Monday, December 6, 2010

First ever swim meet

Sunday was a fantastic day. I traveled with friends to a local high school where the Masters Swimming competition was being held. It started at noon but we arrived at 11am so that Dan and I could get some laps in as a warm-up before the races began. I was most uncomfortable doing the circle swimming before the meet. Sharing a swim lane with others adds an extra level of concentration that I'm not used to. Instead of concentrating on good stroke form, pacing, and breathing, I was more worried about hitting the on-coming traffic as well as swimming fast enough to stay ahead of the folks behind me. I found myself scraping past the lane ropes, and when I did my turns I had to be careful not to hit people standing there at the wall. In fact, I don't think I did many turns, and I only did 200 yards for a warm-up. I was fully aware that my teammates would see me swimming for the first time and I wanted to make a good impression. I also didn't want to tire myself out. Two-hundred yards seemed on the low side of reasonable. My coach had suggested I warm up with a 600-yard swim. I was surprised to hear him say that; it seemed a little much.

I was quite relieved when Dan pointed out that the meet officials had opened up a couple lanes for practicing starts. I jumped out of the pool, walked over to one of the lanes, stepped onto the block, delayed for just a second, and jumped in. It was probably one of my best dives to date. Whew! I'm so glad it happened that way because it gave me confidence for the rest of the meet. (In my practices the week before, my diving was pretty lousy). Because it was a "perfect" dive from my perspective, I didn't dare dive again, and instead I grabbed my towel and hung out at the poolside until the meet began and my race was announced.

50-yard Breaststroke
50-yard breaststroke
The pool had 6 lanes and there were more than 60 swimmers signed up for this race. This means the 50-yard breaststroke competition was spilt into 11 different "heats," and placement in a given heat was based on the swimmer's self-reported "seed" times--the expected time it would take to go the 50-yard distance. It's a Masters Swimming Association, so the swimmers come in male and female, all ages and skills levels, and there is even a variety of body shapes. I hate to bring it up because it is not polite, but I'm really surprised that there were some fat swimmers at this meet--maybe 15% of the contestants were visibly overweight. Anyway, I was slated to swim in the 7th heat (7 of 11 means that I was swimming slower than the median, which would be swimmers in the 6th heat). I was in lane 3, though, which means I was expected to have one of the fastest times in the heat. None of this matters because when the swimmers ahead of me in Heat 6 stepped up on the starting blocks, no one was present at Lane 3. The intended swimmer for Heat 6, Lane 3 did not show up. So in that instant I volunteered to swim in Heat 6. I stepped up on the starting block, I got set, and at the blare of the horn I leaped in. I had a good dive and noticed while under the water that the swimmers in the adjacent lanes dove deeper than I did. I don't know what that says about the quality of my dive, but when I surfaced I swam as fast as I could. At the opposite wall I saw that I was well ahead of my competitors, and I rocketed to the finish. I was elated to turn and look at the scoreboard and see that my time was not 0:50 (my seed time), and it wasn't even in the 40s. Instead, I got 0:39.72. I demolished my seed time and beat everyone in my heat...and these were the swimmers of Heat 6 who were supposed to be better than me. It felt so good and I savored that moment so long that Heat 7 almost started with me still in the pool. I was laughing hard and felt fantastic. What a great first race!

50-yard Freestyle
The blur is me at the very start of my dive off the starting block.
I had submitted a seed time of 0:36 for the 50-yard freestyle. This was a compromise between my more typical 40-second performances during practice (without a dive to start and with a non-racing swimsuit) and the 32.7-second and best-ever performance in the pool three days before the swim meet (with a dive and with a racing suit). My result in this competition was 34.15 seconds, and I came in second in my Heat (Heat 7 of 11). Even though I beat my 0:36 seed time and swam my second-fastest performance of my life, I was slightly disappointed. My dive was very shallow and timid, and on the second leg of the race I saw that I was neck-to-neck of two swimmers on my right. I watched as I gained ground and pulled ahead of them, but somehow when I reached the wall I glided in and missed winning my heat. I know that if I had only swam at full speed into the wall that I would have won my Heat. Instead, and for an unknown reason, I slowed down in that last approach. I actually think I thought I had won and was starting to relax before I was done.

One member of my team mentioned that during the race I was swerving left and right with each successive stroke. If I straighten out my stroke, I would be more hydrodynamic and swim faster. This is something I shall work on.

All in all, it was a great day and I look forward with excitement and confidence to the next swim meet. Joining a Masters Swim Team was an excellent idea. I'm so glad I said yes.
Swimming fast in the 50-yard freestyle race

1 comment:

  1. Hi. thanks for joining my blog.

    Swim meets are the bomb. But isn't it amazing how tired yoiu after after only a 50m?

    Keep working on that finish, head down, right to the wall.

    (Sorry for deleting my previous post. Gotta remember to spellcheck)