I tricked myself into filling out the sign-up sheet when I was sure I wasn’t looking. I told myself it’s the last one (even though I know it’s not). I think I would be more comfortable helping to run a swim meet. Or helping to organize it. Or volunteering. Or something. It’s just not really my most favorite thing… swimming in swim meets.
But, you know, it’s not a bad thing to see your improvement over the course of the year. Not a bad thing at all. I’ve been working hard, I reasoned. It will be a nice comparison. You’re just racing you, I told myself. Nobody else. Just see how YOU do. It’s just another workout, one for time.
I can do that.
So I signed up for my usual events; every Freestyle event 100 yards and higher and 100 yard Butterfly. They didn’t have 1000 or 1650 Freestyle at this meet, though. But they did have an 825 yard Anything.
I read the “Anything” description. It really was “ANYTHING.” You could use fins or you could use paddles or you could create a relay. You could do anything!!! Plus, you started in the shallow end. That was kind of enchanting to me. No dive off the blocks. It was an outside the box kind of swim. It seemed, somehow, comfortable.
In fact, perhaps, too comfortable for Freestyle. I knew I could do 825 yards Freestyle. I smiled to myself, wondering if I could do that 825 in Butterfly.
My biggest concern was that it would take me a long time. So I was sure to ask Dennie, who was in charge of the meet, if it would be okay, first. She said it would be fine.
After all, the sheet did say “Anything.” Not “Anything but Butterfly, Bethany Bosch.”
I am always just a bundle of nerves at swim meets. I forgot to practice my starts in the weeks beforehand. I didn’t work on my turns and my streamline enough. I started my 500 way too fast, and didn’t really know what to do about that, either. I forgot that I was going to think it was just another workout. It was hard not to think of it as a race, and equally as hard not to want to ‘win’. Of course and again, I am bound to realize that I’m not really all that fast…
So when it came time for that 825 Anything and I got in the shallow end of that pool, it was such a relief. This 825 Anything also didn’t count for anything! It didn’t matter to anybody! Nobody would care what my time would be. Nobody would care if I touched the wall with both hands. Nobody would care if I couldn’t finish. It didn’t matter. I didn’t have to prove Anything. All I had to do was Anything! Anything I wanted. Anything I could do. Anything at all. The creative possibilities were endless!
I could just swim!
So I did!
My stomach was sloshing and uncomfortable right from the start. Gulping in water a few times didn’t help, either. The first 200 yards of Butterfly are always the hardest, I reminded myself as I muscled my way through them. I told myself that if I felt really sick, I could switch to Freestyle. After all, it was 825 Anything.
And, gee, Bethany… if you don’t make it, it really doesn’t matter!
Lap after lap ticked away. I found a space and relaxed. I found the forever zone, where I could almost pretend that there was nothing beyond the water around me. The poem Sea Fever by John Masefield was stuck in my head, “All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”
The silence in the lanes on either side of me grabbed my attention when the relays finished. I started to feel a bit self-conscious. All my (silly) hopes of going unnoticed had gone when I realized that I was the only one really swimming the 825 Anything. But now, I wondered what people might be thinking. I wondered if I was very inconvenient, holding up the show the way I was.
But I was so happy! Just swimming. Just doing something hard and long and kind of unimportant. Goodness! Just to try! It would be the longest set of Butterfly I’d ever done without stopping. It was a great challenge.
And I counted my laps down and I don’t remember when I knew I was going to make it, but I started smiling. I made myself NOT laugh, because it seemed likely that I would choke, if I did.
Then both hands touched the wall and it was done. All 825 yards. All Butterfly. It felt good. It felt relaxed. I felt strong.
And kind of like…
Anything? I can do that.