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Swimmer Wannabe
February 27th, 2002, 08:37 AM
I am scheduled to race in my first-ever meet very soon. I am new to swimming and am very, very slow (to put it mildddly) and have the burden of falling into one of the most competitive age classification. Nonetheless, I am being encouraged to participate (who knows why).

There are no meets in my area before the one in which I am supposed to participate so I can't get a feeling for what to expect. Can someone please give me the lowdown? As likely the slowest swimmer (I'm not being self-deprecating, just realistic) will I be scorned? How embassassing will it be to finish say a 50 Free after the others in my heat have already gotten out of the pool? (My 50 free is on par with most other swimmers' 100 free. Ugh.)

Also, I understand that at some meets, the goal is to rack up team points for a team or workout group title. Can I contriibute to this in any way (remember, I'm the slowest swimmer in the pool)? Should I simply put my foot down and refuse to "race" -- waiting until next year when I will (presumable) be more prepared?

Fritz Lehman
February 27th, 2002, 11:06 AM
I'll throw a few cents in.

You should race when you are ready and only if you want to. If this is something you don't want to do then don't do it. There will be other meets.

If you decide to swim then I can pretty much assure you that you
won't be scorned and in fact most people will appreciate the effort you put into it. If anyone gives you a hard time then you should dismiss them trolls and move on. It isn't all about being the fastest.

Fritz

Beards247
February 27th, 2002, 11:45 AM
Swimming is not necessarily about who is the fastest, or how you contribute to team points.

Steps in any athletic hobby:
1) Have fun
2) Have fun while staying healthy
3) Have fun while competing, improving, and setting Personal Bests
4) Have fun while becoming active in the community, and participating at a regional/national level as a part of a team.
5) Have fun while training for peak performance and competition at an elite level.

Is is easy to pick apart the levels I described, but the main point is (hopefully) clear; no matter what level of commitment you are comfortable with, make sure you are having fun. Be comfortable with the commitment you make. You will stick with it longer.

Be aware others have a different level of commitment - they have fun competing and they believe other people will too. While this is slightly ego-centric, their intentions are good. Just remind them you are happy to swim at the level you do. There is a guy I swim with who beats my pants off, but never competes. He is happy as a fitness swimmer.

Your first meet! I get (good) butterflies before every meet. But I do remind myself of one thing before I step on the block - This to me is fun and challenging and I swim for no one else but myself. By the end of the race, I want to swim again.

HTH,

Chris

Bert Petersen
February 27th, 2002, 12:07 PM
because our goal here is to achieve fitness, while meeting friends and having fun along the way. The competition is just an annoying yardstick of our progress. Your new directive is to NOT be the fastest swimmer but to be the OLDEST swimmer........ Think about it. :)

dorothyrd
February 27th, 2002, 01:22 PM
:) I learned to swim 2 years ago at 38, and just competed in my first ever meet last Sunday. I was hesitant also, but really had a good time. Everyone is very encouraging. Some people do starts in the water, some off the blocks. There are all kinds of turns, some people wear goggles, some not. I was very impressed with the 83 year old woman who did the 500 free. Her form was not great, her time was slow, but she did it and even went off the block. I missed my heat in the 50 back(whoops bad as an 8 year old), and everyone lauged with me and they got me in an empty lane. I think you will do better time wise than you think. I had goal times in my mind when I swam and I surpassed all of them. I was still slow, but I felt like I had accomplished something. There were some 30 something women there who had 50 times that were over a minute and it did not bother them. They went out, swam there races and had a good time. Just go for it and do it for yourself!

Matt S
February 27th, 2002, 01:48 PM
Swimmer,

Like the others said, swim to please yourself. And, BTW, were the people in the 2000 Olympics laughing at Eric the Eel or Paula the Piranha, or were they applauding them?

Matt

Ion Beza
February 27th, 2002, 01:57 PM
Originally posted by Beards247
Swimming is not necessarily about who is the fastest, or how you contribute to team points.

