Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hyack Festival Musings

Over the three days of the meet I saw heard or experienced many things which were either note worthy from the viewpoint of a Masters swimmer or different from the typical experiences I would have seen and heard when I swam as a child:
  • If I thought my age would create some fuss among the children I was wrong. The only ‘difficulty’ my age caused was when I went to register and the Clerk of the Course told me I needed to give the meet fees to my son’s coach rather than to her. I understand her confusion.
  • Amongst the race officials and Hyack coaches it was common knowledge I was there to acquire qualifying times for this year's USMS Long Course National Championships. There was some curiosity about what times were considered good and what times I needed to qualify. Generally there was good humor about my participation and a couple of parents even talked to me about joining Hyack Masters after watching me swim (probably a case of “surely I can do better than that!”).
  • Seattle’s King Aquatics had neat swimsuits, navy blue with widely spaced white lateral pinstripes. When I swam we only had monotone/single pattern swimsuits with the occasional side stripe. I thought the best suits at the meet, however, were the Killarney Gator’s who sport dark green suits with stylized scales outlined in light green. Cool!
  • We should require all masters swimmers to do one warm up at a regular meet before complaining how crowded the lanes are in practice. Not only do the kids swim every stroke in warm up but they actually pass! Swimming three abreast in a single lane is something I hadn’t even considered possible. Of course they are thinner. No wonder everyone looks up when they race – it’s a habit ingrained from long hours in practice where it’s a matter of self preservation. I quickly learned to swim right on the lane lines, though not without some painful lessons to my fingers when I forgot to place my hands in front and instead caught the lines.
  • As the Hyack Festival was a development meet numbers were small enough to justify the open seeding done routinely in masters swimming except the girls still swam separately from boys. Normally the participants became older and larger as the heats progressed and sped up but not always. In the 200 backstroke heat before mine a thirteen year old boy was in lane three and finished second with a time of 2:30.31. He wouldn’t have been pleased with that though – he was seeded nearly four seconds faster (as an aside he made the 13 & 14 finals but didn’t win; the eventual winner of his age group, who must have swum in my heat, swam 2:22.22). This is a development meet? I really have to work harder.
  • Living only blocks away meant I could come and go as circumstances dictated rather than stuck sitting in the stands for hours at a time until the day was over. The only adjustment I had to make was to drive between my home and the pool (four minutes driveway to parking lot) instead of walking as I usually do and I was able to put in a full day’s work while attending the swim meet. If only they could all be this convenient!
  • Swim meets nowadays are computerized and the Hyack Festival had a couple of platforms where individuals stared at LED screens to collect, compile and produce the pages we’ve all seen pasted onto walls from time immemorial, as well as inputting those official results on the web. Back when I swam computers were million dollar affairs (at a time where if your home cost $60,000 you had servants) and kept in large air conditioned rooms supported by dedicated staffs. Consequently meet results were printed off using Edison's mimeograph machines, something which had been done since the beginning of organized sport at the end of the nineteenth century. A mimeograph machine used a ribbon-less typewriter to cut a stencil of the results from special waxed paper which was then wrapped around the mimeograph’s drum. The drum was filled with special ink and operated by hand crank the machine would press ink through the stencil’s openings and so print a copy of the typed form. What made the mimeograph so memorable was the ink had a very distinctive and pleasant smell. It was also highly intoxicating. Children weren’t allowed in the mimeograph room and it wasn’t unusual to hear people laughing about someone who stayed too long and had to be helped from the room to recover. Sometimes progress isn’t always better.
  • My times were enough to qualify me in all my events – even the 200 IM. I had based my initial understanding about their relative difficulty on the Short Course National Championships qualifying times which really impressed me with their tough standards. I failed to realize, however, those standards were based on yards not meters. So when the long course times came out there was quite a difference between what I expected and the actual qualifying times. Competition at the meet itself, of course, will be world-class regardless of what the qualifying times are. I’m just participating this year.
  • Girls' swimsuits must be very tight. They were adjusting their shoulder straps all the time, and when not actually racing many simply dropped the straps off their shoulders. A case of going too small or just reluctance to replace a relatively unused and expensive racing suit too quickly? I’m thinking the former.
  • The water at Canada Games Pool was noticeably colder than normal but perfect for racing. Obviously they had allowed it to cool overnight to bring it into the best temperature range for racing. Only Nanaimo Ebbtides and UBC did the same out of all the Masters scheduled swim meets; the rest just stayed with normal temperatures which were invariably too warm for racing anything more than fifty meters.
  • The spot I selected to watch the meet from also happened to be the location of the team’s video game players where a row of Sony PSPs and Nintendos were passed along from boy to boy as they came and went pool side for their scheduled races. I never saw a girl up there once over the weekend. As I used to occupy myself as a child by sitting in the showers for hours at a time keeping warm this development is probably welcomed by the coaches.
  • Now older and wiser I kept warm by wearing my Hyack hoodie over a team t-shirt and discovered the hoodie pocket was perfect for storing goggles and cap when not swimming (not exactly patting myself on the back here as it took me three meets to realize this).
  • Hyack Festival was an age group meet where I was one of only two open swimmers in attendance. I was surprised to discover the current definition of age groups doesn’t include 10&U’s, for whom Hyack’s held a mini-meet in between the morning heats and the evening finals (which incidentally made for very efficient use of pool time). I understand there are now time limits as to how long 10&U’s can compete each day (much like child actors) which would encourage splitting them off into a completely separate swim meet. Interestingly swimming no longer has the 8&U age group which existed in my generation. Smaller overall numbers, probably due to the ever increasing number of choices today’s generation have to occupy their free time, has apparently meant insufficient participants to justify continuing them as a separate competitive category.
  • Coach Brad kept busy during the three days as he was both the official responsible for the compilation of the meet’s results and the coach of some of Hyack’s Olympic Way 10&U swimmers involved in the mini meet. In every successful amateur sport organization there are a handful of volunteers who carry out the bulk of the work needed for the club to succeed. Add in the fact he’s the coach of Hyack Masters (Bonsor) in addition to his other listed duties and Brad is definitely one of them. A tip of the hat to Brad for his efforts.


