If you look though the masters record book in swimming, it's hard not to notice that the guys who hold the world and American records in the younger age groups (through, say, age 45) are all big-time studs. In their prime, they were, at a minimum, NCAA finalist-caliber swimmers.
Once you get past the age of 50, a little bit of room opens up for the geeks and obsessives, guys who weren't world class in college but who just hung on for another 30 or so years and got to the top of their age groups that way.
One of those obsessives -- your not so humble correspondent -- struck this morning. I set the national record for men 55-59 in the 200 yard butterfly with a 2:04.97, breaking the old record of 2:05.59 by Greg Shaw. (Sorry, but I can't set a record and not write about it.)
I wore a Blueseventy, but only beat Shaw's non-tech-suited time by .62 of a second. The Blueseventy is probably not worth a full two seconds for a 200 yard event, but it's definitely worth more than .62 of a second. So Shaw gets the moral victory here.
One of the meet officials noticed that my seed time was close to the record, so right before my race, they announced it as a record attempt over the PA system. When I finished the race, even before I looked up at the scoreboard, I knew I had set the record from the roar that went up. Had I my druthers, I would not have originally wanted the announcer make my attempt public. But as it turned out, I have to admit I'm glad he did.
Given that I would occasionally go 2:03ish when in college, this swim did provide the welcome illusion of youth. It's an illusion quickly shattered by a glance in the mirror, but semi-maintaining that illusion probably does have something to do with why we old folks compete.
Setting the record also allowed me to feel as if I'm tough -- in the over-sheltered, upper-middle-class sense of the term, which doesn't actually mean real toughness (being willing to put oneself in harm's way), but rather translates as "having a bit more stick-to-itiveness than normal."
The last time I set a record, 13 months ago, my daughter said that she actually felt proud of me -- for about ten minutes. When I got home today, I asked her, "How many minutes will you be proud of me today?"
Her reply: "About five seconds. And they're already over."