For those of you who follow along on Instagram, you know that I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the past 2 months. In the first two cluster of FINA World Cup Series, I visited 6 different countries, raced over 60 times, and flew a complete 360 degrees around the globe.
Our first stop was Chartres, France – a small town outside of Paris. The pool in Chartres has a view of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, a beautiful Gothic cathedral that dates back to the 1100s. It makes this art-history fan happy and is one of my favorite pools for that reason! We then moved to Berlin, Germany. Never having been to Germany, I was excited to have a day to explore (and when I say explore, let’s be honest, I really mean shop). We did see the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, it’s not like my entire day was spent at the mall… 😉 Our last stop in the first cluster was Moscow, Russia. Tim and I then returned to Paris for a short, but much needed vacation.
I was pleasantly surprised by my performances in the first cluster. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel or how well I was going to race coming off the Olympics, so I was thrilled to walk away with some medals and two new American Records in the 100m Breaststroke and 100m IM. My two favorite events of all time! Another highlight were the mixed relays! I got to be on relays with my boyfriend… how cool is that?
The second cluster resumed about 2 weeks later in Beijing, China. I Ioved racing in the Water Cube (home of the 2008 Olympics). The pool is stunning! From Beijing we had a bit of a hike over to Dubai, UAE. Dubai is like a giant playground. Most of the time I walked around feeling like I was on a movie set. My favorite experience was getting to see The Burj Khalifa – the World’s tallest building – in person. We moved to Doha, Qatar for our last stop of the tour. We spent some time at the Souq Waqif – the Old Market – and got a taste of Qatari culture. Hanging out with camels was definitely the highlight. Although I swam better at the first cluster, I still had some great races and took home a few medals!
The tour is not easy – it’s a lot of travel, lot of jet lag, and a lot of racing, but it is so fun. Since there are not many people that attend all of the meets; you form a close bond with the people who do. You travel together, stay in the same hotels, eat every meal together, and, of course, race together.
The World Cup experience is invaluable for two main reasons. First, racing many times in quick succession is a great way to identify details that need developing and then fix them. It allows for rapid and rewarding improvement. Second, and more importantly, a comradery and friendship forms between people from all over the World. We all come from such different backgrounds and compete for different countries, but we all have one thing in common – our love of swimming. The positive energy and happiness is powerful and quite beautiful. Swimming is a gift that keeps on giving!