment, I pushed off from the wall and began. I was focused. Feeling the forward motion bringing the other side of the pool to me, each 25 yards. I sometimes tempered myself by holding back and nudged myself on when it was too slow.
All the while, I could see that 25. I could see it in my mind. I knew the clock would say 25 when I finished.
How well I was acquainted with the water! How well I was acquainted with myself! Steady. Certain. To think that I almost didn’t come. I almost didn’t come. But I have a purpose in this. I have a purpose. To do good. To be something good. To build something good from this life. It’s not so extraordinary – using the water as your foundation. It’s not so strange to want to change the world. It’s not so hard to make a difference. To take sadness and to turn it into seeds of hope… that’s all I want. I can do this.
I can do this.
Make a difference.
I can do this.
200 yards in 2:55.
I could see that 25. And I hit the wall and looked up and all of my vision was reality then.
The clock read 25.
That was a moment of pure pride and joy that I haven’t ever quite felt before. It wasn’t just being fast. It wasn’t just attaining a goal. There was something I knew about myself. A truth outside of me that I pulled into reality. Just by holding that vision before me, by requiring it of myself, by paying attention.
Maybe, just maybe – if I reach and believe…
…maybe I can pull my vision for good into reality, too.