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  1. Atlanta aftermath

    I woke up today still feeling both the excitement and exhaustion from nationals. It was definitely a successful meet for me, and I am delighted and relieved to have swum so well. I am still reeling a bit from how much all my races hurt. I don’t remember feeling quite so wasted after all my swims at other big meets. One of my teammates said she worried after each of my races that I was horribly disappointed, because she would see my slumped over with my head in my hands right by the ladder, but then I would show up a few minutes later in our team area with a big smile on my facing announcing a big time drop. I did pretty much collapse right by the ladder after all my swims (except 50 BR, after which I felt just normally fatigued). I truly didn’t think I could walk away from the pool without a few minutes recovery time. I don’t recall ever doing that before.

    I think I still secretly have the fantasy that I can have a terrific breakthrough swim AND have it feel really great. That has happened a few times in my masters career—my 400 lcm IM at Portland (unfortunately DQed) and my masters PRs in the 200 lcm IM and 200 scy FR come to mind. On all of these I dropped significant time and just felt happy and exuberant, and ready to hop in and swim them again afterwards. But usually, swimming longer races (100s and up) fast just hurts, and I still hard to accept. In Atlanta, they really really hurt. I can blame the 400 IM hurt on bad pacing, but not my 2BK, 2IM, or 100 FR. Even my 50 BK was yucky painful by the end, and it was just a 50!

    I feel like a lot of my taper is just a big pep talk to myself, preparing mentally to endure that level of discomfort. Since I have been swimming masters, I have usually had good tapers for big events, but maybe part of that is just that I’m unwilling to dig quite as deep during my in-season races.

    All this makes me wonder—do other people train and/or race during the season at the same level of discomfort that they feel when swimming their races at big events? I don’t do many practice races in workouts, and even when we do an x for time, I secretly always feel like I’m keeping things within a certain comfort level. I have a hard time imagining being willing to endure the same type of pain that I felt during my Atlanta swims on a daily or weekly basis, but maybe I’m just an especially wimpy swimmer. So, a question: If you do a lot of practice races or race-pace training, how does this work for you? And do you feel any less pain in big races if you are put yourself out there more frequently?

    But enough complaining! I was so happy about bettering my swim ratings in 5 events that I updated my graph. Here’s the pre- and post-nationals version (my nats events were 50 BK, 50 BR, 100 FR, 200 IM, 200 BK, and 400 IM):

    Before Atlanta:


    After Atlanta:


    It’s not as pretty a proof that I’m a sprinter as before, when all the lines sloped downwards, but it’s cool that I moved all the events I swam in ATL into the into the top portion of the graph.

    One longstanding goal that I won’t achieve this season is finally making a scy top ten list. I’ve been fortunate enough to swim a fair number of SCM and SCM top ten times, but I’ve never cracked the list in yards. That’s definitely not happening this season either—my top rankings in the USMS database are 17th in the 200 BK and 200 IM and 18th in the 50 BR. So that goal will have to wait for another season. I don’t think aging up next year will make it any easier, given how tough the 45-49s are.

    Now, on to LCM and OW!
  2. Last day at nationals

    This morning I got to the pool for the early warmup even though I wasn’t swimming the 500. I just wanted some alone time with the water, to say goodbye to the pool. I got in a nice calm warmup—about 2000 yards—and even swam a bit in the warmdown pool just to see what it was like without a bazillion people in it. I loved how blue and peaceful it felt over there.

    It was fun watching the 500 swimmers—we had several 500istas from AGUA that I cheered on, plus several other swimmers I know from my area and past competitions. I really do love hearing all the bells ringing at the end of the race. I think it would be cool if they were like handbells, with a different tone for each lane. Maybe you could arrange them so they would play a major scale if the swimmers finished as seeded (although with 10 lanes there would be a couple of extra notes). Each heat would produce a different little tune determined by the swimmers.

    Then I swam the 50 BK leadoff for our B relay. I finished in 31.31, which was a bit better than yesterday’s 31.45 and just nudged under my 40-44 PR from 2008. It was a nice note to finish the meet on.

    My main source of stress today was worrying about how I would manage to climb out of the pool after my relay swim—we weren’t in an end lane, and the high walls looked intimidating. I even asked yesterday if I could swim FR on the relay so I wouldn’t have that problem, but it was too late to switch things around. I shouldn’t have worried—all the teams in my heat stayed in the water until the end lanes were done and we could swim over to the side. I have seen plenty of swimmers hoist themselves easily and gracefully out of the pool (including Fortress, who was in the heat ahead of me in the 50 BK yesterday), so kudos to them. I clearly need to work on more strength training!

