I took a break from work and went swimming today. Day one of the meet was yesterday when they swam the 1500 heats along with the 200 breast in the evening. As I have difficulty swimming 200 meters at one go I wasn't there. Day Two started early Saturday with warm up commencing at 7:00 AM sharp – evidently to avoid conflict with the Stanley Cup Playoffs games being played later on in the afternoon (a good example of the fanaticism with which ice hockey is followed in Canada). I had entered two events this day: the 100 fly and the 200 back. The fly came first. Several Hyacks were swimming this event but I was one of a group of four, none of us having ever swum the event in competition before, who decided we’d swim this together. And I do mean together: we all entered three minutes as our time to make sure and it ended up we had the first heat just to ourselves! Tired and not expecting much from this meet I started out at an easy pace and then just tried to keep it together the last couple of pool lengths. The first fifty meters went just fine except perhaps for the fact my easy pace had instinctively morphed into something more like race pace. By sixty five meters I started to tire and my technique started to slip, and by the time I hit the wall for the final turn I could also say the same for my endurance. And then things got progressively worse. No technique whatsoever in my final length when just getting my arms out of the water became my first priority. My time, however, was actually better than I thought practicable (I received a sarcastic comment about my three minute entry time from a seventy year old waiting for the next heat) even with a last fifty split seven seconds slower than my first. Beyond the satisfaction of completing our first 100 fly race the other Hyacks in my heat were pleased with their efforts too. Mike even ended up winning his age group as the only competitor in his 20 – 24 age category. Now there’s talk about some of us swimming the 200 fly in next year’s Provincials! I’m certainly game for it. But if you think we’re just out for fun and games you’d be wrong. There were Hyacks who were serious about racing the event. One was Jimmy who, racing six events this morning including 400 IM (4:54) and 100 free (0:54), came in at 0:58.89 to easily win the 100 fly for his 30 – 35 age bracket. Even better was learning later on from Coach Brad Jimmy trained four or five sessions a week with one of the Hyack senior groups. So it’s possible for a Master swimmer to practice part time with a proper Hyack team, something I’ve hoped would be possible so I could eventually to do the same myself. The fly in the ointment will be Jimmy’s long time association with Hyacks and his successful career probably has much to with his privileges. But if Brad begs and I throw money at them, especially lots of money, practicing with a proper competitive team is definitely in the cards given the right times in hand.
With the experience gained from swimming the 100 fly I told Coach I wasn’t going for time in my 200 back to ensure I didn’t blow up in the pool. My plans were to swim an even paced, strong, but not all out race and concentrate on turns to ensure posting a time I could use as a basis for measuring future progress. I think I achieved at least that. My turns of course weren’t good, but this is the first race I’ve gone into where I wasn’t actually worried I’d blow a turn so badly it would ruin my entire race. A couple were half-way decent and with the rest being merely poor, there was not one turn where I took in water and consequently my breathing was never difficult or under a lot of stress. Even allowing for the level of effort the 50 splits were fairly consistent and I was able to finish strongly, all of which bodes well for future near-term improvement. While my time wasn’t particularly good I do know I can shave several seconds off it the next time I swim, something which would bring me close to or under the U.S. national qualifying time for the event. I figure just working on my turns over the next month will save me a half second a turn. It’s a start at least. Finally, to finish off this post, allow me to air a particular gripe of mine. Just prior to my heat a group of us watched a gentleman swim the 200 back in the very old, now illegal style using a double arm backstroke with a frog kick. He was seeded with a 4:20:00 time but ended up a tad over 5:19. I complained this meet was not the place to just participate – arguing you should be at least capable of racing. A teammate pointed out the man was 83 but I remained firm there were better times and places to discover if you can swim a particular event and the Provincial Championships was definitely not one of them. To my shock he actually wasn’t even last in the heat; a woman in her 70’s finished a full minute behind him. I suppose its all relative. If he was doing the same thing in the 100 – 104 age category where just finishing would result in a world masters record I’d be cheering him on (assuming he could swim legally). But he wasn’t. Sheesh! What do you think?
Update: Isis has correctly pointed out a breast kick is legal in backstroke as is the double arm stroke. In fact FINA makes it clear virtually anything is legal in backstroke so long as you do it on your back and most of it on the surface.