Summer Blog #5 Inside the mind of a record holder | Written by Kierra Smith
The night before my 200m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games I FaceTimed with my coach Emil. He was in Winnipeg for Age Group Nationals and I was in Glasgow, Scotland. I had been emailing him during the staging camp letting him know how practices were going and that I was having fun but I wanted to talk to him before my race. You know, just to put him on the spot and see if he can come up with a quick one liner to relieve all the anxiety. He made me laugh but I was still nervous and not offering enough to the conversation. I told him I had been worried about adding time to what I did back in April. I know it’s the story of everybody at some point, but I hadn’t gone a best LC time in 2 years and it’s discouraging. I had been working a lot at a yogurt shop in Kelowna and spending any other free minute I had at the beach. Maybe I should have put all my energy towards swimming, the gym and napping. Looking back and wishing you did more training is a horrible thing, but my brain isn’t always nice to me. This is when he said the most important thing he’s ever come up with for me …
“Girl, worrying about what might happen is useless. Do you worry about having a son then having him grow up, go to college, cooking dinner, leaving the oven on and burning his apartment down?”
I knew he was about to make me feel stupid “……….no.” Ok so he beat me down a little, I knew that the rah rah part of this speech had to be coming.
“Lucky for you they’re asking you to swim breaststroke. They aren’t asking you to speak French or run around a track or swing a golf club or water ski. Then you should be nervous. They’re asking you to do the one thing you’re really good at so why be nervous?”
He didn’t need to say anything else. He told me to smile at the camera when I walked out and then he passed the phone over and let me say hi to my teammates in Winnipeg.
I had everything ready for the next day. I took the earliest bus I could to the pool, not wanting to risk giving myself any more anxiety than I already was making my brain deal with. I did my warm up and got into my new red and black racing suit. I felt pretty warm but I usually wear a sweater before I race and I knew this wasn’t the time to start not wearing a sweater. So now I’m really warm and wearing a sweater and my mind is racing because I am worried about missing my race. My brain is useless to me. I put my cap on, but I start sweating so I take it off, put it on, take it off. I go to the first call room and sit in one of the 32 chairs available and continue putting on and taking off my cap. I don’t usually like to drink water right before I race but my mouth felt so dry so I grabbed one from a bucket of them… at least it gave me something to do instead of fussing over my cap. They finally call my race up so I pull my cap over my goggles and give it best effort… after all, if I know how to do one thing well, this is it.
After my first race was behind me the nerves fell away. I had gone a best time and made finals, the only thing left for me to do was get some rest and do it all again that night. I went a little slower that night but I was proud of my time and had done better than I ever would have expected myself too the day before. The confidence I gained from the whole experience is going help me in Australia next month at Pan Pacs and I am thankful I get another shot at breaking 2:25. I’m over 3 seconds faster than I was this time last year so I know that I’m headed in the right direction.
I enjoyed the rest of the meet. I swam the 100 breaststroke 4 times and went 1:08 point something three times. The fourth swim was the heats of the 4 x 100 medley relay where my job was not to get disqualified. The relay won a bronze medal at night and I was thankful to get to play a small part in that.
I really have to figure out how to get my time down even lower into the 2:22 range next year. My brain hurts when I think about how that will even be possible so I just shut it off and will delegate worrying about that to Coach Kelly Kremer and Emil. My job next year is to stay healthy, show up to everything I’m supposed to, work harder than everyone else, think like an athlete outside the pool and gym and the results should follow. I’m going to approach 2014/15 the same way I approached 2013/14. After Pan Pacs I fly straight to Minneapolis and start my Junior year at Minnesota.
My next big race is the Minneapolis Grand Prix November 20-22 and I hope we have a strong field this year. I’m looking forward to swimming in America with Americans against Americans again and not worrying about anything going on back in Canada until April. It’s my chance to stay swim under the radar for a while and check back into my Minnesota life. I miss the routine of Minnesota and I can’t wait to reconnect with my team and move back into my apartment.
Now I am in Kelowna training with Emil. I usually get a public lane to myself. Yesterday while I was doing a set of 25’s breaststroke the guy in the lane next to me asked if I was swimming alone and when I said yes he replied “I should accompany you then.” He didn’t know what the set was but he did 25’s with me for a while. I was lonely and not in a position to be picky about training partners.
Who won the 25s? That’s another secret I’ll never tell.
About Kierra Smith
Class of 2016
Hometown: Kelowna, British Columbia
Kierra’s 200m breaststroke swim with a time of 2:25.40 at the Commonwealth games has made her a University of Minnesota Record Holder.
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The Canadian and only current Gopher competing in Rio will race for a medal on Thursday night.