The damp humid air clings to my lungs as I try to inhale enough fresh air to calm my nerves, but of course it feels more like breathing into a pillow than actually acquiring oxygen and I abandon the effort all together. My stomach is churning in the worst kind of way, where you feel like you are falling off of a building and the goosebumps spread all over my now dry and cold body as my damp swim suit reminds me that in a few moments I will have to enter the water yet again. It is the complete and utter feeling of fear and my body is in fight or flight mode as I step on to the starting block. It’s my turn. My thoughts are racing. “Swimmers take your mark,” just do it, just do it, “Set” It won’t be too bad, jump out far, “…Go!” and as that buzzer sounds my heart as well as my body takes a leap of faith into the ice cold water and there is nothing else to do but start moving forward as fast as possible. It almost feels as if I’m a tornado with my thoughts tumbling like a load of laundry on speed cycle. Thoughts of technique rush my mind but my main distraction is watching the girl only lengths ahead of me make a flawless open turn and rocket off of the wall. Crap. Meanwhile I can’t get the same line of the chorus of a song that I don’t even like out of my head and it plays on repeat like a broken record in sync with each stroke I take. “Umberella-ella-ella-aye-aye-aye” On the sidelines there are people cheering. Kick harder. And thoughts of my ex come into my mind. Why? I have no idea, but there is no time to think. Swim faster. Of course my goggles spring a leak and are slowly filling with water. Perfect. Time is passing by but the race feels like it will never end. Breathe less. Switching strokes is like a gift from God as I begin doing breast stroke. Glide further. “Under my umbrella-ella-ella.” Now is my opportunity to pass the girl, and I take it. There is nothing better than that tiny moment where you get a little ahead. But I’m smarter than to live in a fool’s paradise, we still have freestyle. Keep going. An open turn sends me into the last lap. Give it your all. My hands are hitting the water so quickly and my legs are moving so rapidly but this song is still in my head. Great. Last length, no more breathing. Keep pushing. Keep kicking. No stopping. Just reach and… Done. And as I gasp for air my body fully gives in to the exhaustion and I can finally relax. There is no greater feeling.