Steps in any athletic hobby:
1) Have fun
2) Have fun while staying healthy
3) Have fun while competing, improving, and setting Personal Bests
4) Have fun while becoming active in the community, and participating at a regional/national level as a part of a team.
5) Have fun while training for peak performance and competition at an elite level.

Is is easy to pick apart the levels I described, but the main point is (hopefully) clear; no matter what level of commitment you are comfortable with, make sure you are having fun. Be comfortable with the commitment you make. You will stick with it longer.

Be aware others have a different level of commitment - they have fun competing and they believe other people will too. While this is slightly ego-centric, their intentions are good. Just remind them you are happy to swim at the level you do. There is a guy I swim with who beats my pants off, but never competes. He is happy as a fitness swimmer.

Your first meet! I get (good) butterflies before every meet. But I do remind myself of one thing before I step on the block - This to me is fun and challenging and I swim for no one else but myself. By the end of the race, I want to swim again.

HTH,

Chris
Good post Beards: you articulate what instinctively I am searching for since I was elsewhere and no organization like Masters Swimming was in place.

Beards247
February 27th, 2002, 02:10 PM
Originally posted by Bert Petersen
because our goal here is to achieve fitness, while meeting friends and having fun along the way. The competition is just an annoying yardstick of our progress. Your new directive is to NOT be the fastest swimmer but to be the OLDEST swimmer........ Think about it. :)

Simple and poinent Bert.

At the risk of killing its intent, I smell a catch Phrase out of this: Something similar to "US masters Swimming where the race is against time - not just in the pool."

I am sure someone can improve on that paltry line.

Maybe Berts' is best : US Masters Swimming - where the goal is not to be the fastest, but the oldest swimmer.

Chris

P.S. Fast Ion - Good to know there are kindred spirits out there. I too have enjoyed reading many of your posts dating back to the "old" discussion forum.

Ion Beza
February 27th, 2002, 02:54 PM
Originally posted by Beards247

...
P.S. Fast Ion - Good to know there are kindred spirits out there.
...

Because I am on a roll right now -and with apologies to the purists who want to keep every post streamlined to the thread's intended topic- I believe Chris, that the answer to your question in the thread "Swim video" is videos that Matt Shirley has.
This would be correct if my recollection of the old Forum is exact.
Matt posted today, before my post, and he can be asked to confirm this, at the e-mail address displayed in his profile.
If I am mistaken, sorry to take your time.

Tom Ellison
February 27th, 2002, 04:03 PM
Hi Swimmer Wannabe:
Gosh, it will be great when you swim your first meet. In the 11 years I've swam Masters I have never witnessed anyone act in a negative manner toward another competitor... especially for being slow. Never....nothing even close!
Slow is a relative term in Masters Swimming. Slower then the person in the lane next to you? Or, slower then the person who does not get out of bed in the morning and exercise at all? Or, slower then the really fast swimmers in United States Masters Swimming? Heck, even the top-level swimmers get beat.
My point is simple...YOUR A WINNER for keeping fit through Masters Swimming and caring enough to stay in shape. Swimming in meets is an extension of your commitment to keeping fit.
Lastly, I believe that in life, swimming, work, school, relationships or whatever...that you can neither win or lose...unless you walk into the Arena and give it a whack. You’re not sitting on the sidelines in life here....and that makes you a winner in my book.
Enjoy the meet, do your best, have fun and get to know some of the people there...you will enjoy yourself.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

dcarson
February 27th, 2002, 04:38 PM
Swimmer Wannabe - Go for it! You are not alone. I'm entering my 1st competition at the end of next month and although I have a decent freestyle, I've only just started learning the flip turn and have yet to jump off the block. Hope to make good progress by competition, but I'll compete no matter what. From the many contributors on this board, it's clear ALL are welcome at competition. To back up Tom's point, here's a quote by Coach Dick Jochums I read in the excellent book Gold in the Water that I now keep posted on my fridge as a daily inspiration. I thought it would be worth mentioning in this thread:

“Those who strive, those who leave nothing on the table, those who will take the risk, will all be winners.