    Then it was time for a quick shower and change, before heading off to the airport. I found swimmers who had driven to the meet who were happy to take the cheap rolling duffle bag and cooler that I had bought for the meet off my hands, and made a couple of new friends in the process. Then off to the airport, and up and away—I’m flying back as I’m typing this.

    Happy swimming to everyone still at the meet, and safe travels!
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  3. Nationals Day 3 (Day 2 for me)

    This morning I slept in after an excellent dinner with the AGUA crew Friday night. Since my events were slated to start at around 1 pm, I was a bit unsure about what to do about warm-ups today--early warmup would be too early to do much good, and later I was sure the pools would be too crowded to get in the type of warmup that I like to do. I ended up driving over to one of Atlanta’s public pools, in Washington Park, mid-morning to get in some laps, and that worked out well. It was a 10-lane 25 yard pool, and there were only 3 people in it. I did about 1500 yards (100 warmup, 3 x 50 desc., 3 x 50 easy, 100 easy, 100 upside-down IM). It was a nice calm time to collect myself and loosen up the kinks from yesterday before my crowded event schedule today. (I think the pool is closed on Sundays, else I would recommend it to those not swimming early events tomorrow).

    After warm-ups, I drove to the swim center, ate a bit of lunch, got my neck worked on, got my suit on, and got ready to swim. Here’s how my races went (time and comments appended in blue to pre-race goal sheet):

    200 IM
    Masters/lifetime PR: 2:25.82 (1998) (32.2, 38.9, 42.0, 32.6) (Swim rating = 85.1)
    40-44 PR: 2:31.16 (4/2009) (32.8, 38.1, 44.9, 35.3) (SR=86.2)
    2010 best: 2:32.56 (4/11) (33.3, 38.3, 45.1, 35.8) (SR=86.0)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 2:31.94
    Keys: easy FL, accelerate into turns, rhythm + turnover on BK, hand speed on BR, kick on FR
    Time: 2:27.06 (33.16, 36.60, 43.05, 34.16)
    Comments: This is the race I wanted to swim. I’m thrilled with the time, which is my best since several age groups ago. I thought after yesterday’s 200 BK that my IM had no chance of beating my BK time, but I got within spitting distance of it. This time converts to a swim rating of 89.2, which is by far my best ever in scy for this event.

    100 FR
    Masters PR: 58.07 (27.78) (2002) (Swim rating = 86.7)
    Lifetime best: 57.53 (1981)
    40-44 PR and 2010 best: 59.56 (28.94) (3/2010) (SR=87.4)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 59.52
    Goal: I’d be thrilled to go under a minute again.
    Keys: happy and relaxed off blocks, accelerate 2nd length into turn, kick on 3rd length, push turnover and kick on last 25
    Time: 59.97 (28.82, 31.15) (SR=86.8)
    Comments: I was indeed thrilled to see a 59 by my lane again. I was also left not quite sure what to make of this swim. I felt out of breath from the git-go, and breathed every stroke the whole way even though I kept telling myself not to—it was like I was not really in control of what my body was doing. Maybe I was hyperventilating before I got in the water, or maybe just really exhausted by the time this race came around—I’m not sure why my body was reacting the way it did. Aside from the breathing issue, I felt I executed my keys well—decent turns, strong finish, good pacing. I was a little sad not to get a season PR from this one, but I feel like this was the swim I had in me today, and that I did a good job of staying with the swim under not-ideal conditions.

    50 BK
    Masters/lifetime PR: 30.70 (2001) (SR=85.8)
    40-44 PR: 31.35 (3/08) (SR=87.3)
    2010 best: 31.62 (March) (SR=87.6)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 31.58
    Keys: explosive start, push turnover, accelerate into walls, kickickick
    Time: 31.45 (SR=88.1)
    Comments: I hit all my keys on this one and was happy with the swim. I kind of hoped I might have a break-out swim on this one and go under :30, but that didn’t happen. I do feel like I swam the best race I had in me today, and that’s what I was ultimately looking to do.

    So I ended up 5 of 6 on bettering my best-ever ratings in each event. This was a really successful nationals for me, and a really fun and amazing one as well. Friday I think I was a little overwhelmed by the venue and the crowdedness of things; today I made a point of looking around when I was behind the blocks and just taking in the fact that I was here swimming in the 96 Olympic pool at an event that had drawn so many other people who love swimming, and feeling really amazed and grateful at getting to have that experience.

