About a year after beginning this blog, I got interested in open-water swimming, and it's been my passion ever since. Here's a list of some swims I've done.
I had an amazing time last week in Seattle at the 2013 IGLA Championships. Over 5 days I competed in 13 events (in the pool, on the diving boards, and in the open water swim), plus managed to hit some of the many social events and get in a few extracurricular fun swims. The whole week was exhilarating and exhausting. Here are a few of the highlights:
Tuesday, August 13, 12 noon
The competition pool opens for warm-ups at 12, and I’m there at the stroke of noon. The buses transporting swimmers from downtown haven’t arrived yet, and when I come out on deck the place is still empty. The meet organizers tell me the pool is open, and that the lifeguards are getting bored. Will I get in and give them something to do? You bet I will! I have the whole pool to myself for nearly a half hour while others trickle in for the 3pm meet start.
After my swim warmup, I stretch and try out the diving boards, then count and cheer for fellow blogger andrewmalinak and other teammates during the 1500. I like the Federal Way pool! Although subsequent days are a little more crowded than this first distance day, it always feels like there is plenty of room on deck, plenty of warmup lanes, plenty of locker room space.
I’m downtown at the Aquarium. We have the place to ourselves after hours for IGLA’s opening party—no kids three-deep around the touch tanks tonight! I coo over the snoozing baby sea otters as the sun sets over the sound.
My first event is the 100 FL. My swimming goal is to win all 5 of my individual events, and this one should be doable—there’s no one else in my age group. That means I can either take it easy, or I can go after it without worrying that dying on the last 50 will cost my team points. I choose the latter, and end up splitting the race 36-43. Ouch.
My next race is the 50 BK, and it’s one of two I expect will be tight—I’m racing against my Seattle friend Jennifer, who dusted me last year in the 100 BK in Iceland. She’s a faster backstroker, but my start and turns put me in front off each wall. I end up barely holding her off in the last 10 meters for the win. (The championship-style seeding at this meet sometimes seemed odd in the women’s events, where there were often only 2 or 3 heats, but in the swims where I had close competition in my age group I enjoyed being able to see them while I raced).
The 200 IM is about 20 minutes later, and, remembering my 100 FL from earlier in the day, I take out my fly leg on the IM in very relaxed dps mode (5 strokes on the first lap, 6 on the second, 41 sec, vs. 10/11 and 36 on the 100 FL). I go into the backstroke feeling fresh as a daisy, which makes for a pretty IM if not the fastest one I’ve ever swum. An 800 FR relay finishes off the morning swim session.
Wednesday 2:30 pm
In addition to swimming and diving, I get to indulge my inner Busby Berkeley/Billy Rose impulses at this event by choreographing the in-water part of our Pink Flamingo entry. And—it gets even better!—an Esther Williams impersonator and diving boards are involved. I’m loving this meet. The choreographing is actually easy—the 6 teammates doing the routine are very good and get things after one go-through—and spending an hour working with them is total fun. I can’t wait to cheer them on at the performance on Saturday!
After a 50 FL and a 400 medley relay in the morning swim session, it’s finally time for diving! Today’s 1m competition is what I’ve been looking forward to ever since I arrived. In practice, the success rate on my dives (doing them legally and not crashing too badly on the entries) ranges from about 50 percent (for my “aspirational” dive, a front somersault with a full twist) to about 90 percent, so it seems like over the course of 7 dives in competition the odds of completely fluffing at least one of them are pretty high. I don’t though—I do everything competently, and one or two things semi-well, and at this stage that counts as a huge success. It takes me about 3 rounds to get over being horribly nervous and realize that I’m actually having fun. After the competition Olympian and guest judge Kent Ferguson tells me I have nice lines. Joy! My dives and scores:
Front dive tuck (degree of difficulty 1.2) 6.5 5.5 5.5Front 1.5 somersault (dd 1.6) 4.0 3.0 4.5Inward dive tuck (dd 1.4) 5.0 4.5 5.0Reverse dive tuck (dd 1.6) 5.0 4.5 4.5Back dive straight (dd 1.7) 5.5 6.0 6.0Back dive with a half twist, straight (dd 1.8) 4.5 5.0 5.0Front somersault with a full twist (dd 1.9) 4.0 4.5 5.0
After a long day in the natatorium, I head up to Alki Beach for the IGLA women’s garden party. There’s delicious grilled salmon, wonderful salads, and brownies and peaches for dessert, and lots of fun conversation. While watching a glorious, drawn-out sunset over the sound, I decide that IGLA is my idea of the perfect adult summer camp.