Life is truly sweeter for those who truly live it.

The world belongs, and will always belong, to the people who participate.

Those who stand on the outside, who never risk, who never fail, cannot now, or will they ever, understand the beauty of each breath of life.

So don’t feel sorry for those who fail, feel sorry for the majority that never participate.

They’ll just never understand, let alone feel, all that life can and should be.”

Dan

Deb
February 28th, 2002, 09:59 AM
I'm with everyone esle, if it sounds like fun, just do it.

The only other reason I might suggest it that it will give you a benchmark for how fast you are now. Hey, and it will be your personal best, no matter what! Then, when you compete again, you can have the goal to do better than last time. So, again, it won't be a BAD thing if you go slow, because then next time, it will be easier to beat your personal best again!:)

I was talked into going to my first masters meet at age 39. I was reluctant, partly because I had never worn goggles at a meet (back in the old days, we didn't wear them). My friend, a coach, tried to show me how to dive with goggles during warm-up and I couldn't. He finally laughed at me and said, "start in the water." So I did. Everyone was supportive, and it was fun. And I think that is just about everyone's experience.

GZoltners
February 28th, 2002, 08:38 PM
When you arrive at the pool, check in, there will be a table somewhere, and pick up a heat sheet, the list of all the people in each event in the order the events will be in. For many meets, the lanes and heats will all be already assigned. You can see what lanes you're in and warm up in one of those.

Some events, like the long ones, require you to check in for the event, and lanes will be assigned based on who shows up. This is to save time. Follow along with the heat sheet to estimate how long until you swim. Write down your times on the heat sheet.

Before the meet starts the entire pool will be open for warmup, and it can get crowded. Usually it is not crowded when warmup starts. Hop in a lane with a few teammates.

During the last half of warmup some of the outside lanes are used for "sprints" where people swim only in one direction and dive from the blocks. You can get used to the blocks if you are using them. You don't have to sprint, just dive and swim down easy if you want. Do not dive in the pool at any other time, except during your race. This is contrary to Masters rules and dangerous as well. Your coach can give some suggestions for warmup; I would recommend 1.5 times as far as you warm up during a practice. Whatever gets your body loose and muscles warm.

Events usually run slow to fast, though often in the first heat or two there are people with NT="no time" who can go almost any speed. The last event of the meet, like the 500 or 1650 may be run fastest to slowest, to punish the beginners.

Usually men and women are separate but can be combined depending on the event and meet. You'll be in a heat with people approximately the same speed as you. Same is pretty loosely defined, as a second of time ends up being about a bodylength of distance. I've been lapped in the 400 IM, and the 500, and I'm pretty fast. I think I was the only person that noticed how slow I was. But it was my best time, so I didn't care that much. A lot of people at the meet and a lot of people in the event and a 50 yard event means it could be a pretty close race. Don't watch your neighbor during the finish. Nail the wall and hope for longer fingernails.

Watch the starter for some earlier events to get a feel for how the starting process works. Be behind the blocks a heat or two before your turn, unless you are swimming something really long. The starter will signal for you to get up on the blocks (or in the water), signal for you to "take your marks", and then sound a gun or horn or beep to start the race. If someone false starts, there will be a lot of beeping or guns firing, and if the meet is run well, a rope will drop in the middle of the pool. If you swim over a rope, stop. The race will be restarted.

You will get tired and out of breath, but you are swimming faster than ever before, so don't worry about it.

During the meet some lanes will be open for warmup and warmdown. Do a little of each if you remember, maybe 100 or so.

Make sure you bring an extra suit and goggles and cap and a snack and a water bottle. Meets can run right through lunch. This bothers me more than most people.

Swim fast,

Greg

Mark in MD
February 28th, 2002, 10:38 PM
Hey Swimmer Wannabe!

