By Jordan Sapir
It all starts with a plastic card and a dream.
There I am, at the entrance, murmuring gibberish to the attendant at the swimming pool. It’s been a while since I’ve been swimming without the kids; but here I am in a bathing suit nonetheless, in all my postpartum glory. Oh, how things have changed. He hands me a card and doesn’t really explain what to do with it. I lacklusterly read the instructions. Okay, I’m meant to insert the card into the locker and some other small print. I can’t focus, my nerves are getting the best of me. The locker room is filled with people. They all seem like experts. Where do I go? Where are the women’s changing rooms? What are these hangers with nets for, my dry clothes or wet clothes? Oh, dear lord, there are man parts..is that allowed? I can’t do this. I’m a runner. I need to have both feet planted on the ground, where it’s nice and safe. I can’t even say, ‘Please help me, I’m drowning!’ in German. What is the word for drowning auf Deutsch anyway? Oh, forget it. It’s not too late to turn around. What am I trying to prove? “You can do this,” I murmur. Now, where did I put that stupid card?
According to the book my friend lent me, I have to swim at least twice a week. The swim for my Triathlon is 750m. I have 30 minutes before the Austrian Coastguard will cut me off and send me packing, and from my time living in Germany, I have a feeling they won’t be lenient. Now, I just spent 30 minutes out of my designated hour of training searching for a plastic card. Luckily I only need it to lock my possessions in the locker. I run up and down the locker room searching for it; I look in my pants, coat, every crevice of my gym bag. If I don’t leave now I will not be able to train at all.
I walk into the pool area. Everyone looks at me. They’re either looking because I forgot my flip-flops and have a backpack on, which is not permitted, but since my card has gone missing that’s the only choice I have. Or it could be that I actually look the part. (Besides being 6ft tall and black. Name one black Olympic swimmer. You see?) I have an athletic build and could possibly get by as a swimmer. I am wearing a swim cap willingly. Maybe I can get away with this. That is until they see me flopping around the pool like a labrador in the Isar.
I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve always had a “go get ’em” attitude. I still do. I ran a half marathon at 20 weeks pregnant with my second daughter and ran regularly until I was 37 weeks along. I’ve been running my whole life, and definitely never from a challenge. Why is this scary to me?
Training for my first Triathlon Sprint is so difficult because I’m conquering a fear. I’ve never been a great swimmer. Sure, I swam casually: the swim across Lake Arbutus in Traverse City, there and back, when I was thirteen; a few laps here and there for cross training; the obligatory holiday swim in the sea. But nothing as long and as serious as a Triathlon open swim. Now in my late thirties, I’m taking on one of my greatest fears: a competitive swim.
Motherhood has definitely changed my view on competition and on sports as a whole. After being a competitive athlete in high school, I saw running as something to do to stay fit. While I worked as a model it was a necessity. Now, as a mom, I think that if I’m going to take precious time away from my family, then I’m going to make it count. If I have to wake up before everyone else and go to sleep after, it had better be worth it.
So, since having my first daughter I have gone back to all the sports I love, especially running and martial arts, focusing on building my strength and confidence. I can fit into my old jeans and am working towards repairing my strength and endurance. This Triathlon training is part of that.
It’s all different now. Before, I set out to accomplish a goal, accomplished it, and then moved on to the next one. Now, I set a goal, doubt my goal every step of the way, remind myself what I would tell my kids (to pursue their own goals), and then feel guilty. I can hear myself lecturing them, “No matter how hard it is, never give up.” That’s the funny thing about being a mom: it’s not very easy to practice what you preach. It’s not very easy being a mom. You go from being a seemingly self-confident, all-knowing (cough cough – self-righteous) twenty-something, to a doubting middle-aged adult.
So here I am, having never swam competitively, setting out to finish a 750m swim in an Austrian lake, in front of all my friends and family. No pressure. I have at least 90 days.
I am an expat who moved across the world to Germany, had two beautiful children and a successful career. Now I’m just a mom. Well, I’m not just any mom. I’m an Über Mom. A mom who doesn’t give up on a dream just because she’s scared. I’m a mom who doesn’t stop setting goals because now I’m “just a mom.” I don’t want to look back on my life thirty years from now and think, “Wouldn’t it have been nice to (fill in the blank).” I want to look back on my life and think, “I may not have been the best, but hey, at least I Tri(ed).”
I’m so excited about my journey, although I’m also anxiety-filled.
I can’t focus on my way to the pool, or on my way home from the pool – I’m useless. In the pool the focus is a mashup between early childhood memories, tragic past, and technique.
Okay, Jordan, “One, two, three, and breathe, focus on the bilateral breathing, take a deep breath, face back in the water, pull, push and release. It’s just like running, except your feet aren’t on the ground.” I’m out of breath. Man, I can’t breath. I’m swallowing water. I have to stop. This is so different from running. It’s nothing like running at all. I am a terrible swimmer. My children will see me being rescued by the Austrian Coastguard. I can’t even speak German well. What am I doing in this country, anyway? It was never my dream to live in Germany. This is ridiculous, what am I trying to prove? Tears fill up my goggles. I’ve never been so bad at anything in my life. I think, “Pull it together.” You’re trying to prove that you should never give up. You’re trying to prove that life continues after motherhood, that you don’t have to be a professional athlete to set an athletic goal. You’re trying to prove that you’re not a one trick pony. “Okay, think like a swimmer: just keep on swimming. How much time has passed? I’ve swam about 100 meters. Great, 30 minutes, I have to go back home to the kids.”
I leave the pool area, grab my belongings, and head to the showers. I was so consumed with fear that I not only lost my card, (which by the way, I need to get out of the locker room and have to pay 50 Euros for losing), I also forgot my shampoo and flip-flops. Screw it. I’m such a failure anyway; I just want to go home.
I walk out of the locker room defeated. No warrior cry here; just a woman with a dream and a…
“Entschuldigen Sie! Haben Sie Ihre Karte verloren?” That’s within my basic knowledge of German. They found my card. You see, it’s not so bad. I can be a mom, an expat, and an athlete. I just have to Tri.
To be continued next month!
Jordan Sapir, mother of 2 glitter-laden girls, 1 and 3, studied Journalism and International Political Science in NYC, a place she once called home. She can slaughter 5 languages fluently. She has worked in a newsroom or 2, walked a catwalk or three, and is all for an impromptu adventure. Having traded in her Prada for Preztels, the founder of Über Moms lives in Munich, where she is a stay at home mom and studying to become a certified nutritionist. She is a mommy on a mission and wants to help fellow mothers raise healthy happy families, and beat a PR here and there.