Sunday, February 12, 2006

Alcohol: A performance enhancing drug?

I don't get it. I spent months meticulously training for Nationals last year. I swam five times a week. I slept well. I ate well. I barely touched a drop of alcohol. I did more push-ups, chin-ups and sit-ups than the Canadian Army.

It turns out it was all for nothing. I swam at a meet at UBC today and went faster than I did at Nationals. Let me put that into perspective. I swam faster today with minimal training, with almost no preparation and with little sleep. I had a hangover and I still swam faster. And I swam really fast at Nationals.

Ironically, the only reason I was out drinking last night was because I was convinced I was so out of shape and would do so badly at the swim meet that I needed an excuse to explain my poor performance. Self-sabotage at its finest. If I tanked, I would just blame the alcohol. Who knew a hangover would actually enhance my performance?

Even my coach was surprised (and a little suspicious).

"You're on fire today. What have you been doing?"

I didn't know what to tell her. Skipping swim practice? Sleeping-in on the weekends and parking my butt on the couch for the rest of the afternoon? Going out drinking with my friends?

"I had four glasses of wine last night," I said.

To which she replied, "You should drink more often."

I think that may be the best advice a coach has ever given me.

Actually, the real reason I did well today was because I had no expectations. I was convinced I was so out of shape that the meet would be a write-off. There was no self-created pressure, no anxiety, no butterflies. I was completely relaxed. So I just swam without fear. And did really well despite my fitness level.

Which proves my greatest enemy is my mind. The harder I’ve trained, the more my deep, hidden fear of failure rises to the surface. I may have been in top shape physically at Nationals but I was a mess mentally. I was consumed with negative thoughts and self-doubt. I was terrified of the agonizing pain I was about to put myself through. I am the poster child for choking under pressure.

I need to figure out how to control my thoughts and emotions when I'm racing. Maybe I should get drunk more often.

My results from today's meet (rankings in the female 30-34 age group):
- 50-metre freestyle: 31.66, 1st place
- 50-metre butterfly: 35.94, 1st place
- 100-metre freestyle: 1:08.81, 1st place
- 400-metre freestyle: 5:29.47, 5th place

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