Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving It 95 Percent

As I venture into more masters’ swim meets, I have come up with a race strategy unlike any I have ever utilized in my athletic life – to give it 95 percent. And so far, it’s working.

Mr. Coach understands and endorses this strategy. As he so helpfully expressed it when I presented him with my 95-Percent Strategy theory, "When you haven’t grown up doing something, it’s easy to try too hard. It takes 1-2 years for you to learn how to do something new correctly." (I restrained myself from pointing out that it only took me four hours to correctly get from childless to motherhood, but that’s mostly because that whole "voluntary versus involuntary muscle action" discussion would have been so 1993.)

Little Mr. Coach is not so supportive of the 95-Percent Strategy. The first time he heard me mention it, he stepped back (as if expecting the lightning bolt to arrive any second) and gasped, "WHY wouldn’t you give it 100 percent?!" (Mind you, this is the kid who, when I told him, "We just want you to have fun, honey, whether you come in first or last," snarled, "WHY would you want me to come in last?!" One of Little Mr. Coach’s other nicknames is "Mr. Literal.")

But Little Mr. Coach has grown up swimming so he’s learned, without having to really think about it, how one doles out the adrenalin, endorphins and oxygen and comes up with a performance that is an honest reflection of one’s fitness level.

I dive in and it’s like a symphony goes off in my head. The treble line goes something like, "Was that too deep? Too shallow? Wiggle-butt, wiggle-butt, wiggle-butt, crap, I’m running out of air, where’s the surf–, crap, there’s the surface, smooth, rotate, smooth, rotate, keep it smooth, crap, there’s the wall, flip!" and so on. And the bass line just goes something like, "KICK! KICK! KICK!"

The goal of course is to get to the point where it’s all instinctual, where I can blank out and enter that lovely "out-of-body" state I so often enjoyed in track races, where I did know what the heck I was doing and was therefore able to forget what the heck I was doing and get 100 percent out of my body.

Until then, however, I’ll be giving it 95 percent and taking 100 percent of whatever I can get.

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