By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Swimming the 200-yard butterfly — for the first time ever — isn’t actually that scary. You dive in. You butterfly eight lengths of the pool. You finish. You get out.
The actual swimming part isn’t scary. It’s the waiting around the week before swimming the 200 fly for the first time ever that produces anxiety.
I remember the first time my coach told me I was going to swim the 200 fly. I think I cried. Maybe not on the pool deck, but later in the practice or that night in bed. I was worried: What if something terrible happened? Could I even make it 200 yards? Would I look like an idiot? Would I have to hop out and would everyone laugh at me and would my life be over as I knew it?
That entire week before the swim meet, I was filled with dread. I didn’t want to swim it. I didn’t want to compete. I wanted to run and hide under the bleachers. I remember trying to get my parents to let me back out of the race, scratch out of the meet, and quit the team. They wouldn’t let me do any of those things. I still remember that anxiety, that dread, that feeling of fear.
I was terrified of the 200 fly.
Of course, everything turned out just fine. I remember enjoying the race. I had been so scared for so long, and thought so hard about it, when I actually experienced the race itself, it was only a fraction of the “scariness” I had expected. I finished, got out, and thought, “That was it?”
Sometimes, we let Fear of the Unknown make things much worse than they are. Every swimmer at some point is told, “You’re swimming the 200 butterfly this weekend,” and for many of them, this is what they go through: The 5 Stages of Finding Out You’re Swimming The 200 Fly.
There’s no way I can swim the 200 fly. The 200 fly? Like, eight continuous lengths of butterfly? Nope. Can’t do it. Why does my coach even think I can swim butterfly? I haven’t even finished a 200 fly in practice. I can do, like, maybe 175. Maybe. On a good day. There’s no way I’m going to swim the 200 fly this weekend. In a few years, maybe, like when I’m 35. Not this weekend.
I WILL NOT SWIM THE 200 FLY. I WILL NOT. SWIM. THE. 200. FLY. I won’t. I won’t! No one can make me. How dare they even consider it! How dare the 200 fly is even an event! What cruel person thought, “Hey I know! Let’s take that ultra-painful impossible stroke and make an event that features eight lengths of it!” I WILL NOT…
Do you want to swim it for me? Can you? I’ll wash all your swim towels. I’ll do anything. I’m not a butterflier. I’m a breaststroker. Breaststrokers can’t do butterfly. Seriously — I’ll clean out your swim bag if you trade events with me. Your disgusting, gross, moldy swim bag. I’ll clean it and make it sparkle. Just swim this event for me. Trade with me. Please.
I’m going to fail. I’m going to get DQ’d. I won’t finish. I’m not good enough to finish a 200 fly. I’m not strong enough to even swim 100 yards of butterfly let alone 200 yards. I’m going to choke on water and cough and gag and get out and everyone’s going to remember that moment for the rest of my life. There’s no way I can do it. I’m not good enough. Not strong enough. This is horrible. I’ll never be able to finish.
(30 seconds after finishing the race.) That wasn’t so bad.