Yesterday, approximately 40,000 people participated in the annual Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. Sports Backers couldn’t have ordered better weather for it! Several years ago, I decided that, instead of running or walking in the 10k, I would swim a 10k instead. So, yesterday, rather than donning running shoes – I headed to the pool for my own version of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k – aquatic style.
During my swim, I was struck by the dramatic differences between the two experiences and, actually, in some ways, the similarities. As for the differences – when I entered the Collegiate School Aquatics Center I was alone, there wasn’t a party atmosphere, there was no music and no one was in costume. While I swam – there were no bands (except what I was singing in my head), no cheerleaders and no friends to talk to. Instead – I was by myself in the lane with only the black line on the bottom of the pool to keep me company. Because it was such a beautiful day – the pool was relatively empty and I counted maybe 3-4 people who came and went during my swim. The lifeguards swapped positions from in and out of the chair every half-hour. There was no one to hand me a cup of water – instead I reached in my bag of tricks every thirty minutes or so to ferret out a gel or some liquid nourishment. There were no signs saying “Way to Go Courtney…You Can Do It!” – just me and my thoughts. There was no one at the “finish line” saying “Congratulations” or handing me White House Rolls and no bag to pick-up from bag check. The whole “event” was relatively anticlimactic. When I left the building – the nice receptionist did say “Wow…you swam for a long time today.” I left the building and walked through the empty parking lot, got in my car and drove away.
But, at times during my swim, I found myself thinking about the similarities. There is a Ukrop’s sign inside the pool and I found myself looking at that and pretending that this was my own Ukrop’s event. As I walked into the building for my swim – my friend Bobby was coming out and wished me luck as I’m sure he would have done if I been running downtown. But, mostly, I thought about the strength and fortitude it takes to accomplish any sporting event. As I’ve said many times, it is about what it takes to dig deep within yourself to push your own limits – from both a mental and physical perspective. There were times yesterday when I was reminded how utterly mind-numbing it is to swim by yourself in a pool for hours and I thought – there is no one watching me and I could just get out and go home…no one would know. But, that would mean failing at goal I had set for myself. I also know that during this mind-numbing aloneness I have some of my best training – as I’m certain I will feel extremely alone in the Catalina Channel in September in the cold, dark of the night. And, just as I had to overcome my challenges yesterday, I’m sure there were many people out on Monument Avenue who had to dig deep to find the energy and courage to continue to run or to take that next step. When they reached the finish line – I’m certain it was all worth it. And, it wasn’t because there was someone at the finish line telling them they did a great job. It was the sheer pride of accomplishment.
When I walked out of the pool and drove away yesterday – I, too, had the pride of accomplishment…having pushed myself through another mind-numbing pool training swim. And, I was grateful that, next week, I will at least have the pleasure of doing my long swim outside. To celebrate – I got my own package of White House Rolls, came home, warmed-up a few in the oven, added some butter and looked back fondly on another great 10k day!