Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Close is more than enough

Close is More than Enough

Yesterday at my sanctuary (also known as Crossfit Ventura) I was reminded of my days as a competitive swimmer. I was moved by the grittiness, agony, euphoria, and triumph of many people who were up against a formidable opponent, themselves.

Specifically, I was reminded of all of the times I missed a time cut for the next level of competition, and how terrible it felt. My event was 200 meter breaststroke and I was trying to make United States Swimming Junior Nationals. At the time, this was the meet that separated the average swimmers from those that would probably be offered college scholarships. If you didn't have Juniors, you wouldn't get money to swim in college. Each season, swimmers rested for, at most, two meets at which they would try to qualify for nationals. In other words, swimmers only had about two times a year to try to qualify for nationals.

I started getting close to nationals when I was 14. Subsequently, I missed the time cut by less than a second almost four times (over the course of two years). The third time that I missed the cut, it was by .29 seconds. I felt like dying. I vowed that I wouldn't miss that time again.

Come spring of 1996, my club team planned to participate in the Husky Invite, a college invitational put on by the University of Washington. The previous year my training had been vigorous. I never missed a workout. I raced as hard as I could at every in-season meet. I trained at race pace whenever I was offered the chance. I lifted weights, ran, stretched, and focused. I had rested for this meet and was hoping to make my Junior cut at night in finals (prelims for each event were held in the morning). Just before my heat, my coach Jerry told me to relax.

"Just make the finals." He told me.
"I will." I said, with jittery determination.

Standing on the blocks, I was shaking. The timing system beeped. I hit the water and was swimming.
I could see two girls out in front, but I knew that they were seated (placed) ahead of me and I didn't have to beat them to make finals. I focused and stretched my stroke out.
With each breath I could hear people cheering.
At the turn for the last 50 yards, except for the water hitting my ears as I ducked underwater, everything went silent. I stayed in my head and kept my strokes long and strong. I only saw the water in front of me.

Then I turned for the last 25 yards.

My head exploded with sound.
I could hear whistling, yelling, water splashing, and pain.
I could see 10 or 15 friends standing at the end of the lane cheering as the timers made their way through the crowd to stop the clock.
I couldn't see anyone ahead of me.
I plunged both hands towards the wall and finished hard.

I turned around to see the scoreboard, but it was blurry due to my fatigue...It didn't matter. Judging by the sound in the auditorium, I knew I had already made the cut.

Everyone around me was cheering and laughing and crying.
Jerry had walked around behind my starting block and was smiling.
When I got out of the pool I hugged everyone and my usually sarcastic coach walked me to the to the warm-down area. As we walked, all he said was, "You did it."

When I sat on the side of the warm-down tank, only then did I turn around and look at my time. It was 2:24. Almost a second and a half faster than the time cut. I had made nationals. In prelims.

Although I remember making the time cut clearly, what I remember more clearly is missing it so many times. Each time that I missed that cut pushed me to train harder to make it someday. And I did. And that moment still is clear in my mind because it was a true moment of perseverance and triumph for me.

The moral of the story is that missing your mark, not achieving your goals, and failing a little is what pushes us all to do greater things. Being close to your goals is more than enough to push you to achieve them later.

So keep on pushing. Turn those small failures into big triumphs. You can do it.
Good luck.



At 10:39 AM , Blogger Katie said...

I loved your post Jaala! Truly inspirational.

At 1:57 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Thanks Katie! Hey, I keep on trying to comment on your blog and it won't let me...regardless, you are awesome, keep up the good work.

At 4:45 PM , Blogger mb said...

What a great story! I had chills!-Martha

At 8:17 PM , Blogger Lindsay said...

This is an awesome post. Thanks for sharing it. It's such a good reminder to remember that the journey to the goal is truly the gift.

At 12:58 AM , Blogger Matt said...

I used to play a lot of poker in College... Your post reminded me of a great phrase in poker of which I think you demonstrated in your post... You never can remember exactly how much your biggest winning pot was, probably not even the top five... but I promise that you will never forget every detail of your worst beat.
Trust me... its true!

Great post Jaala!

At 6:33 AM , Blogger benyhna said...

that was a great read kiddo. It's great to have you at CFV.

At 10:12 AM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Thanks everyone. It is nice to be training at CFV with so many inspirational peeps.


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