Silence. Anticipation. The calm before the storm.
Below the water reflects imagery of well-prepared racers, as it stares right back at them creating mind games. Through the softly focused goggles, they give the water a crystal blue tinge that taunts me; my system is electrified, the nervousness rushes through to the outlying extremities, while I wait – while I watch.
The 400 medley. The mountain – the final and most challenging race. This mountain is demanding testing and hard-core, split four ways. The challenge to reach the top makes this mountain beautiful; the exertion of the climb makes the ascent itself more appealing.
Anticipation suffocates the steamy air blanketing the atmosphere, the eerie silence echoes in my focused mind. All noise removed. The lanes appear as run way, poised on the blocks. The water lays calm and smooth, beckoning the dive. Soon enough, the stilled blueness will turn into a churning white mass as the swimmer cascade through.
The whistle blows. In just the few seconds that remain, my shoulders sink into my body as I relax my full attention on the pool. The pool sniggers at me. Every minute, microscopic, moment of sound struck me, making my body jitter. Pulses of energy ran through my muscles up and down like streams of water.
My toes cling to the coarse blocks like falcons, silently awaiting prey. Focused. Motionless. Coiled up like a spring. The sharp sound of the beep hits me full force, overwhelming and enveloping. This was the moment.
The spring released, shooting forward. Experiencing a temporary feeling of weightlessness, I abruptly cut the water, like a spear. Your head breaks the surface and for an instant, you can feel the air on your skin. Exhilarated bodies emerge as water disperses behind them.
The water deprives you of your senses and you are alone with your thoughts, your dreams and your imagination. Bubbles escape from the side of your body, as the water trudges from finger tips to toes. Left and right, opponents are enclosed in a white extent of bubbles. You can sense them, feel them, and aware of them.
The butterfly stroke, the stroke where ground is lost; for me anyway. Chest to hips to toes ripple in undulation. The incredible contrast between the silence when submerged beneath the surface and the ululating cacophony of the crowd screaming in support. Immersed under water, the sound of your heart beats rapidly, but it is no competition to the blaring crowd above the rippling water in the stands.
Drawing closer to the wall, the black, sleek tiled runway gradually comes to an end, as the ‘T’ rapidly approaches into focus. The wave behind chases, I touch the wall and turn, diving beneath escaping the water that towered over, breaching the surface where stiller water lies.
Endurance, determination and shear power is compulsory with every pull to complete the first discipline; it can drain all energy if you are not in control. Conserve and be patient it’s only just started. My body now relaxes into one of my favourite strokes the back, I feel for the water and deep paddle movements thrust the water behind me effectively. Directly above, my eyes process the light rays that flicker through the gleaming glass, reflecting in my goggles. The shadowed lanes, in no sight of the luminous sun, obtain an advantage with no loss of concentration.
Lines of the flags hang over the pool indicating distance covered and turns approaching. Explosive push and powerful kicks torpedoed me from the wall as I resurface and take a breath to fuel my body with oxygen. Each paired molecule drawn in through the wall of the lungs recharges and reenergises my vascular system, powering muscles to almost breaking point.
The race is now half way completed and the last two disciplines sap the final bits of energy left. I’m doing breaststroke, looking like a cephalopod, with jet like propulsion. The sound surrounding trickles gently through my ears, flicking from muffled to clear. Hitting the turn I’m into a crawl. Not the speed but the stroke. I’m moving at my fastest.
Finally the home straight approaches, and with every rotation of arms my fingers pierce the water as if its cling film. Every simple kick propels forward like an engine, flowing through the water I reach for the wall, rolling on my side fingers out-stretched. The summit is reached, all over breathing fast, hearts racing and the adrenaline rushing. I shut my eyes the turbulent world that I was in is submerged and goes black and silent.
My senses re-gain themselves, calmness ascends my body. I look upwards and see the faint, blurred outline of a digital clock. My name is there, my time is there and I am content.