I am on lap 15.
When I was in high school, I was a endurance swimmer. I coughed and gasped for breath when asked to do the 50 yard relays with team mates. But I could hold my own in the the longest race which was the 500; a total of 20 laps in the pool.
The strategy for this event was as you can guess: endurance. If you rushed in like a sprinter you will have nothing to give by the last lap.
After the horn from the starting block I would set a pace. Pick a song with a good tempo for strokes. Unlike sprinters who often pull air every stroke, in endurance swimming you do as many as six to eight strokes without breathing-to keep a steady pace.
Usually the first 350 yards were fine. I could stay focused with a steady rhythm; hold the air in my lungs, and pull deep to propel myself forward.
But by lap 15 I would start to feel it. My arms and legs would begin to ache, fatigue setting in. The song looping in my mind no longer motivated. With so many laps in the pool you have enough time to glance over at those swimming next to you; to get your mind twisted or thrown off, caught in self doubt.
Does this sound familiar? I am on lap 15 right now in the midst of this quarantine. Life is exhausting and demanding. My mind, heart, and body are aching for a break-for more air-to get out of the water and breathe. I can feel myself questioning and calculating whether I have energy to keep going when all I feel like doing is giving up.
I am sure I am not alone.
Because the 500 is so long your counter is essential. Using a lap marker they can give you crucial tips and encouragement. Slowly swaying the marker back and forth meant you could slow down and to pace yourself. A steady marker told you to keep it up-your pace is good. A marker rapidly moving up and down meant you need to pick up the pace; you are lagging.
Inevitably lap 15 I would see that marker rapidly moving up and down Right when I want to give up-when I was at my lowest. That is when the race was decided.
If I decided at lap 15 I had nothing left to give I could finish fourth to last. But if in that moment I took courage, mustered up reserved energy and told myself I could do it. If I could take in the cheers from classmates when my ear came out of the water on the turn. If I could get out of my own head, chose a new song and picked up the pace I would finish strong in the top three.
So here’s the good news: were are on lap 15 of this-there are only 20 total. The finish line is not in sight but it is closer than the path we have already ran. We have all come a long way.
At this stage of social distancing we are all exhausted and aching for a break to breathe. What kept us going until now is beginning to fade.
We need to seek out those who can cheer us on, find someone who can shake that marker up and down telling us know how far we have come! Let’s focus our ears on those sharing good news, on what is encouraging, what we can be thankful for. Let’s pick a different song to run through our heads. Let’s use our reserved energy, pick up the pace, and finish on top. We are almost there.