My body resists switching from east coast time, plus I’m very nervous about the 3m competition today. I’m awake, and decide to use the time to watch the replay of the dive competition from yesterday. Yikes—I really need to get my legs straight and together. That should be the easy part of all this tumbling around in the air, but somehow it isn’t. I manage to fall back to sleep briefly before I have to get up and head off to the pool.
(All of the IGLA competitions except for the open water were live webcast, and the videos remain archived—at least for now.).
Diving warm-ups are from 11-1. The 3-meter board is looking very high. I’m so nervous that I don’t even want to climb up there for warm-ups. Specifically, I’m scared of my back dive. It’s usually a reliable dive, but during the previous week I seem to have developed a tendency to over-rotate it, and have crashed badly on a few that came closer to a ¾ rotation than the required ½. (If I go over 3/4 around, the dive will not count at all, plus the landing hurts). I still have bruises on my thighs from doing this the previous week in practice. I try telling myself that I shouldn’t warm up this dive before the competition, because if I crash I will just be that much more afraid, but I know that’s just the fear talking. I try a few off the 1m, then climb up to the 3m to do one off that height.
And I promptly crash it, hitting my thighs hard again on the water as I over-rotate. Coach Croft looks up from his meet director duties and tells me to make my take-off stronger, so that the dive goes up first, rather than simply throwing it backwards off the board. This is counter-intuitive—the last thing I want to do is get more height on something where I’ve just hit the water hard—but I know that’s what is required. So I practice a few back take-offs, then try the back dive again. Not perfect, but better. I’m happy I have that key to think about during competition.
And speaking of keys, I keep a little notebook that has each of my dives in it, so that I can review my keys for each one during the break between rounds. This not only keeps me focused, but also helps stave off nerves while I wait for my turn to come up. For the 3m every single dive has “strong takeoff” and “eyes open” as keys, and usually one more thing pertaining to the particular dive. When I’m frightened, I tend to take timid little jumps off the board rather than taking my time and letting the board spring me up into the air. I also tend to close my eyes, which makes landing the dives a challenge—I end up cringe and waiting for the water to hit me, rather than reaching out strongly towards the water for the entry. I discover that when I’m really nervous, both of these tendencies get worse.
Still, I make it through all 7 rounds with legal dives, and even remember to point my toes and keep my legs straight and together a little better than yesterday. Here are my dives and scores:
Front dive tuck position (1.4 dd) 6 7 5Front 1.5 somersault tuck position (1.5 dd) 4 4.5 5Inward dive tuck (1.3) 5.5 6.5 6.5Reverse dive tuck (1.8 dd) 5 5 4.5Back dive straight (1.9 dd) 4 6 5Back dive with half twist, straight position (2.0 dd) 5 5.5 4.5Back flip straight (1.8 dd) 4 5.5 4
Whew! I’m so relieved when this is over. I realize after that my goal has been a negative one—avoiding failure—rather than a positive one for this event. I think that the positive goals—wanting to excel in my dives, and increase my scores—will come, but for right now I’m just pleased as punch to have learned my seven dives, and performed them competently in competition. I’m beginning to feel an ownership of them now that I didn’t before—I really can do this thing!
