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For readers local to my hometown on Delray Beach, FL, Darcy LaFountain is an athlete who needs no introduction. If you spend anytime training at Aquacrest Pool or running on the A1A, you've met her. For those unfamiliar with Darcy, here's a little bit of an introduction courtesy of a Palm Beach Post article:

http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/277996/swimmers_master_strokes_lead_to_third_national_title_in_12/

And here's some more info on Darcy thanks to Swimwatch.net

http://www.swimwatch.net/2007/01/darcy.html

Darcy is a flat out awesome athlete (and an even awesomer person, but that's not what this blog is about). She's trains like an animal, and she dominates every race she enters. I have been asking Darcy to guest author a blog post for a while now, and she's finally agreed. Here's what she has to say:

I am a competitive athlete. It is a descriptor I use with pride and do not take for granted. After competing in swimming events for over 47 years and running events for over 30 years, I feel comfortable saying it. That said, I get a few raised eyebrows at my age and it is great fodder for conversation among skeptics.

I continue to be puzzled that as an experienced competitor, I still have the same fear of failure, self doubt and the same pre-race jitters that I experienced at age 10. But I compete, facing the fear, not without self doubt, but perhaps, with courage. Athletes are a courageous lot, risking failure publicly every time they compete.

Competitive athletes are driven to excellence, demanding more of ourselves than is sometimes realistic or reasonable. Rationally, we know that to have your best race on a date certain, everything has to come together. At the 2004 Olympic trials, only 8% of the swimmers swam a personal best time. This illustrates how difficult it is to time everything for a specific race. No matter what we do, there are always factors that we cannot control.

As we get older, one of the most important lessons to accept is that a bad race is an example of “life happens.” If you have done the training, you must accept that some other factors did not come together. Perhaps you ate something your body did not accept, you could not sleep, you have relationship problems, work is not going well etc. We are human; these issues and the effects they have on the body are real. This is not to say, you should make excuses every time you do not race well. Rather, evaluate everything that is happening in your life and put the performance in perspective. If you raced your best and you did not achieve the time you hoped for, perhaps that time was unrealistic. Pre- race assessments should include your physical and mental states, so that your race prediction is realistic. Adrenalin cannot be predicted with certainty, and will often give you a boost you did not expect.

The most important thing to remember is you are among the minority as an athlete. It is a tribute to your character and ambition. So, be nice to yourself. That, is easier said than done.

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