Monday, November 20, 2006

2006 UBC Swim Meet

Wow, a meet which surely emerged from the Twilight Zone, or perhaps a nightmare. I arrived at UBC (University of British Columbia) Aquatics Center in plenty of time, a good thing as I had to park several blocks away. There seemed to be a big run going on in the concourse what with hundreds of runners and their numbers milling about. Miserable weather for it, lots of cold rain and a slight breeze make for difficult running. Couldn’t help but smile as I turned into the confines of the heated pool building. Met up with my team, did a little warm up of about 400 meters and readied myself for my first race.

My first race was the big one, the 100 back. The entry time I submitted placed me in lane one of the final heat, with Ian right alongside of me in lane two. I was pleased with this as Ian could provide the necessary pacing and there was no disadvantage to being in lane one because of the pool design. The UBC Aquatic Centre is noted for being a ‘fast’ pool (Brian Johns set a 400 IM world record here in 2003) and for this short course meet the races were held in the middle of the 50m pool running width-wise, so I had open pool next to me for close to twenty meters. It started out fine and my first turn was OK, but half way down the second lap I began to hurt. Shaken, and becoming concerned about my pace, I lost concentration in turn two and came up about a foot short of the end! With a stroke judge peering down at me I had to back up under water until I touched with the lightest of pushes and finally surfaced literally gasping for air. Figuring my race was shot I didn’t push too hard on the third lap, instead just tried to gather my breath, establish my stroke, and finish the race; but coming out of my final turn I saw Joe jumping up and down waving his arms shouting GO, GO, GO! Not wanting such sterling cheering to go to waste I went all out and finished the race in agony having barely breathed the last fifteen meters. Never have I felt so tired after such a short race. As a reward my time was only a second and a half over my target – perfectly acceptable considering I completely missed a turn. Still, it took several minutes until I finally had my breathing under control and could walk without holding on to something.

My next race was the 200 individual medley about an hour later. It was not an auspicious start however; I felt so weak getting up on the blocks I nearly lost my balance and fell in. Despite my now serious misgivings about the wisdom of this race the fly portion went well and the changeover to backstroke was completed in reasonable shape. First leg of my backstroke went as expected too (I had dedicated this lap to recovering from fly prior to the race), but early in the return leg instead of accelerating I suddenly could barely breathe again. Upon reaching breaststroke I tried without success to catch my breath and saw my pre-race plan quickly devolved into just holding on and getting to the freestyle leg, where I expected I could make a recovery. Barely made it (Coach Brad said my split for the fifty breast was close to a minute) but I still couldn’t breathe! Only half-a-dozen strokes later, with chest burning and my hyperventilating body refusing to stop trying to take in air, I was forced to swim heads up crawl, only to be slapped in the face with a wave. Choosing between the unbelievable choices of either treading water or swimming on my back I opted for the latter and ended the last lap of my race doing the backstroke. Unbelievable!! A devastating result for me, the stuff nightmares are made of. I scratched from my scheduled 200 free of course, and had the rest of the swim meet to ponder what happened.

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