IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Friday, April 20, 2007

Swimming the Mile

The Masters swim "season" is generally January through March. A variety of swim meets can be found in the area every other weekend. The end of the season is capped by the Illinois State Masters Swim Championship meet. This is where the best in the state come to compete over a 4 day period.

The mile (1650 FREE) is always the first event to kick of the Championship meet, usually on Thu and Fri night. I haven't swam one other swim meet in two years! Very few meets have the 1650 as an event because of the time it takes and the unpopularity of the distance. However, the 1650 is the most attractive event to me because it's the closest distance to an Olympic or Half Ironman swim.

Karen and I carpooled to the meet. We planned to count for one another. In swimming, any distance 500 yards or more, each swimmer has a counter on the opposite end of the pool to keep track of your laps. This person dunks a placard with the number of laps you've completed each time you reach the opposite end of the pool. Our heats were situated so that we'd be able to count for one another.

We arrived to the meet plenty early for our heats. The warm, humid, chlorine-filled air greeted us the instant we opened the door. Unfortunately, we'd missed our opportunity to warm up in the "event" pool. This meant our warm up would have to be in the shallow pool. Not ideal, but not a tragedy, either.

One of the best things about the 1650 being on a week night before the full days of events is that everything is very low-key. Swimming the 1650 is one of the most stress-free events one can do. All the swimmers are relaxed and, given the length of time each heat takes (approximately 20-30 minutes), it gives us plenty of time to chat, catch up with ohter swimmers and meet new ones.

Surprisingly, I met Larry, another swimmer who had run Boston just a few days before the meet. And I thought I was the only one psycho enough to try these events so close together! We talked a bit about the marathon, the weather in Boston and how both our legs felt like lead.

Before I knew it, Karen's heat was up. I made my way to the deep end of the pool and arranged the lap counter to read "1". I was making this space my home for a while as the 1650 is 66 lengths of the pool. The race started with a beep instead of a gun. I like the beep better. It's much less startling!

Karen's stroke was smooth and clean. Lap after lap, I watched her bilateral breathe and wondered how tired she was. As all good athletes do, she made it look effortless. The guy in the lane next door efficiently and thoroughly soaked me with every flip turn he made. I started wishing Karen would splash his counter with her turns, but no such luck. Karen's turns weren't splashing anyone! Inevitably, the last lap was here and I noticed Karen kick it in a bit. She finished well under 2 minutes of her predicted time! I went over to congratulate her and she had a huge smile plastered on her face. Clearly, this was a good swim for her.

We had one heat in between, so I jumped in the small pool for quick warm up. The water was crisp and cool, not like the pool at the YMCA I'm accustomed to swimming in. I had not swam in a week and my legs were still pretty sore. I cut a couple of flip turns too tight (i.e., too close to the wall), and the pain in my quads during the push off was strong enough for me to yelp under water. Note to self: Do not get too close to the wall!

Time flew and the next thing I remember is asking the Official when I could get in the water. I planned to start the race from a push-off vs. off the blocks. BC told me I'd look like one of those "old ladies," but I didn't care. I didn't want to tighten my googles so much they'd make my eyes bug out and I haven't dove in from off the blocks in 2 years! After the long whistle, I jumped in (as did 2 other women in my heat - my age- so I guess we ARE the "old ladies!").

There was the beep and off I went. By half of the first length, I could see I was ahead of the other 2 women next to me. I could also see other swimmer sho had already jumped out in front. I tried to calm down and catch my breath. I'm not a very fast swimmer, but I am steady. I can almost never win in a sprint, but the longer distances are where I excel. It seems I need the first 200 yards or so to settle into a rhythym, then I put it in cruise control. This event was no exception. I felt very comfortable and my breathing was controlled. I nearly missed a couple of turns since I was consciously working not to jam them, but everything seemed to be flowing nicely.

WIth about 200 yards left, I noticed a woman 2 lanes away, almost even with me. I knew I hadn't lapped her, so the race was ON! As I said earlier, I'm not sprinter, so I couldn't wait and then "kick it in" as Karen had done. Oh no, I must push and I must push now. I knew that if this woman had any sprinting ability, she'd get me easily - we were so close. Each time I came to the deep end, Karen pumped the number card up and down more quickly telling me, "HURRY, she's right there!!" Oh, I knew she was there and the burning sensation in my arms and legs deepened with each stroke and each kick. "Keep your head down" I told myself. Which, when you're breathing as hard as you can, is quite challenging! But I couldn't let her out kick me so late in the game. I cannot give up!

With 5 yards to go, I put my head down and drove as hard as I could toward the wall. I slammed into the timing mat with the same wrist I hurt up in Solvang. OOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWCH!!! I turned to look and the other woman was also finished. I whipped my head around quickly to the timing scoreboard. I got one second. This was close to a 23 minute race for the both of us and I out-touched her by one second. Karen was smiling, shaking her head and telling me our finish made for great spectatorship. I didn't find out until later that, in fact, she was in my age group.

More importantly than the exciting finish was that my time improved significantly from the last time I did this event. I do think Brett's swim clinic played a huge part in this improvement. He videotaped my stroke, pointed out the inefficiencies, showed me how to work on them, and it has definitely helped. Now it's time to take it to the open water.

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