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  1. Middlebury meet day 3

    I came to the pool Sunday morning determined to get out of my negative splitting rut. I wanted to be braver in taking out my races. Here’s how things went:

    200 Back: 2:55.67 (41.53, 44.24, 45.51, 44.39)
    I swam this race just like I wanted to—tempo was good throughout, I took it out at a decent pace, and brought it back fairly strong. A couple of times on the last 100 I let my head drop back a little too far, which makes me lose some water on the arm pulls, but I was able to tell what was happening and correct that.
    Before I swim lcm backstroke races, I always like to pick out a few visual “landmarks” that will allow me to know where in the length I am—the pool can seem awfully long when there’s no way of marking your progress. I forgot to do that before my 100 the previous day, but remembered today (Middlebury has different colored banners from the schools in their conference strung along one wall that served quite well). I don’t think that knowing where in the length I am changes my race strategy or makes a huge difference in how I’m swimming, but it does increase my comfort in the water.

    100 Fly: 1:24.68 (40.45, 44.23)
    This race was good from a pacing point of view, but I do really need to work on my fly technique—it’s by far the weakest of my strokes, and that’s really apparent in long course. I got some good feedback both from Boomer and from Coach Craig (funny how they zeroed in on the same things) about my head position, the timing of my breathing, and the shape of the pulldown, so I was really happy about that. I think it’s also the first time I’ve swum this event lcm, so my time’s an automatic PR.

    200 Free: 2:38.04 (37.26, 40.30, 39.77, 40.71)
    Going into this race, my goal was to focus on the 3rd 50 of my race, and swim it as strongly as I could. (I figured if I then ended up dying on the final length, it would at least be an honorable death—I had spent the previous day having too much left at the end of my races.) I executed the race just like I’d planned. I’ve swum faster 200s, but this was the best one I had in me today, so it’s good to have a true gauge of that. It does seem perverse to bring home my 400 IM (1:19.92) faster than my 200 FR (1:20.48).

    100 Breast: 1:34.07 (44.79, 49.28)
    I was actually feeling sad before this race to be swimming my last event—it was that great a meet. My key was to go out strong on the first 50 and then keep my technique together on the 2nd. I dove in, took 2 long strokes with significant glide, then remembered that I was supposed to be pushing the pace. From then on, I was happy with how I swam the race, and surprised that my splits were as close as they were—judging by how the last 50 felt, I was guessing there would be more like a 6 or 7 seven difference.

    All considered, I felt like my race execution was quite good at this meet. To the extent that I didn’t get all I could out of my body in some of my races, it was more a matter of not finding the proper race strategy, mostly because I was underestimating my conditioning during the first part of the meet. I also think that setting one of my goals as swimming all the events this summer encouraged me on some level to approach my 200s FL and BR and 400 IM with the idea that “getting through” the race was enough..

    I can’t say enough great things about the folks at Middlebury who put on this meet. I’ve been doing masters swimming since the early 90s, and this was really one of the best and friendliest meet experiences I’ve had (and I’ve swum at a number of IGLA meets, which also tend to be very joyful and friendly events). The Muffintops ran the meet with a laid-back efficiency (with occasional touches of whimsy) that made everything feel fun and easy.

    It was also great to have some Asphalt Green teammates and a coach at the meet. Craig gave me great feedback after each swim, and now I’m really excited about getting back in the water and working on making my strokes better. Plus, he videotaped a number of my races—if anyone is interested they can see them (and hear his commentary on some of them). Comments definitely welcome!

    100 Back (I’m in the 3rd lane from the top, in the white cap): [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDxDAKJKfgk"]YouTube- Middlebury LCM 2010[/nomedia]

    100 Breast (4th lane from the bottom, or 5th from top, in white cap): [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8egB5T_2lTg"]YouTube- Middlebury LCM 2010[/nomedia]

    200 Free (in lane 5, with lane 1 at the bottom): [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqB8xJ_eZc4"]YouTube- Middlebury LCM 2010[/nomedia]

    400 IM (I'm in the far lane in this one, and you can't tell much about my strokes): [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWvhoX-cb4s"]YouTube- Middlebury LCM 2010[/nomedia]

    In some ways this meet was a real relief to swim at after my experiences at nationals. There was such a feeling of plenty here—plenty of warmup space, deck space, time in each day, lockers, parking, etc. I felt like I could just show up each day and do what I needed to do to swim my best without having to plan everything around the logistics of dealing with crowded conditions and tense situations. At the same time, Atlanta had such great energy and excitement to it, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that for anything. I think it’s neat that as masters we have a range of meet experiences to choose from, and I feel that after all these years I’m still improving in my ability to figure out what to expect at any particular meet, anticipate what my main challenges will be in setting up myself to swim well, and strategize how to best deal with those challenges.

