October 7-9, 2022, Heather Farms Pool, Walnut Creek
The Short Course Meters Championship is the third of the triad of Championships held annually by Pacific Masters Swimming. We have Short Course Yards in the spring, Long Course Meters in the summer, and culminate the competition season with Short Course Meters in the fall.
I drove to Walnut Creek all three days, ignoring the horrible price of gas. I was excited and became very nervous, starting a week before the festivities. My level-headed acupuncturist said, “I know you’re anxious, but you’re also mature enough to enjoy this, right?” She was right, of course, but I needed to hear it. Go, swim, compete, enjoy, which I did.
The weather was perfect. Cool in the mornings turning warm and sunny in the afternoons. 400 swimmers attended, an almost-normal turnout after the COVID lockdowns. It was a festive affair, complete with close races, records broken, and friendly camaraderie. I am getting to know many of the participants and officials since I have been working on the Pacific Masters newsletter, The Update, as an Editor, and attending Conventions and Marketing and Membership meetings. I was with my friends the whole weekend.
On Friday, Annette and I arrived early (7AM) to claim our team’s spot for the weekend. We both swam in the 800-Freestyle Relay and then sat down to wait. And wait we did. Annette was in the 11th heat of the 1500- Freestyle. Each heat took, on average, 20 minutes. Do the math!
I was her designated counter and had a big responsibility. The 1500, 60 laps of the pool, is a distance event and a lot easier to swim if you’re not worried about losing count. I had to pay attention, not wanting to hinder my friend’s swim in any way. She swam well, the correct number of laps, and we finally left for home a little after 5PM.
Back at it on Saturday morning. A week before, I had glanced at the published heat sheets of the meet, the list of who is swimming, in what heat and in which lane. I saw some names that I did not readily recognize, new names, just moving up into my age group. Young whippersnappers who had registered some very fast times, and consequently, I was seeded second place in many of my events, and third place in two swims.
In only one event, the 200-Meter Breaststroke, did I have a chance to win because I was the only one in my age group who had entered – so long as I did not get disqualified. That meant, two-handed touches, shoulders level at the turns, good pull-downs with only one dolphin kick. I was happy that I was the only one who had signed up for the 200 Breast. Not many women my age can swim eight laps of Breaststroke as it is very hard on the knees. I tore my meniscus a few years ago and did not swim the Breaststroke for a long time because of it. My BEMER machine (BEMER USA.COM) saved me, with no surgery required, and I am now able to frog-kick my way to victory!
My first event on Saturday was the 100-Meter Backstroke. Take your mark. Beep! Backwards, blindly, and belly-up, I swam four laps as I had been instructed by Coach. Start out comfortably for the first two, build the third, and come home as fast as possible. I did a good time for me and came in second place for a red ribbon. I prefer blue for first, but red is a very pretty color.
The best part of the swim was that, with the exertion, my nerves had dissipated. I was now ready for the rest of the meet. 50-Meters Breaststroke was next. I had been going to more practices in preparation for this competition, attacked the Breaststroke with vigor, using my knees, and took three seconds off my best time. Yeah! Second place again, now with two red ribbons.
The 100-Meter Freestyle was my last individual event on Saturday. I finished in second place. Our 800-Free relay had won, so I had a pretty, blue ribbon to break up the monochromatic grouping, and our 200 Medley relay had come in third, so a pure-as-the-driven-snow white ribbon balanced out my colorful ribbon display: one blue, three reds and a white.
Sunday morning came early. The familiar drive was almost lonely compared to the previous two days of Friday commuter and Saturday traffic. At 8 AM, I jumped into the water for my 50-Meter Backstroke. There and back as fast as I could. Again, I swam a good time for me and earned second place.
The 200-Breaststroke was next. I swam the long eight laps relatively slowly and methodically and had enough energy at the end to sprint home, coming in four seconds faster than I had swum the event in July. That result lends credence to the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare, and a blue ribbon for my efforts.
Just to show that you never know how a particular race will turn out, even though I was listed as second, I surprisingly won my 50-Meter Freestyle. I’m not sure how, but I quickly retrieved my blue ribbon before anyone changed their mind! Four second places and two firsts. One more race to go.
The last race was my favorite, the 200-Meter Backstroke. It has become my signature race. I nailed it in July, at Long Course, finishing many seconds ahead of my nearest competitor. This Sunday was different. I was seeded second, with a very fast swimmer ahead of me, and my friend Phyllis very close behind me. It was going to be a race!
The faster swimmer was a no-show, so the anticipated race was between me and Phyllis. I swam well, started out slowly as is necessary for a 200, and came back fast. But not exactly fast enough. Phyllis out touched me by a second. She beat me fair and square, but in so doing, pushed me to do a very good time. Second place again.
Phyllis won High Point and she deserved it! She swam all the distance Freestyles, the 1500, the 800 and the 400. She conquered the amazingly difficult 400-IM, 200-IM, and 200-Butterfly, finishing with her triumphant 200-Back. Very hard races, all. Congratulations to my competition.
