flylikeagirl

Crazy Swim mom

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As luck would have it

Grace hasn’t done well at zones. She swam yesterday and today, adding time in both races. Sarah did well yesterday – she dropped a tiny bit in her 50 breast. Sophie, added time in her 100 fly but her stroke looked good. And she is ten.

OUr LSC makes zones really fun for the kids. It’s like camp. With a side of swimming. The kids travel by bus, stay in a hotel, eat their meals together, cheer each other on when they aren’t swimming and they wear a team uniform everywhere they go. Those that make finals go back. And the lucky ones, those that don’t make finals, they go to various activities. It’s camp pure and simple. It is also Sophie’s first time away from home. She was definitely nervous. But also quite ready for the experience. It truly is the experience of a lifetime for these kids. They wear their zones jacket with pride for a month afterwards. Despite the fact that it is the dead of summer.

Chris and I drove separate cars to the meet. I’m taking the girls to Florida for our one and only summer vacation. Chris will head back to work. It was the first time all summer I have been alone. I drove in silence. Deep in thought. As we move into a new season, a lot of thoughts are rolling through my head. Decisions, have been made, indecision and regret soon follow. I have experienced guilt and gratitude over this decision. But when all is said and done, thoughts done being rolled around, I am still at piece with the decisions we have made. And then I change my mind again. I’m looking forward to our vacation but I’m also anxious for September. We can put the thoughts behind us and begin the real work.

Grace is going to make a move backwards. She is going to spend the better part of next year mastering the basics of swimming. We are absolutely convinced it going to be a game changer for her. Sarah and Sophie will benefit from this as well. We have learned from past mistakes and we are going to stop making those mistakes again.

As a swim family, we are going to take a year off from “times”. We are going to stop focusing on best times, adding time, dropping time, qualifying time and everything else related to a number. It’s easy to get caught up in that number but it really isn’t the best predictor of success. It’s been a tough lesson to learn but lots if people can swim fast. Very few can swim well. And those that do will find the success in the long term.

Our eye is on a new prize. We want our children to swim well this year. And with that, they shouldn’t need any luck at all.

Here’s to new beginnings.

The silver lining

The more my kids swim, the more I hate summer swim team. Nice huh? I am so jealous of the kids who swim “B” meets. They give out heat winner ribbons and the meets aren’t scored. I remember being at a B meet – Sophie was all of six years old and finally broke a minute on her 25 back. She is now doing it in 18 seconds. And pissed off that it is too slow.

I go into summer swim season pretty excited. And by week 3 I am completely over it. It can make you completely crazy.

Summer swim completely favors sprinters. The distances are usually shorter than what the kids are used to. Grave swims 50’s which is unheard of for 13-14 and poor Sophie swims 25’s at 9-10. Sarah, swimming as an 11-12 is In her glory.

Divisionals – the final meet of the season – was a mess for us. Sarah did great. Sophie did a decent job. And Grace spent most of the meet in tears, getting beat by kids who can’t take her in a 100 and certainly not In a 200. But in 50? Grace didn’t stand a chance. It was heartbreaking. Grace put her arms around me when the meet was over. Head on my shoulders. Tears flowing.  I was ready for summer swim to be over.  Grace really was at a breaking point, she was adamant that she was not going to continue swimming in the fall.  To be honest, I thought it was a good idea.

They say the “lucky” ones make All-Stars.  The top 16 in the county for each age and stroke compete against one another. This meet is held the weekend after divisionals.  Day 1 is All-Star relays.  Day 2, the individual strokes.  I’m not really sure the lucky ones go to all-stars, the week after divisionals we see a mass exodus of swimmers, everyone heads out on vacation.  Aside from those of us “lucky” enough to compete for one more week.

The girls were each in three relays, several competing together.  They did really well in all of them, getting a few seconds place finishes and all of the relays shaved off time.  They swam in a medley relay together and did really well.  It was fun to see them come together in competition.  I’m not used to that.

The following day was the individual competition.  Grace had two solid swims, swimming right at and just below her seed times in free and back.  Sarah took off over half a second, besting her team record and earning a plaque for her third place finish. Sophie shaved a little time off her fly and was beyond thrilled to never have to swim 25 fly again.  She may be the only kid in MCSL who would prefer a 50 and ideally would love to swim 100!  Everyone left smiling and happy.  More importantly, Grace left with a renewed interest in swimming in the fall.  She also was about to launch a one man crusade to change her path in swimming….

