Meet / OW event plans and results from U.S. Masters Swmming events in this category.
I had a really great time at the Commissioner’s Cup meet on Sunday. It was a well attended event, with around 175 swimmers, but with 10 lanes things went pretty quickly and the meet took maybe 3.5 hours total. The 500 at the end and the 200s grouped all at the beginning accounted for a big chunk of that, so after the opening relay my 4 individual events (all 50s) came and went quickly. The 25y competition course was set up starting in the shallower end of the pool, which, with the adjustable floor lowered all the way, was about 2m deep. One odd thing—the adjustable part of the pool bottom ended about 15y out, and at the end of it there was a white plastic scalloped border—I assume this serves to cushion the adjustable floor when it meets up with the permanent tiling. But besides being functional the scallops were cute too—it looked like the pool was wearing a frilly lace garter across its middle, and swimming across it made me smile every time.
The meet was deck seeded, but psych sheets were distributed so that we could check that our entries were correct. I dutifully flipped through it to make sure I was in the events I’d entered—yep, there was my name in the 50 fly list—but wait! There was a 28.39 by my name. That wasn’t right at all—I’ve broken 30 once or twice, but not recently, and I had padded my seed times pretty well for this meet. I flipped to the 50 free--25.37? That was faster than I’d ever gone too--I knew I hadn’t put that down. My other seed times were equally off. As I went up to the computer table to straighten things out I was trying to puzzle out what had happened—things weren’t off just by a digit, or even two.
As it turned out, everyone’s seed times had been treated as though they were meters times, then converted to yards by mistake. So swimmers would end up seeded where they should be, just the times would be off. There’s always something quirky with the heat sheets or seeding at this meet; this year’s glitch turned out to be pretty innocuous.
That mystery solved, I warmed up, went off the block s a few times, and gathered with my team to get relay assignments for the meet’s big event—the Commisionner’s Trophy Relay. The parks department goes all out for this, bringing in huge trophies for the top 6 teams (1 for each swimmer), plus t-shirts and a big photo session for each relay team. It’s not an official masters events, so any 4 swimmers who meet the criteria (2 men, 2 women, total ages equaling 160 or more) can enter, regardless of official team affiliation. And since it’s deck entries, there’s always last-minute finagling during warm-ups to try to pull together teams, with women over 40 being in high demand. This year I was very glad to be affiliated with TNYA, and have a coach on-deck taking care of all the relay decisions and entries so that I wasn’t part of that zooiness.
I had heard that one of my open-water buddies was putting a team together to go after the event record, a 1:40-mid. I knew we didn’t have a shot at them, so I was rooting for them to get the record. They didn’t disappoint, swimming a 1:40-low, the class of the field by far. My team came in third (1:49) with a strong finish from our anchor swimmer, who passed one team in the final 5 yards and came very close to catching another. They didn’t post individual splits, so I have no idea what I went, but I enjoyed swimming with my teammates and cheering them on in a close race—gotta love relays!
The rest of the meet was individual events, and I spent most of my time behind the blocks waiting to swim, or in the warmup pool. I had about 10 minutes between my first two 50s, then a 40-minute gap, then about 5 minutes between my last 2. My times were relatively slow (in IM order: 33.03, 33.48, 38.00, and 29.01), and if I had been really focusing on doing everything I could to swim fast at this meet I would have been disappointed by these results. But since I’ve kind of been taking an extended break from working very hard in the water, these seemed about right. And I was reminded how very much I enjoy just getting up on the blocks and racing, no matter the result—the experience was just plain fun.
So while I swam times in yards that would once have been good metric times for me (and no, they didn’t give the results the same treatment they gave the seeds times), I actually ended up feeling better about swimming after this meet than I have in a while. It confirmed to me that pool racing is something that I find worth doing, and that I would like to be better at. It also made me feel more connected to the pool swimming community again—it was gratifying to see so many familiar faces and chat with so many meet buddies from over the years. The one thing I regretted about the meet going so fast is that I didn’t get to watch more of other people’s races.
As for my events, what kept me from going faster on Sunday? A little bit of everything. I expected to tie up at the end of my 50s, as the little sprinting I’d done in practices had been just 25s or less. But that only happened in fly, where my arms had a hard time getting out of the water those last 15 yards. On the other strokes I felt almost good at the finish. I think that means I need to work on those lactate-production type sprinty sets more so that I can generate enough energy in the first place to put myself into some distress by the end. I could feel that my turnover in breast and back wasn’t as fast as it should be for 50s. And my execution on starts/turns/breakouts will be sharper the more race-pace stuff I do. So basically—there’s a lot of room for improvement here.
One of the things I had forgotten that I like so much about meet swimming—or maybe I never realized it before I became so immersed in open water stuff—is the sense of order and predictability. I just feel a certain competence when I’m at meets, because I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at any given moment. From the basics of being behind the blocks when I’m supposed to be and following starting commands to more complicated things like swimming races the way I’ve planned or getting in a good warmup in a crowded pool, the script has pretty much already been written. The challenge comes from executing mostly-predictable and replicable things well, rather than trying to figure out what I should be doing at any given moment. That I’m drawn to (rather than bored by) that sort of challenge is the kind of personality quirk that has made being a newbie diver a much more comfortable experience than being a newbie polo-player ever was. And it’s one of my perennial challenges in open-water. As many of those events as I did over the past couple of years, I never got to the point where I was confident that I was doing things "right,” or always knew what that might mean—which says both something about the nature of ow swimming and about my own insecurities and need for predictability. At Sunday’s meet I felt I had found my way home again, and was reassured to find it familiar and comforting after what seemed like a long absence.
(That said, I’m not giving up on open-water, just trying to understand some of my reactions to it a little better. In fact, I just signed up for my first open-water event of the season, the 2 Bridges 5K swim on June 1. I’m willing to give up some predictability, sometimes, for the joys of swimming without walls in beautiful locales.)
I thought I would take a rest day after the meet, but I woke up this morning early, and felt excited about going to the pool, so I headed up to Riverbank. I was lucky to find one of my swim buddies there to share a set with. Here’s what I did:
1000 lcm warmup (400s, 200k, 200p, 200 IM d/s by 25)
6 x 150: 3 @ 3:00, 3 @ 2:50, 3 @ 2:40, 3 @ 2:30, descending each set of 3 [I did fr/bk/fr sandwiches for the first 3, then FR for the rest. My fastest 150 was 2:10 (on the 3rd set), the last set of 3 were 2:20-2:20-2:18.]
400 IM, kick/swim by 50, easy and stretched out
400 warmdown + play
Afterwards I had a nice stretching session on the playground overlooking the GWB. I’m looking forward to doing that more often now that the weather is warming up.