Frequently in pregnancy, you are told what you can’t do. You can’t drink wine, you can’t eat sushi, you can’t sit a hot tub, you can’t sleep on your back, you can’t eat unpasteurized cheese, you can’t take ibuprofen, you can’t travel after 34 weeks. There are so many things you can’t do that sometimes you think you might as well just lay on your couch for 40 weeks doing nothing at all.
And if you are an athlete, you can’t really pursue any athletic goals. Sure, you can be athletic but like someone said to me today, “you get to spend a year going easy!” Yes! I do! Which is relaxing and feels good but…but…sometimes I miss having a goal. Something to strive towards. That little thing in the back of your head that motivates you to get up and get things done. I get things done, lots of things but where are they going?
Enter the annual monster swim. When I thought about it a few weeks ago, it sounded ridiculous. What is the point of showing up if I wasn’t going to do all 100 x 100 on the 100 (that is, 100 yards, 100 times, sending yourself off every 1 minute and 40 seconds)? All or nothing. But I also used to never see the point of running “only” 4 miles or riding my bike for just 30 minutes. In pregnancy, your perspective changes. It’s almost like injury – you become grateful for the little things that you used to take for granted because they came so easily. There is value in everything now – no matter how little or how slow.
As the swim got closer, I started getting the itch. Thought to myself - what if. Then - why not? I started swimming more. And realized there was definitely value in doing the monster swim. In fact, it became my new goal.
A goal! Finally! I decided that 50 x 100 would be a safe distance. If you do the math, you will see that swimming 50 x 100 for 2 people is the same as swimming all 100. Really. Not only is this finally a goal but also something I have never done before – I have never swam 5000+ yards pregnant. This will be a first! I still remember the first year I did the event, I did the 75s but only 75 of them. That seemed so far to swim. At the end, I remember thinking – I cannot believe I just swam over 5000 yards! The next year I did all of the 100s. Last year, I did all 100 but did them much faster. At the end, I said to myself – next year I will do the last 10 as IM. Scratch that, I think I topped it when I decided I would do half of the event, pregnant.
What wakes the Midwest out of the ass crack of winter? An early Saturday morning monster swim. There were over 70 people who signed up this year. The coach assigns everyone to a lane. I did not know any of the people in my lane. But I quickly realized that leading the lane was voted between another woman and myself. Let me make this clear: this was not lane I was looking for. I was hoping to slip into the back of a speedy lane, disappear in the wake and get pulled along fairly effortlessly by a draft.
I ended up swimming second position. The woman leading took off a bit fast which worried me but eventually the pace settled. After the first one, I remembered how long the monster swim really is….only 99 (actually 49) more to go! I told myself to just focus on the next 10. Then the next 10. And then after the next 10 I would pull. I should have waited another 10 to start pulling because after that my arms were heavy. But the good news is that after that I only had 10 more to go.
The 5000 yard mark arrived too quickly. I was feeling ok. I was holding a pace that was less than 5 seconds per 100 off the pace I held last year. Considering I have one steady speed right now, I was pleased. I started to think about swimming more. It was only 90 minutes of swimming...I was not ready to stop yet…
After 50, we got a 3-minute break. We were switching into a deeper lane when I walked by Chris.
I saw you get out of the pool around the 4000 mark to use the bathroom, I said, you’re going to have to make that 100 up.
I AM NOT HAVING A GOOD TIME.
Chris was clearly not in a happy swimmy place. When we walked in this morning, we noticed that he was assigned to the fastest lane. Fast as in the lane that would be holding under a 1:00 pace for all 100. We both know he has no business swimming there. But how exciting that he got the chance to try! How painful, too. After the first 5000 yards, he emerged from the pool grumbling (and stumbling) before the coach switched him into a safer lane.