Vacation time?  Not so fast.  Monday morning, the girls had practice.  They leave for Zones on August 5th.   And then the new season starts September 1st.  Swimming feels like a perpetual season.  Although I am pretty sure we are about to embark on a season of change.

 

Goals, dreams, heartbreaks, challenges

It’s been a rough six months. I have sat here for ten minutes trying to come up with an opening line and everything I type is just sugar coating the truth. The truth is the last six months have been awful. And amazing.  And above all else, really challenging.

My younger two girls have had a great year.  They both have far surpassed any goals that they had set for themselves, both making zones and seeing a lot of success along the way.  There have been many exciting moments. They have made finals at some big meets, qualified for zones, and both qualified for Coaches Long Course – a county wide meet that only the top 8 swimmers in each age and stroke qualify for.  Having seen Grace qualify for these events over the years, they understand the significance of these things.  Sarah and Sophie have both had a fantastic season but it has not been without disappointment.  Most recently, the Coaches Long Course meet was rained out after the free style event and Sarah didn’t get an opportunity to swim breast, Sophie her fly.  Too add to their disappointment, Grace swam free style and was awarded a big, beautiful, shiny medal.  Neither of them did particularly well at the summer champs meet.  Sarah’s breast stroke was off, the coaches were tweaking it and she didn’t have good swims.  Sophie swam like the ten year old she is, she lost her goggles on her 100 fly and due to a sloppy starter, she was not on the block for her 400 free.  She jumped up and dove in but everyone had a good 15 second lead on her at that point.  She did swim a beautiful 200 fly, a 12 and under event.  She was the only 10 year old to swim it and needless to say, she impressed me on her willingness to swim it, let alone do it well.

Grace has had a really rough year.  In September she had dreams of making sectionals before turning 14.  Her birthday came and went, and that sectionals cut became more and more elusive.  Her times through the fall and early spring remained consistent.  Flat, yet consistent.  In April she made a bold move and moved into the National Training Group.  She took on a harder training schedule – more distance and more practice.  She was dedicated to the practice group and has worked hard.  We knew going in that we should not expect time drops for quite a while, that her body needed to adapt.  What we didn’t expect was that she would be swimming slower than she was a year ago.  I keep hearing that this is normal but it is heart breaking.  For her.  And for me.  She has a had a few shining moments but they are far and few between and not enough to help hold hope.  She is discouraged and frustrated.

We have pushed her pretty hard to ensure she wants to stay in the sport.  We gave her permission to quit.  She lost her mind.  We needed to see that.  The fight in her is still there.  We gave her permission to change groups.  What we didn’t prepare for was her asking to change sites, groups and clubs.

She wants to move to a new team.   One that is significantly more expensive.  Much further away.  And logistically a nightmare for us (me).  I really want to give her this opportunity.  I want to say yes.  But for now I have to say no.

One of Grace’s issues is that she has some technical problems.  She tends to swim sloppy.  Everyone that has ever coached Grace adores her.  They also cringe when she swims.  There comes a point when you have to accept responsibility as a swimmer for these issues.  We can’t blame the coaches, they have all gone above and beyond the call of duty to help her out.  Grace at some point needs to square up with the fact that she needs to change the way she swims.   Oh.  And that point is now.

We turned down her request to move.  We made a pact with her.  We are meeting with her coach to develop an action plan.  We are going to hire an independent coach to work with her one on one.  She has to stay on course until her birthday, November 5th.  She will leave the world of age group swimming and if she does proves to us through her swimming that she wants this, we will move her anywhere she wants to go (I’m up for California but I think the territory will be limited to Maryland).

My life will be a living hell if she makes the changes she needs to in order for this move to happen.  And I am totally fine with that.  She told us last night that she hates us and that we are the worst parents that ever walked the face of the earth.  I think she meant it.  She is a resilient little shit though, today she wanted to go to the mall.  Oh and wanted to know when she could start the private coaching.  My money is on Grace.  She can do this.  For her own sanity, she has to.  I love her to the ends of the earth.

AMeetVsDarnestownGAM182-vi

 

 

Whose birthday is it?

Only the die hard swim at 5:30 AM.  Only the dedicated swim on a holiday.  And the crazy?  They swim at 5:30 AM on the 4th of July in a steady, cold rain.  My kids were none too happy that today wasn’t the day we “accidentally” missed our alarm.

