Monday, November 22, 2010

I joined a Masters Swim Team

I've been swimming regularly for 15 months under the direction of a college swim coach. To be clear, I am well beyond college age, but I wanted a coach to help me on a weekly basis, and he was offering lessons. When I started swimming, I had an aversion to putting my face in the water during the freestyle stroke (aka front crawl). I had to rest every 25 yards. I had never swam breastroke, butterfly, or backstroke. So until now, my coach and I have been working on teaching me the basic strokes, turns, and starts. We've been trouble-shooting placement of arms, the strength of my kicks, my streamlining underwater, the pull of water by my hands, the rotation of the body during freestyle and backstroke, and breathing techniques. But now it appears my coach and I will work on me getting faster. I've joined a Masters Swim Team associated with my local YMCA. This was not my coach's idea. I've been thinking about it for many months and I got close to joining a couple months ago. I asked my coach what he thought and he said "we could work on that." This was a supportive and loving statement, but it lacked enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I joined the team this week because a friend encouraged me to do so.

I went to see my friend swim on Sunday at a competition. He swam well, but that wasn't the real reason I went. I wanted to see how competitive his teammates were and what the attitude of folks was. I can easily envision me being on a swim team and then getting really nervous before a meet. That will probably still happen, but my scouting revealed that the people who compete in these competitions are fairly oblivious to the swimmers in the other lanes. People are simply swimming to better themselves and give advice to others. For example, as my friend was swimming a 400-yard medley, one of his teammates was watching him and said "look, he's not even working hard, he can go faster!" and then she proceeded to take a water bottle and spray him with it during the race as he pushed off the pool wall at the 300-yard mark. It was all a joke, and it shows pretty clearly that the competitors don't take this particularly seriously or else that woman would never have taken the risk of playing around with Dan as he swam in his race. So sure, it looks like I might feel comfortable on a team like that. If I don't like it, feel too nervous, or lack the time to go to competitions, then I can always quit the team without any trouble.

We will compete about once a month at various Ys in the region. Given the travelling involved, it will usually require a whole Sunday to be dedicated to competitive swimming. I will have to miss church, and this is disappointing and a large reason why I still have some reservations about joining the team. Will I be a dedicated member? I don't like joining a team, committee, or service organization without being entirely dedicated to it. Anyway, I won't have to do any extra practicing because I am already swimming 4-5 times a week. How will my weekly swim lessons change with my coach? I suspect he's going to ramp up the effort he requires of me, and I'm afraid of that. It takes a lot of mental energy to push myself into the physical range that is required. I don't like the fatigue that sets in afterward.

Speedo racing swimwear jammer
I will worry about my goggles leaking, as that still happens about once every 4 dives. This probably has more to do with my form as a diver than the fit of the goggles, so I must be patient and hope for the best.

I will need to acquire a racing swimsuit before my first competition on December 5th. I just placed an online order with SpeedoUSA for the suit pictured at right. I hope I like it. It will take some getting used to, particularly how revealing it will be of my male anatomy. But as I've mentioned in a previous post on running shorts, I don't plan to be too self-conscious.

My waist is 33 inches in circumference (used to be 34!), so I ordered a 32-inch and a 34-inch and I'll return the one that doesn't fit. I hate to do an online order when there is a locally-owned swim shop in my town. But the local shop lacks the selection I desired, and more importantly, their hours of operation are sporadic and inconvenient. The flip side of the argument is that if I bought from them, I wouldn't have to go to the trouble of buying two suits and returning one.

I briefly thought about buying a true competition suit (a $120 price tag instead of $38), but what would it get me? The fabric of the competition swimwear is meant to glide through the water even better, but I am unlikely to notice this benefit for two reasons: (1) I'm simply not that fast of a swimmer, and (2) with all the body hair I have, the savings of having a more slippery suit will be negligible. Most of the swimmers I saw at the Master's swim team had very little chest hair, but their legs and arms were unshaven, so I assume they were just naturally this way. I'll be one of the hairier specimens, I guess. But I still look good. Besides, everyone will be looking at my new suit!

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