The Swimming Back Story

by - Thursday, March 08, 2012

Growing up, I loved being in the water. My mom had me playing in an inflatable pool in our backyard when I was about two years old. There was probably only about two inches of water in the pool, but I would splash and play and have the best time ever.

pbaby jess
Baby Jess -- I was cute

As I got older, I graduated to a slightly bigger pool in the backyard where I could put my head underwater, float around in inner tubes and play with my little brother.

toddler jess
4-year-old Jess and two-year-old Tommy

Eventually my mom started taking us to the public pool in the summers. I was also in swimming lessons at a pretty young age, so swimming has always been fun for me. I just love being in the water.

One day at the pool in the summer, my mom told me that if I could swim one length of the pool (25 yards) without stopping, that I could sign up to be on a swim team with my friends.

I remember being so determined. We got into the big pool with the lap lanes and I pushed off the wall and started swimming. I eventually made it to the other side, and the next thing I knew I was signed up for Rookie League.

Rookie League was an in-house swim team at the YMCA. You didn't swim against other teams, but you had mini-meets against each other each week. There were no team suits or anything so you could wear whatever you had. Apparently I thought this was really stylish:

rookie league
My fashion sense has only improved marginally since age 7

After a year on Rookie League, I graduated to the real swim team. I swam with my friends Cara and Jennie. They were (and still are) wicked fast swimmers. I was much, much slower.

Jennie, me, Cara
Me with my speed demon friends

Swim team was more intense than Rookie League. The practices were hard and I remember getting terrible side stitches in the water during practice because I couldn't catch my breath. But the meets were fun. I was pretty decent at backstroke and loved swimming on the relay teams.

YMCA swim team
Our whole team - I'm in the first row, second from the right

I only did swim team for a year or two. The seasons were long and I would get bored with them half way through and wanted to do other things.

I didn't get in a pool to swim competitively again until I was in high school. I went to a high school that put a ton of value into its athletics. High school sports dominated the sports section of the newspaper where I lived. In general, sports were a big deal and I wanted to be involved.

Swim team didn't have cuts and I knew I wasn't a terrible swimmer so I signed up.

HS swim team
Awkward high school yearbook photo. Can you spot me?

I loved some practices and hated others. I loved getting out of school early to go to meets, but swim team took up a lot of time and conflicted with a lot of my other activities. I stuck it out until the end of the season, but I didn't swim again after my freshmen year.

I hit the pool every once and a while at Maryland because the pool there was absolutely gorgeous, and when I was home visiting my family in PA, I would go with my mom to some of her masters swim sessions.

But it was nothing serious until recently.

Classic locker room shot

When I contemplated signing up for my first triathlon, I spent a lot more time in the pool with my mom when I was home at the holidays. I've been regularly swimming ever since training started, and I totally love it. Some workouts I keep nice and short, but sometimes I like to push it in the water a bit. A workout doesn't seem complete to me unless I leave the pool totally drained from either speed or endurance work.

I love that swimming is adding a new dimension to my normal running workouts. It's fun to get back in the water for competitive reasons again, and I have a feeling this time I'm going to stick with it long after my triathlons are over.

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