One of the challenges of being a swimmer is that swimming is not a seasonal sport.
It’s a year-round, full-time commitment once you really decide to commit.
The year is broken into two main seasons (in the Northeast, anyway).
September through March is known as short course season. That’s because all meets are held in a 25-yard pool.
Most teams have about a two week break at the end of March or beginning of April, and then you move into the summer season, which is called long course. It’s called long course because you swim in a 50 meter pool. It’s also called an Olympic distance pool (cause that’s the distance pool used in the Olympics).
After long course season, you might get a little longer break. Like close to a month.
So out of every 52 weeks, you have a total of 5-6 weeks off.
By the time you get to the end of long course season, you are fried.
Which is why I didn’t give you a recap of our trip to Zones yet.
Because when we got home from the meet on Sunday night, I was shot. And I wanted a couple days where I didn’t even think about swimming. At all.
To be honest, I’m still kind of in I-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-swimming mode.
But I do want to let you know about our trip.
If you missed the first post before we left, in a nutshell, Zones is short for Eastern Zones Long Course Championships, and it’s a big, intense meet for the top swimmers on the East Coast in Richmond, Virginia.
There are teams from Virginia all the way up to Maine who attend the meet. It’s a four day meet, and if you are involved in swimming at all, you know how tiring these are for not only the swimmers, but also for the family members who attend them.
If you are not familiar with swimming at all, all I can say is that they are grueling. And that is no exaggeration. Each session, from the time you get your swimmer there for warm up until you leave the pool is at least five hours long. Usually closer to six hours.
The pool area is well over 80 degrees, the stands are even hotter and filled to capacity, and people are often douchebags in the stands. Of course it’s fun to watch your kids swim, but in a session that lasts four hours, your kid probably swims for a total of less than five minutes.
However nervous your kid is, you are ten times as nervous. You leave each session of a meet like this feeling like you’ve run a marathon. I’m not really kidding.
If you have more than one kid swimming, you are stressed out about both of them doing well because when one has a good meet and one has a shitty meet, that is no fun.
And if you have to bring along younger siblings who are hot, tired, thirsty, bored, have no desire to watch the meet and who have to sit around for 4+ hours, that does not help.
So I had four days of that, and then two days of driving at least eight hours in the car with four kids ten and younger.
It was a long week.
There was not much personal space.
In fact, there wasn’t any personal space.
So it was definitely not a vacation. Not for me, anyway.
But I will say that breakfast was included at our hotel and there was free coffee available 24/7. It was pretty awesome to just walk downstairs and have breakfast waiting for us. And I absolutely needed the always available coffee.
The families from our team stayed in the same hotel, and one of my friends has five kids roughly the same age as our five younger ones, so the kids were ecstatic to have five consecutive days of playdates with their buddies.
They had lots of fun in the hotel pool and hot tub.
They enjoyed having the freedom to go to their friends’ rooms on their own.
Number 6 especially enjoyed having his own key. He also learned how to sweet talk the hotel concierge into giving him extras.
When I got home and cleaned out my purse, I found these:
The kids were a little crazy at times. There was a lot of whining, a lot of arguing, and a lot of crying. There may have been a few complaints by other guests at the hotel about some blond kids running in the halls early in the morning.
But there was also a lot of laughing and fun. (But more whining than fun).
So there was the management of Number 5, 6 and 7.
Then there was the swimming part. Which was, you know, the reason we were down there.
Number 3 stayed with the CT team in a different hotel. So I only saw him at the pool.
I talked to him for a grand total of approximately 90 seconds between the time I dropped him off at the bus on Tuesday morning and the time I picked him up from the bus on Sunday night.
That was just what he needed. He needed time away. He needed a little space from Number 4. He needed to do his own thing.
Four years ago he was so crippled by anxiety he wouldn’t even walk into the locker room alone at an unfamiliar pool.
Last week he hopped on a bus and drove 400 miles away with a bunch of kids he didn’t really know, slept in a hotel with two other swimmers he hadn’t ever met before for five nights, and had almost zero contact with me the entire time.
He swam really well. But I was sure he would.
When I picked him up on Sunday and asked him if he was bummed it was over or if he was happy to be home, he said, “I wish we could have hung out for three more days. It was so awesome, Mom.”
So I couldn’t be happier for him. It was a major self confidence building experience for him.
I was much more stressed out about Number 4. Trying to make sure she got a decent night’s sleep every night in the hotel room with three younger siblings was a challenge.
And I was not sure how she was going to swim.
Actually, that’s not true.
I was sure she was going to swim like crap.
Two weeks before Zones, she had a very disappointing meet. It was the championship meet for the season, and she did not have the times either one of us expected she would. She spent the last night of the meet crying in the car for a good hour or so.
She was determined and convinced she was going to swim much faster this past week at Zones.
I was not convinced. I was afraid she was putting too much pressure on herself.
It is typically difficult to swim well at a meet like this for younger swimmers, especially only two weeks after a big championship meet.
So I was expecting her to be disappointed. I was expecting lots of crying and drama. Again.
Of course, in true Number 4 fashion, she totally proved me wrong, and she kicked some serious ass.
She swam better than I would have ever anticipated. And I’m her coach.
She walked away from Zones with huge drops in times and a fifth, a third, and a first place medal.
She said she had something to prove to herself, and she had something to prove to everyone else.
And she did it.
I was blown away by her.
And that sums up our trip to Richmond.
Exhausting, exciting, challenging, surprising and 100% rewarding.