The last time I went off the blocks was back in February, at a then-local (20-minute drive) SCY indoor meet in the Denver ‘burbs. With LCM Nationals looming just a few weeks away, however, I really needed a tune-up meet. While the drive may have been a bit longer (four hours from my new city of Reno to the Bay Area) to attend the 2016 Pacific LCM Championships, making an effort to race was incredibly beneficial. Here’s the run-down of what I experienced and learned from this past weekend:
–The recently renovated College of San Mateo LCM pool was awesome. Foremost, it has the widest lanes I’ve ever swum in. So wide that I felt like I had the entire pool to myself every time I raced because I couldn’t see the lane ropes in my peripheral vision at all. There is a bit of bottom depth-range, but overall the pool is so deep that water was glass-y-calm. At 78-degrees, the water temp was perfect—cool enough to be refreshing but not cold enough to cause muscle tightness. And, saline instead of chlorine is always so much easier on the lungs. The large deck was a bit stark though (no shade, lots of concrete), making transitioning from chilly mornings to broiling full-sun afternoons a bit tricky.
–It was very helpful to go through the process of a big-ish (550 swimmers) meet—I’ll be a little less phased at Nationals when navigating crowded warm up/cool down pools, gauging timing of sign in, check in, heat times, etc. I’ll pack a bit better too (forgot a few things this time, more layers would be good as I expect a similar climate, and I have a few snack upgrades in mind.)
–My only quibble was “delayed heat sheet postings.” Knowing my heat/lane assignment in advance means I can plan warm ups, cool downs, snacks, hydration, etc. However, I often had to warm up for my next event not knowing my heat number, which made me a little nervous about becoming cold and tight. My guesstimates were always off too, so I ended up swimming either hungrier or fuller than I normally do.
–Kudos to Skyline College for offering free on deck massages. Despite the size of the meet, Skyline had so many massage therapists available that the wait was minimal. My 15-minute massage (neck, shoulders, back) made a surprising difference in both energy flow and looseness as I headed into my last event of the meet because I was definitely sore and tired by then. And, did I emphasize FREE enough?
–One of the best reasons to swim, making new friends from all over and then seeing them again at future meets, was in play this weekend. On day one I met Alita from the Monterey Jellies (our deck chairs were next to each other), and we hung out for the rest of the meet. Not only is Alita super fun and positive, she’s in my age group and headed for Nationals. I’m already looking forward to catching up with her in Oregon! Also, I was thrilled to catch up with long-time friend Doston, who literally just moved to the Bay Area. First day in the region, and what does he do? Tackles the San Francisco to San Mateo traffic to cheer me on—how’s that for the power of swim friendships?
–I love watching Masters meets because they offer such a wide range of achievement, and this meet did not disappoint—Laura Val crushed a world record every time she swam, adults in their 70s and 80s made tough events that age-groupers avoid like the plague look easy and fun, young whippersnappers threw down Olympic Trials QT times, Alita’s joy in going from a guesstimated 3:40 entry to her first “official” 200 LCM IM of 3:15, and so many more personal victories!
–In my personal “solid” column were my 100 fly and 800 free. My strokes and turns felt “good,” and some elements I’ve been working on are becoming automatic (e.g. consistent breathing pattern on fly with head down off walls, executing designated pace plans.)
–My awkward events of the weekend were the 100 breast and 200 IM. My breast never feels good, especially off the block. It approaches “O.K.” only if I do lots of repeats in practice or during a 400 IM. The 200 IM remains “uncomfortable” for me—I haven’t sorted the pacing, nor can I get up to speed quickly enough per leg to be competitive.
–My 100 backstroke was on the bubble. My stroke felt fine, my turns are improving. But I forgot to warm up at least one start, and it showed (not that one practice start would fix my problems!). Heck yeah, I know I’m missing the “sprong” which would allow me to enter the water properly and set me up for dolphin kicking into a smooth breakout. And, my finish was rreeaaallllyyy lllloooonnnggggg, which vexes me. I like backstroke, it’s a decent stroke for me, and I came away thinking I’d like to race it more. Thus, “work on back starts and finishes” is now on my training list.
–Overall, I gave myself a “B+” for the meet. I improved upon all of my seed times, which is always nice, especially as I went in unrested and became only more tired/sore over the weekend. I now have a list of things to tweak before Nationals. And best of all, I saw old friends and made new ones!