,2020: A Year to Remember, and to Forget
My last entry (October 2019) was all about my favorite swimming meet of the year, the Short Course Meters Champs at Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek, held, usually, each October. It is now September 2020, almost a year later. Months have gone by since I reported in. Why? 2020 is why. 2020.
The first wave of tribulations began apparently as a foreboding in December 2019. We learned that two dear friends had passed away. Losing friends is always painful, but even more so when they leave without saying good-bye; the sadness is very deep and personal. We were grieving. Then we received more news that we had to vacate our home after 20 years. The hits keep coming.
Moving out of a neighborhood that had become home, and find a new place to live was the next hurdle. We needed help and thankfully received it from family, especially family, but also friends and neighbors. This situation was challenging and difficult; the love and support from everyone carried us through.
Most days were spent house-hunting, cleaning and packing, lots of packing. Add a full-time job as a restaurant server into the mix. My schedule was full, which meant, along with everything else, my swimming routine was severely interrupted. I never-the-less got to the pool and tried to make as many practices as I could, to maintain normalcy amid chaos. Swimming was instrumental to relieving my stress. I caught the water, pushed it back and then let it go. I let it go. With every stroke, I pushed harder and let it go.
I am talking about water here, but also referencing my anxiety, worry and fear. I let it all go with each flip of the fingertips. The water was centering me. The balance achieved during swim practice stayed with me, helping me keep up with all the necessary details of the move. I was coping.
And then COVID-19 hit.
No swimming at all! No pools! Even ocean access was denied! Businesses closed, which included my workplace. No work? Say good-bye to any semblance of routine. Social interaction as we know it - forbidden! No gatherings! I was not able to visit my Mom on her 92nd birthday! This goes on for months! The hits keep coming! Damn you, 2020!
Then the heat wave hit. I stopped my car, safely, along the highway to snap a photo of the thermostat on my dash. It read 113 degrees. Sunday, September 6, 2020. Yup! 2020!
Now the state of California is burning. NASA and their satellite photos show that the western sections of Oregon and the State of Washington are also enshrouded with smoke from the massive fires. You can see it from Space! The fires of 2020.
But there’s good news. Besides the days that are either too hot, have a threat of dry lightning, or are too smoky, the pool is open! Coach Sharlene is adding to her workload by preparing a schedule each week of swimmers and lane assignments. Only 5 swimmers at a time (instead of our usual 12-16), one to a lane with the “start” at alternating ends of the pool. Coach does a Power Walk from one end of the pool to the other, giving instructions all throughout practice.
There is more good news on the swimming front. Something new in the COVID-19 era: Virtual Championships. Swim your favorite events, have Coach officially time them and enter your results on-line. Very cool. I registered for 200 Backstroke – we are friends again. (Reference the 2019 SCM Champs blog). I also checked the box for the 50 Breaststroke, the 100 IM and 50 Butterfly, just for fun.
I first used the phrase “just for fun” believe it or not, at my favorite SCM meet. I was really scared before I swam, so I tried to calm myself by saying it was going to be fun. I told everyone, “50 fly, just for fun.” I said it repeatedly and what do you know, it was fun! I won my heat. So, being superstitious, I say it each time I swim the 50 Butterfly. So far, so good.
Back to the Virtual Championships. I had pre-arranged with Coach that I would be timed during a scheduled practice. The time limit in the pool is now 45 minutes. I intended to swim all four events at one practice so as not to disrupt Coach’s plans too much, which meant swimming four all-out sprints in 45 minutes. This, after being out of the water for almost 5 months! I was not thinking straight.
After an all-out 200 Backstroke, I was tired. My time was slow compared to my best, but it felt good. I swam my second hundred faster than my first, in other words, I negatively split the event. This is what we aim for. After a warm-down of 200 yards, I was ready for my next event: 50 Breaststroke.
Surprisingly, I swam well with a respectable time. I have been working on my Breaststroke at practice. Now I was really exhausted and cannot quite look the next event in the eye. 50 yards of Butterfly did not sound like fun. The months out of the pool due to COVID had taken a toll on me. I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Coach Sharlene informed me that the deadline for entries had been extended. Therefore, I could postpone the Butterfly and the IM until the next practice. I heaved a sigh of relief and took her up on the offer. The next practice day was extremely smoky due to the fires and I felt dizzy and woozy. “It’s the smoke” said Coach. I felt terrible, but raced the 100 IM, using everything I had. For a second time, the Butterfly did not seem like fun. I postponed it again.
More fires and more smoke meant the air was too polluted for any outside exertion. I could not get to the pool for a few days and the deadline came and went. No butterfly. Ah well.
This was a National Competition, with almost 400 swimmers in my age group. The results of my endeavors are: 76th place for my Backstroke, 67th place for the Breaststroke, and 57th for the IM. Top 20% in the Nation. I accept this with the understanding that I can do much better, maybe in the New Year, when we can say good-bye and good riddance to 2020. Keep swimming.