Monday, July 23, 2007

Abby Swim Meet

Well it was supposed to rain this weekend, and it did; but the rain held off until late Saturday evening and after some early morning rain on Sunday stayed away until late afternoon today. This was all good for the Abby Swim Meet because being a summer swimming league was outdoors. Of course everyone missed having the sun overhead and was grateful for the liberal use of canopies and tents throughout the pool and surrounding campsite. Here in the Pacific Northwest what’s good for shade is also good for rain.

Of course we did swim. I had to scratch an event as there was a four event limit and decided to scratch my 100 back as I’ve raced it more than any other event. On the other hand Sheree, the head coach of the Sunfish, put me in both free and medley relays, so I was still getting my race meters. Much more racing in fact, as I discovered there were finals to be raced. “Oh no,” I argued, “BCSSA rules say O-2s (winter swimmers over 12) don’t swim finals.” “Aahh, went the reply – but O-2s only go up to sixteen, and then everybody older goes into Div VIII which is open to all, and Div VIII has finals.” Changing tacks I protested to Ian who swims Sunfish with his two boys during the summer (the same Ian from Hyack Masters) that our Div VIII event only had six swimmers anyways. “Couldn’t we,” the whine in my voice perceptible even to my ears, “all agree to make the prelims final?” All I received was a shrug and a wry smile, “You’d think so wouldn’t you?” So when I went to Sheree to tell her I wouldn’t be swimming in the finals (I was swimming the 200 IM and the 100 fly that day for goodness sake!) she looked so forlorn over losing the points I told her I’d swim them. After the Sunfish so graciously allowed me to swim with them I’d be a very poor guest if I had refused. Etiquette aside, this left me with swimming the IM and fly twice with a 50 sprint thrown in between, something I’m not embarrassed to say left me rather anxious about how my body was going to react to all this punishment.

The event which brought me to this meet, the 200 IM was my first. Not only is my endurance a big problem in anything over a fifty but the fly portion of an IM seems to suck away what little strength and endurance I do have leaving me running on empty by the end of the back leg. Determined to figure out a way to avoid this my new pacing strategy had me swimming the fly portion easy and then picking up the pace slightly on back and I was anxious to try it out before Nationals. Well I did slow from the disastrous pace I set at May’s Hyack Invitational, but by only 1½ seconds, not enough to make any significant difference other than reduce the level of hurt by a significant degree. Luckily, because I was racing for the Sunfish in summer league as opposed to swimming in front of all the Hyack Coaches and ‘real’ competitive swimmers, I had no trouble in easing off a notch and just swim it in at 95%. I even started getting my breath back on the last lap. When all the pluses and the minuses of the race were netted out my time was only marginally better than May’s disaster. This slight improvement wasn’t particularly bothersome, ranking considerably lower in my mind than the fact my medley pacing was still completely off. So in a fortunate stroke of bad luck BCSSA’s finals policy meant I had a second chance to get it right. Of course I’m always seeking improvement but since this swim meet was more of a continuation of practice than a targeted swim meet, and with Nationals only three weeks away, better times this weekend were only part of my plans. My performance in Abbotsford was further impeded from the host club having only the single pool, which meant no warm down or warm up to prepare for the next race. So I swam the 100 fly which followed cold and still feeling the effects from my earlier IM. The first fifty in the 100 fly went as planned but as I tired my technique began to slip noticably in the latter part of the race, something which happens whenever I swim fly so no real surprise. At least my technique’s deterioration was markedly less than when I last raced the event back in April, though that may well be because, like in the IM, I eased back a bit to gather myself back together. Sheree made some very practical observations concerning my stroke, with emphasis on a couple of flaws where I was putting in too much effort. She also encouraged me to work on lengthening my reach instead of trying to power myself out of the water and to work on not breathing every stroke. All excellent advice I’ll try work into my training.

When finals followed right behind the prelims without a break I was tired and feeling it. Just intending to get through my 200 individual medley I approached the fly portion as I would a practice 50 fly with a conscious effort to go slowly while maintaining rhythm and body undulation. The rest of the race was treated like the fast rep at the end of a long set, the whole time spent concentrating solely on technique: steady with lots of shoulder roll and coordinated legs in back, elevation and a lengthy underwater stroke in breast, and a good long stroke with still more shoulder roll in free. I finished without significant fatigue and was breathing normally only a couple of minutes later, finishing only three seconds slower than the morning’s race which had laid me low for fifteen minutes. Even more interesting was the split for my slow fly was also only a tad over a second slower than morning’s split, pretty clear evidence trying to muscle out my fly instead of relying on technique only serves to tire me and does nothing for increasing overall speed. The 100 fly about forty minutes later was a repeat of my IM fly split except I went even slower going out and that allowed me to actually finish strongly. Technique still suffered badly the last fifty as usual so lots and lots of work to do. But before I sign off an amusing note to end on. My last race on Sunday was as a member of the Sunfish’s Div VIII 200 medley relay where I was assigned backstroke, with Ian following right behind with breast. The fly and free were performed by two other Sunfish, our anchor being about twelve. There were a couple of other teams like us (racing with at least one non-competitive swimmer for points) but there were serious teams with full complements, one right beside us. My lead off had us in second place ahead of our next lane rivals, and Ian’s leg saw us move into first overall with a sizeable lead over our neighbors. We lost the lead on the fly, but we did finish in fifth place beating three other teams after a hard swim by Jordan to bring us home. Packing up I overheard a member of the next lane’s team commenting on being behind us at the half-way point. “Yea, but they were Master Swimmers” replied another. I couldn’t help but smile. One has to love summer league.

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