I enjoy watching the platform and synchro 3m competitions, then it’s time for my final dive competition of the meet—the 1m synchro. I’m diving with fellow swimmer-turned-diver Onesimo. This part is pure fun—just 4 dives, all of which I’m confident in, with the challenge of synching up the approach distracting me from any nerves. Here’s how it went:
Front dive tuck 6 7 6.5Front 1.5 tuck 5.5 6.5 5.5Inward dive tuck 5 7 5.5Back dive straight 5 6 6
Onesimo and I are the only mixed-gender duo in the synchro dive competition, so we end up with a gold medal. That makes 3 for me in diving (I was the only woman in my age group in the other two competitions).
I celebrate a successful day at the pool with . . . an outing to another pool! I meet up with Andrew and a couple of local swimmers at Colman pool (aka Kirk’s fabulous summer pool). It’s a wonderful 50m saltwater beauty located right on the sound. We swim in the lap lanes, go down the water slide, wander down to the adjacent beach for a dip (the water is delightful—low-to-mid 60s—and I wish I had time to swim more there). Then we go back up to the pool for more water sliding. It’s a great way to wind down from the stress of the day, and we follow up with burritos at Alki Beach afterwards. Sunset over the sound never gets old.
It’s back to the pool early for a another full day—the last one--at the Wyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. I swim a 50 BR and the 4 x 50 Free relay, take part in the diving exhibition, and watch the synchro swim competition, which is dominated by teams from the Multnomah Aquatic Club in Portland. They do amazing things, and wear amazing sparkly suits that are custom made (yes I asked about the suits—the women I talked to have gone from sewing sequins one-by-one on swimsuits during high school to being able to design their suits and have them made up for them by local seamstresses). Their duo entries include a charming routine by a mother-daughter combo—and the mother is 83 years old! The Multnomah crew also end up winning the Pink Flamingo competition, with a tribute to Esther Williams that includes voice-overs from her autobiography.
A couple of the synchro girls teach me to do pin-wheels in the water. Beach synchro is getting a new move soon.
Sunday 8 am
IGLA concludes with an open-water swim in beautiful Lake Washington. We’re all looking a little worse for wear at this point, but the lake is restorative. And I finally get to meet James, who rocks the 2-mile wetsuit swim. Of course there’s lake synchro after!
I can’t say enough good things about the wonderful people who organized this IGLA. This is one of the best run meets I’ve ever been to, and also one of the most joyful and friendliest. Kudos to everyone who had a hand in putting together the event. Every aspect of the week—meet management, social events, staying-in-Seattle logistics, all the other sports competitions—was a home run. The aquatic center facilities staff were also really impressive, seamlessly changing the pool setups from warm-ups to swimming to polo and diving and back again.
I was looking at next year’s calendar, and there are 3 big swim meets—Worlds in Montreal, USMS LC nats in Maryland, and Gay Games in Cleveland—going on right around the same time in August. My experience in Seattle—plus the opportunity to dive as well as swim--makes me lean towards Cleveland. .