Photo: You might be a badass if you swim in the rain on the 4th.

It is a tradition in our club that birthdays are celebrated with Donuts.  I saw it fitting that today after practice the kids had donuts.  Many of them were confused, knowing it wasn’t Sarah or Sophie’s birthday.  A few understood right away, some as they were leaving.

 

Kelly Hoffman Elliott's photo.

And some?

Photo: It's a Swim, Eat, Sleep kind of dayIt was going to take a long nap.

Happy Birthday to our Independence.  Hope you all have a happy 4th of July!

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The crack of dawn

Last Friday morning I was awakened by the most glorious sunlight streaming in my bedroom window.  I could hear birds chirping.  For half a second I thought I was dreaming.  And they panic hit.  My heart rate soared and I grabbed my phone.  I had ten missed texts.

“where are you”
“are you up”
“we are outside”
“are you alive”
“hello”
“hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…

Because the girls swim at different pools we have an elaborate carpool system set up.  Not ONE but TWO people had come to our house at 5AM to get my girls (remind me to fire Teddie as a watchdog) – we not only slept through our alarm but also people beating on our door and ringing our bell.

After the panic subsided I was hit with another wave of it.  I was responsible for bringing three kids home from the practice Sarah and Sophie attend.  I knew that it was game over for Sophie, she needs a solid 15 minutes to get up and doesn’t do well with any variation of the schedule.  Grace’s practice was too far away for me to get her to it.  So I drug Sarah, half asleep to the car.  She put her suit on in the car, all the while crying because she was hungry, had to pee, had not brushed her teeth and was going to be embarrassed for being 30 minutes late.  Me?  I hadn’t had a drop of coffee, the car needed to use autopilot, I was in uncharted territory driving without caffeine.   I did a rolling stop in front of the pool and told Sarah to use the restroom and then race downstairs.  I would park and come apologize to the coaches.

By the time I had parked, Sarah was back at the door.  Tears streaming down her face.

“Mom, you are at the WRONG pool”….

At this point, I couldn’t torture her anymore.  I took her back home, told her to go back to bed and made a pot of coffee.  I filled my 20 OZ Hello Kitty Tervis Tumbler with coffee and raced to the correct pool to bring my carpool kids home.  When I walked in I saw panic on the coaches faces as they scanned the pool wondering where my kids were.  By 8AM I was in full blown “worse day ever” mode.

An intense workout at the gym helped soften the blow and I then took the girls to lunch and shopping for birthday presents for dad.  We had a quiet dinner at home and by 8PM all peace was restored.  (A glass of wine also helped).

At the swim meet the next day my girls were on fire.  They all swam really well.  I was asked in front of the coach what they did differently to which I laughed and said “they skipped practice yesterday”.  The coached joked that I shouldn’t tell people that.  I was then asked what they had for breakfast.

Yeah, they had donuts.

We all have our moments.  And everything is always fine in the end…Glad to have worst day ever over.  (#136 worst day ever)

I feel the need for speed.

Or to slow down.  Maryland State Champs was a few weeks ago.  It is a long course meet that is close to home and held out and outdoor pool.  I enjoy being outside for meets, all of our summer meets are held at our door pools but most PVS meets are not only indoors but most of the facilities are terrible.

Grace already has three zones cuts and Sarah had one.  Sophie had not swam her best events (50 and 100 fly) in a long course meet.  I was optimistic she would make both of them at this meet.

Grace’s expectations were low for this meet.  Her coach does not taper them for this meet.  As a matter of fact, they had an early morning practice the day the meet started.  This is uncharted territory for us, I’m having a hard time going to a meet with the expectation that she won’t do well.  I need to get used to it, this seems to be the norm amongst high school swimmers swimming in the National Training Group with our club.  She did hammer out an impressive 50 free, which made me hopeful for her first tapered meet.  I’m anxious for that meet, I miss the glory days of dropping time and I know Grace does too!

Sarah and Sophie both had a great meet, dropping time in all of their swims.  Sophie got her 100 fly zone cut and missed the 50 by a few tenths of a second.  She swam both races in the slowest heat and pulled out a second and a fifth place finish.  I can’t wait to see her race these with some competition.  Sarah was a top contender in several events over the weekend.

