My first long course meet in 7 years
Ordinarily, I would have posted this sooner, but the solid state hard drive on my computer failed last summer (even though the computer was only 4 years old!), and this left me with limited internet access for several weeks and with a big backload of work to catch up with afterward!
For those who aren't familiar with the term, a "long course" meet is a meet held in 50m pool. The vast majority of competition pools (at least where I live) are either 25m or 25y long. The first meet I ever participated in was a long course meet, and I used to have one one the first Saturday in August every year, but hadn't had one since 2009.
This was the first long course meet I'd ever been in that was held in an indoor pool. It was also the first long course meet I'd ever been in that had touch pads at both ends, but this turned out to be of limited value because some of the touch pads malfunctioned. And it was also the first pool I'd ever been in where the starting blocks had the new raised platforms (hint: it usually doesn't work well to encounter something for this first time when you're at a meet, and this was no exception).
It was actually a 2-day meet, but I could only make it to one day because of a schedule conflict. I was also a bit conflicted about how many events to do. On the one hand, I didn't want to overextend myself in terms of the time I had to train for multiple events. But there were also a lot of events I wanted to do, since I'd progressed quite a bit as a swimmer in the past 7 years, both in performance and in the spectrum of events I do. I ended up settling on 3 events: 200 Individual Medley (which I wasn't even doing 7 years ago), 100m Backstroke (I had done a personal best time in this event in 2009, but had improved my short course times since then), and 200m Freestyle (which I had recently begun doing in 2009, but hadn't had a chance to do in long course).
The meet was not particularly close to where I live, and it took longer to get there than I had expected due to traffic. So I ended up with less warmup time than I'd planned. I was also handicapped by the fact that I had no long course pool to practice in ahead of time.
200 IM in long course is kind of a weird hybrid between 100 IM and 200 IM in short course, since you only do one length of each stroke (as in 100 IM), but the lengths are twice as long. I think that the raised platform proved to be more of a distraction than an asset the first time I used it, so I didn't get a good start. Since it was my first time doing the event in long course, any time I did was, by definition, a personal best time. But I got a big disappointment when I discovered that the touchpads in my lane had malfunctioned at both ends! They have humans with stopwatches as backup timers, but I ended up only getting a time for the entire event, whereas I would have obviously liked to have seen split times for each length (since I was doing a different stroke on each one). Oh, well! :-(
My shorter-than-planned warmup time caught up with me on the 100m Backstroke. The backstroke flags (which let a backstroker know when they're approaching a wall) look different to me in different pools, so when I'm swimming in an unfamiliar pool, I ordinarily make a point of practicing my backstroke turns over and over until I get the timing right. But I didn't have time to do that at this meet, and I ended up rolling onto my breast a bit early. I was just barely able to make contact with the wall with one foot (which kept things legal), but obviously didn't get a good kickoff. As a result, my second length was only slightly faster than my first length, and I fell short of doing a personal best time.
Since I'd never done 200m Freestyle before in long course, my time was another personal best by definition. And there was another touchpad malfunction at the starting block end of the pool, so I ended up with split times for my first length and my last length, but not my middle two lengths. :-(
In spite of the long drive and the malfunctioning touchpads, it was satisfying to have a chance to be in another long course meet. Probably the most satisfying thing to me about the whole experience was that if made me realize just how much I've progressed as a swimmer in terms of the spectrum of events I do!
Thanks for the sharing coach Bob. Since I'm trying to learn the start, I was curious about the new blocks: do you mean the ones which aid the track start (ie one foot behind)? Are these blocks so different from the old ones to the point of affecting your dive?
Another question: have you ever dealt with goggles problems after the start? My main concern is leakage: in a short event no problem, but on a 400m and up I wouldn't like to have to stop, clear the goggles and start again.
Currently I'm practicing some dives from the side and goggles usually stay in place (sometimes they leak when I don't tuck the chin enough). I'm not that confident though, I'm still quite scared of diving from the blocks. I tried once and the goggles leaked badly.
My problems probably stemmed from the fact that I hadn't been using a track start. When I was taught to do starts, I wasn't taught the track start, and had never bothered learning it because conventional wisdom held that neither type of start had an advantage over the other. But most experts seem agreed that, with the elevated platforms, there is now a clear advantage to using the track start. When I saw the elevated platforms, it seemed clear to me that the track start would be better, but when I tried it on my first event, it didn't work well for me because I wasn't used to it. I had another meet in November where they had the elevated platforms, and the track start seemed to work better for me there because I had studied it between the meets.
Since then, I've done the following, and haven't had any more problems:
1) Make sure your straps are tight enough. Loose straps may be more comfortable, but they need to be tight enough to keep your goggles on.
2) Before you put the second strap over your head, check to see if the goggles are held on by suction alone. There will be less of a tendency for a strap to come off if the goggles are also being held on by suction.
3) Don't position either strap too high on the back of your head. I actually like to tuck my straps under some of my hair to hold them on better.
I should add that I normally have a pair of goggles that I use just for competitions. Since I don't have all that many competitions in a year, the competition goggles don't get all that much use, so it isn't likely that anything will break. Also, the goggles I use in practice inevitably pick up crud over time that cloud the lens and that won't completely come off, so I can see better through my competition goggles. When something breaks on my practice goggles, I turn my competition goggles into practice goggles and buy new goggles for competition.
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