When I started training for the state meet back in November I had set a goal to beat my swim times from high school. To achieve that goal I set out with an ambitious training schedule of swimming 120,000 yards a month. A few weeks after I started training with my higher volume I started developing some pain in my left shoulder that seemed to be getting worse. I think it was a combination of several factors, but whatever had caused it was preventing me from swimming without pain. So I ended up staying out of the pool for 6 weeks until I felt like I was able to swim short workouts again. I've never wanted to swim so badly before, but the few times I tested it during that period I would notice pain within a few laps and made myself stop.

I started back in slowly in January, swimming ~1,500 yards 3 times a week. I also started lifting weights twice a week to strengthen my muscles, especially around my rotator cuff. At this point I was just happy that I was swimming again. Over the next month I increased to 2,600 yards, 3 times a week. With the new baby my early morning workouts vaporized and I was working out during my lunch break. For this reason, I haven't been able to up my yardage beyond 2,600. My times at swim meets were roughly equivalent to what I had swum during my first meet back in November. Going into the state meet I wasn't expecting any improvements, but hoping to show something for the season.

The state meet is massive. It's broken up over 3 days to accommodate all the events. Luckily, this year it was held at the EMU Natatorium, so I was able to stay in town. There were 10 lanes set up for racing and at least another 10 for warming up in. Although not as stunning and modern as UofM's Natatorium, it met the needs of the meet well.

Friday night was all distance events and my first race, the 1650 free, was the last heat of the evening. I wasn't fully prepared for the wait, not thinking to bring any reading material. I ended up waiting about 4 hours and hadn't brought enough food to tide me over either. My race started a little before 10:00pm. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I got a cold back on Wednesday and I still wasn't feeling great. Despite all this, I was excited and confident.

The first 1,000 was going well enough and from what few glimpses I caught of the timing board I was on pace. After that, however, I started getting hit with some pretty heavy fatigue. I wanted to push through it, but it began to erode my pace considerably. I ended up with a 20:15.62. My worst time of the season by 7 seconds and 28 seconds off my record. That was pretty disappointing and I wasn't looking forward to the possibility that all my races were going to be crappy. Stupid cold. What terrible timing.

The next morning I woke up tired and sore, but that soon faded and I let my optimism come back for my events that day, the 100 free and 500 free. The first and last events of the day.

I was right to be optimistic. The 100 felt good, but it felt even better to look up at the clock and see a low number, 55.02. A second faster than my seed time. I got that 1650 monkey off my back and was ready for the rest of the meet. During the 500 I didn't have a lap counter for the first half of the swim. It helped me focus. Half the swim I visualized someone dipping the counter into the water and it took my mind off my fatigue. By doing this it made me actually pay attention to my pacing. I took the first 300 at a comfortably fast pace. I still felt great at that point so I started ramping it up each succeeding 50. By the last 50 I still had something left so I turned everything up to 11. Damn that felt good. Best race of the year. 5:36.26. 8 seconds off my best time this season!

Sunday was a big day. I had 4 events. The 200 free, 200 IM, 100 IM, and the 1,000 free. The IMs were for fun. I didn't have any time expectations. The 1,000 was my first attempt at that distance and the 200 was my big event. I wanted to break 2:00. The 200 was my lead off event. Throughout the season I had taken the first 100 out too hard and died painfully that last 100. The problem is that the 200 is almost all sprinting, so there is very little room for error. Well, I did end up slowing down gradually throughout the race, but I didn't die as badly as I had in the past. Every muscle in my body was locking up in the last 25, but I pushed through it and ended up with a 2:01.48. Not the sub 2:00 I was hoping for, but I was happy to have beat my seed time by a second.

The 200IM was awful. I flubbed by turn between backstroke and breaststroke and didn't finish that well. I decided that I had to make up for it by crushing my 100IM. Which I did. I knocked 2 seconds off my seed time. Yes! It feels so good when that happens.

For the 1,000 I was again in the last heat for the day. I tried thinking about what went wrong with my 1650 and was sure that if I just took the 1,000 out like I did for the first 1,000 of the 1650 I would do fine. In a way it did and in a way it didn't. My time was a few seconds faster than my first 1,000 of the 1650, but I was feeling it at the 700 mark. I know it could have gone better, but I met my expectations so I'll take it.

Overall, I think the meet was a lot of fun and I was happy with a lot of my results. It's well off what I originally was hoping to accomplish, but I'm encouraged by the improvements that I've made under the circumstances and I'm prepared to give it another try next year.


You are obviously a man motivated and exhilarated by competition... The goals you set and feats of strength and endurance you accomplish are truly amazing! Hat's off to you Stephen!

But some day you might begin to feel the need for a kinder, gentler way to physical fitness...

Take it from one who ground up her knees in dance classes during her youth... and at age 53, has the osteoarthritis to prove it!

And was it worth it? Of course! :)

I'm late in reading this, but congrats on sticking with it and doing so well...sounds like you had several things working against you and yet you didn't give up and instead did really well! :)
Hope you and Amy and the kiddos are doing well.


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