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Old 10-18-2013
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 647
Default PBs and learning experiences

I just had my third swim meet of the year last weekend. I continue to log occasional personal best (PB) times, though I'm also still learning things about the process of racing.

Meet #1: A learning experience

Part of racing is learning to swim fast, but part of it is learning how to conduct yourself during a race. My first meet of the year turned out to be an example of the second of these.

I could only attend the second part of the meet due to a scheduling conflict, so I only signed up for one event: 200y backstroke. Many of the meets in my area don't include events longer than 100s, especially for strokes other than freestyle, so I had been trying for more than a year to find a meet where I could swim this event, and I had high hopes of setting a new PB time, breaking the one I had set in April of 2009. But it was not to be! I misjudged my distance from the wall going into my second turn and rolled onto my breast a bit too early, and as a result, my feet didn't quite make contact with the wall. So I stopped, assuming that I was disqualified (after all, even if the stroke judge hadn't noticed the error, it would be revealed by my failure to make contact with the touchpad).

But afterward, it became evident that the stroke judge hadn't noticed my error (it can be really hard for a stroke judge who is watching all the lanes at once to clearly see the difference between a swimmer barely touching the wall and barely missing it). And when I checked the rulebook and consulted with an official in the USMS, I discovered that failure of the touchpad to register a touch on a turn isn't considered a valid basis for a DQ. So if I hadn't stopped, I would have had a valid time (though the lack of a good pushoff would undoubtedly have hurt my time). Oh, well! Live and learn!

Meet #2: My first PB of the year

I had made two unsuccessful attempts in the fall of 2012 to set a PB in 50 butterfly, so it was gratifying to finally achieve my goal at my second meet of 2013, knocking 4 tenths of a second off my previous PB.

But I was less successful at 50y backstroke, missing the PB I had set in April of 2008 by about 3 tenths of a second.

Meet #3: A very satisfying PB

I didn't have another meet for about 7 months, and I thought a lot during those months about just how short an interval of time 3 tenths of a second actually is. So I decided to have another crack at it in my third meet.

Unfortunately, I was not feeling at top of form going into the meet. I had felt headachy during the week before the meet, and may have been fighting off something. I had been planning to swim 3 events, but decided in the end to only sign up for 2 (50y backstroke and 100y I.M.) based on how I felt. I still felt off on the day of the meet, but decided to give it my best shot.

50y backstroke is the single event I have done most often in competition. I knew that sometimes, when you set a PB time, it's because you've actually gotten better, and sometimes it's because you had a really good day in which you did everything about as well as you knew how to do it. But I knew that, as often as I've done 50y backstroke in competition, I wasn't likely to set a PB by having a good day, even if I were at top of form (which I clearly wasn't).

But I also knew that even if I had actually improved, I was unlikely to set a PB unless I had a fairly good run. So during my warmup, I focused on making sure I knew exactly what it looked like when I was going into my turn and when I was approaching the wall at the end (on more than one occasion, I've had the experience of lunging for the wall at the end of a backstroke heat only to discover that I had misjudged my distance and that the wall wasn't there yet). I was persistent about this, refusing to end my warmup until I had successfully nailed both the turn and the finish.

When I was actually swimming my 50y backstroke heat, I kept recalling my experience swimming that same event early in the year and thinking about that short interval of time that had separated me from a PB. When I looked up at the clock at the end, I discovered that I had knocked .08 seconds off my previous PB from 2008!

I was less successful in 100 I.M., and I think by then my feeling of being off had finally caught up with me. I just didn't feel that I was going all out the way I normally would. And my times confirmed this feeling.

My new PB in 50y backstroke is the most satisfying PB I've done since I knocked 4 1/3 seconds off my PB for 100y freestyle in April of 2011, partly because I know it couldn't have been achieved without a genuine improvement in my swimming, and partly because I did it even though I wasn't at top of form!

Last edited by CoachBobM : 10-18-2013 at 05:39 PM.
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