Thank you, Pacific Masters, for an amazing year of swimming. I’ll see everyone in Santa Rosa, at the Resolution Meet in January, and we’ll do it all again.
, Our annual Long Course Champs were held July 29-312 at the brand-new College of Marin, Indian Valley Campus Aquatic Complex in Novato – literally in our back yard. Before this beautiful pool was built, we had to travel far and wide to find a 50-Meter pool suitable for our first-class competitions: San Jose, Moraga, Morgan Hill, to name a few destinations. It was wonderful to be close to home, swim our events, and go home to rest and sleep in our own beds. Well, some of us went right home. I swam my events, went to work in the evenings like every other weekend, and was back at the pool each morning at 7:00 AM. What a trooper!
I had of course, registered for seven individual events. The only way to win High Point is to swim the maximum number, as tiring as that can be.
Swimming Long Course, 50-Meters, is very different from swimming Short Course, 25 yards. Twice as long, plus ten percent. One easy illustration: I take 15-17 strokes to swim one lap of Short Course, and 44 strokes in a Long Course pool. It can feel like an eternity. Coach Sharlene called in some personal favors and was able to get us a few practice sessions in the new pool. This was a feat as it was not open to the public. When I first arrived on deck for one practice, the pool looked enormous. Besides the length, it’s ten lanes wide. I was intimidated.
At the far end is a very deep, diving well with multiple heights of diving boards and platforms. During our practices, we swimmers were distracted by the dives that were being performed. And the exhibitions, and distraction, continued throughout the meet. Here we are, older swimmers, asking for help stepping up onto the starting blocks, a foot or so high, while we watch these limber young divers bounce, jump, and dive from great heights with apparently no fear. Some contrast!
My Saturday began with the 100-meter Freestyle. Coach Sharlene has taught me how to swim it: Start out comfortably and build the first lap. Steadily pick up speed on the second lap and sprint home for the last twenty seconds, or so. I followed her advice and won my event. What a great way to start out a meet. A coveted blue ribbon and 21 points! Sharlene and the Mudsharks love points. Go Mudsharks!
50-Meters Backstroke was next, as fast as I could stroke for one length of this very long pool, resulting in another 1st place. Excellent. I could get used to this! My 200 Backstroke felt wonderful. Again, following Sharlene’s advice, start out comfortably, build speed and then come home as fast as you can. Another first place!! My winning streak was broken with a second-place finish in the 50 Backstroke. That’s OK because the winner was Cindy from our team. I don’t mind that! Saturday was wonderful.
I went to work Saturday night, full of pride and showed off my ribbons to all my co-workers and customers. Sunday was another story.
I wasn’t scheduled to swim until later in the day. I spent the morning wandering around, talking, enjoying myself. I did not rest. I did not prepare myself. I was full of confidence. Many hours after I had arrived, my first event, the 200 Breaststroke was up. I stepped up onto the blocks. My teammate Sherri was in the lane next to me. Ignoring everything I have learned, I dove in and immediately tried to keep up with Sherri, a much faster, younger swimmer. Bad idea.
200s are hard anyway. They’re not a sprint and they’re not distance. A specific strategy is required to swim them well. Starting out with a sprint to show off for a teammate is NOT the way to swim a 200. I quickly tired, made my first turn and realized I had made a huge mistake. With three more very long laps to swim, my arms felt like lead. My legs did not want to kick anymore. Fighting every instinct to climb out and quit, I continued and swam three more laps, each one progressively slower and slower. I was beat. The 200 Breaststroke had whipped my ass! Second place, only because there were only two of us in my age group swimming the event. It felt like a consolation prize.
My 100 Backstroke came up too quickly. I was still breathing hard when I jumped into the water. Thank God for the Backstroke, my favorite. I can almost do it in my sleep, which is what I did. I won the event, but with a not-so-pretty stroke or a very good time. In the warm-down pool, I told a swimmer that I didn’t swim very well, that I was still recovering from the 200 Breaststroke, and she understood.
My last event was 50 Breaststroke. Breaststroke again? When I had told my arms and legs that they weren’t going to have to do that anymore. Second place, consolation again. Sunday was getting to be a letdown after such a triumphant Saturday.
Somehow, I ended up with High Point. I found out later that many of my competitors had not swum a full contingent of events. The Nationals were being held the next weekend, and they were saving themselves for those races. Does winning High Point, after some disappointing swims due to bad judgement, and because everyone else wasn’t swimming, even count?
I got the certificate and the gift card but haven’t spent it yet. I know it wasn’t the best meet for me. I know the mistakes I made, and why. But the results look impressive on paper, four first-place blue ribbons and three second-place red ribbons. I’ll take that.
Next and final competition for the year will be the Short Course Meters event in Walnut Creek. Onward!