I could not have said it better than Greg, Deb, Dan, Tom, Ion, Chris, Matt, Dorothy, Bert, Fritz and anyone else whom I might have left out. I did my first meet last December at the very pool where I had stopped working out at years ago. So, I had a double case of "butterflies." AND to make matters worse, I had never climbed up on a starting block before, ever! :o

On the day of the meet, one of my team buddies was with me and was very, very helpful to me as he had competed for 12 years at school and knew "the ropes" quite well. Although I only did two small events, he was at the edge of the pool to congratulate me. What support, which by the way, Masters Swimming is all about! And ... I am sure someone in your group will be there for you, too.

You will do just fine; just believe in yourself. Don't be surprised that you won't get much sleep the night after the meet ... you'll be excited about your accomplishment of the day. I was!

Swim fast as you can and just be yourself!

Matt S
March 1st, 2002, 12:48 PM
Greg,

That is one of the best summaries I have ever seen of all the little things at a meet that we "veterans" take for granted. We ought to republish this in our USMS magazines and newsletters.

Matt

GZoltners
March 1st, 2002, 02:19 PM
Thank you, I suspect that there a lot of things that I forgot though. The officials, some basic rules (DQed for touching wrong, how can THAT happen), the awards (high-point!?), the social dinners, and so on. I bet that some swimmers in their first year of meets would have more to add. The strangeness would be fresh in their minds!

Swim fast,
Greg

Glen
March 1st, 2002, 10:13 PM
Like everyone else has said, go out and have fun. Also just remember that each and everyone of those other masters at the swim meet had a first meet as well. Get the first one behind you and you will be hooked. HAVE FUN. and Good Luck

Fisch
March 2nd, 2002, 11:02 AM
Be forewarned!!

You might become addicted!:D

MegSmath
March 5th, 2002, 01:14 PM
Just one correction to Greg's excellent summary of what to expect: If there is a false start, there will NOT be a lot of guns and horns going off. The rules were changed a couple of years ago, and now we (as well as USA Swimming) do not call back false starts. The officials are still watching, and if you false start, you'll still be DQ'd. It's just that they won't tell you until AFTER the race is over. Not much fun being told you're DQ'd after you've swum that 400 IM or 200 fly! On the other hand, at least this way you get to swim the event, and get a time, which is all a lot of swimmers want anyway.

Meg Smath

MattSwimAllDay
June 12th, 2002, 04:29 AM
lol I'm totally gonna be banned for bringing back such old posts.

But I would like to comment on this, anyways!

I'm only 19 now, and started swimming when I was 16. So I was in a very competitive age group, with people swimming 100 free in the lower 50's. My best time was a 1:16...lol

The first time I did a 100 free I got a 1:47. My goggles came off slightly, I got a cramp...it was a MESS. HORRIBLE. I wish no such pain on any other human being. But I did it. And I loved it. And people patted me on the back and were clapping when I finished. They loved the fact that I made the effort. I set aside the fact that I was gonna lose by almost a minute, and just had fun and just said "It's just another practice!" Eventually, like I said, I got it down to 1:16 and actually BEAT ONE PERSON in free style! WOO! In freestyle relays, I kicked butt. I forget my times but I was a very fast sprinter for the 50's.

I avoided backstroke like the plague. I couldn't go straight. I'd bump into the lines ALL THE TIME. I'd be like a snake zig-zagging along... But, much like free style, I actually started beating people in backstroke and it became one of my better events!

I remember the butterflies of my first meet (and heck...EVERY meet...). That extreme nervousness. What if you lose? Badly?! Or get DQ'd? Make some silly mistake? All those things went through my mind. Eventually everything but the "What if I lose?" went away. :) The butterflies were part of the whole experience. And it was all wonderful. Because regardless of how afraid I was of stepping up onto those blocks in front of all my friends in high school in my little speedo knowing I'll be the slowest one, I DID IT. And *I FELT GREAT!!!* I was on top of the world! I was out there every day after school at the practices. I was up early on the weekends swimming. I was in shape. I was having fun. Life was great.

Swim meets are probably one of the greatest things I've ever experienced in life.

