Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Swimtastic Weekend Part 2- Aloha State Games Swim Meet

The last time I participated in a swim meet was probably the year 2000. I swam freshman year at the University of the Pacific (Go Tigers!), traveled to one meet at UC Davis, had a terrible race, went to Hawaii (first time here) for a training trip, and then quit the team. I didn't quit because I was slow, I quit because I wasn't having any fun and because out of the entire team I was faster than exactly two girls. I'm not Rudy* and I had no delusions about coming in on a relay and saving the meet. I remember one morning after weights, the one thing I was better than most of my teammates at, coach sat me down and said, "Doug, you're working hard, but I want you to realize that I can only travel so many swimmers. You're not going to be in that number. So you can swim with us, but you won't be traveling to any meets." Yeah, I wasn't long for the team after that.
 Jump to some time last week. I knew the Aloha State Games were coming up, I knew there was a swim meet, I decided that if the price was right I'd roll the dice. Hell, I'm still a swimmer at heart. Before quitting in 2000 I'd been competitively swimming since the early '90s. That doesn't go away. I'm still fit. I'm fitter than I was in high school or college. I just finished a half Ironman. Bring on a swim meet. I checked out the events, signed up for the longest freestyle available, 200m, because if there is something I have been training for its distance racing, saw the 100m free and figured that would be fun, and then, before my brain could catch my fingers, registered for the 200m IM and 100m butterfly. Those were my races in high school. I was the jerk at practice asking to swim fly when we were given options. Butterfly is for the Tough.
Oh yeah, butterfly also huuuuurts when you are trained up. And the 200m IM is long enough to remind you that you're kind of stupid for asking for this. Still, those were mine, and real swimmers swim the IM. IM, by the way, stands for Individual Medley. So you swim, in this case, a 50m lap of fly, then back, then breast, then free finishes it off. Normally IMers are strong breaststrokers. We'll get to that.
The meet started at 10am, with check-in at 9. How freaking awesome if this to a triathlete used to getting up at 3:30am for a 6am race start? TOO FREAKING COOL! I got to eat breakfast and have some coffee before we left the house. You've no idea how badass that is.
Super Awesome Wife didn't really know what to expect and I wasn't clear. A swim meet is a lot of sitting around, then you watch who you came to see for a minute or two, then you sit around some more. Yay! At least she's used to waiting for me to come through transition.
I wrote my event number/heat number/lane number on my hand so I wouldn't forget and then got to warming up. I didn't have much time because I was in event 4, the 200m free. My biggest concern, aside from the fly and IM, was my goggles. I hadn't dove off blocks in forever and I was worried the were going to come off, blinding me and, if I was really lucky, covering my mouth. A couple of successful test starts later had me feeling better.
The race directors tried to seed each event slow to fast, which meant that the slowest swimmers would be grouped in heat 1, then faster as the heats grew. I submitted no time (NT)  because I had no idea what to expect, which put me always in heat one. This came out good and bad. Interestingly, they also grouped the old people 18-49. So I was racing against 18 year olds and 49 year olds in my heats. They awarded medals by real age groups, 30-34 in my case, but those were too small to justify their own events. Full pool is better than one or two guys swimming alone.
I got myself psyched for my 200m free but had no nerves waiting behind the blocks. I rarely got nervey by the end of my racing career. It's not a long enough race to be worried about, and I had no performance anxiety because I had no baseline. I was going to crank, period. In fact, my biggest worry was miscounting my laps. I swim in a 25 yard pool, eight laps to a 200. The was an Olympic distance 50m pool, long course we call it. Four laps to 200. So what I kept repeating while I waited was, "Four laps. Four laps. Don't forget. Four. Laps."
Step up, take my mark...BEEP!
Stretch that leg out

Off faster than the guy next to me at least
I love starting off blocks. I'm almost positive my start is slower than it needs to be, but I really try and jump up and out, traveling through the air as far as I can before I hit the water. Further you dive, less you have to swim, right?
I immediately noticed I was pulling away from the swimmers in the other lanes. I didn't feel like I was going out too hard, part of the key to a good short distance race is to trust your training and really hammer out and know you won't fade down the stretch, so I kept the pedal down. Good turn, knew I had them, felt strong, but this is where you bring it back a point or two to conserve for the final 50. Also, there was a heat two, and winning my heat wouldn't matter if they were faster than I was. Cranked hard, hit the wall at the 150m and put my head down to go for it. Finished with a strong 2:33.07. If I'm reading the page right my 100m splits were 1:11 and 1:21, so that's a sad ten second fade, but who cares? It felt like a great swim and a solid time. I watched heat two go and the winner there finished fast but the field was all around 2:30-somethings. I think I could have found another second or two if I'd been racing. See, good and bad. Still, I came in second in my age group. Boo yeah! (There might have only been three guys in my age group. Yes, you and every single one of my friends has also made that joke.)
Lookit that lead!
I cooled off and then it was time to chill. You see, after event 4, my next time in the water was the 100 free, event 52. Which was a long way off. So Super Awesome Wife and I kicked back and tried to get comfortable on the bleachers until we realized there was better shade and comfort to be had on the grass on the other side of the pool. I worked on my sunburn too.

