Well that was fun!
We arrived at the pool at 7:00am. The hallways in the high school were gated off and almost no one was there yet. I had to get there early because the 1650 was the first event and started a few hours before the rest of the meet. I was pretty nervous. It was my first masters meet and the first time I've raced a 1650 (open water races and triathlons don't count). I was probably most anxious about my goggles filling up with water diving into the pool. It's the things that I have no control over in preparation for a race that keep me on edge.
I was glad that we arrived early because it gave me enough time to settle in and prepare. I've been used to frantically running around setting up before triathlons. This was a cake walk in comparison. After I warmed up and stretched, I watched the first heat of the 1650. There was still almost nobody there yet, primarily because the 1650 is a long and boring event. This one was worth watching though. An old guy was swimming the entire thing butterfly! He was trying to beat a previous time of 33 minutes and ended up beating that by a minute. Later, he also did the 500 free as butterfly. Inspiring stuff.
Next up was my heat and I stepped up on the blocks. The top seed, Matt West, a top ranking triathlete in the state, didn't show for the meet. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't get a chance to compete against him. I had planned on keeping pace with him as long as I could. With that option out, I decided to try and sustain a pace above my comfort level.
"Take your mark."
Sweet, no water in my goggles! My adrenaline levels, which had been elevated all morning, spiked as I hit the water. There is always an initial shock at the start. Throwing myself through the air and then striking the surface of the cool water. I tore through the first 500 with hardly any fatigue. I could see the timing board every so often when I took a breath and I was pretty shocked at the pace keeping. But gradually, the fatigue did set in and I began living in a world of hurt. I tried focusing on micro goals to prevent myself from thinking about how much more I still had to swim. I had to concentrate on each 100 so I wouldn't talk myself into slowing down. Each 100, I would tell myself that I wasn't anymore tired than the last and all I needed to do was maintain my pace. Eventually, after about the longest 20 minutes of my life, I sprinted in the last 50, finishing in 20:02. It felt really good to stop. I was glad to see that I had broken my seed time by about :50 and that I had finished first. I did a nice and easy swim down while everyone else finished up.
By then the Natatorium was filling up. This was the biggest masters meet they've had at West Bloomfield HS, with over 100 swimmers participating. A lot of people were part of masters teams, so I felt a little out of place on my own. People were pretty friendly though. I got the sense that this was a chance for people who love to swim to come together and have fun.
My next three events, the 200, 100, and 50 free, were all what I would consider sprints of varying lengths. And being sprints, I placed progressively further back in the field the shorter the event was. The 200 is about as short a race I can do and still have a chance of winning.
The 500 free was the other bookend of the meet. It was the final event and I was in the last heat. Although I had been mostly worried about the 1650, I was getting a bit anxious about the 500 too. It's a long enough event that pacing is necessary, but short enough that slow and steady doesn't win the race.
The starter joked, as my heat got up on the blocks, that we were going to have to do an extra 100 because we all knew what we were doing. I had a good laugh at that and got a nice boost to my ego. The kind of confidence that I needed just then. I have been feeling like an outsider to the swimming world, that statement brought me back into the fold and made me feel like I belong again.
I went out strong at the beginning, taking the lead and slapping up something like a 1:00 on the board for my first 100. Way too fast. I ended up losing some momentum after 200 and then lost the lead. I managed to finish 3rd in 5:44 which I was happy with, though I think my first 500 in the 1650 was just a few seconds slower.
I felt like I set some good benchmark times to start the season with. They're fairly similar to times I started out with in high school, so I'm pretty optimistic that I can make some improvements. I'm looking forward to my next meet.
|1650 free||20:02 (1st)|
|500 free||5:44 (3rd)|