I was doing the meet solo, Chris was out of town helping his mother out.  I thought it was going to be a painful weekend but it turned out great.  I spent some time with friends and got a great tan.  It was a fun weekend.

My fun was short lived, a week after the meet I got three speeding tickets in the mail – violations captured by a speed camera.  I thought the speed limit was 35.  It is not.  It is 25.  The weekend was costly, we now have three girls going to zones and I have three tickets to pay.  I’m taking a cab next time I go to that pool.

This is a fun photo from the weekend, Sophie’s coach is the goofball in the lower right corner and Sophie is the big mouth next to them.  She is an amazing coach that never lets these girls forget that swimming is FUN!  We love her.

It’s game time…

Memorial Day Weekend is something I always look forward to. Summer is my favorite time of the year, I love the hot weather and having the kids home from school.

We decided to kick off our summer with a two night camping trip to the Shenandoah Mountains – away from the hustle and bustle, no showers no phone service. Aside from the natural beauty that was surrounding us, one of the very first things we discovered was that there really are bears in the mountains. I won’t lie, I was a little nervous, seeing a bear immediately upon entering the park. Luckily, that was our one and only visit from a bear. Our best friends came, this was our third camping trip with them. Chris’ brother’s family also joined us and they were a great addition to our trip.

We made it back early on Sunday. Monday we made our annual pilgrimage to the “pool opening”.  I’m thrilled that despite all of the time we spend at the pool, my kids still love going.

Summer marks a crazy time for us, the girls club swim and swim with their summer team.  We have weekly summer league meets, along with several club long course meets.

Despite the madness I love it.  As we finish out our school year I definitely feel like I am in “Ready, Set, Go” mode.  Let the fun begin.

The competition is good?

As much as I like Long Course season, it also comes at a time when parents and kids are running out of steam.  After a long winter, the weather is finally nice.  The kids would prefer to be outside with their friends over swimming laps at an indoor pool.  Parents are getting tired of the countless trips to the pool and quite honestly, I wouldn’t mind sitting on a deck sipping a margarita on a nice evening.  End of the year activities are ramping up at school, as are exams.  Summer can’t get here soon enough.

Many kids who can normally handle the competitive aspect of swimming are now cracking under the pressure of it.  Kids who have just aged up are upset because they aren’t making the qualifying meets they went to in their younger age groups.  I have seen many swimmers post best times and get out of the pool in tears because they were beat by friends.  Having been through the ups and downs of swimming, I’m very grateful that my girls are all top of their age group through summer season and have the qualifying times they need.  Everything they add on top is a bonus.  Grace is soon to leave the world of age group swimming, becoming a “senior” swimmer.  I had to explain to Sophie that it didn’t mean Grace would be swimming against her dad, an old dude in her book.

Sophie and I had a conversation recently about one of her friends who is really struggling with her friends posting better times than she does, despite the fact that she consistently gets best times based on her own swims.  Sophie said it better than I ever could.  She said “swimming is a competitive sport.  It’s what you sign up for.  You have to expect the competition and keep working harder”.

Having just swam 200 fly Long Course as a 10 year old and crushing it, Sophie was in fact beat by another 10 year old.  By nearly ten seconds.  Sophie said “you know what?  I’m glad that “T” beat me.  Had she not, I would have probably thought I was the best.  I’m not.  I also know I can do better because she did”.

Isn’t that just the most amazing way to view competition?  As a testament to what is possible?  I sit and watch “T” swim in awe.  She is so fast.   I think to myself “when does she age up?  what does she eat for breakfast?  how often does she train?”  And Soph is thinking, “yep, I can do that too, I just need to work harder”.  My 10 year old is smarter than I am.  (Of note, Sophie has been recognized by several coaches and a few friends for working harder in practice the last few weeks).

We just had a child leave our club because the parents were unhappy.  The child has had an incredible year and did AMAZING at our last meet.  The truth is, her best stroke is the same as 3 other 12 year olds in the group, one being my daughter Sarah.  They are all nipping at her heals.  And this bothered them.  They wanted their daughter to be the best in the group and get extra attention.  We had 4 girls who practice together who are constantly pushing each other to do their best.  The competition is good.  It’s healthy.  And it’s working, the four of them all have been swimming their hearts out.  I’m perfectly content with Sarah having two other girls pushing her to do her best.  To the family that left?  Good-bye.  Hope you find the special you are looking for.

