Friday, December 4, 2009

Suspense? Oh, THAT suspense.

Tomorrow is my annual butt-kicking at the Masters Swim Meet just up the road in Dewitt. Generally, that meet is a complete no-pressure sort of thing. Suspense? What suspense? I get my butt kicked. I can hold my own in the water against other triathletes, at least on a local or regional age-group level (have I hedged enough yet?), but against people who swim first and foremost, forget about it. Until this year. Now there’s pressure. I've been coached all fall by a guy I've really been happy with. And I should be. If I’ve got my facts right (that’s optional in the blogosphere, right?), he's on the varsity coaching staff for Michigan State University after retiring as head coach at Lansing Community College, where he’s been national coach of the year. He has three sons, all of whom were (I believe) collegiate All-Americans, one of which (I know) is an Olympian, another of whom holds records in Masters Swimming on the national level. He knows swimming. He’s a great guy on top of all that. We click, which is hardly a guarantee with any coach/client combination, and he’s worked very hard with my limited talent. I know I’ve made serious progress in that it’s a whole lot easier to swim the same speed. Tomorrow, we’ll see how well I can suffer and swim faster. I don't want to let him down.

I'll just swim the freestyle events -- any effort at another stroke makes people laugh out loud, really. So, the order is 200 yards, 50, 100 and then 500. I care most about the 500, since there aren’t a whole lot of triathlons where you swim 200 yards or less. My previous best in the 500 is 8 minutes and two seconds. I think I can break 8:00. I already have, during practice. I would love to break 7:30. Mostly, I would like my goggles to stay on when I dive into the water. Pressure. But happy pressure. We'll see how I do.

When I’ve gone under 8 minutes for 500 yards during practice, it was after not having swum 200, 50 and 100 yards flat-out. We’ll see how much of a difference that makes. For the record, and logically, in those events I look like even more of a triathlete who earns most of his goody bag on the bike. My seed times are 2:52 for the 200, 1:17 for the 100, and 35 seconds for the 50.

What’s all that mean? To put my 50 into perspective, at the last meet I raced, Alec Mull – one of said coach’s sons and one of my heroes in this sport – took 10 seconds longer to go twice as far.

To put my 500 into perspective, at that same meet only a few of us did that event. (Seems like more, but that's what's on the results sheet.) One of them finished two minutes faster than me, or, put another way, when I was still only three-quarters of the way done. The other one finished four seconds faster than me, and she was 65. Sure, she skipped the freestyle sprints, but I don't think she was hustling me since she also showed up early and raced the 1000.

So that's what I'm doing tomorrow morning. And that's why I own running shoes and a bike. And a very tiny ego that is nonetheless feeling a little bit of pressure this time.


Steve Stenzel said...

I am TOTALLY with you on the swimming front! I'm not speedy there at all. Although I wait until the run to make up the difference, not the bike...

Good luck with that 500, especially after all those shorter events. Those first events SHOULDN'T take much out of you (right?), but you'll probably "feel" those early events near the end of the 500.