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Sunday, March 16, 2014

How not to prepare for a swim meet

I competed in a masters swimming meet this weekend in Bethesda, MD. I was going for the world record for 60-64 year olds in the 200 short course meter butterfly, which is a 2:29.4. I was confident I could go at least a 2:25.

(At age 55, I'd set the record for that age group with a 2:19.7, albeit with a tech suit; but that was still the equivalent of a 2:21+ without one.)

My daughter needed a ride back to her college in Pennsylvania, so when I drove down on Friday I dropped her off as well. We got lost at one point and took a fairly long detour. When we finally got to the restaurant where we were planning to have lunch, it was 3PM, so they would only give us takeout. I ended up eating a sushi meal without any water. After saying good bye to my daughter, I hit a couple of bad traffic jams. By the time I got to Bethesda I had spent eight hours in the car.

I usually don't eat much the morning of a meet, but the hotel's breakfast buffet looked inviting, so I opted for that. And tried to get my money's worth.

During my race, I felt strangely uncoordinated, and managed to blow every one of my turns. I was out in 1:10 at the 100, where I needed to be, and thought I was swimming easily, but at the 125 meter mark I was suddenly filled with lactic acid. My sixth lap felt the way an eighth lap is supposed to feel, and for the entire last 50 I couldn't quite get my arms out of the water. I've seen this happen to other flyers, but it had never happened to me before, certainly not like this. I've swum maybe ten or twelve other 200 short course meter fly's in the past 15 years, and I think the slowest last 50 I'd ever had before was a 38-low. My last 50 here was a 42.8; I ended up with a 2:31.5.

Dying this way is basically a dance of public humiliation. With the other strokes, all that happens if you die is that your cadence slows; it's not that dramatic. With fly, when you can't get your arms out of water, you can no longer do the stroke right, and you look as if you have no control over your own body.

I'm not sure exactly what to liken it to.

Maybe being at a fancy dinner party and vomiting on your plate.

Or maybe being on a first date with the girl of your dreams, and taking a dump in your pants.

Or being possessed by the devil, like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. (Though, come to think of it, she didn't really seem all that embarrassed.)

Or having a grand mal epileptic seizure in your 11th grade homeroom.

Or having someone take off all your clothes, stick a poker up your rear, hoist you aloft by that, and then shake you so that you look like an insane marionette doing a jig.

What I guess I'm trying to say is, it just didn't feel all that dignified.

What made it worse was that I was supposed to inform the officials I was making an attempt at a WR, so they had to get some extra timers for my lane. And all those guys ended up standing around for nothing.

That night in the hotel room I was sitting at the desk looking at my computer, and tried to move forward on my chair (which had wheels). My left hamstring completely seized up, and at the same time, the upper left part of my stomach cramped up. I could actually feel the knot in my stomach with my hand, it actually looked (or at least felt) a little like that guy in Alien right before the monster bursts out of his stomach. It's hard to work out two cramps at the same time, but eventually I managed to.

Then, this morning when I got out of bed to open the curtains, I fainted. When I came to, the only thing that was hurting was my right elbow, which was evidently what I had landed on. (Luckily, I fell on a carpeted floor.)

But at least all that happened in the privacy of my hotel room, so there was no public humiliation.

Maybe it's time to admit I'm not a young man of 55 anymore.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I had to laugh, not at you of course but at your description of indignity.

John Craig said...

That's okay, you were supposed to laugh, not just at my descriptions of indignity, but at me. (It's even funny to me in retrospect, and I did write the post trying to be funny.)

I try to make this a general interest blog, but I have to admit, this post was written mostly for the people who know me personally. I'm afraid most people just aren't all that interested in competitive swimming.

Anonymous said...

Next time, hit the breakfast buffet with a bunch of ziplocs and a backpack (unless your wife is with you, then use the purse).
My parents didn't specifically teach me these things, but I did learn from them.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Sounds like a good idea. (But don't they not allow that at most buffets?)

Anonymous said...

John--while 60 may be the new 40 in our minds, in reality 60 is the new 60 in our bodies. I only wish I could play tennis as well as I did when I was 55! Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Although you are of course right, I"m not quite willing to admit it yet. I'm chalking this one up to the car ride and being overstuffed. I'm definitely going to give it another try or two before the year is over.

John Craig said...

PS - My nephew just told me this was the greatest compilation of excuses for a poor swim he'd ever seen.

Anonymous said...

John--Yes, let me not ignore the importance of being rested, ready, and poised to compete both mentally and physically. I'm just amazed when I see a perfectly outstanding pro ball player announce at some ridiculously young age that he is "retiring". As for you, it's uncanny how healthy and strong you are for your age and a few seconds slower in the pool, while disappointing, is so very minor in the scheme of things. Brian

John Craig said...

Brain --
Thank you, as always you're way too kind.