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In my youth, I was a swimmer. I was a sprinter. I detested the long races and loved the quick spurts of energy that made up the majority of most of my races. My displeasure with long races, however, did not keep one of my coaches from signing me up for the mile race. Like an obedient lamb led to slaughter, I climbed on the starting block that morning, heard “swimmers, take your mark, GO!” and plunged into the water.


Normally what happens in the mile race is that you have a few teammates on one side of the pool that dip a placard into the water that tells you how many laps you’ve completed and how many more are supposed to be coming up. Using this information, you’re supposed to be able to tell when to “pace” or take things a little easier, or do what I loved best – to pour everything you have into the last few laps of the race.


Unfortunately, this morning, my teammate with the placard had made a mistake. Somewhere in between talking to the person beside her, she gave me an extra lap at one turn.


I was actually doing pretty well in the race. I wasn’t first, but I was doing well, keeping up with the swimmers beside me. And then the number dropped in the pool…last lap. I poured everything I had into that last lap. I pulled ahead and was amazed at how slowly the guys next to me seemed to be. I came into what I thought was the finish line, and saw the same placard. My counter had figured out her mistake.


I tried to do it again, but I had given everything I had into what I thought was the last lap. Now people were whizzing past me. I was left in foam. I came in dead last and puking in the gutter.