Or 'How to overcome your fears to learn a totally useless life skill'. Or maybe learning to overcome your fears isn't such a totally useless life skill.
The masters coach for the beginners/skills & drills workouts has decided to have a swim meet for us. I wasn't planning to participate because swim meets involve many swimming skills that I don't have-flip turns, swimming fast and diving off the blocks. You could probably get away with missing out one of those skills but if you're missing all 3 it's probably not going to be a good day for you. So I've never done a swim meet and I had no plans to do this one.
The workout today was focusing on preparing for the swim meet and this involved flip turns and diving off the blocks. I've been working on flip turns, in fact I even asked the coach if we could work on them last spring so I could do them at a summer pool triathlon. I never did work on them enough to be able to do them for my race but I did learn the basics of them so that most of the time I don't get too much water up my nose and we started back up with them at the indoor workouts this fall. Today I finally pulled off a good one, so pleased with myself. Then the next one I ended up in the lane next door. I'll bet most of you couldn't do that if you tried. I'm sure I couldn't do it if I was trying. Maybe I should aim for the next lane over all the time and I'll end up in my own lane. Anyway, I gave up on flip turns for the day since it was a crowded workout and I got lucky that I didn't crash into anyone.
Next it was time to practice diving off the blocks. Yeah, sure, just send my 47 year old ass plunging off the blocks to my doom for no compelling reason, this sounds like a fine plan for the day. Last year I refused to even try, those blocks looked awfully scary high above the water. Plus I have no idea how to dive. The coach says she'll help me but she doesn't give me a whole lot of instruction. But sometimes you just have to do it so you can see what part you don't know how to do. Another guy also in my shoes suggests diving off the edge of the pool for starters. Baby steps is what he says. I'm all for baby steps. But maybe the blocks would be easier? But they're still looking kind of high so I go for the edge of the pool. The first dive goes o.k., I land pointing downward into the pool rather than belly flopping which is good but I feel like I'm going more downward than forward and I don't think this will help in a race. So next dive I try to shoot more forward but I land too flat. Not quite belly flopping but not terribly comfortable either. Third dive is much like the first. The coach tells me I need something in between and as she's discussing it with me a guy from the next lane offers up a bunch of advice. And next thing I know he's giving me and some other 40-50 something ladies a diving lesson. He takes us all back to the deep end of the pool with the blocks and shows us how it's done complete with a detailed explanation. He only learned himself a year or two ago so he knows what to tell us. He goes off the blocks a couple of times and then it's our turn.
Last year I would have been scared standing up on the block, like I said I refused to even try last year. But I've been working on overcoming fears this past year, and I'll write more about that later, and I'm oddly calm as I climb up and say, 'O.k., I'm going to do this thing.' I get in the position he describes which involves bending over and looking at the wall behind me, chin pressed into chest, and not looking out at the water in front of me, which is very counter-intuitive but I understand the why of it so I do it. I'm not entirely sure what to do to get into the water without incident but I do something and again I go in pointing down and not belly flopping which is good but I'm still not going forward enough. He explains what I did wrong and how to fix it and the next dive is pretty darn awesome, for me anyway. I can feel myself propelling forward in the water after I hit the water just like I imagine you're supposed to. I come up to the surface and hear the coach cheering and the guy says it was great. I decide to quit while I'm ahead. Hooray for learning totally useless life skills and overcoming fears. Maybe I'll do the swim meet after all. Just have to learn how to flip turn back into my own lane.