t h e i n t i m a t e s t r a n g e r

2 Golds and a Best Performer :-)

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The key to a positive swim meet experience is to be both focused and relaxed… Coach Jim goes to a swim meet with a plan for the entire event, including when and how he warms up, what and when he eats, and what he packs in his bag. A detailed plan for the day leaves fewer unknowns and allows Jim to relax and confidently swim the races he has prepared for. Your training plan has given you the physical conditioning and the confidence to swim your race, and now your swim-meet plan will carry you through the event successfully.

~ Mastering Swimming by Jim Montgomery and Mo Chambers

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One year later and I was back where it all started. I’d prepared, trained and waited a whole year for this. I should also add that Lady Luck was smiling widely ;-)

And I’m happy with the loot – 2 Golds from the 50 Free and 50 Breast, and a bonus Best Performance trophy for my division which is super cool :-D Wonder how many NTUC vouchers that gets me. Laugh. Last year’s Silver earned a $40 NTUC voucher and a token $10 cash allowance just for competing.

This year’s swim meet was surprisingly enjoyable — the 3 competitions last year were nerve-wrecking though the experience gained was certainly invaluable. On the day of the meet, I woke up slightly past 6 am feeling prepared and ready to race. I’d already done my training and knew my times; I’d checked out my racing gear, the meet venue and the start list; I’d tolerated painful sessions of physical therapy to work out the kinks all over my body; I’d tapered as planned and ensured I got enough rest — which was ironical because I came down with a fever and very worrying body aches (dengue alert!) just before I started tapering; I’d packed my bag and planned for the day. I was relaxed and psyched.

Breakfast was homemade (the best!) and hearty — picnic ham, scrambled egg and melted cheese on toasted tomato-herb focaccia, and some watermelon. It sustained me the whole morning and I barely snacked :-)

I showed up early for the meet, took my time to settle in and had an unhurried and thorough warm-up, including practice starts and finishes. Then I wiped down and changed into my racing suit — sadly, it was the TYR back-up instead of the Speedo Fastsuit3 which I was still trying to get right. Notwithstanding our tropical weather and that most people covered up with only a T-shirt and/or shorts, I had to be sure that all my bits were kept warm. So I zipped up with a light jacket, track pants and covered shoes. I already had a good feel of the place from last year and my recent recces, and felt right at home — that I belonged here.

I watched a few of the races and made a note of the starter’s timing from the series of short whistles, to the long whistle signalling our approach to the blocks, his long drawn out “On your mark” and the all-important jump-NOW-or-be-left-behind sounding of the horn 1 to 2 seconds later. While I mentally ran through my races a few times, I didn’t dwell on them — I already knew what I needed to do. Nor did I obsess about the other women. I didn’t need to stress myself more and I was resolved that this was going to be all about me and no one else. Except for a momentary surge of anxiety which dissipated quickly, my heart rate felt stable throughout and I didn’t feel the need to munch which would have messed with my stomach. I massaged my arms and legs to stay “loose”. I kept myself well-hydrated.

Being distracted also helped. Entertainment was provided by the company of the BFF/ bag-watcher/ photographer/ cheerleader and my 2 team mates. I even caught up with a former colleague from more than a decade ago (!!) whom I’ve also seen at other Masters level meets. Turns out that the latter will be working with my colleagues on a new project. Small world.

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My first race, the 50 Free, started more than 2 hours later. I didn’t swim this event when I returned to competitive swimming a  year ago — I could hardly finish a lap at more than a minute without being breathless and my arms cramping up; I was that out-of-shape.

Again, I headed over to the holding area early and took my time to gear up — a soft cap to manage the long hair, followed by spit-defogged racing goggles and then my racing cap. When we got to the blocks, I stepped out of my pants; positioned my goggles over my eyes and checked my cap; “roughed up” the skin on my forearms by rubbing them against the block to sensitise my arms; and splashed a little water on my face and body. Though chairs were provided, I chose to stand and move around a little.

As my event was announced, I tuned out everything else and moved only in response to the starter’s series of verbal signals. (I’d noted his timing earlier and did not need to keep looking at him for cues, which I noted some swimmers did, from post-event photos.)

Quick whistles: Approach block.

Long whistle: Mount block and bend over. Hang loose.

“On your mark!”: Press chest into thighs and count off 1 second. I am ready to go any moment.