My meet results
Event 5 Women 45-49 100 SC Meter Butterfly
1 Harris, Janet 48 Team New York Aquatics-6 1:24.21 1:20.87
r:+0.93 36.92 1:20.87 (43.95)
Event 9 Women 45-49 50 SC Meter Backstroke
1 Harris, Janet 48 Team New York Aquatics-6 36.63 36.12
Event 11 Women 45-49 200 SC Meter IM
1 Harris, Janet 48 Team New York Aquatics-6 2:56.52 2:58.48
r:+0.89 41.82 1:27.88 (46.06) 2:19.37 (51.49) 2:58.48 (39.11)
Event 18 Women 45-49 50 SC Meter Butterfly
1 Harris, Janet 48 Team New York Aquatics-6 35.53 34.13
Event 47 Women 45-49 50 SC Meter Breaststroke
1 Harris, Janet 48 Team New York Aquatics-6 41.14 42.58
Event 15 Mixed 160-199 800 SC Meter Freestyle Relay
2 Team New York Aquatics-6 A 10:15.55 10:48.70
1) Harris, Janet W48 2) Rodarte, ShannonW39 3) Napoli, John M43 4) Morrissey, James M40
Event 28 Mixed 160-199 400 SC MeterMedley Relay
2 Team New York Aquatics-6 A 5:30.99 5:43.84
1) Harris, Janet W48 2) r:+0.60 Rodarte, ShannonW393) r:+0.62 Napoli, John M43 4) r:+0.51 Morrissey, James M40
r:+0.81 41.25 1:24.77 (1:24.77) 2:04.79 (40.02) 2:52.43 (1:27.66)
3:37.69 (45.26) 4:31.85 (1:39.42) 5:06.42 (34.57) 5:43.84 (1:11.99)
Event 40 Mixed 160-199 200 SC MeterMedley Relay
4 Team New York Aquatics-6 A 2:19.00 2:31.40
1) Martins, Jack M38 2) r:+0.73 Turnbull-Brown, Elisa3b)etrh:+W0.4214 Chamberlain, Randall 4M)4r:4+0.22 Harris, Janet W48
r:+0.84 39.95 1:23.75 (43.80) 1:58.44 (34.69) 2:31.40 (32.96)
Event 51 Mixed 160-199 200 SC Meter Freestyle Relay
1 Team New York Aquatics-6 A 2:10.99 1:56.97
1) Harris, Janet W48 2) r:+0.50 Rodarte, ShannonW393) r:+0.47 Damron, James M44 4) r:+0.49 Barclay, Alexander M32
r:+0.82 31.05 1:02.50 (31.45) 1:28.83 (26.33) 1:56.97 (28.14)
Open-water results (I finished 2nd in the 45-49 non-wetsuit 2-mile race, with a time of 56.33)
Complete dive results (link pending)
My focus event this summer—the IGLA championships in Seattle August 13-18—is just 9 days away, and I’ve been making final plans and preparations for that event. I’ll be competing in 3 different aquatic disciplines—pool swimming, open water swimming, and diving--plus it looks like I might do the in-water choreography for our team’s entry in the closing Pink Flamingo competition. Here’s what my schedule will look like:
Arrive Monday 12 August evening
Tuesday 13 August: dive practice + easy swim at competition facility, counting for teammates’ 1500s
Wednesday 14 August: 100 FL, 50 BK, 200 IM, (4 x 200 FR relay)
Thursday 15 August: 50 fly, (4 x 100 medley relay), 1m dive competition
Friday 16 August: (4 x 100 FR relay), (4 x 50 medley relay), 3m dive competition
Saturday 17 August: 50 breast, (4 x 50 free relay), dive exhibition?, Pink Flamingo
Sunday 18 August: 2-mile open water swim
Here’s how things are looking:
It was a race to the wire to learn enough dives to compete in the 3m competition as well as the 1m. Last Sunday I learned a back dive with a half twist from both boards, which gave me a seventh dive, and one from the twisting category, on the higher board. So now I’m good to go.
(As a woman, my competition lists will include 6 official, scored dives on each board. But because FINA requires 7 dives for men, women at IGLA are given the opportunity to do a seventh unofficial “equality” dive to protest this gender equality. In addition, all five groups of dives--forward, backward, inward, reverse, and twisting--should be included among the 7).
So on the 3m my dives will be:
Front dive tuckFront 1½ somersault tuckBack dive straightBack flip straightReverse dive tuckInward dive tuckBack dive straight with ½ twist
This has to be among the lowest degree-of-difficulty dive lists you’ll ever see—but hey, I’m just thrilled to be competing!
On the 1m I might replace the twisty back dive with a front somersault with a full or half twist—I have some choices there—and I do the back flip in a tuck position rather than lay-out. I have three more practices to make everything better and to practice doing the different dives one after the other, rather than working on just one or two per practice.
As for the competition itself, Federal Way is a great diving facility—Olympic Trials were held there in 2012. Competition runs from 1 to 2:30 each day, and there are platform and synchro competitions as well (both on Friday). I know there are 16 divers total (about half from my team, half from various elsewheres); I’m not sure if there will be anyone else in my age group. My goal is to do all my dives legally, and to maybe hit one or two really well from each height. Whatever I do, since this is my first official meet, my scores will automatically be lifetime PRs!