The strong survive the competition of this sport.  Strong heart, strong head, strong body.  (And mom needs a margarita from time to time…)

Win, lose or draw

That is how I feel about swim meets. With three girls swimming we rarely win. A win for me means that all three girls do well. Lose? All three leave in tears. More often than not the meets are a draw. Between the three girls we can count on some great swims, a few good, mediocre and even a bad swim here and there. It happens.

I really like long course season. It’s a shorter season for us – 4 months long. The timing of the season is great too. After 8 months of short course the kids have usually squeezed the most out of their times. There are only 4 long course meets and the kids usually find success in each of them.

We went into the first long course meet with three different strategies. Grace’s coach opted to swim her off events. Sarah’s coach went with her best events. Sophie’s chose races that he thought she could see some improvement in. All three strategies were brilliant.

Grace has always been a backstroker. Lately it has been her nemesis. She didn’t swim it. She swam fly and free with a 200 breast thrown in to torture her. Given the fact she has never swam the 200 breast (and hoped she never would) it was a guaranteed best time. In the end, she didn’t drown and she had five great swims. She went into the meet pretty beat up and sore from the last few weeks practice and was able to squeeze out some good swims. I am confident that she will benefit from a summer of challenging practices and a good taper. She came into the season with three zones cuts. I’m optimistic she will get many morning and hopeful for a few sectional cuts.

Sarah, who up until three months ago, had never made Junior Olympics, decided to set her sights a little higher. She wanted a zones qualifying time this long course season. She did it the easy way, rather than spending the whole season wondering if she would get the time, she made her first cut at the first meet. She is certainly setting herself apart as a true competitor. My husband always said that if her talent were to ever catch up with her drive….watch out world. Her talent is shining through now.

Sophie just turned 10 so long course is still really new to her. I think the pool looks huge, I can’t imagine being 10. She isn’t the least bit intimidated by it. She did really well on all of her swims and came close to a few zones times. She didn’t swim 50 or 100 fly, two races she should get the qualifying time in. She will swim those in a few weeks. She did swim 200 fly. Yes, 200 fly long course. Less than a month after turning 10. And she rocked it. She also rocked a few kids world. She swam faster than a few 16 year olds. Most importantly, her very last stroke was as beautiful as the first! I was worried she would DQ it! Instead she made the 12 and under JO cut and is the 4th fastest 10 year old in the country according to USA Swimming. I recognize that not a lot of 10 year olds swim that race. But Sophie does. (She also admitted to liking it!).

In the end, it was a great meet. All three girls did really well! I was proud of them, their hard work is paying off.

April showers

Brings long course season. The girls are always happy for the change.

Speaking of change, both Grace and Sarah have changed groups. Sarah moved into what was once called “Grace’s group”. We now call it by its rightful name NDG’s. Grace made the decision to move into the National Training Group. This was not an easy decision for her, she has been debating where she wanted to swim (group, location and club) since September. I was prepared for her to ask to move and was somewhat surprised when she didn’t.

She had the option to “time share”. In other words, she didn’t have to jump into the new group with both feet, she could opt to practice with both groups. Grace had been with her coaches for three years and has developed a strong bond with both of them. I thought for certain that if she moved to the NTG’s she would also continue to practice with her former group.

I was wrong about that as well.

It isn’t easy for her to get to practice. It’s a high school group and she is in middle school. I pick her up from school and she heads straight to practice. She eats in the car and changes at the pool. She is accustomed to a few hours of down time between school and practice. She now has none.

She also jumped from 5 to 7 practices, all of which are more challenging. She has handled the transition with Grace and appears to be doing well. She is still unsure of the coach, he is very different. I too was unsure but I’m actually starting to see the positive aspects of his coaching style and personality. He may be exactly what Grace needs.

Sarah is struggling in her new group. The practices are also more challenging for her. She went from top dog to low man. Thanks to Grace though we have a great relationship with the coaches. They have both done a wonderful job keeping her motivated and encouraged. Her times at meets are amongst some of the fastest in the groups. The coaches are convinced that once she improves her conditioning she will really be amazing. It’s nice to see them believe in her.

Sophie is just thrilled to have her group all to herself! She has great friends and feels very comfortable in the group.

While it is a lot of work (driving) having the kids in three separate groups, it also is what makes the most sense. I have spent most of this year questioning if they are in the place they need to be. I’m finally confident that they are. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

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