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The Mile

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This was my last shot. My one opportunity to make it to zones. I was either in or out. All my hard work and dedication to those practices that I dreaded going to was going to pay off. This was it.

Zones is a swimming championship where the best of the best from each club league compete in a multi-state swim meet. We are part of the Eastern zones which also consists of teams from Maine, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This was and still is a very big deal to me. The only way one can make the championship team is if one is in the top two of an event. The event I was closest last winter was the mile, also known as the 1,650 yard swim. It is the longest of races in the swim world. And at 66 laps, for some it’s hard to complete. I had been training and resting the way my coach wanted me to for a while now and I wasn’t going to let it all go to waste.

On a Thursday in the winter of last year, I left school early to accomplish one of my biggest goals at the Joe Trees Natatorium at the University of Pittsburgh. I had been anticipating this day for weeks. The drive down there was a quiet one – filled with determination. I was dropped off at the pool and as I walked in, I knew what I had to do. I signed in at the positive check in and then ventured over to the area where my team was seated.

Before I knew it, warm up had started. I knew the right warm up and swam it all through. I practiced a few starts, and then walked back to my bag to go change. I changed into a brand new racing suit that would surely help me. I was ready to race. I plugged in my iPod and got in the zone. The counter I picked was Amanda, a reliable person that would not mess up my race. A counter is someone that puts in a card with the number of laps you have completed in a distance event. I had a few words with my coach about my race strategy, and then got behind my lane. I was ready to go.

Moments later, the starting beep had been sounded. My race was underway. I took the first few laps out pretty quick. Then I settled into a rhythm and swam my heart out. I breathed as infrequently as I could and made sure everyone of my streamlines off the walls were to perfection. It wasn’t long until I saw the 33 at the other end. I was halfway there! I felt like I needed to pick it up so I switched into yet another gear that the previous hard training had allowed me to develop. The cards at the other end were flipping like a blur. I wasn’t paying attention to what number they conveyed, but that I was making progress in the race.

My legs were what went first. The lactic acid had been building throughout the race but now was when it started to affect me. It is the unmistakable feeling of your legs becoming like two painful heavy pieces of metal your body is dragging along. Next were my shoulders and my lats. These you use every stroke you take so by this point, they were pretty much shot. My lungs also became weaker as I struggled for air. Through all of this pain, I remembered why I was doing this and continued to fight to the end.

The 59 card flashed. I only had 175 yards left to go! I kicked it into the last gear I could find and ignored all the messages that my body was telling my brain. As I came into the wall I held my breath and put my head down. I touched and immediately looked at my time. 17:47.32. I broke my previous best by around three and a half minutes!

I looked into the stands and saw my whole family standing and cheering for me. This felt awesome. I did the necessary 2,500 yard warm down and then got out to go see my coach. He was so proud of me. All the hard work really did pay off! I then changed and eagerly went to check the results. I finished third in my age group. To most this would be heartbreaker, but to me it was still a great accomplishment. I was just 13 seconds off of making Zones which is close to nothing in the mile.

* * * * *

This past summer I was not going to let this happen again. Its different for summer Zones though. There are certain time standards you must achieve to go. I like this better in a sense that the number of kids going is not limited. Last summer I made it in not just the mile but the 50, 100, and 200 free. Also I made it in the 100 fly. This goes to show if you really put your mind to do something, in time you will achieve it.





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