Just competed in the 2013 Pacific Masters Longcourse Championships this past weekend. This was a big deal for me for several reasons: first swim meet in 19 years, first Masters meet ever, I hated meets in high school (aside from getting to cut class early/entirely for away or finals meets), I now live 400 miles from my home pool, and I signed up to compete in an event almost twice as far as my previous longest race ever.
I had raced in one 500 yards event in high school because my high school coach made me. I hated it when he signed me up for a 200 yards event. I preferred the 50 yard backstroke event then so I could get it over with ASAP. If you had asked me back then if I’d do things like 5 x 1000 yards on a daily basis, I’d have thought you were out of your mind.
Zip forward to today and if I had last Friday off from work and was up in the Bay Area, I’d have competed in the 1500 M Free. I signed up though when I was still at my previous employer and wouldn’t have had the vacation time. What drove me to sign up for a swim meet was this immense feeling of dedication and pride I have for my San Mateo Masters coaches and team. I wanted to give something back to them so if I could swim and get some points for them, that’d be awesome! The 800 M Free was on Saturday and the 400 M Free was on Sunday. Knowing too that Masters meets are totally different than high school swim meets made a huge difference too. In Masters, you’re split into heats by seed times, you can do block or wall (start off in the water and just push off the wall like during lap swims / practice) starts, and there are people from 18 to 90+ years old competing. On one hand, it’s nice to know there won’t be some 8 year old kid kicking your ass in your event. At least not in the lane next to you and s/he is at least 18 years old.
My habit of waking up at 4/4:30 AM daily had its advantage on Saturday when I woke up, rolled out of bed, and started driving back to SF. After a quick lunch with my mom and cousin, I went to join my teammates at the meet. Got a big hug from my coach when he saw me and said “You made it!” Snagged my SMM team swim cap and went to go change into my suit. It was absolutely perfect weather for a swim meet! Not a cloud in the sky and not too hot weather. It was great seeing my teammates again, and in same cases, see them in daylight for once. My teammate Kristin came in DFL (dead f’ing last) in the 50 Fly last year so she comically proclaims “Everybody gets a hug!” for just participating (in lieu of “participation trophies”). 😉 I got to meet my teammate Jeff for the first time in person too. We met on a Facebook swimming group when we discovered that we were teammates, but practice 12 hours apart (me at 6 AM and him at 6 PM). Actually, at events like this you’ll meet teammates that you practice at the same time with, but are 8 lanes apart. My teammates were extremely helpful in getting me up to speed in how one of these meets operate.
Aside from all SMM swimmers wearing team caps, we were also easy to spot as we all had an “L” on our arms. This was in honor of our teammate Lowell who is fighting cancer right now. It’s awesome to see how united a team can be for a fellow teammate, one who many of us may have never even met (like me). Doesn’t matter, he’s a teammate and that’s all one needs to know.
I jumped into the warm-up pool to do my 1000 yards warm-up. Since there were 12 heats of the 800 M Free, it was going to be awhile before we got to my Heat 11. My teammate Norma was in Heat 10 so I re-entered the warm-up pool with her and did another 350 yards. Then towards the end of her heat, I swam another 200 yards. Timing was perfect as I went straight from there to my lane for Heat 11. Jeff offered to be my counter and I started with a wall start (not having done a block start in 19 years, I wasn’t going to break that record with doing one at the start of this race). For the first 200 M, I was wondering “WTF am I doing in here?” I told myself it was too late, finish, ignore the other people in the pool, and focus on your form and what lap you’re on. I got into my groove and could hear my teammate Kristin and coach Tom cheering for me. For the last 50 M, I sped it up a little to come in strong, but not wanting to exhaust all my energy halfway there.
My seed time was 20:00.00. I came in at 16:46.40! Woohoo! I had thought that I’d come in around 18:30. Jeff told me that it was one of the smoothest 800 M swims he’d seen in awhile and he thought I’d be happy with my splits. He’s an awesome and fast swimmer so I couldn’t believe was complimenting *me*. Right up there with Tom when he said “you have a beautiful stroke!” this past Spring when we were re-architecting it to the stroke I have today. Tom made me march into the warm-up pool to do a 500 yards Cool Down saying that I’d regret it tomorrow otherwise.
Sunday morning I got to the pool bright and early since the 400 M Free was the first event. I was surprised to learn that I got 3rd in my age group for the 800 M Free the day before. I got a ribbon! And scored points for my team. 🙂 I thought there was a slim chance I’d get any points for them since I’m not a fast swimmer. I did a brisk 1000 M warm-up and tried 1 block start (goggles filled with water, will work on this later…not today). Froze my butt off for awhile since it was a classic foggy morning.
Watched my teammates race the 400 M and then during Heat 10, I got into the warm-up pool to swim 500 yards. Heat 11 was going on, which I experienced the most awesome moment for me that weekend. My 84 year old teammate Ann was in Lane 8 with her daughter cheering her on! It was so sweet. At the end, her daughter yelled “Go Mom! Only 10 more strokes to do!” 🙂 I talked with Ann later (after my Heat) and she said it was great since she could see her daughter while swimming AND her daughter brought Ann’s husband to watch her race which he doesn’t get around too easily these days.
I swam my 400 M, which I quickly discovered that I prefer the 800 M. 400 M isn’t long enough to really get into a groove since as soon as you do, it’s time to get your butt in gear as the race is almost over. I was happy with my time of 8:17.18, although less than 8 minutes would have been nicer. 😉 I got 4th in my age group for this event.
I said bye to my teammates as I had other things I had to do on this short weekend up. Ann said I had incredible spirit when I told her I wasn’t changing my Masters team affiliation. My teammates were happy when I told them I wasn’t ditching them for the Rose Bowl Masters. I told Tom that he isn’t getting rid of me so easily. 😉 Seriously, I’ll be happy to participate in any weekend events (annual soup dinner, charity fundraising, swim meets, etc) that fits into my schedule. And it gives me an excuse to go home too.
Was it worth the 12 hours in the car? Absolutely. Next time I’ll fly though. (Which I won’t be in the middle of moving so I don’t have to drive!)