    I also saw a bunch of really astounding swims—the men’s 100 FR especially just seemed to produce one amazing time after another. And some of my teammates had some breakthrough swims that were great to see. I also got to catch up with my Florida coach and training buddies, which was really nice.

    And I did wear my flower cap in the warmdown pool a couple of times today, and found out that I should have been doing that earlier. People really are nicer when you’re wearing a flower cap. They stop and smile and say things like, “Oh no, you go on ahead.” Plus, I met a women who was going to have a whole relay swim with flower caps today. I somehow missed seeing them swim, but hope other people did and cheered them on—it apparently included 3 new masters swimmers doing their first meet together.

    Tomorrow I’m swimming a morning relay as my farewell to this wonderful pool and event, then driving to the airport to fly home. Delta, please please get me home in time for dinner!

    One other thing: The natatorium has a vending machine that sells goggles and swim caps. Pretty cool!
  4. My first day at nats

    I had an amusing first day in Atlanta. I arrived early (in an impressive thunder and lightning storm) and got in a good warmup—it wasn’t too crowded, and I was glad for that. I was glad to have gotten in some starts at the 30-minute session yesterday, as the line for starts seemed very long.

    Then it was time to swim. Here’s how my events went (today's time and comments appended to my pre-meet event goal sheets):

    400 IM
    Masters/Lifetime PR: 5:13.51 (1999) (1:12.9, 1:22.8, 1:26.1, 1:11.7) (84.4 swim rating)
    40-44 PR: 5:20.62 (4/2006) (1:17.8, 1:20.2, 1:31.6, 1:10.9) (SR=85.3)
    2010 best: 5:33.43 (January) (1:17.3, 1:24.6, 1:36.4, 1:15.1) (SR=84.1)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 5:28.47
    Other goals: a well-paced race
    Keys: relaxed FL, establish rhythm on BK, head down on BR, exuberant FR, accelerate into walls on all strokes.
    Time: 5:19.01 (1:13.32, 1:19.17, 1:32.03, 1:14.49)
    Comments: I felt really nervous about this swim. I think I got too excited and went out too hard on the fly. The only time I swam 100 FL this season, I went 1:11.5, so I probably need an opening fly split more than 2 seconds slower than that. My legs felt dead the rest of the race, and I suffered. I didn’t do a good job of thinking about my keys because I was hurting too much. I was scared to look at the clock after, but when I did I was thrilled. I was hoping to go under 5:30, and secretly thinking I might have an outside shot of under 5:25, but I never imagined I’d break 5:20. So, I got a 40-44 PR and a best ever swim rating (87.9) in my first swim! I still think that better splitting might produce an even better swim, so that’s an exciting thought for future scy seasons.

    50 BR
    Masters/lifetime PR: 34.08 (2000) (87.1 swim rating)
    40-44 PR: 34.83 (3/2006) (SR=87.0)
    2010 best: 35.52 (3/21) (SR=86.8)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 35.38
    Other goals: <35?, good turn
    Keys: build into fast turnover on first few strokes; head down; coherent, powerful turn
    Time: 34.12
    Comments: I was really excited about swimming this event—the timers were laughing at me because I was so eager to get in the water. I felt I executed my keys well, and my time was a lifetime second-best, just .04 off my best from 2000. I also picked up a swim rating PR with a 90.3—I’m not sure how many ratings over 90 I’ve ever gotten in scy. Maybe the key to blissy swimming is to just swim 50s—this race was all fun.

    200 BK
    Masters/lifetime PR (and coolest-ever splits): 2:26.52 (2002) (35.10, 37.14, 37.14, 37.14) (SR=83.4)
    Best swim rating: 2:31.30 in 2009 (SR=84.7)
    40-44 PR: 2:30.07 (2007) (SR=84.2)
    2010 best: NT
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 2:32.34
    Goals: <2:30, a well-paced swim
    Keys: still head; think rotation on 1st 3 strokes off each wall, then push turnover; accelerate into walls
    Time: 2:26.27 (35.33, 37.33, 37.07, 36.54)
    Comments: I was really happy with this swim. That time is a lifetime best for me (just beating out my time from 2002), and I executed most things well (the start was conservative because I was worried about slipping, and my first turn was too close to the bulkhead, but everything else seemed good to me.) My swim rating on this one was 88.3.

    So, three 40-44 PRs, 1 lifetime PR, and 3 best scy swim ratings. It was a successful swimming day.

