Thoughts racing (on the sidelines, for now)

Well, summer has arrived and with it the open-water swim and triathlon season. I am the 15-year-old daughter of a 52-year-old father who is desperately trying to hold on to the body of his youth!

Which means my brother and I are in tow several weekends every summer to god knows where! It was during one of these excursions that I took a few minutes while waiting for my dad to return to shore to ponder the idea of friendly competition.

Grace Raiford and her brother, Ryan, keep an eye on things at last month's Luray Swim Fest.Courtesy photo
Grace Raiford and her brother, Ryan, keep an eye on things at last month’s Luray Swim Fest.

I don’t really like participating in sports. My heart clenches in my chest, a little voice in my head says everyone’s getting ahead of you, panic overwhelms me, and I go under. As it is, I am perfectly content with staying on the sidelines, watching the competitors.

It’s interesting to watch everyone’s different warm-up techniques, how they interact with each other, how they swim. Most of the time it looks like they’re doing some kind of dance, they’re loud, and they look like a cross between a sea monkey and a dolphin. But they’re enjoying themselves.

The energy at races and meets reminds me of that of a convention (which I do like going to). A large group of people gathered in one place for hours doing something they all love. They’ll see each other at other competitions and greet each other like old friends. Maybe they’ll go to a nearby pub afterwards and talk about their lives. And maybe they’ll part ways, never to see each other again.

For the racers, everything disappears. There is nothing but the brief flashes of land and the heavy pounding of their heart. And no matter how strange they look or however loud they are, they love what they do, and for that day, those hours, they feel invincible.

It’s things like that that may make me want to compete one day. It’s things like that that make them want to compete.

Grace Raiford

Editor’s Note: Grace Raiford, who’ll be in 10th grade at Rappahannock County High School this fall, composed this for a creative writing class at RCHS.

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