, 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!