    I also had a lot of fun at the meet—got to hang out with teammates from past and present, and see some folks from faraway who I never see except at big meets. There were some really impressive swims and races going in—with 2 10-lane pools going at once, it seems a bit like a track meet where there’s always something good to watch.

    I got a neck treatment from our team’s trainer (yes, we have one here!) once I was done for the day, so I’m feeling good despite swimming a lot today. Tomorrow if I’m not swimming a morning relay I may go warm up elsewhere before driving over to the meet, since my first event (200 IM) doesn’t start until later in the session.

    Congrats to everyone who swam today, and good luck tomorrow!
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  5. Easy Friday swimming

    I went to noon AGUA workout today and just did some easy swimming. I’m still feeling a little lightheaded from Wednesday, but things are definitely getting better.

    The workout involved various different pacing and effort levels, but I ended up swimming it all easy except for some fast turns and breakouts and an occasional 3-5 stroke cycles at race speed. I worked on some technique keys (BR head position, BK elbow bend, FR head position) that I hope to do well in my races in Atlanta.

    Here’s the workout I did:

    300 warmup

    6 x 150 @ :20 rest

    5 x 100 @ 2:20 [I moved down a couple of lanes for this set and the next, since the fast lane had 7 swimmers and I was just taking it easy.]

    12 x 50 choice: 3 @ 1:10, 3 @ 1:05, 3 @ 1:00, 3 @ 55

    2 backstroke starts [Coach Craig’s tip: head further back when in start position]

    150 warmdown

    I felt good in the water by the middle of the workout, and enjoyed just taking it easy. I was glad to get in a bit of work on my BK starts, but only did 2 because starting on the bulkhead really chews up the skin on my toes. Maybe I’ll ask if they can put in a touchpad Monday morning to do some more BK start work—I think the pool has some (I don’t think they’re the high touchpads like will be in Atlanta—but any surface would be better than the bulkhead).

    I’ve been a bit of a slacker about writing down my goals and keys for each race in Atlanta. That’s partly because I really am not sure what to expect. I decided to attend this meet somewhat late in the season, and my reasons—I thought it would be fun to go to a major meet with a big team, I could combine it with a trip to Alabama to see my mom, and I wanted a distraction from other goings-on this spring—didn’t really have that much to do with achieving individual swim goals. My overarching aim at the meet is to enjoy a fun few days of swimming, and to feel like I’ve gotten the best that my body could do out of each swim.

    But I do also like to have numbers to shoot for, and I was feeling at a bit of a loss there. It’s been years since I’ve tapered for a scy meet, so I don’t have a set of recent yards tapered times to aim for. Most of my best yards times are from my early 30s, and many of them seem so far out of reach as to seem daunting. But yesterday I remembered the swim rating calculator. I decided to comb through my old times, determine my best swim rating in each of the events I’m doing, and see what sort of time it would take to beat that rating at my current age (44). It turns out that those times yield a nice set of challenging yet achievable goal times. Hurray for swim ratings!

    So here’s the pertinent info for my first day of swimming at nats (Friday):

    400 IM
    Masters/Lifetime PR: 5:13.51 (1999) (1:12.9, 1:22.8, 1:26.1, 1:11.7) (84.4 swim rating)
    40-44 PR: 5:20.62 (4/2006) (1:17.8, 1:20.2, 1:31.6, 1:10.9) (SR=85.3)
    2010 best: 5:33.43 (January) (1:17.3, 1:24.6, 1:36.4, 1:15.1) (SR=84.1)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 5:28.47=85.4
    Other goals: a well-paced race
    Keys: relaxed FL, establish rhythm on BK, head down on BR, exuberant FR, accelerate into walls on all strokes.

    50 BR
    Masters/lifetime PR: 34.08 (2000) (87.1 swim rating)
    40-44 PR: 34.83 (3/2006) (SR=87.0)
    2010 best: 35.52 (3/21) (SR=86.8)
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 35.38
    Other goals: <35?, good turn
    Keys: build into fast turnover on first few strokes; head down; coherent, powerful turn

    200 BK
    Masters/lifetime PR (and coolest-ever splits): 2:26.52 (2002) (35.10, 37.14, 37.14, 37.14) (SR=83.4)
    Best swim rating: 2:31.30 in 2009 (SR=84.7)
    40-44 PR: 2:30.07 (2007) (SR=84.2)
    2010 best: NT
    Time needed to beat best swim rating: 2:32.34
    Goals: <2:30, a well-paced swim
    Keys: still head; think rotation on 1st 3 strokes off each wall, then push turnover; accelerate into walls
    Tags: atlanta, goals, taper
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  6. I spent the morning trying to bounce off walls

