Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ahhhhh... the Queen City

Annabelle sitting in the stands at the Charlotte UltraSwim

We visited the Queen City (Charlotte, NC) last weekend. We used to live there. We loved it there and love getting the chance to visit when we can. Last weekend was the perfect excuse. For Mark it was a working weekend full of appearances, races, and clinics. For Annabelle and I it was a chance to hang out with Mark, revisit our fav Charlotte restaurant, and see old friends.

Mark's weekend actually started on Wednesday when he visited the BMW plant in South Carolina. BMW and USA Swimming are now partners (as of July 2010), so USA Swimming sent Mark to take a little tour. When Mark heard their request, he said, "Uh... yes, please!" I get a kick out of thinking of Mark driving up to the fancy shmancy BMW plant in his old Dodge Intrepid that squeaks and has no air conditioning (it also has rips in the seats and sometimes the power windows poop out... but who's keeping count?).

After his appearance he made his way to Charlotte. Annabelle and I met him Friday night. He had qualified for the finals of the 100m breaststroke, so we quickly made our way to the pool. Waiting quietly, still, and in anticipation... oh wait, we weren't sitting quietly or still. I took an 18-month old to the swim meet. I was wrestling, chasing, and promising, "Just a little bit longer then I will give you another cookie." Finally, Mark swam. He was not entirely pleased. Now, I'm no expert (at least not an expert coach... I do consider myself an expert swim-wife), but he looked a little sluggish. He got third place and a full second slower than he raced earlier this year. Not satisfactory according to his standards. We didn't talk much about it.

Saturday we took our time in the morning as Mark wasn't slated to swim until 11-something. He swam the 200m breaststroke. He qualified for finals, however I could see it in his face, that he was hoping that he'd feel a little better that night. After prelims, and maybe the highlight of the trip (no offense to Mark's swimming, this is more about how absolutely perfect the chicken tacos are) we went to our old favorite restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco. Evidently this little hole in the wall was featured on some TV show, so they've had to expand since we last visited, but it still tastes like perfection with just enough kick, just enough stickiness on the table, and just enough loud music and tattooed servers.

Outside of our favorite restaurant, Cabo Fish Taco

After lunch, while Mark napped, I took Annabelle to run a few errands. We met up with old friends and neighbors. It was wonderful.

Saturday night we headed back to the pool. Annabelle, with two long, hot, sessions already under her belt, was a pro spectator. We sat with our dear friend, Janet (Eric Shanteau's mother). She helped me wrangle the baby as we caught a race here and there, but mostly talked (a lot about the upcoming wedding--Eric and one of my very best friends in the world, Jeri, are getting married this week. Mark is a groomsmen, I am a bridesmaid, and Annabelle is the flower girl--this is why I love our swimming family).

Mark raced. Again, from a wife's perspective, he looked a little tired. He went almost 5 seconds slower than he had gone earlier this spring. When he touched the wall and I saw his face, I could definitely tell that he was tired. Bummer. The Charlotte Ultraswim is hit or miss for our everyday Olympian. Sometimes he is right on best times, other years he is in the middle of getting his booty kicked in practice at home and misses the mark. What do I do in this situation? I watch. I cheer. I still give him the 'air-clap' when he looks over. And, then, like usual, I resume whatever conversation I was in and life goes on.

Honestly, we were all a little bit tired

After dinner, we stayed up late talking with our dear friends who were nice enough to invite us to stay at their home all weekend (thank you Frank, Janis, and the rest of the fam!). We talked about recruiting and why each of us chose the schools we chose (one of my favorite conversations--it is so telling about someone's character). We talked about Olympic trials (our friend is also an Olympian--just a different year). We talked about kids and family. We talked a lot about perspective. It was nice.

Laying in bed I asked Mark about his races. He said, "I'm tired and I'm a little disappointed-of course I wanted to swim faster. But, I still believe in the plan."

So, there you have it folks. A less than perfect moment in the life of our everyday Olympian and in that of a nervous swim-wife who is always afraid to say the wrong thing. I despise vulnerability, but in a moment (or weekend) where things are less than perfect, I have to embrace it--it is what it is.

Sunday, Mark flew to Greenville, NC for a couple of clinics with Christine Magnasun (what a nice girl!), then Monday he got to do this.... lucky guy.

Mark is not that famous... so, when someone asks for his autograph, I feel the need to document it. Many apologies for the blurriness--I was juggling a baby, the cookies I was bribing her with, a diaper bag, and a camera.


  1. Hi Ashley - I saw you and your adorable daughter at UltraSwim. My wife was working Gold Medal Seating and I had another volunteer assignment on Friday. It was nice to see you and I regret not saying hello. Your daughter is adorable and Mark swam great.

    Bill Davis
    Charlotte, NC

  2. Thanks, Bill. The UltraSwim is always a fantastic event-so very well organized... I know it wouldn't be the same without so many fantastic volunteers! Thanks for everything :)


  3. Love this post! Congrats to Mark. And might I mention that Annabelle is reading one of Finn's favorite books...what would we do without Dear Zoo?

  4. I was upset to miss the Ultraswim this year (Rob and I were on our honeymoon), but I usually bring my swim kids to watch Mark swim. Someday I will have to introduce myself to you, Ashley.

    -Amanda (Bowser) Ellinger