The horn sounds: I fly off the block and hit the water; initiate 4-5 dolphin kicks and transit to flutter kicks and an arm-pull to break the surface for the actual sprint.

Swimming in the first final of 2, unseeded and relegated to Lane 3 in a field of 4, I don’t see anyone in front or creeping up to my right. (The other 3 were 10 to 20 seconds behind.) I am swimming in “clean water”. I breathe every 4 to 6 strokes, and occasionally 1 every stroke as I pass the 25 m mark and start to fatigue. I entrust my legs to auto-pilot and focus all my willpower on pulling my arms through to my hips and maintaining stroke integrity as my arms start to tire and my strokes threaten to fall apart. I espy the home stretch coming up and keep my head down as I charge to the finish.

I touched the wall and came up breathing hard. But I felt good and in control; I wasn’t hurting from lactic acid build-up and I didn’t feel like I was falling apart as with previous races. (Which only means that I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough! Ha!) I didn’t know yet if I had won the event. But I had my chance to perform my best in the span of half a minute, and that was that.

So I did win the 50 Free, in 34.19, 3 seconds ahead of the second swimmer who came in at 37.06. It was also a new Personal Best since the 34.81 I swam last November. But it wasn’t my target. I know I can do a sub-34, if not a sub-33 even. The fever took too much — I didn’t feel the power in my pulls. And when I touched the wall, I knew it. The swim had felt like my 34+ training sprints.

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We got a 15-minute break shortly after, during which the pool was available again for warm-up. I worked on my breaststroke and did more practice starts and finishes.

An hour or so later, I swam the 50 Breast in 0:46.22. I was seeded first in a field of 8 with my second-placed 0:49.10 last year; unseeded last year, I was also assigned one of the outermost lanes. As with the 50 Free, I found myself swimming in “clean water” — it wasn’t until the results were put up that I realised how close the race was. Looking at the photos of the start, I reckon my faster reaction off the blocks helped. The runner-up in Lane 2 finished just 0.31 seconds behind me. Both of us led the field, with the other women finishing at least 6 seconds later.

I didn’t manage a new Personal Best, which still stands at 0:46.02 from last November. I had wanted to go under 46 seconds.

The 50 Breast felt relatively easy — particularly when I recall how I struggled to finish it at last year’ meet and the OMG-awlful pain! But in my haste, I didn’t maximise my glides. At about 15 m, my strokes started to shorten so much that I didn’t even glide before starting the next stroke :-/ And again, since I finished without hurting from lactic acid build-up, I must not have pushed myself hard enough in my second race as well. Laugh!

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Many Wood (Dragon, Cow, Rat) gather in this month. Wood becomes much stronger. Something related to your reputation, helpers, parents or health might happen during this period. Something related to your reputation might happen during this period. For some reason, your words, behaviors or achievements will surprise people in a big way. Through good reputation, your fame will increase. You will win the race, award, honor, title or prize, if you are in a competition. Because of your astonishing performance, you will be totally relaxed and happy during this time. But no strong money luck is found during this period.

~ chinesefortunecalendar.com

 

Like I said, I was very, very lucky this year :-)

Signing up for the meet, I was almost certain I would medal, and I would have been happy with second or third place. But when the start list was generated a couple of weeks before the race, I began to seriously think about Gold(s) and even a divisional Best Performance award if I could win both my events. This was because the ex-national swimmer in my division was swimming in the Open division instead, and I knew I could swim faster than the rest of the field (except for a few new names). Her decision was strategic and for the greater good, so as to maximise team points for her agency because none of the younger women swimmers were available this year. Even then, she managed to medal in all 3 individual events she swam in — and she clocked much faster times this year! Formidable, this one.

Anyway, I’m really chuffed :-D And it’s not just about the Golds. It’s also about the planning, the training, all the other preparations, and just as important, the experiences and lessons I learnt, as I worked towards my goal. The entire journey has been amazing and I didn’t always travel alone, what with support from friends and even help from the observant lifeguards at the public pool :-) And of course, seeing all the work put in bear fruit and attaining my goal (and more!) was just fantastic :-D

I can’t wait to do this all over again!

In the meantime, some well-deserved rest and recovery while I think about new swimming programmes (yes! already!) for the next 1-2 months. And very soon, I’ll be training and counting down to the Masters and the National Games in November :-D

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 3rd, 2014 at 1:25 am

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