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Triathlete Blog

Swimming State

By April 27, 2013July 21st, 2015No Comments

I’m still here.  And things are going swimmingly!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a swim meet.  They’re always fun with the exception of the fact that you have to get wet.  And then you get cold.  Then you get wet again.  Cold again.  And by the time you get to the 200 free you’re really tired of being wet and cold!

But this year, to be a team player, I signed up for the meet.  You see, our masters team has been state champion a few times.  The pressure to participate in the meet builds and builds until finally you either give in or face the scorn of the entire team being labeled as one of those who did not swim at the meet.  There are entire lanes of those people at our practices.  You don’t want to in there!

Each year, they alternate the 1000 free with the 1650.  I’ve done the 1000 free a few times at the meet, never impressed with my performance, feeling that when you take away the draft of my big boys (I routinely swim with 3-4 men who are well over 6 feet tall and each over 190 lbs), you take away most of my swim speed.  After all, I am a self-proclaimed fake swimmer.

Did you know fake swimmer tweets some of her finer swim experiences?  Like the other day when someone in the lane next to me said did you know that you don’t roll your shoulders with backstroke?  Hmmm…. do you know that I only lane line pull instead of backstroke?  Or when someone new enters our lane as says Liz, you haven’t led yet, would you like to lead?  Clearly you do not understand how this lane works.  I do not lead!  Or the time we were doing our 200s on a descending interval which ended at the 2:30 – the coach looked at me and said Liz, you realize this set ends on the 2:30 which was her polite way of saying, Liz do you realize there is a slim chance that you will actually make this send off so save yourself now and go on the 2:40.  My response?  I have paddles.

This year, I signed up for the 1650 for the team, with no particular plan, no expectations that I would swim any faster than I do in practice.  When I seeded myself, I randomly pulled a time that I recalled seeing in the past when we did a timed 1650 at distance free practice.  As the meet got closer, Jennifer informed me that I sandbagged my time.  It occurred to me that I should do the math to figure out the pace I said I would swim and Jennifer was right – it was a little slow.  But not as slow as the person I watched in the first heat who seeded herself at 40 minutes and dropped a sub 19.

Friday night, my heat went off at 6 pm.  I warmed up 1400 yards, just like we do at masters.  I talked to the coach before my heat, telling her that I hadn’t dove in years and didn’t intend to dive tonight!  To me, it just wasn’t worth it.  The risk of losing my goggles over the course of a 1650?  Besides, what would a dive save me, 2 – 3 seconds?   The coach told me there would be 3 short whistles and then one long whistle.  When I hear the long whistle, I would get into the water.

And yes, I know that for swimmers, me showing up in a pink swimsuit, not diving, not flip turning at the state meet is like any of you showing up to walk a 5K with your dog and a stroller.

As 6 pm neared, I stood behind my block.  Because the 1650 was so crowded (and so long) there were two to a lane.  The guy sharing my lane assured me that he wouldn’t get in my way.  I told him it didn’t bother me!  The guys I swim with create a massive wake of churned water and lost paddles.  I was actually looking forward to having someone in the lane with me because it would feel more like practice!

The starter called us to the blocks.  After one long whistle, I did what I was told – got into the water! Unfortunately, it was NOT my heat.  It was my lanemates turn.  And that is how I was told to get OUT of the water at the state meet.  Fantastic start for the fake swimmer!  And not the least bit embarrassing.

Need I also tell you that while everyone else was in a fast suit I was in a pink flowered Dolfin Ugli suit?

Finally, in my heat, 3 short whistles, one long.  I hopped in.  According to the psyche sheet, there were a few women in my age group who had already swam and a few in the wave with me.  I knew that I needed to beat every woman in my heat because there were no other women in my age group swimming for the night.  If I swam fast enough, I could be state champion!

The buzzer went off and I bolted!

My plan was simple: 500 steady, 500 build, 500 strong, 150 all out!  I felt great!  There are those times in the pool where you get in and immediately know that you have it or you don’t.  It’s that elusive feel for the water.  Tonight I felt that.  Soon after starting, I had passed most of the women around me in the other lanes and then set my sights on lapping them.  I had no idea what pace I was holding, I just kept trying to pick up the pace and gain more time.  All of this while open turning!  And, yes, several times, Timmy told my counter: tell her to flip turn!

I hit the wall over 40 seconds faster than my seeded time.  When I got out, I saw some posted results and was pretty sure I had beaten everyone who had swam in my age group.  I cooled down with the glory of knowing that fake swimmer could prevail!  You don’t need to taper, shave, flip turn, dive and wear a speed suit to come out on top.  You just need some luck (there really was no one fast in my age group) and freakish endurance (I can hold the same pace allllllll day).

But alas, the glory was short-lived.  When I realized that someone in an earlier heat had seeded themselves at 37 minutes but ended up going about 3 seconds faster than me.  I don’t actually understand how you can underestimate yourself by 15 minutes.  That’s like starting the 5K by the 11 minute per mile sign when you’re fit enough to bust out sub 6’s?


So….3 seconds.  And it goes without saying, those were the 3 seconds I spent not diving.

Fake swimmer, POINT TAKEN.

But, at the end of the night, I ended up 2nd in state.  My mom wants to know when I get my ribbon.  I told her I didn’t know.  She also wants to know if I beat the guy in my lane.  Yes, my mom admitted she had no idea what was going on during the meet.    It was confusing, there were people swimming in every direction!

I know a lot of triathletes out there get scared or frustrated by swimming.  I used to be one of them!  I’m certainly not the fastest in the pool but over time I’ve made big gains.  Swimming is a complicated sport – it’s technical, it’s got its own language.  Even going to a meet might seem very daunting – how do you seed yourself, when exactly do you swim, what do all of the whistles mean, what is a psyche sheet.   Or attending masters practice (no, you won’t be the slowest and yes, you will fit in!).  Don’t be scared to do something because you think you’re not ready or don’t know what you’re doing.   You don’t have to dive, flip, fly to give it your best.  You just have to SWIM!   Same goes for trying a cycling race or running a track meet.  You can spend a lot of time in life worrying that you don’t have the speed or skill set to do something.  But if you have the desire to do it – why not?

What’s holding you back?

Jen Harrison & I are hosting a triathlon-specific swim clinic on Sunday, May 19th from 2:45-4:45 pm in Naperville.  $39 per person.  Each athlete will learn:

  • Three personalized observations to improve your swim stroke
  • How to improve efficiency through proper use of swim drills & equipment
  • Open water drills & skills to develop confidence & faster swim splits

For registration, contact Jen at jhtriathlon at sbcglobal dot net