    This morning I swam the 5:45 workout with AG masters. I was sore in my shoulders and neck, and very tight in my hip flexors after yesterday’s meet, but everything loosened up eventually. Here’s what I did:

    500 scy warmup

    6 x 200 @ 3:00 [I alternated FR/BK by 25s, then by 50s, then by 100s, twice through]

    8 x 50, 1st 25 = stroke chimera (arms/kick = FL/FR, BK/FL, BR/FL, FR/FR, twice through), 2nd 25 = FR, all flutter kicking = fast

    4 x 100 Kick @ 2:00, alternating kicking on belly, side, back, side by 25

    8 x 100 FR @ 1:35, gliding in streamline position off walls as far as possible [I really loved this set. I was all superglidy bliss during it—I spent about half of each length with no stroking or kicking, just enjoying feeling the water around me and listening to all the various underwater noises before surfacing. It was like that wonderful moment of underwater stillness in BR pullouts, only times ten! Plus I finally felt all stretched out by the set’s end. I need to remember to do this on my own if I’m feeling tight or stressed.]

    4 x 100 FR @ 1:30 with great underwaters [The idea was to keep the great streamlines off walls, and add underwaters and breakouts. The rest of the swimming was easy, which was good because working underwaters and breakouts really tires me out.]

    200 warmdown

    I entered nationals this morning—I’m swimming 400 IM, 50 BR, 200 BK on Friday, and 200 IM, 100 FR, 50 BK on Saturday. Also, I was looking over the meet information printed in the magazine, and noticed that the description of Zoo Atlanta is pretty hilarious.
    Tags: atlanta, turns
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  7. Going to nationals!

    Tonight I swam the late workout with TNYA at John Jay College. Here’s what I did:

    650 warmup (200 FR, 50 FL, 2 x 100 BK/BR, 200 K)

    6 x 100 pull @ 1:30

    5 x 50 dolphin kick @ 1:15

    I got out at this point because I was having some sinus/allergy problems. The water quality wasn’t very good, so that might have been what was causing them (it was cloudy and smelled and tasted funny.) I figured it was best to bail and live to swim another day, but I was frustrated because I really liked what the next set was going to be. I told Scott I was stealing it to swim another time.

    Tonight’s experience notwithstanding, I have been excited about swimming this week, because over the weekend I decided that I would go to nationals. I have been pretty lackadaisical this season about making any long-term swimming plans, in part because I’ve had some more pressing issues to deal with, but also because I was enjoying just swimming the workouts for themselves and simply planning my swimming life from one meet to the next. (Plentiful local meets this season definitely contributed to this enjoyment—thank you Metro meet directors!). But over the weekend I realized that it wasn’t too late to enter nats, that I would enjoy swimming a last scy meet this season, and that I could combine the meet with a trip home to see my folks that I need to make around that time anyway. Bingo! I’m going.

    I’ll probably do the meet as a 2-day affair, swimming all my individual events on Friday and Saturday. The only events that look attractive on Sunday—50 FR and less so 100 BK—are relatively late on the schedule, and I don’t want to have to either plan a really late flight home, or worry about missing an earlier one. So right now I’m leaning towards doing the 400 IM, 50 BR, and either 200 BK or 100 FL on Friday, and the 2IM, 100 FR, and 50 BK on Saturday. That will give me a pleasantly chewy schedule, as well as plenty of stuff to work over the next 6 weeks. I already have my flight, hotel, and car reservations, but will probably wait til after my meet on Sunday to enter in hopes of getting a better official time in the 200 IM to seed myself with.

    And yesterday I actually tried on my 2 tech suits—I have a B70 and a Finis. They’re both new—the B70 is a replacement suit for the one that ripped in Portland. (I've managed to avoid wearing it for the last year and a half). The B70 donning experience wasn’t as bad as I remembered, maybe because I made a scarecrow by stuffing the legs of the suit with a foam roller and a stretching mat and the body of the suit with a few towels. I zipped it up and left it like that for a couple of hours before I tried it on, and it seemed to have stretched out at least a bit. It was still very tight, but getting it on only took about 10 minutes. Plus I didn’t feel like the circulation to my ankles was completely cut off. (I had put water bottles in the cuffs to stretch them). The Finis suit might benefit from a similar scarecrow treatment. I do find the “stabilizing strips” in that suit a little bizarre.

    So . . . onward and upward. Atlanta here I come!
    Tags: atlanta
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