I am so conflicted about whether to post this, because I do not like to boast, but I am throwing modesty to the wind. If you think I am a braggy gloaty person, so be it. It is your turn to deal.
Because this weekend I got my first ever national cut.
Which is to say, that I qualified for the US Masters Short Course National Championship meet in the 200 breaststroke in my age group. Sure sure sure, there are plenty of people out there who have qualified for many events--maybe they even swam in college. But reader, I am not one of them. I was a slouch during college, thank you so much. It was only later that I returned to my (rather mediocre) swimming roots, and now I am proud to say that after busting my ass for the better part of this year (by which I mean "season," beginning in August), I have made the cut. The time I needed was 2:55.64 and I blew that away but more than a second.
If you are not a swimmer, then you may not know that that was 2 minutes and 54.49 seconds of SHEER HELL. Yes, you can swim the breaststroke without taking your sunglasses off, as I have been known to do on many a summer day in Lake Hartwell. But RACING, my friends, is another matter entirely.
My coach says breaststroke is a power stroke, and he is not joking. After 2 minutes and 54.49 seconds, my quads were toast, my shoulders spent, and my lungs on fire.
Fire, I say, and it was not just because of all the phlegm that has taken up residence in the back of my throat since I came down with a stupid cold a couple of weeks ago. It was sheer oxygen overload. And that burning sensation lasted for, oh, two hours.
But that is OK, because when I looked up on the Big Board--squinting, of course, because of my sad sad vision--I did not see the locations of our nations weaponry, positioned to protect our precious bodily fluids, but INSTEAD saw those happy numbers, telling me that my season's goal was achieved, and I could commence slacking off immediately.
Do you know how good this slacking off feels? I had spent the last week and a half stressing out, because after all the work I had put in I had to come down with a stupid cold just a week and a half before the meet. So I decided that it was going to come down to my big big brain telling my lame lame body to SHAPE UP, get the phlegm out, get out there and WORK.
I did what my coach suggested and backed off on the event before this one, bringing in a time that was a good 7/10 of a second slower than my best. And I practiced some 50s at the pace I needed to swim. And I huddled up in my deck chair wearing all the fleece I had with me, including my cute little hat with the tassle, and STRESSED. But this was not the bad kind of stressing, but the positive get-psyched kind. The kind where you think about nothing but the fact that it has to be all legs for the first 125 yards, and then when they are kaput it must be arms arms arms. And also the kind where you remind your body that pain is just going to be part of its future--so be it. And that it should not say anything about being tired because nobody is listening. And it is the kind of stress where you remember why you are sitting here in this natatorium during an icestorm, and why you have been getting up all year at 5 am to go to swim practice.
And miracle of miracles, it worked.
My coach tells the kids we coach that "steak times get steak dinners." I worked that one to a T. It turns out that cocktail times get a cocktail, that baby-back-rib times get baby back ribs, and excellent glass of wine times get excellent glasses of wine.
Then last night, when I got home from the meet, I celebrated with one of these, which I had been saving:
(Picture courtesy of Molecular Expressions.) Behold the triple-fermentation 9% alcohol, the blend of special yeasts, the ale-rich pleasure created by my friends at Unibroue, perhaps more widely recognizable as this:
The folks at Unibroue note, "Cette bière est brassée en l'honneur des grands explorateurs qui croyaient être arrivés à la fin du monde lors de la découverte de l'Amérique."
If they knew me, maybe they would admit me into that noble company, if only for this weekend.
(And thanks to Whiskey Tango for helping me depict my celebration. He's right: a sip is worth a thousand pictures.)