How I Became A Swimmer – It Kind Of Just Happened
My family had just moved to a new town and my parents wanted my older sister to make new friends. So, my parents signed her up for the local swim team. I was only five years old at the time and was still just taking basic swim lessons. But I thought my older sister was SO COOL for being on the swim team. Envious of her, I used to play pretend “swim meet” at home. Running up and down the hallway in our house with my cap and goggles on. Pretending to dive off a chair and then flailing my arms in a freestyle motion as I ran back and forth.
One day, my parents were going to take me to spectate one of my sister’s home swim meets. My mom was in the bathroom- completely distracted- when I asked her if I could wear my bathing suit to the meet. Not even realizing what I asked, my mom mumbled “yes” and I put my swimsuit on under my clothes and off we went to the pool.
When we arrived at the pool facility, my mom and I ran into the head coach of the swim team. My mom told him that I wanted to be on the team one day. They laughed about how I would pretend to swim races in our hallway. Towards the end of their conversation, the coach told my mom it was a shame that I wasn’t on the swim team as they only needed one more swimmer to complete an 8-and-under freestyle relay. And that was when I lifted up my shirt to reveal the swimsuit that I had slyly worn underneath.
My mom was super concerned that I wouldn’t make it across all 25 yards. But, unable to say no to her overly excited child, I became the 4th member of the team’s 8-and-under relay that day. And just like that, I joined my very first swim team.
I am now 36 years old and have been swimming competitively every year since I was five. In high school I simultaneously swam on the school team and for the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club swim team. Throughout college, I swam on the Brandeis Swimming and Diving Team. I competed in both Australia and Argentina on for the Maccabi USA swim team. And, now I am a proud member of the Swim Fort Lauderdale Master’s team.
It has been over thirty years of competitive swimming. And of course my goals in the pool have shifted drastically. Yet, I still wake up for 5:30am swim practice with the same amount of joy that I had for the sport when I was five. I really do feel fortunate to still feel that way about the sport.
My Introduction To Triathlon – It Kind Of Just Happened
After college, I immediately moved to Miami to attend law school. My first semester of law school was extremely challenging as I was somehow still in the pool training every day. That Christmas, I went to compete in Argentina as a swimmer in the Pan Am Maccabi Games.
When I returned from Argentina after winter break, with no swim competitions left to train for, I decided to take a step back from swimming and focus a bit more on school. For the next few months, my physical activity was mostly limited to random sessions of 30-60 minutes on an elliptical at the gym. My grades in school were fine. But, I was personally miserable and unfulfilled. I had identified myself as an “athlete” for my entire life. And now, that identity was completely gone.
One day that spring, though, I was sitting in my Contracts class when I caught a glimpse of the computer screen of the person sitting next to me. He was scrolling through the website for a local triathlon race company. With my interest peaked, I conspicuously wrote down the name of the website and then looked it up the second I got home.
I stared at that website for a long time that night. I had no idea what a triathlon entailed. And I didn’t own a bike. But, I was 100% sure of one thing…I was going to register for a triathlon. I cannot remember whether I first registered for the local sprint triathlon and then bought a road bike….or vice versa. But that summer, I did my very first triathlon.
My first triathlon was ROUGH. I was still in good swim shape so I was one of the first people out of the water. And then, I got passed by (what at least felt like) 90% of the field during the bike and run. I had no idea what I was doing. And, I basically collapsed across that finish line (yes, there are pictures to prove it). However, I went home and IMMEDIATELY signed up for another race. I didn’t even bother to change out of my sweaty race clothes first. The race was so hard. But, I knew deep down that I could do even better next time. I was hooked.
Triathlon and Beyond
I have now been competing in triathlon (everything from sprints to Ironmans) for the last 14 or so years. On occasion, I mix in some swim meets, road running races, and gravel bike events. As an adult, the excitement of swim practice is sometimes the only thing that can get me out of bed in the morning. A hard afternoon run is sometimes the only way that I can shake off mental frustration after a long day at work. So much of my identity, my happiness, and my general drive, is tied to sports. And, I love training even more than I love competing. So, my focus may shift on occasion from one discipline to another. But, I don’t see myself stopping again anytime soon. I am most definitely going to be an “athlete” for life.