Thursday, December 7, 2017

Setting the Baseline for My Wildly Improbable Goal in the 500 Free

I competed in the Germantown Masters Solstice Meet on December 2 because I wanted to set a baseline for my Wildly Improbable Goal for the 500 free. It was at a short course meters pool, so the meet had a 400 meter free, rather than a 500 yard free, but by the time I signed up, the 400 free was already sold out. Bummer. Almost didn’t sign up at all, but then my parents agreed to go with me. “Sounds like fun!” they said (not sarcastically).
Like old times, my dad wrote down my splits.

The pool was lovely: very deep and very bright, and there was a good stock of fast swimmers there from Baltimore, D.C., and surrounding areas. I felt good in warm ups, but as soon as I got out of warm ups, I got nervous! The 200 free was the first event, and I hadn’t been training or mentally preparing for that distance. I love the 200 free, have raced it a hundred times, but it’s a race that’s short enough that you’re supposed to sprint it, but long enough that you can fall apart if you sprint too hard or too soon, especially without the right training.

But then my dad reminded me of the times I swam at the Elite Meet and Junior Olympics when I was 12 years old. There were 28ish heats of 11-12 year old girl’s 200 free, and I was seated first at both (and won both, too). “That’s a lot of pressure, to be seated first out of that many swimmers,” he said. But there certainly wasn’t any pressure at the masters meet. I just needed to get my starting point, my baseline.

During the race, my stroke felt long and smooth and powerful. I was in lane one, but I could see no one near me – I was ahead of everyone, which included a mixed age heat of mostly men and one other woman. By the end of lap 6, I started to feel tired, felt a heaviness in my shoulders, but by then I only had two laps to go, so I gave it what I had left. The results astounded me:

200m Free Results
  • 2:20.67 (roughly a 2:06.72 converted to yards, which is three seconds faster than my previous best adult time)
  • 1st place age group winner
  • Broke the meet record for my age group by just over two seconds
  • 2nd place female overall
Between races, I sat with my parents in the spectator gallery that overlooked the pool. We passed the program back and forth, marveling at the ages of some of the competitors (62, 74, 81). I told my mom she could be in there competing, if she wanted to. We cheered for one of my childhood teammates as she swam the 50 backstroke. Soon, it was 100 free time.
Winning my heat of the 200 free
The 100 free is a pure sprint: just go out fast and hold it. This was my best, most competitive event when I was younger. But still I felt no pressure to do anything in particular. I had an end lane again, lane 8, but it didn’t matter because I was competing against myself, against the clock. I felt great for the whole race, though of course felt the fatigue in my legs and shoulders by the last 25. I didn’t have a great second turn, but it wasn’t hugely detrimental, though noticeable enough that my parents asked about it afterwards. But despite that, I did way better than expected:

100m Free Results
  • 1:03.99 (roughly a 57.64 in yards, about a half second faster than my fastest adult time)
  • 1st place age group winner
  • Broke the meet record for my age group by just over two seconds
  • 3rd place female overall
My parents took me to a BBQ place on the way home, which was delicious and worth mentioning here because no swim meet excursion is complete without an epic meal with family and/or friends.

Couldn’t have been happier about my races. Set a great baseline. It shows that the way I’ve been training lately has helped, so I will keep it up.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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