View Full Version : Emergency advice request!

jim thornton
April 4th, 2002, 08:19 PM
It's 8:10 pm eastern time, and I leave tomorrow at 4 pm for our regional meet this weekend in Clarion, PA. If anyone can respond to this question before I leave, I'd be truly grateful.

The basic question is this: I have really worked hard this season, and got into the best shape of my peri-geriatric years (I'm 49), but 2 1/2 weeks ago I caught some kind of cold/virus from my 9 year old son, and I feel like I am still at best 65%--still have sore throat, sore body, fatigue, plus cough and congestion.

I'm going to swim in the meet anyhow, but my emergency request for advice is this:

How do you optimize your performance when you're sort of sick? I am more worried about the 1000 and 500 than the shorter stuff (the rest is all 50s and 100s and 1 25.)

Any words of wisdom? Please don't tell me to scratch the meet--if I was feverish, I would probably do so. I'm just looking for ways to make the best of a less than ideal situation, and the swimmers on this forum have provided superlative advice in the past. Thanks in advance.

April 4th, 2002, 09:45 PM
Jim, Two things come to mind, initially. First, lots of water to keep hydrated, which will help with the congestion/cough and with the fatigue. Secondly, stretch to get the joints as loose as you can and maintain as much range of motion in all your joints. You'll feel better by doing so. The sore throat will feel better if you gargle with very warm and heavily salted water. This is an old folk remedy that really does work.
Good luck.

Bert Petersen
April 5th, 2002, 01:08 AM
Just do it and be ready to put an asterisk beside your personal records. (*= sick) You might get a pleasant surprise, since the pressure will now be off !!!!! ;)

PS: Don't kiss anyone.................

April 5th, 2002, 08:41 AM
Your performance will vary by event. I don' t think it will be predictable, so if you really stink in the first thing you do, don't assume the rest of the swims will be that good, or that bad. Just give it a try.

Take a mess o' vitamin C before you go to the meet.

Take warm clothes and some pads/blankets/chairs so you can really lay down and snooze between events.

Your physical reserves are good even if you feel bad.

Chicken noodle soup is reputed to cure all ills.

Swim fast!

April 5th, 2002, 09:08 AM
Jim and Glen,
While it is true that Vitamin C has been shown anecdotally to help ward off colds and such, if you haven't been taking it all along, large doses might not be a good idea all of a sudden. You certainly don't want diarrhea on top of your other ills.

jim thornton
April 5th, 2002, 10:49 AM
Thanks, guys. I also got some advice from Bill Tingley, who said I could post his notes after the meet to see if, in fact, his words proved true. I'll let you know how things went.

BTW, my twin brother who lives in Philadelphia had one of these "supercolds" that seems to go on forever. He said he was watching the evening news and they had a segment on this, which said that it wasn't, in fact, a normal cold virus but some other sort of lingering microbe that took weeks and weeks to go away. Has anyone else heard of this? Very discouraging--I'm now entering the third week of lackluster energy, coughing, congestiong, etc.

My brother's went away in 5 weeks--so if I'm anything like his, I'm approximately half way back to health!

April 5th, 2002, 11:03 AM

Keep warm, wear a knit cap and socks after warmup and drink lots of fluid. I've done some of my best times after being sick before a big meet. I think its the forced taper that does it.

Good luck!!


Matt S
April 5th, 2002, 12:49 PM

The previous ideas are fine. I think the one mistake you might make is assuming the cold will affect you somehow, and psyching yourself out of swimming well. Relax, and maintain your mental focus.

One brief story, enroute to one meet (when I was 39) I caught a pretty nasty throat cold on the plane, and BTW the meet was several time zones away, so I also had to deal with jet lag. Didn't matter; I swam great for me, except for the shorter events.

During the fast skin swim suit controversy in 2000, one of the Australian swimmers had a great quote. It's appropriate here: "If I'm ready to swim, I could wear a brown paper bag and still do well."

Good Luck,

jim thornton
April 8th, 2002, 09:30 PM
First of all, many thanks for all the excellent advice. Bill Tingley e-mailed me his recommendations directly and said I could post these here on the forum after the meet to see what, if anything, actually helped.

Here's what Bill said about competing semi-sick:


After working with Masters swimmers for 24 years, swimming sick is not something new.

Some things to consider.

Are you swimming for place or time?.

If it is place, then look at the heat sheet and choose the events that are the easiest to score high in and focus on them. Swim thru the rest.

If it is time, then you will need to focus on what you have been training for. If you have been working on sprinting, with start and turn work, pick the events that are the furthest apart. If distance events are the focus, set your pace a shade slower than normal at the front of the race and build the event for a strong second half of the distance.

You should not swim all of your entered events at maximum speed. Your energy loss will become greater, the more events you try to swim. Choose and focus on your best event. You may need to scratch or swim thru some events.

Rest will be the key factor. No walking and socializing, unless they come to you. Keep warm. Loss of body heat is loss of energy and when you are not 100% then that loss of energy is greater then normal when racing.

Watch your resting heart rate. If it is unusually high at rest, then you are working hard to fight recovery from a race and your cold. More rest will bring it down.

Without knowing how you have been trained, these are no more than suggestions. Keep an eye on your heart rate. It will be a good indicator of how hard your body is fighting your cold.

Good luck

Bill Tingley
Head Coach,
Lakeside Masters
Louisville, KY

Now for the results...

As Matt predicted, I actually surprised myself, at least in one event. I set our Y region's 45-49 record for the 1000 with an 11:33.85. This was particularly unexpected because three days before, I was so tired I was having trouble holding 6 x 100s at 1:15 on a 2:00 interval!

In virtually everything else I swam, my times ended up being only slightly worse than my best. As one person pointed out, there was no rhyme nor reason to what I swam well. My 100 free and fly were both at least 1.5 seconds off my best; but my 50s were both very close, with a 50 free relay split being almost a new PR.

In terms of the advice, I think the items that helped the most were:

Not worrying about my performance so much, i.e., mentally reconfiguring my hopes and expectations...(Bert's asterisk advice)

Realizing the difference between swimming for time and for place (I took it easier on events where the competition was lacking--thanks, Bill.)

Wearing a hat and wool socks and keeping warm (GZoltners et al.)

Drinking lots of fluids and stretching and resting in between events.

I also tried the following home remedies:

1) instead of drinking my usual 3 - 4 cups on coffee in the morning, I bought some caffeine pills and drank these with orange juice.

2) i warmed up extremely slowly 1200 yards before the distance events, then another 600-800 before the sprints (it was a two day meet with a couple hours between the a.m. 500 and 1000, and the p.m. relays and regular events.)

3) I forced myself to eat a Powerbar (nasty tasting object) before the distance, then another one before the sprints.

The main thing I guess I hope to tell myself from this experience is that being sick (assuming it's not horribly, high fever, Albert Camus Plague-type sick) doesn't have to ruin your performance. The enforced taper may actually, as Matt suggested, compensate at least in part for the run down energy levels.

Again, thanks. If any of you guys are going to Y nationals in Ft. Lauderdale, I'd love to meet you.

Phil Arcuni
April 9th, 2002, 12:02 AM
The best swimming advice I ever got was 25 years ago, when someone said you do not have to feel well to swim fast. It looks like you had a pretty good meet, all things considered.