Break over, I told myself I would give it another 1000 yards. Surely I can do 60 x 100. The coach suggested I switch into a less crowded lane. Perfect! I just want to hang out in the back and backstroke or kick along. But when I switched, I realized I was now in the half disbanded 100s in under 1:00 lane. I absolutely have no business being here. But in the back I can survive doing my own thing. However, I soon realized that two of the guys were starting on my side, while another guy was starting at the other end of the lane. Instead of swimming an easy 1000 yards, I was swimming like scared to not get caught by the guy coming at me with Phelpsian speed from the other end. At the 6000 yard mark, I was finally fatigued so I called it a mini monster (+10) swim day.
While I was pleased that I did 60, I won’t lie, part of me was sad that I could not go the entire way. Because I know what it feels like. The fatigue that you push through once you hit 90, knowing there are only 10 more to go but also knowing that 10 more is a really long way. The feeling in your arms when you are done, a combination of adrenaline, fatigue and what have you done to me. That feeling is the rush, the gratification that athletes chase after in each workout and race.
I quickly got over it and became satisfied – for today. For the here and now. Of course as I was drying my hair, I thought about next year. How do you top doing this pregnant? Do I swim with my husband on my back? Do I hold under x:xx the entire time? Do I swim the last 10 as IM? It took me a few minutes, but then I realized I will do it for the first time as a “mom”. And that is exciting.
I watched the team finish up the remaining yards. Around 87 I could see the fatigue setting into their strokes. At 99, there were some cheers. And at 100, many cheers before the pool became empty and silent.
Afterwards, everyone was milling about, eating food, getting dried off, chatting, when of the speedier guys on the team stopped to talk to me: So, did you do the 50s today?
Enter a long pause of he did NOT just ask me that.
Because last year I would occasionally swim with this guy – and not get lapped. Because sometimes I put on fins and still swim with him this year. It’s not like I show up at masters with a foam noodle and breaststroke the entire way. COME ON! For crying out loud, I am pregnant, NOT DEAD!
I looked at him, gave him that oh no you didn’t look, and said I did 100s. 60 of them. And then, I walked away.
Some people are intent on telling you or assuming what you cannot do when pregnant. Few conditions in life seem to give people unlicensed permission to say things to you in this regard that should otherwise be left unsaid. Ignore them and instead look around for inspiration. It is there. Today in the lane next to me, a woman over 7 months pregnant did 30 x 100 on the 1:40. I was talking to the aquatics director and he told me that his wife gave birth and 10 days later was right back into her running routine. Less than a year later, she qualified for Boston. Whereas the rest of the world seems set on telling you what you can’t do, or making you long for what you could once do like you will never get there again, women keep reminding me that you become who you want to be during and after having a child. Whether it is despondent about who you were or actively working at becoming better, you create your own successes and failures.
Walking out, I heard a woman telling the coach that next year she would do the 50s, all of them with no fins. Hearing that made me smile – because I got it. THAT is what this is all about. It is about setting a goal and doing it. Whether the person was swimming 50s, 75s or 100s on the 1:40, there are so many ways you can mix it up and challenge yourself. That is what I love about the monster swim event.
Swimming today reminded me of what I love about sport – setting a goal and being motivated by the process of getting there. I miss that sense of achievement. These past few weeks my swim yardage has been up to some of my biggest weeks in the past few years. It felt meaningful, more than just doing it all to stay fit or feel good. Yes, I love that about sport and I get it. But I enjoy reaching for a little more. Enter: goals. And now that I accomplished my goal – actually, did 10 better, what next?
You guessed it: I need a new goal.
Leave it to Jen H. to have an idea: What about doing a theme that coordinates with the week of pregnancy you are in?
Hmm, I see what you are saying….I could swim 20,000 yards total during my 20th week. I could do 24 x 50 IM during the 24th week, I could do 30 push ups on the stability ball in week 30…
I LOVE IT!
I realized today – a pregnant athlete can still have goals – beyond making a healthy baby, beyond taking care of herself, beyond preparing herself to be a good mother. She can still set and achieve meaningful sports-related goals and let me tell you – that thought, and that feeling go a very long way. My year going easy can be more than that. And all I have to say about that is a happy and chlorinated…YAY!
One goal down, about 23 more to go. Next week, I get to do 17 of something. I am still thinking about what that something will be. But when I figure it out, I’m on it. At least until next Sunday.