    I was really glad that I got to chat with a couple of other USMS bloggers at this meet. Swimmerb212 had some impressive time drops in her 400 FR and 200 IM. Her team, the FISH, had an overall strong showing, and beat out my team for second place among non-NE LMSC squads. Gigi also had a number of strong swims. She not only emerged from the meet as New England champion in several events, but it looks like she captured a meet record along the way.. Kudos to both on their meets!

    My final observation is that swimming in the NE LMSC seems like a really good deal. They have 3 wonderful championship meets every year, with lots of spirited intra-LSMC competition between workout groups, plus they get to combine forces for relays at out-of-LMSC meets. (My LMSC was once set up this way, but we never really had the camaraderie of NE and were often too disorganized to take full advantage of the relay thing.) Many of the NE workout groups have fun names and/or mascots and lots of cool gear. (The Penguins had a giant plush penguin dressed up and stationed in their team area; I petted it for good luck every time I passed by.) I think a lot of the great NE spirit can be attributed to the efforts and attitudes of many extraordinary swimmers and coaches in their LMSC. But to the extent that their structure as a regional team contributes to their success, I think it is something that USMS should be encouraging (or at least enthusiastically allowing). In many ways, the NE LSMC is masters swimming at its best.
  2. Middlebury meet days 1 and 2

    I came up to Middlebury on Thursday and swam the first two days of the NE LCM champs on Friday and Saturday. The theme for this meet so far seems to be negative splitting—I managed to do that on 4 of the first 5 events I swam. That was probably a good strategy for the 800 FR, but it’s a bizarre result for the 400 IM. Here’s the rundown on my events so far (The 800 was on Friday, everything else was on Saturday):

    800 FR: 11:30.16 (5:46.89, 5:43.27)
    My splits by 100 were 1:22.8, 1:28.3, 1:28.6, 1:28.1, 1:26.5, 1:26.6, 1:26.6, 1:22.6. My stroke cadence felt really good all the way through this race, and my turns felt strong and coherent. My hope was to go around 12 minutes (I put in a seed time significantly above that), so I was thrilled with my time. I have no idea how I can put a 1:22 on the end of a 800 at a meet when I struggle to do a single 100 at that pace in workout with lots of rest beforehand, but I’m glad it seems to work that way.

    200 FL: 3:11.19 (1:36.09, 1:35.10)
    On the first 50 of this swim I really felt out of breath. I worried that I was going out too fast, and kept trying to go slower, but then I realized I was not exhaling enough. Once I fixed that—about at my first turn—everything felt good. This was actually a pretty comfortable race.

    100 BK: 1:19.79 (39.28, 40.51)
    This was probably my best race so far. My backstroke is feeling good.

    400 IM: 6:22.99 (1:35.67, 1:37.97, 1:49.47, 1:19.92)
    Yep, I had a lot left on that freestyle.

    200 BR: 3:29.55 (1:45.78, 1:43.77)
    My 50 splits were 50.0, 55.8, 53.3, 50.5. I backed off the 2nd 50 too much—I’ve only swum this event once before and was afraid of taking it out too fast. (It was the same story on 200 FL). My stroke actually felt smoother as I increased my cadence on the 3rd and 4th 50s.

    Tomorrow I’m swimming 200 BK, 100 FL, 200 FR, and 100 BR.

    This has been such a fun meet so far. The pool is gorgeous and full of light, and it’s one of the friendliest meets I’ve ever been to. I’ve stayed really happy and blissful all day at the pool, and am excited to get to swim every time I get up behind the blocks. And it’s really a relief to race in a proper length pool—hurray for long course!

    Leading into the meet I did a clinic with Bill Boomer, which was really amazing. Kudos to the Middlebury folks for arranging his clinic! I’ll post more about it in coming days. I also did a personal session with him today, and instead of working on swimming we mostly worked on sinking! It turns out I have breathing issues in the water (I kind of knew that already), and need to work on getting myself to believe that it’s ok to breathe out when I'm in the water, instead of hoarding all my air because I’m scared I won’t get to breathe in any more of it. Breathing out enough to allow myself to sink to the bottom of the pool is a challenge.