I did it. I swam in the Mardi Gras Masters Meet at Miami University. It was my first swim meet in 23 years. That means my last swim meet was on the other side of my half way point in years. I overheard recent college graduates lamenting about how long it had been since they’d been in the pool competitively swimming. And then I heard them exchange ages to determine if they competed at the same time. And then I figured out they weren’t even born yet when I swam in my last meet. It was a like a Doctor Suess book… Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, young ones, old ones, male ones and female ones… Sam, I am. The victory is very much in the showing up to begin with. Some talked of making the national cut time and others talked about their first swim meet since their knee replacement. I got to know some fellow swimmers from Richmond that are 2 or 3 decades older and much faster than I am. And they were so very friendly and encouraging. The one thing that stood out was the absence of a thing… negativity. I didn’t hear anyone say a single negative word about anyone else. The oldest and/or slowest people got the loudest applause. It was quite the encouraging scene.
So how did I do? After about 7 weeks of training and month or so before that of swimming once or twice a week for exercise, I had 3 successes and 1 failure. I signed up for 4 events: 50 Breast, 50 Free, 50 Fly and 100 Free. In high school and college I swam the 50 Free and 100 Free. Breast and Fly events started at 100 so this 50 distance is a new perk of Masters swimming. I’ve never competed in breast stroke and only swam fly once or twice in college. So this meet was about trying new strokes. Maybe the next meet will be about trying to get off of my “I’m a sprinter” crutch and trying a longer distance.
Anyway, back to how I did at this meet. Wait, one more caveat. I went to a YMCA youth practice mid-January so I could practice a few starts and swim a 50 for time in each stroke to turn in for seed times. I did 4 starts that night off of regular blocks with my old school both feet on the edge start. During the meet warm up, I did 3 practice starts off the new fangled blocks with the raised back with a split stance like a track start. That’s the caveat to my one failure. My last race of the day was the 100 Free and my start was not a good one and my goggles filled with water. In the high school and college days, a swimmer was honor bound to man up and finish the race regardless. I’m old and was paying for the privilege to swim and climbed out of the pool after the first length. My pride isn’t so strong as to push me to swim half blind with chlorine in my eyes. Such was my failure on my 11th start in 23 years. I can live with that and survive to swim another day.
Now for the successes. The practice swims mid-January that I used for seed times were :29.9 50 Free, :36 50 Fly, and :45 50 Breast, in that order on that day. My times from the meet were :40.74 50 Breast, :28.65 50 Free, and 33.14 50 Fly, in that order. The 100 Free was very soon after the 50 Fly and I was still huffing and puffing which probably contributed to my lousy start. So I dropped over 4 seconds in the Breast my first ever competitive swim in that stroke. And I dropped almost 3 seconds in the Fly which I’ve only ever swam a few times. And even in my natural stroke, Freestyle, I dropped over a second. And above all, I showed up and I did it. Thanks to mom and dad for coming to enjoy and cheer. They said they came to make up for not watching any college swim meets, but I think they really wanted to see if I would actually make it from one end to the other without drowning. Special thanks to Jamie for pushing me to compete and special thoughts and prayers to her as she was unable to make it to the meet. Love you, Jamie.
My take aways from the experience:
-training for a competition is more fun than exercising
-competing against yourself (or the clock or weight lifted or distance, etc) reinforces progress much better than logging another hour of exercise
-fellow competitors are very encouraging, more so than fellow exercisers
Sign up for a competition. Train for it. Do it. Enjoy. Repeat.