My nervous fidgeting came on a few days earlier. I'd taken three days off work as a buffer from potential office stress but found it quite hard to settle. I'm not a natural relaxer, needing a helping hand from relaxing activities like a hot bath, massage or yoga. Yin yoga has been a blessing to me recently in two ways - the deep physical release and in bringing my yoga to a snail's pace. Fast, flowing yoga is not helpful for nervous conditions - it can fan the flames of excitement or fear. Long-held poses for over an hour or more is for me the best cure for nerves. And while you wait and soften into each pose you learn more and more about yourself.
I pay attention to what I eat and drink in the days leading up to a competition. No caffeine, alcohol or meat, plenty of vegetables and loading up on beetroot. I’m a big fan of sprouting seeds so I had three layers of sprouts growing in preparation to give me a nutritious, alkaline boost before each performance. And breakfast of choice on the big day is always porridge.
In the hour before my swim I limbered up using a few seated yoga poses and then rested, using a guided relaxation to help focus my attention inside rather than what's going on around me. I was sad not to see my friends perform but it’s too distracting. The few times I have previously lost focus and looked up during preparation have coincided with seeing someone blackout, and that can take you to a negative place, so I know it’s not worth it.
Five minutes before my start (known as a ‘top’), I made my way to the lane and prepared my cap and mask. I slipped into the water with three minutes to go. I focused on the cooling sensation of water around my legs and against my hands. My heart started racing a little so I turned my attention to my breath and tried to relax. Of course anyone who has competed knows that last minute is nerve-racking. I kept my thoughts positive with phrases I'd tested in advance. And I tried not to accept the anxiety, instead told myself that this little bit of excitement will disappear as soon as I hit the water.
The distance between 75 and 100m for me tends to be the most challenging. This is when I'm most aware of my urge to breathe. At 100m the dive began for real. In the last length I felt my legs tire with lactic build up but there was no discomfort, only a lack of power. I don’t remember much else from the dive, except just the black line flashing by - my meditation. And the relief of a white card after a thirty second wait, grinning inanely at the judge and cameras.
145m, white card, new National Record!
When I’d climbed out the pool I couldn't feel my lactic-filled legs at first. I should’ve ‘swum down’ at that point, especially as effective recovery for Day Two was vital. I got lost in the moment, the excitement, and forgot - the best I could do was walk a few circuits of the car park later!
Nutritionally I had it nailed though, from bitter experience, so I took my recovery pills and potions before leaving for the day. Unfortunately socialising was on hold as rest was the number 1 priority. By the time I got home I felt quite unwell. Very tired, a growing headache and weary limbs. I forced myself to do some yoga, knowing that it would relax my muscles and boost circulation to help shift any remaining toxins from the dive. Even more encouragement was needed to eat kale & chickpea stew when all I wanted was pizza, my ultimate comfort food! I went to bed at 9 o’clock - no celebrating until it was all over.
Day Two - DYN and STA... coming soon...