I dip my toes in—feels cold. My nerves rise up and spread like fire throughout my body while I watch—while I wait. Stomach hurts. All those butterflies clash and crowd. They come every time that I race—it never fails. There is so much noise—the splash of water, talking, yelling, whistling, cheering.
Can’t think. My body shakes and screams from the tension. Heart pounding, nerves tingling, every muscle contracted. Stop. Focus. Deep breath and close everything out. I shut my eyes and the turbulent world in which I am submerged goes black and silent. Coach says visualize the race. Visualize your ideal race. I visualize….
The one hundred fly—it is my mountain. This mountain is rocky, snowy, and steep, and that is why I love it. These ugly obstacles are exactly what make my mountain beautiful; the challenge and the difficulty of the climb make the ascent itself even more appealing. Over the speaker, the starter says dryly, “Heat four step up.” One foot at a time, I step onto the coarse block. Feels like sandpaper. Hope I don’t slip. I take my stance. Both feet on the edge, toes curled over, clammy hands on my bent knees. I prepare to confront my opponent: the black line. I feel my face. Goggles on tight, cap in place. Waiting in silence. Face feels hot. “Women’s one-hundred yard butterfly.” Get ready. “Take your mark.” I crouch like a tiger. I grab the block, knuckles turn white. Every muscle tight and anxious—ready to pounce.
Feels like forever. Crowd is silent. Beep. I leap. Simultaneously, my arms go up into streamline position and I squeeze my ears with my arms. I enter the water. Cold. Kick, kick, kick, kick. Go, go. Fast. Kick, kick. Almost to the surface—way past the flags. Good. Water rushes past me. Cheering becomes a little more audible. I break the surface and spread my wings—pulling with full force. Pull, kick, pull, kick.
Breathe. Rhythm, where’s your rhythm? Pull, kick, pull, kick. Got it. Arms straining, hands pulling.
Keep your fingers closed, don’t let water through....