Three races today. All three of them felt strong: very in control of my form, very competent in the water. First thing this morning I did the 200 Free with a time of about 2:27. (I don’t have the official results in front of me, so I’m reporting from memory.) That was 2 seconds off my personal-best goal; when I do the math upon my return, I’ll know how close I came. The numbers may even reveal that I managed to come in right under the wire there, but I doubt it. Did one leg of the men’s 4×100 Free relay, with a split time of 1:04.9. That one was a personal best. (Although we took no medal, which I think irritated one of my cohort. He’d been piling on the “we’re in medal contention, you guys have to swim really fast” until Hugh and I told him to cut it out. He suggested that we were insufficiently competitive, but I tried to explain that if I didn’t take competition seriously then that kind of pressure wouldn’t turn me into a raving stressball.) Finally, did the 200 IM in 2:46.8 or so. That was about 7 seconds off my goal and a long way from the personal best I wanted. By this point I still felt strong in the water but had gone into some sort of “adrenaline debt,” and no matter which songs I turned up to 11 in my head I couldn’t rev myself up to really go in the same way I had before. My brain had been wrung dry of its fight-or-flight juices.Okay, these things happen. I can live with this.

no, not whatever

No, disregard the equanimity displayed above. In truth, I did the neurosis two-step for a couple hours after my last race. Despite feeling so strong in the water, despite my teammates having said I looked great from the stands, despite the idea that being exhausted after a long day was a reasonable thing to happen, I felt everything collapse. Somehow, the one “failure” undermined the successes of the day. And as much as I came into this thing not expecting to medal in anything, the idea that I’m not likely to medal in anything also stings.
Why am I so obsessed with proving that I am Number One when you can be damn good at something and still not win every race? Or even any races? Why am I trying to read not setting personal records as some sort of invalidation of the work I put in to get to this point? Is this all just my common sense evaporating in the face of hunger and overtiredness?
Probably.

why so tired?

I didn’t get enough food or sleep last night because I was at the Opening Ceremonies, and they ran long. They were like all the Opening Ceremonies you’ve seen on the Olympic broadcasts: dancers, singers, crowd stunts, speeches. Not without its appeal. But really, the most inspiring thing was just seeing the thousands of athletes from all over the planet—Tonga, Iraq, South Africa, Taiwan, Mexico, Columbus OH—all there to do their best and have some fun and be able to prove to the world and/or to themselves that there are a whole lot of us and that we are a whole lot tougher than the world likes to tell itself.
Entertainment highlight of the evening: no, not the inevitable army of drag queens. It was the incomparable kd lang! Can that woman ever sing. The audience returned the favor by serenading her with “Happy Birthday,” because, well, it was her birthday. Once she was finished, I bailed out of the stadium—had to be up at 5:45 today to catch a 6:25 train to the Olympic Park to take advantage of the 7-8 AM warmup period in the main pool. So I could be ready for my first race, 9ish.
It took forever to get back to the hotel, because I couldn’t find the damn shuttlebus stop. So I walked. I had Raisin Bran and some mixed nuts and various other things we had in the kitchen for dinner, because it was late. Actually, that’s not true: I had Sultana Bran. What is the difference between a raisin and a sultana? I don’t know. They seemed pretty raisiny to me. Must ask an Aussie for some insight there.

pulling oneself together

Okay, so what have we learned, class?
* Andrew needs to be less critical of his performance at the pool.
* Andrew needs to get a grip.
* Andrew needs to get more sleep tonight so he can be prepared to kick some serious butt tomorrow in the 400 IM. After all, hasn’t he been saying that he wants to set a new PR in that single event more than anything else?
Right. All of the above. And if I can combine the sense of strength and capability from today’s races with a large burst of adrenaline and sufficient preparatory eating and sleeping…well, we’ll see, but it seems like a reasonable plan.
I still don’t intend to shave my chest for this, mind you. Instead, I’ve bolstered my psychological edge by painting my toenails a shocking shade of metallic blue-green, to go with our new team suits. It’s quite fetching.
Wish me luck, folks.