Yesterday was the fourth swim meet in our province’s race calendar. I entered last month into three events: the 50 free, the 200 back, and the 100 fly. Now racing the fly was a problem – I haven’t reached the point where I’m comfortable with the concept of racing 100 meters fly and had pretty well decided to scratch from the event when the choice was taken out of my hands. I needed to put in a half day’s work that same afternoon, which precluded me from staying around for the event anyways. In so far as the 50 free I had really wanted to swim the 100 but scheduling conflicts didn’t allowed it. So a throw away race because I'm not a sprinter. My 200 back race, however, very much wasn't. First up was the 50 free and I just wasn’t in a good mood at all. Stepping up on the blocks I was wishing to be anywhere else but getting ready to race. Had one of my typical starts and was moderately slow off the blocks, remembered to get a couple of kicks in before surfacing (Coach Brad would appreciate that) and then promptly blew it by taking a breath. I don’t know why I take a breath every time I surface after a dive but it seems to be pretty well ingrained and I’m having difficulty breaking the habit. It didn’t help my mind wasn’t properly focused on the matter at hand either. I also failed to concentrate on getting a powerful stroke and keeping my head down rather than relying on mere turnover; made a marginal turn (not the desired quick and tight tumble I’ve been practicing), and then proceeded to breath every cycle on the way back all the while mentally noting I shouldn’t be doing so and not really caring. I suppose I should take the fact the end result was in the upper range of my target time and be thankful. Yet when you know you should have done better it’s difficult to be satisfied. For someone who lives by the mantra, “always do your very best” it’s particularly irritating. I wasn’t the only one ticked off at my performance. Coach Brad very diplomatically only shook his head while pointing out I took that first breath, but at an elite level an error that egregious would almost certainly result in a talk about whether I was serious at competing and even possibly being placed on probation. If I was coach I’d be absolutely furious.
This was, of course, not the best lead in to my 200 back race. If I was in a delicate mental state before the sprint then my mind was absolutely toast getting into the water for the start. It didn’t take long for me to implode. Half a length into the race I passed under the false start rope and mistaking it for the backstroke flags started into my rollover turn two strokes later. DQ’d before the first turn has to be record somewhere! I actually don’t take the crushing ignominy of it all that badly. There were some mitigating circumstances. The first was I had missed the warm up as I had left my bathing suit at home (I’ll leave the obvious commentary to the amateur psychologists out there) and so didn’t practiced my turns in the competition pool. Instead I had to use the warm up pool which didn’t have any flags. Combining this with UBC’s ‘infinity’ style gutter system providing no visible wall above the water’s surface my practice turns were accordingly exceedingly tentative. This tentativeness naturally carried over into my race and with my paranoia on hair-trigger all it took was the false start rope, the first time I had seen it that day, to set me off. So I was now in a race that wasn’t a race for me. But for whatever reason I couldn’t get going and struggled through out the race, having difficulty maintaining a proper breathing pattern and stroke in addition to the expected difficulty with my turns. My poor swimming performance far, far eclipsed my error with the rope. I’m not sure what I’m to do about my now large mental block in swimming the event. I think I’ll have to actually do several timed swims before my next race in March and so build up some solid experience I can fall back on. At least I hope that’ll work. I’ll talk to Brad and see what he thinks.