Oh, and Kent Ferguson (former world champion on 3m and 92 Olympian) will be one of the judges at the competition. Very cool!
This is a short course meters meet, with 2 courses going simultaneously. Men’s and women’s events are separate, and championship seeding (by age groups) is generally used for the shorter events. Turns will be guttered rather FINA walls, and starting blocks will have wedges (my first time using those). Swim competition is scheduled to run from 8:30 to 12:30 each day. Federal Way is supposed to be a fast pool.
My goals here are to score points for my team and to have fun racing. Team New York won the swim competition at last year’s IGLA in Iceland by a huge margin, but this year we come into the meet as underdogs—the DC squad has 69 swimmers to our 61, and also has way more women. (Women at IGLA meets are key, since the swim meet skews about 80-85 percent men—women typically score points in any event they swim, whereas the men’s events, especially in the 20s-40s age groups, can go several dozen deep). So my focus is on placing as well as I can in all my events, and contributing what I can to relays.
I picked my events (50 FL/BK/BR, 100 FL, 2IM) to avoid swimming too much on days I have diving, and to avoid having swim events that overlap with diving warm-ups. (Some relays might be going on at the same time as diving warm-ups, in which case I’ll shuttle back-and-forth between the diving well and competition pool as needed.) My swim training has taken a back seat to dive training and to rehabbing a calf injury this past month, and I was a little worried about my endurance in the 100 fly, especially since it’s not one of my usual events. So I have to admit I was a little relieved when the psych sheets came out, and I was listed as the only one swimming the 100 fly in my age group.
The two events where competition will be toughest are in the 50 BK and 50 FL. I’ve been trying to do very focused work for these events, but it’s been hampered by not being able to do many wall push-offs yet. Luckily my calf is healing well, and I’m hopeful that by the time I arrive in Seattle I will be swimming pain-free, if not as well prepared as I might like. I’m imagining that the swim events will feel like a comfortable respite from the diving, where everything is new and a little scary. Some diving teammates are in the opposite situation, new to swim competitions but old hats at diving—it will be nice to look to them for mutual support and encouragement.
In addition to my 5 events, we are allowed to swim 4 of the 5 relays. With 60+ swimmers and all the combinations of ages and genders possible, doing the relay assignments is a huge task—I don’t envy Coach Scott in the coming days! I’ve told him I’m happy swimming anything, and am looking forward to swimming with friends old and new.
After 5 days in an indoor pool, I get to cap off the week with a 2-mile swim in Lake Washington. What a treat!
IGLA competitions always come with plenty of social events, and the Seattle crew seems to have done a ton of event planning. There’s an opening party at the Seattle Aquarium, hosted dinners with local swimmers, a women’s Garden Party and dinner near Alki Beach, a sunset cruise in the sound, closing banquet, etc. I’m singed up for all of those except the cruise (it runs too late for someone who never seems to adjust to west coast time when I'm out there). I'm also looking forward to making a trip to Colman Pool to try out the water slide, swimming in the sound (hoping to find a local guide for that!), and doing some other touristy stuff. Back at the pool, there will be water polo (go TNYA!) and synchro competitions in the afternoons, plus Pink Flamingo rehearsals. I have to get out my guidebook and the IGLA schedule and see what other things I want to shoehorn in.
IGLA 2013 websiteMeet SwimPhoneLive Streaming
Questions for anyone who has read this far:
Does anyone have any recommendations for things to do near Seattle that I shouldn’t miss? I’ve stayed downtown lots of times and have seen most of the things within walking distance of the downtown hotels. This time I’ll have a car and am interested in stuff within easy driving distance from Federal Way.
Any advice on starting from wedge blocks? What do you do differently from a regular track start?
Updated August 4th, 2013 at 11:20 AM by swimsuit addict