Although I have been competing in Spain for the last six months, since I have been fully part of Real Canoe, in many ways I have not considered myself competing in a foreign country. There are times when I really wish that meets ran in the American fashion, such as designated start lanes, but otherwise being incorporated in such a team has taken away the foreign aspect of competition in Spain. Swimming is swimming. That is part of the beauty of the sport you can pick it up anywhere, and regardless of your language abilities you can still contribute to the team goal.
Two weeks ago, I had what I would call my “true” first international experience. Thanks to my dear friend Tibo I was invited to compete for SFOC in their inter-club swim meet. It is the first time I have been invited, all expenses paid for, to a swim meet outside of my country.
When I arrived in Paris early Saturday morning Morgane was waiting for me with a metro ticket and a large smile! We rode back to her flat, that she shares with Tibo, where I was fortunate to spend the rest of my weekend. It was wonderful to be able to reconnect and hear all about all of the activities in their lives. After a delicious lunch and a quick cat nap, we headed over to meet the team and get ready for the competition. Like Tibo promised, he stayed with me all weekend, in case I did not understand the french. Which if we are honest with ourselves, was basically every conversation. Fortunately for me, my teammates on SFOC spoke fabulous english and we were able to break through and language barriers with smiles.
I swam two relays the first afternoon, the 10×50 free style and the 400 free-style relay. It was a fast session but we were able to pull of Ws in each of the relays. Following the session I was able to join Morgane, Tibo and the rest his family celebrate his sister Caroline’s birthday. She was able to “rent” out a very cute bar, which only stipulated that she met a certain drink requirement and allowed her to provide own food. I had a blast getting to see Tibo’s family again and to meet some of Caroline’s friends.
I am not sure if it was the super comfortable bed or that I had hardly slept the entire week before, but I had one of my best night’s sleep. We had a rather lazy morning since the meet did not start until later that afternoon and then headed straight to the pool. After a quick warm up, I started the session off with the 800 free relay. Afterwards I was finally able to swim my personal event, the 200 butterfly. To receive the stipend for competing for the team I had to be under a 2:15 and thankfully went a 2:13. Since it was my first meet sc meters 200 fly, I can safely say that it was my best time.
There was still one more race left in the session before we finished the meet, the 400 medley relay. Originally the coaches wanted me to swim breaststroke, which I kept trying to mention was not a good idea. I am a decent IM breaststroker, but that does not mean that I am a decent purebred breaststroker. In fact I am almost positive that I need the backstroke to make it all flow (probably a mental handicap…). Anyways, I told them that my breaststroke tends to have a butterfly kick in it. (A wise coach once said if you are not trying to cheat you do not want it bad enough) They decided to take a look at said “kick” and after 2 25s they decided that I would not swim breaststroke on the relay. I will never know if they thought it was actually illegal or if it would be too slow for the team, regardless I was relieved to be given the task of swimming butterfly on the relay.
We ended up winning the Île de France portion of the meet and came in second in all of France (Tibo please correct me if I am mistaken). To celebrate we headed to a team dinner before heading out for a few drinks. It was a nice way to cap off a great weekend of swimming, giving us all a chance to get to know one another a little bit better. Below are all of the pictures Morgane took for us to document the weekend.
Above: Me, Tibo and Duane
Above: Me, Oliver the Coach of SFOC, Duane
You might recognize one of the faces in the two photos directly above, which is because my teammate Duane, who used to swim with me on Real Canoe was also brought in to compete for SFOC. We hadn’t seen one another since we ended the summer season and it was nice to see her again and compete on the same relays.
I stuck around Paris for one extra day since Monday was a national French Holiday and I really wanted to get to see my friends outside of the chlorine filled atmosphere. We went to Montmarte and went thrifting through some of the shops, including the famous KILO, where you pay by the weight of the clothing selected. I found two fabulous blazers, both made of 100% wool for 20 euros each and Morgane found a really cute purple cape (not purchased) and knit hat. Macklemore has made the idea of thrifting more popular with his song Thrift Shop; but it has always been something that has interested me. I prefer to have a wardrobe of unique well-made pieces instead of looking like a model out of Zara or H and M and have found that this is the only way to do so with success.
Later in the evening I caught up with Lexie and Lylia for a Cambodian dinner. I have never had Cambodian food before, but will sure be eating more of it in the future seeing as it was the perfect mixture of spices, sweet and spicy at the same time. The following morning I headed back to Madrid ending my weekend escape to Paris.
I am so thankful for having such an opportunity to compete for SFOC and even more so for such wonderful friends who opened their home and treated me like a rock star all weekend. I cannot wait to repay the favor whenever they decide to visit Madrid!!!