I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 6 years old. By age 12 I was one of the fastest kids for my age group in Puerto Rico and at that point many thought I could make it far in the sport. But the following year I had a terrible accident driving a go-kart and broke two of my toes. It took 6 months and three surgeries later to fix my toes and be able to comeback to swimming. I can still remember the frustration of trying to make my body slice through the water the same way I used to but everything felt different with my foot packed with screws and a metal plate. In the years between the accident and prior to leaving for college, I worked very hard during practices. I remember one particular practice doing a set of 4x400s freestyle (lcm) making 4:35’s and thinking to myself, I still got it! But through my senior year in high school I had only been able to drop 10 seconds off my fastest time from when I was 12. I knew then that I needed to come to terms with the limits of my talents and my hopes for a bigger future in the sport.
Once I knew I was going to attend Villanova University, I reached out to the swim team coach there and asked him if I could be a walk-on for the team. I remember feeling really excited about the opportunity to continue training and competing at a high level and in a team environment. Despite the excitement I underestimated the cultural and language challenges I would face by moving to the U.S. I struggled that first year to find a good rhythm to the college life. Too many times I found myself giving up and not caring about putting my best effort in practice and yet, somehow, I managed to survive that first year. Just like my high school days, by the time I swam in my last senior meet, my swimming times had only improved slightly from 4:39 to 4:36 in the 500 yards freestyle. Maybe it was a case of misplaced expectations, but looking back at those college swimming days, it always felt like I could’ve practiced harder or done something better to at least break 4:30 which was my personal goal at the time.
After battling two other bouts of knee and shoulder injuries and surgeries, the path towards finding solace with my swimming past began when I decided to train for Masters swim meets. At the Masters’ meets I gained a better appreciation for racing and having fun at the same time. Once I started doing triathlons, it truly felt like I had finally made peace. In a sport where the biggest hurdle for many triathletes is the swim, I am now more than grateful for my swimming past as it is now a big competitive advantage – so I can’t really complaint there! And whenever I am having a tough week keeping up with my bike or run workouts I know that I can almost always rely on a swim workout to make me feel better.
Swimming a 200 short course meters freestyle at a local masters meet.