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First Flight through 400 Yards of IM
Rachel, Age 15, Vancouver, WA

The whistle blew. I climbed onto the block with my heart pounding. My parents, coaches, and fellow teammates looked on as I positioned myself on the tall pedestal. Everything went quiet and all I could hear was my own deep breathing as I concentrated on swimming my very first 400 IM.* Then I heard the official state, “Take you mark.” Everything was still and then…

It all started when I was fifteen years old, on a Sunday morning at about 8:00 a.m., at a community center near my house. It was the second day of the Superbowl Swim Meet and I was going to be participating in the 400 IM, an event that I had never swam before. I was going to have to swim four lengths of butterfly, four lengths of backstroke, four lengths of breaststroke, and four lengths of freestyle all in the same event without stopping. I had wanted so much to swim this event and yet every time I thought about swimming it, I got chills down my spine. Will I finish? Will I faint? Will I remember what turns to make? In my mind, I kept comparing this event to my first 200 IM that I ever swam and how the main thing that worried me was getting disqualified.

I approached the starting block and stood by, waiting for my event number to be called. The officials stood at the side of the lane blowing their whistle to instruct the swimmers to stand ready. Suddenly, it was time. The whistle blew once more. I climbed on the block my heart pounding. My parents, coaches and fellow teammates looked on as I positioned myself on the tall pedestal. Everything went quiet and all I could hear was my own deep breathing as I concentrated on swimming my first 400 IM. Then I heard the official state, “Take your mark.” Everything was still and then…the buzzer went off and I dove into the clear blue water. The water was so cold that it seemed to be filled with ice cubes. And yet despite this distraction, I came up strong, swimming butterfly. The smell and taste of chlorine was an extreme annoyance and yet I kept going. As I approached the wall to perform my flip turn, I could hear my friend, Shea, yelling, “KICK! KICK! KICK!” I took up speed and quickly turned. For two more lengths all I could hear was the cheering of teammates and the directing of coaches. As I approached the forth wall, I moved on to four lengths of backstroke. I could feel the adrenaline building up in my body and I sped up a little bit. Next I moved onto the breaststroke and struggled to hang on. Finally, after twelve lengths of the pool, I began the freestyle section. The pain was becoming greater and it was getting even harder to continue, but I knew that I had to finish this race. As I neared the end, I heard my mom yelling, “GO RACHEL!” Then I approached the final length of the pool. The pressure of the water seemed to be pushing me in the opposite direction, and I felt as if I was swimming through thick sand. Every time I came up for air, I could hear the yells of my peers, coaches, and relatives. I will finish this race, I will finish this race, I kept thinking to myself, as I picked up speed. My body ached and yet I began to sprint even faster until finally I hit the wall with a last good stroke. I did it, I thought to myself, as I hung in the water desperate for air and feeling sick to my stomach. Yet, despite the fact that my body felt completely beat, I felt great confidence and relief knowing that I had accomplished this race. As I exited the pool, I was greeted by teammates and family stating, “Great job, Rachel!” and “You did it!”
 
The 400 IM was one of the hardest races that I ever swam and yet it was a great race because I got to swim all four of the strokes involved in competitive swimming. My final time was 6:06:06. And although it wasn’t what I was hoping for, I was just happy to finish the race without getting disqualified. At the time I felt that I had done everything in my power to swim the fastest that I possibly could and yet now I think that I could have gone faster. But I didn’t give up, and I can always swim it again at another meet. It was an invigorating experience swimming the 400 IM, and I look forward to dropping time in this event and not getting disqualified in the future.

*individual medley

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