Although Swimming has always been a part of my life, I officially “retired” as a competitive swimmer after my graduation from college in 2006. Recently, I decided to get back into the sport in a more committed way, so I joined a local master’s team in Anchorage, Alaska. Since May of 2013, I’ve been swimming with that team, and although I’m not as strong or as fast as I used to be, I’m having fun, and I’m happy to officially be a swimmer again.
This past December, I decided to enter my first swim meet in seven years. Having been a competitive swimmer from the age of five until I was 22, I have a lot of swim meets under my belt. I’ve literally swam in hundreds of meets, but I knew this one would be different. The following is my advice to all former competitive swimmers on how to make your first master’s meet a success…
1.) Set a realistic goal
Since I was sure I wouldn’t be swimming best times, I came up with a realistic goal of beating my seed time. To set myself up for success, I grossly overestimated my seed times. I knew I would beat them, I’d gone faster in workout…but hey, I wanted to leave there feeling good about myself. Let me tell you, it feels awesome to get out of the pool and have the little age group swimmer timing in your lane look at you all excited and say, ” You beat your time in the 100 back by 13 seconds!” Yes, yes I did.
2.) Become a sprinter
I was a middle distance stroke swimmer in college, but I’ve found It’s much easier to come out of retirement and be a sprinter. So I chose very easy sprint events…50 back, 100 back, 50 fly, 100 IM, and the 200 Medley Relay (25’s aren’t an event…yet). It goes back to setting yourself up for success. You don’t want to run out of gas and finish all slow and pathetic. That would be embarrassing and you’d end up feeling like you should have trained more…or you shouldn’t have drank so much beer last night…or you shouldn’t have had that pizza for breakfast. You’re a master’s swimmer now! you can have your beer and eat pizza too! Just trust me, stick to the short stuff.
3.) Be a diva
I was surprised to find out that the men’s and women’s events are combined at master’s meets, leaving very little time, sometimes only 2 or 3 minutes to recover if your events happen to be back-to-back. Mine were. I had two events, then a long break, then three more events. Shit. How can I have an awesome comeback when I die after the first event?! I’m not a fan of lactate sets and I didn’t want to suck for most of the meet, so I asked the meet director to add some time in-between my events. This may seem like a tall order for officials and timers who want to finish the meet and get on with their day, but helped me immensely. Not only did I get extra time between my events, I also stayed in the competition pool to warm-down after my event. There was no dragging my tired self out of the water after my event to go schlep over to the warm-down pool. Besides, everyone knows if you can’t touch the bottom, it’s like 100 times harder to get out of the pool after a race. No no no, I stayed right where I was, swam about 300, and then took my time getting out before my next event. It was very luxurious.
At the end of the meet, I exceeded all my goals and swam much better than I anticipated! I left feeling really good about myself and satisfied with where I am right now in my masters career. Next up…meet #2!
Do you have any advice for enjoying meets and doing well in races? Share in the comments below!