What I Love/Hate about Swim Meets

Sometimes meets are a love or hate affair for swimmers.
Sometimes meets are a love or hate affair for swimmers.

While I haven’t seen an “official” poll, it seems to me that most swimmers fall into one of two categories regarding meets—those that love training but not racing, and the reverse. But lately I’ve been thinking that many swimmers also may be like me—love to train and like racing, but only under certain conditions. To test the validity of my self-rated “like,” I decided to do a pro/con list and see which side was stronger.

Pros: What I Love about Meets

“Newness” potential: I love when I have an opportunity to go to a different area, try a new-to-me pool, and make new swim friends.

Test and review: Meets are a fantastic venue to see how my training is progressing (or not!), and to see if elements I’ve been working on are helping (or not!). Inevitably, I always learn something that was not on my radar going into the meet as well. This race feedback-training tweaking cycle is key because it allows me see improvement and keeps me engaged during training as I aim for PRs in meets.

Seeing others swim: Watching others compete is always a good thing for me. Not only do I learn a ton about technique and race pacing via other swimmers, I’m always inspired. You see such a wide range of swimming at masters meets—80-year olds swimming the 400 IM. People setting down a cane/walker/etc. behind their block and crushing it in the water. Former Olympians who seem superhuman. Families forming relays. Someone who learned to swim as adult doing their first-ever race—it’s all uplifting for me.

Keeps me healthy: I am very motivated to do well at the big meets. This pushes me into lots of behaviors which we know promote good health—regular exercise, solid sleep, eating well, getting fresh air/light, having fun, being social, setting and achieving goals, and so much more.

Suits: Total “girl reason” alert—I love checking out what everyone’s wearing, especially suits—the colors, patterns, styles, and brands. Warm up is the prime time for this though because by race time, everyone’s wearing some variation of a mostly-black tech suit.

Sales: Another “girl reason.” Vendors come to the bigger masters meets, and I totally take advantage of this to review the latest equipment in person, score some killer sales (my best deal still holds at six training suits for $100), sample items, and score swag.

Things I Don’t Love About Meets

“Swimming Through:” You know what I’m talking about—the small, local, one-day meets when you start tired because you’re not breaking from training, and become even more tired as you do a zillion events less than 10 minutes apart. Yes, they’re essential for building all kinds of fortitude, but they’re tough—physically draining, and mentally tough because your times aren’t popping.

Being cold: I get cold easily, so meets that have me in/out of the water really push me by the last event of the day. It takes nearly everything I’ve got to force myself back into the water and warm up physically and mentally when I’d rather call it a day and take a scalding hot shower. Especially if it’s an “off event” for me…

Bad air: I have asthma and allergies, so sitting around all day on an indoor pool deck where air filtering is poor to horrible isn’t helpful to my general wellbeing, and often sets off my chronic issues.

Crowded warm ups: I need a lot of warm up, whether in practice or at a meet. It’s partly an age thing, but also a distance swimmer thing—I’ve never felt like I can “pick it up” until I have at least 1400 under my belt. So that crush of swimmers all doing their own thing at meets means I often don’t get an optimal warm up.

Shower crush: Trying to get a shower, let alone a hot one, at the end of the day is challenging. As is trying to find space to change in a mobbed locker room. At least sometimes the distance event is last (clearly organizers are thinking “who wants to watch those heats?), and the sprinters have already fled like startled doe.

Low energy: Yep, those small, local masters meets can be deadly. I’m not going to lie: It’s hard for me to get “up” for any race when I’m in a heat by myself in a facility that’s quiet enough to not know a meet is going on. As much as I don’t like crowds, I do feed off them at meets—I get psyched seeing tons of swimmers on deck, hearing the cheers during a close race, seeing beaming swimmers in the cool down pool basking in a PR, and more.

Hhhmmm…I did not expect my tally to come out even-steven. What is clear? I love a particular kind of meet—a big, LCM one, held outdoors in July or August where I warm up, swim a fave distance event, then warm down and am done until the next day. The small, local, indoor, multi-event SCY meet in, say, February? Not so excited. But that just give more fuel for my competitive fire—figuring out how to get up for these meets and crush an occasional event!

Next week: Just in time for flu season, An Easy, Cheap Anti-Nausea Fix

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What I Love/Hate about Swim Meets

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