Swimming in the pool of champions

This day has disappeared into a sucking vortex of daylight savings hour loss and crazy long swim meet. After a long nap, the fact that I blew away my 100 breaststroke goal for this season and I still have two more meets and almost two months before the Pacific Masters short course yards championships is finally sinking in.

The meet today was held at University of California, Berkeley’s pool and hosted by the CAL Masters Swimming Team.

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There were definitely more young, fast swimmers at this meet than I’ve seen at any of these masters meets to date. And then there was the intimidating “wall of Olympians.”

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They ran out of space in the first section and had to start a second, but they still haven’t posted plaques for the London Olympians. You may note that UC Berkeley claimed 45 of the Olympians at the London Olympics in 2012, more than any other public school, and 19 of those were swimmers. Also, it is soon to be the home pool for Missy Franklin. That second section is going to fill up fast…

Did you notice that this is an outdoor pool? Oh, California… so different than growing up in the Midwest…

So, surrounded by this much greatness, I had to do well, right?

Yesterday (to boost my confidence?) I dug out my old time log book that I kept through high school.

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It doesn’t have much from my freshman year, but it looks like I recorded all my sophomore, junior, and senior year meet times. I noted that my high school best in the 100 breaststroke (which was “my event” in high school, even though I was not fastest on the team and never qualified for the State meet) was 1:19.04. That was at sectionals, fully tapered, at the end of my junior year. (Sadly, I actually got a little slower my senior year and lost my place as “second fastest breaststroker” to a freshman.)

I honestly had no idea what to expect today. When I got out of the pool after the 50 (my first race), I was surprised that I had managed to swim a 38.79 (about half second slower than qualifying time). The race didn’t feel that fast. Watching everyone swim while waiting for my next race, I started to get nervous. I kept telling myself that I would be fine if I just swam like I did in the 50 — just for twice a long.

My 100 yrd race went by in a blur, but not so fast that I couldn’t be totally aware of how terrible my turns were. I didn’t arrive early enough this morning to warm up in the competition pool. So, I didn’t get an opportunity to familiarize myself with that weird pool separator thing. You can’t see from the pictures above, but it doesn’t extend all the way to the bottom of the pool, which is a weird effect when you’re swimming to the “wall” but can see right under it to the adjacent pool. It becomes very hard to judge distance to the wall. My timing was off and I kept ending up with less than a full stroke as I closed in on the walls. When that happens you either end up with a painfully long “glide” into the wall, or a short, rushed half-stroke.

To make matters worse, I was in an outside lane of the fast heat. I could only get a glimpse of the woman in the lane next to me, and I couldn’t see the swimmers in the middle of the pool. And the woman in the lane next to me was kicking my ass. I chased her up and down the pool, but couldn’t close the distance. So when I finished and asked the timer for my time I was definitely not expecting to hear “1:21…” Turns out my official time was 1:21.65. Here are the results, posted by age group:

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That person that beat me in my age group? She was the one in the lane next to me. That is an awesome time. No wonder I couldn’t catch her!

So, I am officially faster than I was in my freshman year of high school. That is blowing my mind.  I’m swimming fewer yards per week, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the same muscles I used to, but somehow I’m faster. My goal for this year was to swim a qualifying time (1:23.32). The psych-time I posted on my fridge was 1:22.57. So, now I need a new goal. How about 1:19.04?

Next weekend… 200 yrd breaststroke… and another chance to shave a little more time off my 50 yrd breast time.

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