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Old 01-22-2015
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 647
Default An odd kind of satisfaction

For me, 2014 was not a particularly good year for swim meets. One meet that I've participated in in the past was cancelled this year. Another was shifted to a different date (when I wasn't available) about 2 1/2 weeks prior to the meet. Still another was scheduled for a date when I was already scheduled to direct a kids' chess tournament (magazine ads had already been purchased, so there was no way I could change it). In the end, I was only able to participate in a total of 3 meets.

A problem I've had, as I've gotten into longer distance events, is that some of the meets in my area don't include distances longer than 100s, particularly for events other than freestyle and individual medley.

One event that has been particularly frustrating for me has been 200 backstroke. I passed up a meet in February of 2012 because (due to a schedule conflict) I could only make it to the second half of the meet, only to subsequently discover that there wasn't going to be another meet in my area that year that had 200 backstroke. I did the event at that same meet in 2013, but rolled onto my breast too early on the second turn so that my feet didn't quite make contact with the wall. In 2014 I completed the event legally and even picked up a silver medal, but didn't succeed in doing a personal best (PB) time, even though I had been doing good enough times in practice during the previous week.

But in the fall of 2014, there was, happily, another meet I was able to attend that included 200 backstroke.

I also decided, for that meet, to sign up for 100 freestyle. I hadn't done this event in competition since April of 2011, when I had set a new PB time, breaking my previous PB for the event by about 4 1/3 seconds. Frankly, I had kept putting off trying the event again because I had been just a bit intimidated by the amount of improvement I'd made in the 2011 meet. I'd felt at the time that, in addition to improving my stroke, I had done nearly everything as well as I knew how to do it. In fact, during the last 25, I had felt myself slip into a kind of groove, in which I felt like I was doing something right that I didn't ordinarily do that well. So, while the amount of improvement I'd seen had been exciting, I had also felt that, to improve my time again, I'd not only need to improve my stroke, but also have another more or less perfect swim, in which I again did everything about as well as I knew how to do it.

I also decided to do 50 freestyle, which I hadn't done in competition for more than 2 years. I made this decision, in part, because the event was fairly early in the meet and I thought it might make a good warmup event. Also, while my 50 freestyle times in practice had been variable, I realized that my better times had been good enough that I might have a shot at a PB time if everything went perfectly.

Unfortunately, my hopes for a PB in 50 freestyle were not to be, and I knew it immediately. I had decided to try something a little different on my start, but while it had seemed to work during warmup, as soon as I hit the water during my heat I remember saying to myself "Don't ever try that again." I gave it my best effort, but in a 50, there generally isn't time to recover from a mistake. But the event did give me a good warmup!

200 backstroke went much better. While my time wasn't quite as good as I'd done in practice the previous week, I still managed to knock more than a second off my previous PB time.

100 freestyle seemed to be going well until I came to my second turn. I got sort of tangled up as I was flipping, and immediately thought I had missed my chance at a PB time. But one thing I've learned over the years is to always maintain your best effort until the end, regardless of how you think you're doing. When I finished and looked up at the clock, I was shocked to find that, in spite of the error, I had knocked more than half a second off my previous PB time! I waited until they posted the times on the wall just to make sure I hadn't misread the clock, but the time was real!

The odd thing is that this 100 freestyle heat in which I made a serious error was, in a way, more satisfying than the "perfect" heat in 2011 where I improved my PB time by 4 1/3 seconds. As exciting as the improvement in 2011 was, I had come out of it feeling that I wasn't likely to be able to improve on it any time soon. This time, I came out knowing that I should be able to make further improvements right away.

Of course, I could have ruined it all if I had given up after my serious mistake. The moral is to always maintain your best effort until the end, even if you've made a mistake and are convinced you've blown it. You never know when you might be just a few tenths (or even a few hundredths) of a second from a PB time!

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