One of the last posts on this blog was a guest blog from my daughter Bailey, to me. It covered her experience being stuck at home with us during COVID, living through my cancer, missing her track season, and her consequential spiral down into depression.
No actually, it is, which makes it an amazing piece of writing. I’m forever grateful. If you haven’t read it, scroll down to the entry before this, or click here.
It also covers how she came to open water swimming, and how it beat her up, and how she loved it and kept coming back. How finding the water and the folks in it helped her through, mentally and physically.
Summer swims are nearly over, so I’ll have a bit more time for the blog. But I couldn’t exactly start back without a follow-up to her post. It’s more of a salute, really.
That depressed funny determined kid came back this year and had a 2021 track season. Boy did she have a season.
I don’t know if it was the need to get back, or to bust ass and give it her all after missing a season, or just a promise she made to herself to drive it as hard as possible.
She might just have been really, really pissed off at 2020, too.
Whatever it was, my girl repeatedly broke school and meet records, and made it to nationals in North Carolina back in May. Yah, frickin NA-TION-ALS. And not just in one race, in two: the 100 and 200 meters.
What’s even better: they allowed spectators. We went to Greensboro and sat in the humid stands for three days, eating southern food (chicken biscuits!), sweating our asses off in the bleachers, and feeling like we were going to throw up before her races. I actually held a barf bag for one mom sitting next to me.
My dream for Bailey was that she’d make it to the podium in one of her races. Can you imagine? I couldn’t get my head around it. My daughter, on the national podium! Even if it was 8th place it wouldn’t matter. It’s frickin NA-TION-ALS, baby.
But she didn’t get 8th. Or 7th. She won. She WON! Both races! (Way to under-dream for your own kid, right?) Every race she ran—prelims, finals, even after waiting out a two-hour rain delay in the 200 final—she won.
My daughter is a national champion and an All-American. Twice over.
Bailey does things. And when she does, she goes all out. She is the fastest woman in D3 colleges in the country for 2021.
And she’s humble as hell. Bailey has never been one for attention or praise. So many hometown folks came over and congratulated her, made a fuss, made a cake, threw her a party.
But my girl isn’t into that. The biggest trophies she carried home on the plane were the posters that labeled the podium where she got to stand for a few minutes.
The crystal trophies that said First Place? They were packed in her carry-on with her sweaty uniforms. They might still be there for all I know.
She was asked to do a podcast after her wins, a show called D3 Glory Days. Click below to listen. The first half is her male counterpart, JP Vaught, who also won both the mens 100 and 200 races. (Meh. Just skip that bit. Bailey comes on the second half of the show!)
At one point she’s asked what she did during COVID to train. She says, “I swam open water.”
I’m so grateful that I was part of that. Yes it was shitty times in our lives, yes I went through two surgeries, yes it was COVID, yes we sheepishly watched Tiger King. But I’d do it all a million times over. Hell I’d even lose my other breast to do it again.
Granted, it was humbling to swim with her. I’d start swimming before her, then watch her pass me in about 5 strokes, then see her feet (her beautiful high-arched, tippy-toeing, speed-demon feet!) as they vanished into the green.
She didn’t know, but every time she passed me, I’d pull up and stop, watch her go pounding through the Rocky waves, getting the shit beat out of her. I’d watch her rise, keep on fighting, keep on swimming, then rise again. I’d just bob there and laugh. Sometimes cry. Usually both.
Beautiful things have that affect on me.
I asked her after she came home from nationals the million-dollar question: How did you do it? Twice?
She said: “Mom, there’s no secret. I just reach my top all-out speed, then maintain it longer than anyone else out there. Some runners have a faster top speed than me, but they can’t maintain it for very long. I can.”
I had no idea it was so logical. (!) My daughter throws it down, pushes the needle into the red, turns herself inside out, and holds it there until she’s over the line.
Simple physics. And pure gut-dug grit. She is a literal bombshell that goes off when the gun fires.
I try to live my life day by day, sometimes hour to hour. Bailey lives her life in tenths of seconds. On the track, she is the penultimate example of being fully and completely present in life.
When she was a baby, people warned me about being a parent. They said, “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.”
They had no idea.
–TJ Wiley Forsyth