Another Nationals is in the books for me, I returned to Mt. Hood (the last Nationals I swam there was eight years ago) for five days of swimming. Without further ado, here’s the recap:
While the staff was welcoming, the hotel (Days Inn Gresham/Portland) was rather “tired.” The short list includes: located in a parking lot behind a gas station and a McDonalds, the microwave only worked in 1-minute increments, I had to request towels first thing, there were no bedside lamps to read by, the wall light constantly flickered on/off when switched off, the toilet paper dispenser clattered off the wall onto the tiled floor at the slightest touch, the shower was clogged, and a 6 a.m. fire alarm on Sunday. The really sad thing is that this hotel wasn’t cheap, and yet it wasn’t any better or worse than any other swimmer’s room in the area. Heck, at least my room didn’t have bullet holes in the window (that was Janice and Erin’s room, two doors down). Having friends in the same place elevated the situation from “depressing.” Walking around in my jammies to friends’ rooms after dinner each night was a total fun age group travel meet throw-back!
I checked a large wheelie-bag, but I need to tweak my packing before my next travel meet. Foremost, I could’ve used more clean socks, undies, jammies as well as more clothing/suits options; I forgot that things don’t dry completely overnight the humid Pacific Northwest. I packed a few paper plates/bowls, but should’ve brought at least two per day, and paper napkins, because I ended up buying packs of each at Target. My dry-foods (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp powder, Ultima, tea, hot chocolate mix, Mary’s Gone Crackers, dark chocolate) packing was solid; I just wish I could bring more food. But, perishables are a no-no on flights (thus the need to hit Wholefoods after landing for produce, soup, hemp milk, rice bread, sun butter, jam, proteins, kombucha). Finally, I know my pink fuzzy owl bathrobe takes up a ton of bag space, but it’s my comfort item. I have to have it with me.
Site & Conditions
The Mt. Hood Community College LCM outdoor pool setting of green hills and tall pine trees is one of my faves. But the facility was a little taxed by both the weather and a large meet. A heat wave brought 100-degree temperatures every day except for Sunday. Despite shade, a mister on deck, and tons of cooler and ice stations, the heat kept me in the air-conditioned hotel room except for swimming, which cut into my socializing and race watching. The pool water was warmer than average, something which always makes me a bit sluggish. And, this pool’s weird optical illusion deep end wall and faded bottom T had me drifting into the wall and following the lane rope shadow at times. The third largest LCM Nationals in Masters history, the warm up and cool down sessions were mobbed, and it got tight in the women’s locker room (six bathrooms, eight showers – often a line for both; no hot water after the first day). Parking was never a problem though, and there was plenty of seating.
1500: I kicked off my meet around 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Despite being my freshest of the long weekend, I started off dizzy behind the blocks (sea level? Heat? Sinus issues prior to the meet?), with the warm water only exacerbating my dizziness. But, all those “Torture Tuesdays” practices paid off — I was familiar with push, push, pushing the further I swam. A PR by almost 13 seconds (20:13.01), solid splitting (a negative split!), and a close second place made this a decent race for me.
400 IM: I wish meet organizers would separate the 1500 and 400 IM a bit more. With them always back-to-back, I never feel like I have a shot at PR-ing in the 4-IM. By 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, I was still a bit dizzy and sore and tired from the 1500 behind the blocks. Thus, I couldn’t get my body fully into this race. While it didn’t feel like a train wreck (and it wasn’t, my splitting was decent), I did want to be a tick faster per 100 and swim my strokes at the tempos I had practiced. Three seconds off my PR wasn’t terrible (6:09.74) though, and placing second was a nice bonus.
(200 IM): I entered this event to have “a swim” on a day that didn’t offer anything Rebecca-friendly. Based on how awkward the 2-IM is for me (can’t get up to speed fast enough per 50, my turns need a lot of work), the heat, how I felt in the 4-IM, and the lack of enthusiasm from others (my family, friends, and even the woman who checked me in who said, “why swim the 200 when you swim the 400 well?” all were in favor of me dropping this event), I scratched it. I’ve never taken a day off within a meet, so I wasn’t sure how this would work for me, but it ended up being the right decision. I slept in an extra hour, had a massage, enjoyed a scenic driving tour along historic route 30, and then ate a real lunch – sit-down, at a restaurant. Back at the hotel by 2 p.m., wallowing in AC and the Olympics, the next morning I felt mentally and physically refreshed.
200 Fly: The first event of the weekend when I wasn’t dizzy behind the blocks, yay! I was most nervous for this event though, probably a combination of it being my favorite (I care the most about it) and being seeded first. My start was improved here, just in time for a shorter distance. My turns were still off though; I really, really need to improve my streamline. Decent splits for a third swim, although, as always, I want to get that third 50 down further. I’m still vexed to have missed first by less than a second, but a PR (2:45.53) and being touched-out will motivate me during practice the coming year.
50 Fly: Last day/fun day for me because I rarely sprint, and it was relaxing to be past events that stress me out. Plus, my friend Erin was totally right – going down in distance each day is a really good meet event order! Maybe I was too relaxed however, it was only about five minutes before swimming that I realized I hadn’t prepped a race plan. I just wanted to have a good start…I did, but learned that I could’ve thought about this event a wee bit more — know when to put my head down, what breathing pattern is fastest for me at this distance, etc. Best part of this race? For (I think) the first time in all of my years of swimming, I tied! And I couldn’t have asked for a better 50-fly twin, my friend Collette from CMS – sixth with a 33.95.
Besides swimming, I love the vendor villages at big meets, to stock up on sale items and check out the latest in swim gear. This time I time scored three practice suits for less than $30/each, and a new tech suit, which I love. (My old one was a size too large from the start and ill-fitting — it took on water at my neck line and low back and had inner panels that swished around while swimming.) My new Speedo LZR Racer Elite 2, in a snappy blue and green with a fit that takes me 15+ minutes to wriggle into, feels like a true tech suit! I passed on a meet shirt (didn’t love the colors or styles). Another purchase, the MeetMobile app, makes me wonder how lived without it – endlessly entertaining to track everyone I know and have all kinds of cool swim feedback sent to my phone! Oddly, perhaps my fave purchase was not swim-related. I found a fabulous metal cup at Target on clearance for $3. No more dinky paper hotel cups, my water remains nice and chilled, and this cup won’t crush when packed!
To sum, 2016 LCM Nationals was a “solid” meet for me, especially when factoring in a phase of unusually high demands and stressors beyond the pool which began in March. Sure, I wish I had a touch more of my typical power/strength, but that can be addressed this coming year, along with the other issues I targeted during the meet. After all, outdoor LCM is my happy place, and I love coming back from a big end-of-season meet with lots of ideas and motivation to apply to the next training cycle!