By Robbie Bruce – Lead Performance Specialist at RX Endurance
I could list all the wonderful things my mom has done for me but I believe signing me up for “swim lessons” before I could walk was one of her greatest gifts. I have loved the water ever since.
I feel more comfortable in the water than with my feet on land, actually. Mom also told me that no matter what, always do what makes you happy and do not be afraid to fail. Ever since I could swim I’ve dreamt of wearing a USA parka and standing on the podium listening to our anthem being played, and crying like a baby with tears of joy. I think representing your country is the greatest honor in sports.
I swam 6 days a week for my entire life until I was about 14. I broke a lot of records and swimming was my life for a very long time. I actually remember the day I quit. I was in the middle of a kick set (probably why I hate kicking so much now ;)) and I was kicking as hard as I could, yet, I could not feel a thing. No pain. No nothing. I actually did 4×50’s crying. Trying to kick so hard with no feeling. No mental pain and my legs did not hurt. I felt nothing because I had nothing. Swimming was no longer fun for me. I did not want to be at practice nor did I want to race. As good as I was and as “promising” as people told me I was. I got out of the pool that day, walked up to my favorite coach and told him I was done then called home to break the news to my parents.
I never swam year-round again but I did choose to swim summer league for my club. It is much more laid back and fun. Every Tuesday in the summer I would line up against old teammates still dedicating their lives to swimming. I would hop on the blocks with baggy swim trunks (dude, I’m about 16 right now and Speedos are frightening) while everyone else wore skimpy Speedos. I still had guys that were “rivals” and have always been competitive so I always wanted to win. We would race and some of my proudest moments were dusting them with my board shorts on. I even remember swimming next to them on purpose until then end before I floored it for the win. Swimming was fun for me then. It was laid back and I wanted to be good because it was in my heart and not because it was on the schedule on the fridge.
Fast forward pretty much 1/2 my life and the past few weeks I have had the itch to go after my dream again. I did not train very well swim wise but cranked off a 55:00 and obviously came in under prepared for Swim the Suck but managed 20th against some Olympians and All-Americans. Kind of dawned on me after that race when the Olympic gold medalist and race winner walked up to me and said, “Have you been ninja training? Because if you haven’t and ever decide to train we will all have to work harder.” I took it as a nice “aw shucks” compliment at first but as the weeks have progressed it’s changed. Is 33 to old? It might be. I think its worth finding out.
Swimming for me now is different. It is not the black line at the bottom of the pool, it is the open water and the freedom it gives me. Hell, swimming with our training team 3 days a week at the lake has taught me more about swimming than the 10 years I swam year-round. I love it. I know that some people think I am some awesome swimmer but I am not. I have the ability yes. But I have not performed, trained, or ever 100% focused on it before in my life. Couple that with wanting to and having a passion for it I believe I finally have the recipe I have always needed. Too late? Maybe. It’s time we see.
I love the sport of triathlon and everything about it. I will compete and participate in triathlons as long as I can. I also love open water swimming and believe I owe it to myself to finally find out. Find out if I have what it takes to make the US Open Water National Team. Wear the Red. The White. And the Blue. Am I behind the 8-ball when it comes to training and likely age? Hell yes I am. I’m okay with that. I think it favors me actually. It is fresh and new. I have the heart now and I truly believe I have the talent. I admittedly have always slacked on my swim training because it came so easy. Shame on me. I know. Wont happen again, I promise.
For 2014, I have decided to focus 100% on trying to qualify for the US Open Water National Team. I will likely still do a few shorter triathlons but no Ironman races for me which was tough to swallow. You know I want to go back and dominate the IML course (and I will). In a very appropriate twist of fate. My qualification race is the day before IML next year so their is no way to try and do both. So, I am going with where my heart is. I can assure and promise you I will still be totally immersed in the sport of triathlon, the training it takes, training improvements, coaching, etc. So please do not worry. In fact, I think this year might make me the best coach I have ever been. I liken it to working in a restaurant for a long time and just not enjoying eating the food. My training will be fresh and my coaching will be better.
My venture wont likely lead to me lining up for the open water event in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio for the chance to win a gold. Will it lead to me being named to the US National Team? I feel like I have a shot. Weather I end this journey with a gold or some red/white/blue attire, if I merely find out I just did not have what it takes to get there. Either way I will go to bed knowing I went after a dream and at least know it wasn’t in the cards, OR I will go to bed every night knowing I made that dream a reality just by taking a chance. So if you need me tomorrow and I don’t answer your call, text, or email immediately, I will respond within at least 1.5hrs. I will be busy in the pool working on a dream I had almost a 1/4 of a century ago with the same joy and vigor I had when I dreamt it. Dreams never die. It is your desire and belief to go for those dreams that fade first. Don’t let your dreams die one second before you do. Go all in.