My mother arrived to give me a lift to the airport, half an hour before I asked her to - in typical fashion, she didn't listen and did her own sweet thing.
I felt sick enough without her flapping about being late.
I was excited, I was nervous, I was giddy, I was proud. I didnt need to win the race - cos lets face it, that was never gonna happen.
I needed to start and I needed to finish.
It would be nice to PB and it would be nice to not come last - but I was under no illusion, there would be some fricking awesome swimmers competing, ex Olympians right through to people like me.
But in that instant while i was at home, I had another challenge. I was travelling alone and felt a little bit squick about it.
It was always part of the plan though. Something I had to do for me. It all added to the giddy kipperish feeling n the butterflies that were doing tumble-turns.
I had travelled alone before, it was no big deal. I just needed to be organised.
I fooloshly verbalised that I was feeling a bit sick as we pulled up to the airport.
"You dont have to do this, you dont have to go" was her response.
She wasnt kidding either - she wanted me to stay at home.
At what point of being a little bit giddy/terrified/nervous/proud/tired/hungry am I going to say, oh i feel sick, i'll just stay at home instead. Yeah..... Do that.
Somehow despite my mothers lack of faith in my ability, I successfully navigated my way through the airport (both Leeds/Bfd and Schipol) without disaster, found the train station, bought a ticket, caught a train, travelled to the other end of Holland, got off at the right stop and found my hotel.
Whoda thunk it? I'm brilliant.
I went for an explore and walked the route i would be racing.
God it seemed a long way. It was only 3k. But point to point made it seem longer somehow.
It was a glorious course starting in lush green surroundings, swimming into the city - the landscape slowly becoming more urban as the finish appraoched.
On the morning of the race, I was filled with calm - well, calm ish.
I knew the time had come to realise a dream.. It was a big deal for me. I had met some amazing people already in Eindhoven and I had some fantastic people at home.
The Russians tried to cause mayhem asking everyone to boycott as they couldn't race due to not registering, some of the women were refusing to cut their nails having had them done specially for the occasion.
Somehow it ran like clockwork and before i knew it, it was time. This was it.
In usual fashion, I established a stroke rate i was 'comfortable with' and settled in. I spent a long time talking to myself, relaxing myself, stretching out, catching the water, pulling, rotating, smiling, enjoying.
I found myself singing Aerosmith, Amazing. The lyrics fit the situation perfectly.
Songs tend to choose me rather than me choosing them - they fill my head when I race. When I reflect on them after an event or situation (or look up the lyrics when i have had one line wedged in my head for hours), I tend to find they are reflections of my emotions at the time. 'Amazing' fit the whole journey perfectly - from non swimmer to Eindhoven.
By this point I am completely relaxed, I am a little sad that some people have coaches, partners, spouses, friends walking the course along the canal - and in that instant I know that I have people walking the course with me. The only difference being, they were at home cheering, they were in my heart. They have shaped who I have become. My soul shone and smiled.... and i swam....
No matter how much I relaxed, dug in, stretched, pulled, kicked, I couldnt reach the girl in front.
It didnt matter - I was winning my own race with myself - and as it turned out, I wasnt last to cross the line in my age group. There were some bloody amazing times. It was an honour to swim with such a variety of people. I will meet some of them again at the Nationals, if I make it to the Worlds in Montreal.... who knows. There are goals to be readjusted.
Why stop at the Europeans? I dont have to be the best. I just have to be the best version of me I can be.
As I crossed the line, I cried. When i spoke to the ManShape, I cried some more and again when I spoke to my friends.
I might not make it to Canada next year, although it is part of the plan and has been for a while - I will have a defined goal for the Europeans in London in 2016. It would be VERY rude not to swim in the Olympic pool.....