Back to My Roots and On to United States Masters Swimming Short Course Spring Nationals

Mid-50 breaststroke at a Philadelphia-area swim meet
this past January. (L. Weiner)
Competitive swimming used to be my life. Long before I discovered the joy of long backpacking trips and the exhilarating feeling of topping out on a boulder problem or tying into the sharp end, I spent up to four hours a day doused in chlorinated water making my way up and down a pool hundreds of times in a row. I wrote two posts related to swimming on Adventure-Inspired (here and here), but they're buried among a collection of writings about something I've also also always loved - the outdoors.

Until recently, competitive swimming hadn't been a part of my life for nearly five years; those hours have been spent playing outside and doing things I never dreamed of doing. But as I continue to grow and explore new passions, I'm learning it's just as important to remember your roots as it is to move forward.

As a college swimmer, one of the first things I'd look up in towns I'd move to for summer internships was where I could swim. The water was home - but that was a long time ago. When a good friend asked me to go to a local swim meet with her back in January, I almost immediately declined the invitation. I hadn't been in a pool in half a decade, why on earth would I want to try and race anyone? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that despite the tumultuous relationship swimming and I had, it could be good for me to remember how much fun it was. I found myself agreeing to compete in the water for the first time since 2006.

After a handful of short dips in the pool with my new teammates and spending time enjoying the sport in a pressure-free environment, I competed at a United States Masters Swimming (USMS) sanctioned meet at a local YMCA. Founded in 1970, USMS aims to provide a chance for athletes age 18 and over to train, learn and compete in swimming far beyond college and high school. For me, it was a chance to just up and have fun with a sport I love.

Circa 2001, hanging out with my best friends from
high school swimming! (L. Fowler)
Turns out, fun is good for you. I achieved a qualifying time for United States Masters Swimming Spring Nationals in my favorite event and am flying down to Greensboro, North Carolina tonight to compete all day Friday. The decision to swim at Nationals was an easy one, mostly because I made it on a whim after a chat with a friend who also made a cut. We both decided to add, and subsequently check "swim in a national-level meet" off our bucket lists. The qualifying times aren't out of reach for swimmers who train regularly, but regardless, having been in the water four times in five years, I was happy to have made a cut at all!

The toughest part about the month after deciding to go to Spring Nationals, this past month, has been managing my own expectations. I had big plans to train three or four times a week with a local masters team, but in the past four weeks, I've gotten in the pool a total of six times. That's as much as I made time for, mostly because, as it turns out, I don't want my life to revolve around swimming anymore. Going into the meet tomorrow, my goal is to enjoy every moment I'm in the water, to feed off the energy I know I'll feel from competitors and spectators, and to swim my heart out.

The meet will take place at the Greensboro Aquatic Center Friday-Sunday, but I'm just scheduled to compete Friday. The event I qualified to swim is the 50 yard breaststroke, but I've added a few more events on to make the day complete. Real-time results of every event at the meet will be available here, and there's an awesome preview video of the facility and meet here!


Meghan J. Ward said…
I really appreciated reading this post, Katie. Your writing style is really accessible and easy to follow. You provide the perfect amount of background info before getting to the real 'meat' of your post. You also leave your reader with some nice food for thought! 

I am realizing this week (again!) that I am much, much, much too hard on myself. It is so important to be realistic with our expectations of ourselves, especially when it comes to the things that don't need to be top priority anymore or take up a large amount of our energy. The things we were really passionate about and committed to in the past can be fun so long as can allow them to be fun and not put pressure on ourselves. I have this problem with wanting to give 100% to EVERYTHING. Working on it.  That being said, congrats on your accomplishments with swimming so far! Isn't it nice to know that our bodies can do the job? All your backpacking and crossfit are coming in handy. Good luck at Nationals! 
Katie Levy said…
 Meghan, your kind words are so appreciated!

And I can relate to everything in your second paragraph without a doubt. I had a chat with my partner in crime yesterday about remembering to cut myself a break once in a while. And at a meet like this, or in any competition, really, the extra pressure can cripple your performance. I'm hoping it's still possible to give 100% without driving myself crazy :)