GZoltners
June 13th, 2002, 07:45 AM
Those "butterflies" are your body giving you extra energy to succeed in a tough situation.

Swim fast!

Tom Ellison
June 13th, 2002, 09:05 AM
Hey Matt:
I've been swimming for close to 40 years....and I still get the butterflies....sometimes so bad they should call them the Eagles.

MattSwimAllDay
June 13th, 2002, 10:53 AM
lol I remember my first meet...butterflies? Nawwww...more like 100 megaton hydrogen bombs going off. :p

cinc3100
June 26th, 2002, 07:38 PM
I remember one of my early meets when I swam in novice when I was 12 years old. Novice was a year round division similar to summer leagues back in southern california in the late 1960's thru the 1970's. There was this pool that was 33 1/3 long. And I swam already freestyle and breastroke and backstroke before I did butterfly. 66 2/3 after during butterfly was too much and I combined butterfly with freestyle. That summer my second stroke best stroke became butterfly. I doubt that kids swim in 33 1/3 pools today in competition because pools size in competition have become more standardized.

breastroker
June 27th, 2002, 12:17 AM
When I was 16 and we lived in Tucson, our team went to Southern California back in 1965. I remember swimming in a 20 yard pool. Of course I had bad turns back then, and bad starts. I took my weaknesses and made them strengths. That makes up for my loss of my main strength back then, endurance.

My first masters meet my goggles came down around my mouth, being blind as a bat made it worse. So for the last 18 years I have worn my goggles glued to my swim cap. Now after laser surgey I can see.

Of course back in 1965 we went to swedish smorgasborgs and pigged out, lots of sugar for energy. Salt tablets at the meets went with candy bars. Can you spell BONK!!!!!

I still get MAJOR butterflies when they anounce my main events (breaststroke), no problem at all with the other strokes. That makes it a pleasure to swim them as I put no pressure on myself.

Sure glad we made it past out childhood and are now Masters swimmers.:) :) The nice thing is we are all winners for competing.

Wayne

aquageek
June 27th, 2002, 12:43 PM
My first meet a year ago was a life changing event. Although I had been swimming with Masters for years, I had not attended a meet.

Since this meet, my focus and dedication to swimming has gone to a new level (obsession, my wife and friends say). The meets give you a training goal not to mention the opportunity to meet and watch other people with your same hobby.

Plus, if you go to a smaller meet, you will probably place in your events and get a nifty ribbon or medal.

Have fun.

aztimm
July 9th, 2002, 11:48 AM
Hello to all,

I think this is an excellent thread, since so many people seem to be afraid to take the plunge and get started.

As a few others said too, I am by far not the fastest person in the pool. Before my first meet, I thought I'd be the slowest, but was surprised that I was not. There are people of all ages, backgrounds, and swimming skills who participate in meets, and it is always a pleasant experience.

What surprised me most from my first meet was that I actually placed in some events. I think I only did 3 events...it was a Long Course Meters meet, and I did the 100 & 200 Free, and 100 Breast. They give team points to the top 8 places in each age group/event, and for some events (such as breast), it can be a matter that few others compete.

There are usually some relays towards the end of the day too. Participating in team relays is probably the most fun I've had swimming. I've been both the slowest and fastest person in the group, and no one has ever complained that I didn't try hard enough.

Good luck with the meet, if you do it. Think of it as a way to get your times for those events, and improve on them for the next time.


Tim Murphy

Bert Petersen
July 11th, 2002, 01:14 AM
and never forget: Masters Swimming - There's NO money in it. At a meet, keep repeating this to yourself for perspective..........

MegSmath
July 11th, 2002, 08:39 AM
I like your perspective, Bert! It reminds me of the first Nationals I went to, in Nashville (my hometown). Four of us from my team went, and although some of us were swimming lifetime bests, we still weren't placing very high. We were downright discouraged, and it showed on our faces as we were walking to our car. A fellow we passed said "Cheer up ladies. Just remember: no matter how fast or how slow you were, there are 1 billion people in China who couldn't care less!" Words to live by!