A little shade
Constant Umbrella Fail lead to moving to tree shade
There isn't much to do at a swim meet when you aren't swimming, but I love watching races so I filled Super Awesome Wife's ears with hoots and hollers at swimmers I've never met, cheering them on while they race. Especially the tiny people. I love tiny people swimmers, they are so freaking cute. They are also so small it isn't worth taking their caps off between events since putting it back on is such a huge pain in the ass, so they walk around all day with rubber heads. So uncomfortable! So adorable. I think there might be a swimmer in there.
My next event was the 100 free, before which I had a very serious conversation with my brain during warm-up.
"Brain," I said, "I need to to do me a favor for this race."
"What's up?" said my Brain, "Listen, I've got all kind of great ideas for swimming this!"
"No. I need you to leave me alone."
Brain was stunned. "What do you mean? You need me!"
"No, not for two laps of freestyle. We've done this a thousand times. There is no strategy, no plan. Remember?"
"Yeah, but...but....come on."
I shook my head, "Brain, you know this is right. I need you to stay out of this race. Trust me."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. But if you mess this up I'm taking over during the 100m fly!"
So I got out of my head and got to it. A 100m long course race is normally a good start, accelerate to the wall, good turn, and crank it to 11 on the way back. It's more involved that the 50 free, which is the dumbest event in all of creation. One lap? As Second Favorite Wife (the original- Best Friend's, not the Grey's) texted me, "Ohhh, tough guy can swim for 25 whole seconds. Wow!" A 100 is at least more difficult.
Again, I won my heat, and solidly. Came in third in my age group with a 1:06.92. There may have been a second in there, but I don't know. I swam hard.
The last two events were the 100 fly, event 64, and the 200 IM, event 70. So I went from a ton of rest to race race race. Had enough time between the 100 free and 100 fly to go back to Super Awesome Wife and chat, then back behind the blocks.
The fly was my jam, and I was excited about this. I knew somewhere around 75m everything would come apart because I hadn't swum this stroke nearly at all since 2000, but muscle memory is a beautiful thing and I let my body go.
My dive has not changed At All
It felt great. So strong, so solid, almost like old times. Fly, more than any other stroke, feels so wonderful when you're doing it right. The flow of your body through the water, the rhythm innate to the stroke is fantastic. I'm not saying that was how I felt at the meet, but I have felt that before. This felt close for about 30-35m, then it started to hurt, turn, and hold it together until the wall. Still, proud I did it. I will do the 100 fly at every meet I do from now until forever. It's my baby. Won my heat.
Came in second in my age group with a 1:13.39.

Getting some out in front!

Meh, should have more extension and hips
 But this race butted right up against the 200 IM. How much? I got out of my lane, got into the cool down/warm up lane, did 100m easy free, got back out, and got behind the blocks for the IM. Whew, good thing these aren't to two hardest events of my day back-to-back. Oh wait.
I actually got talked to by the race announcer after we got on the blocks because I was stretching my arms, holding the sides of the blocks and bending down, and didn't notice everyone else step up. Whoops! He kidded me about giving me an extra two minutes of rest. Then, to check and be sure everyone was were they should be, he called out each of our names and our lane. Each guy raised his hand or waved or something as they were called. Only time during the meet he did that pre-race. So what else could I do? When he got to e I thrust my arms into the air and bellowed, "YEEEAAAAAHHH!!!!" This is supposed to be fun and I was trying to get adrenaline going.
We got down to start, I found my happy place, and BEEP, we were off. My usual IM went something like this- gain as much ground as possible in the fly, the field catches back up on the back, they pass me and put a few seconds in to me on the breast, I catch back up in the free. I'm not a backstroker or a breaststroker. I'm not a real IMer. But I love it and, as I think I've mentioned, real swimmers swim the IM. Proves you can put it all together. Hmmm, wonder if that has anything to do with my triathlon future?a
This race went strong fly, passed on the back, passed more on the breast, and there was no way I was making up ground on the free. I was blown out. It was the only heat of the day I didn't win. Still, win my age group with a 3:06.69. Ain't going to complain about a gold. 
As a special treat, Super Awesome Wife recorded the IM and I present it here, in all its low quality glory. I'm in one of the lanes closer to the top, you'll see me out in front on the fly.

One of the other older guys had spent the last half hour trying to pull together an impromptu relay team and of course I was in. How would I turn that down? More swimming, hell yeah! Of course, the relay was the event right after the IM, so I got out, we found two more guys, and we got ready. 200m Medley. I, of course, swam fly. I asked for it. We had fun, I had a decent start and an terrible finish, but I only had to swim one 50m lap so it was fine. We came in second, but it was an unofficial race so no medals. Not important, not why I did it.
I loved doing this meet and I want to do another one. I almost forgot how much fun swim meets were. It didn't hurt that I got to swim for two and a half minutes and then rest for a while. Love not having to get on the bike afterwards.
I went home with three of my four medals. For some reason they didn't grab enough golds, so I'm waiting for my 200 IM gold in the mail at some point.

Let's play Name That Wrestler!
*Rudy is a stupid sports movie. The guy struggles and sucks for his entire college career, wasting any talent he might have being terrible, but hard working, just to stand on the sidelines at Notre Dame? And then he finally gets to go in for two meaningless plays at the end of a game completely that is already completely out of hand? So he sacks the quarterback, the play doesn't matter. We are supposed to learn that if you work hard some day you might be able to get a pity play? It's a bad message and not a sports movie.


  1. Oh my gosh... I totally forgot about writing heats/lanes on my hand. Thank you Doug, that takes me back :)

  2. That was an exciting race report. I can tell that you really enjoyed it. I have never been to a swim meet so it was interesting to read about it. Seems as though you didn't lose much since 2000. You are right about muscle memory for sure. I am so old my muscles forget what I did last week. Muscle alzheimer.

  3. Doug, are you wearing pants in that last picture?

    Yay for gold!