Isis said...

Those are good points. I agree with your sense of the warm-up lanes! That really freaked me out the first time I experienced it a couple of years ago, but you're so right about the perspective it gives us masters.

As for the girls' suits: they buy them too tight, the thought being the tighter the more streamlined (and then they last longer before getting stretched out). I feel faster racing in a size-too-small suit, but it does hurt on the shoulders. I imagine this is especially true for girls with a long torso (not a problem I have...).

Scott said...

Looking at your picture Isis I would have to say you have the torso of a goddess :)

Damien said...

Those are some interesting musings. I do remember the warmups at age group meets to be quite crowded even compared to masters meets and so I can relate with you there. It seems as though you didn't feel too out of place there which is good and it's also great that you were able to meet the qualifying times to USMS! Congrats on that!
I definitely feel also that I don't measure up compared to a lot of age group swimmers but then at least in my case, I only train 3 maybe 4 times a week in swimming whereas most age group swimmers train at least 10 or 12 times a week. In any case, that is how much I trained. I actually wish that it would be possible to find a masters team that would train at least once every day as it would be easier to improve ourselves in the long run. Wouldn't you think?

Scott said...

Many master swimming teams do have several practices per week often at two or more pools. Hyacks have six for instance, split between CCAC and Bonsor, but held virtually at the same time. I've already raised this issue with Suzanne. I'd like to see our combined practices organized as if Hyack Masters were one team instead of two completely separate pool-based teams. A a couple of morning practices out of the six I think would help too (maybe weekends?). I think it's doable and will raise the issue with Mark Bottrill as well as Brad & Suzanne before next year's schedules are set in stone.