Let us get right to it. On Friday I swam the 200 IM and the 100 back (my worst and best events of the meet respectively). If things went poorly with the individual medley hopefully my back could redeem the day. The 200 medley came first and I had my race tactics all laid out. I’d take the opening fifty fly relatively easily, gradually work my backstroke from an easy recovery pace in the first quarter up to my normal 200 rate by the end, and then still reasonably fresh, go hard on my breast bringing it in as best I could on my free. Didn’t quite go that way though. Stroking smoothly the fly went well and more than a little pleased I was right with the leaders to touch the wall only somewhat fatigued. Came off on my back, took a few strokes to settle into a rhythm and recover my breath before picking up the tempo, thinking things were going apace. Famous last thoughts! Strangely rather than steadying my breathing started becoming more ragged and by the time I finished the back leg I was exhausted. Stick a fork in me, I was done. I’ve been close to death a couple of times but in both instances the moment passed in a flash of realization, reaction, and adrenalin. Running on empty with still another hundred meters to race was like knowing you were about to drown – sheer terror. I watched the rest of the field move away from me in breast all the while concentrating on not going into hyperventilation and then barely managed to swim the last lap without swimming heads up (I considered it but decided I preferred to die, quite literally in fact, and give those lazy ass lifeguards something to do). So exhausted were my muscles after already over a full minute of anaerobic work I had a hard time lifting them out of the water, and that damn pool seemed to go on forever. Don’t ever run out of steam in a fifty meter pool! Well I didn’t come close to my target time of course, being over eleven seconds off, and so hard was the race I was still sore the next day even with warm downs and stretching. Coach Brad met me at the warm down pool after the race to go over my splits with the interesting ones the fly and free. I took out the fly over four seconds faster than my fastest planned split; I didn’t know I could swim a 50 butterfly that fast! Why I thought I was going out easy is beyond me but perhaps because of my exceedingly poor fly I mistook a smooth stroke for easy despite knowing I have to swim fly basically all out or swim it like an old man. And this day and in front of this crowd I was not going to confirm everyone’s opinion of me my very first lap! My hubris cost me big time. How big? My final split was over fifty seconds for the free. I truly suffered. Well as I was jumping into the pool for my 100 back still a little weak from my 200 IM ordeal I knew I couldn’t risk another burnout. My first lap was cautious and accordingly slow but after my turn (actually such a decent turn I spent a couple of seconds congratulating myself before remembering I still had another forty odd meters racing left) I turned up the throttle. Ran out of gas some ten meters from the end but that was close enough, and with a good finish at least ended the race under the meet qualifying standard. I’ll take the fact my second fifty was almost two seconds faster than the first as a positive sign for future times.
Saturday was a rest day of sorts because I had only my 50 back and 100 free to race. Almost back to back but with the fifty first up both Brad and I agreed I’d have plenty of time to recover from such a short race. About a third way through the fifty I realized my butt was too low and in trying to correct my position took in a good gulp of water and then followed it up a couple of strokes later with another dose of self-induced water boarding. G*d I love competitive swimming! To end it off properly I took my final lunge at the finish and discovered I was about ten centimeters short, apparently having not yet learned to continue kicking right to the end despite my practicing to do just that. But since I didn’t die and was within a few tenths of my seeded time I wasn’t going to complain too much. There’s always the next time. Slightly buoyed by this I reverted to my premeet race plan for the 100 free whereby I would swim almost all out the first length and then bring it back as best as I could, figuring if I couldn’t handle a 200 I could deal with a 100. Double dang! I was wrong again! And need I remind you those fifty meter pools are really long? In open water at the turn (supposedly intelligent I should have realized my being with the leaders meant I had gone out too fast) by midpoint on the return lap the now familiar feeling of anaerobic weakened muscles became more and more apparent while all the while the wall seemed to actually recede – likely some form of tunnel vision one gets when oxygen deprivation starts taking hold. My time was over three seconds slower than meet qualifying time, a bitter pill to swallow given I had every expectation of bettering it or at least coming close.
On Sunday I only had my 200 back to deal with but by now I was pretty leery of anything in a fifty meter pool much less something 200 meters in distance. Throwing out what little pride remained I decided to revert to my Provincial Masters strategy of going easy the first 100 and then simply trying to hold the pace for the rest of the race until picking it up at the end. It worked once so it would work a second time and far better to miss the meet qualifying time by several seconds than blow up and suffer horribly while taking even longer to finish. To my great surprise the race was my best of the meet, almost beating my April 200 short course time. Yes, the last fifty was rough but everyone can take pretty well anything for a fifty. It’s only a fifty right? So that was my first long course swim meet in thirty three years. The next time will be at The Woodlands, Texas for the National Championships in three months time where I will, hopefully, be better prepared.