February 23, 2013

Tapered for tomorrow's swim meet

It's been a week that was focused on tomorrow's English Bay Swim Club "Love to Swim" meet at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre.

Coach Roseline Mondor-Grimm had a taper week in store for the four of us, all Squamish Titans, competing there tomorrow; this meant less volume and higher intensity over our three one-hour sessions in the past five days.

I also had to learn how to dive off the start blocks, something I had hoped to avoid by simply diving off the edge of the pool. The Coach said, firmly, "I'd rather you don't."

On Monday, those of us headed for the swim meet swam about 1.6K (compared with 2.5K in the previous session), with the longest set a 400 free, then it was time to practice our starts. Assistant Coach Yi-khy Saw, a 1500m specialist who swam for Malaysia at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, was on deck to help.

The others already knew how to dive off the blocks, and soon went to the other side of the lane to practice their flip turns with Yi-khy. Doing flip turns at the meet is beneficial, but optional -- a proper start is not, so Coach Roseline taught me how to do it.

There are two key things to focus on. One, Roseline said, you must stay still in the time between the "Take your mark" call and the "Beep" start signal -- movement means disqualification. This may seem obvious if you have watched swimming competitions on TV, as I have, but I am glad she reminded me because there are so many other things to think about on those blocks.

Such as not falling flat on your face and/or losing your goggles. Indeed, you must remember to tuck your chin to your chest before your head hits the water, Roseline said, as my goggles slid down my face during the first few attempts. I'd hate to swim 16 or 32 25m lengths without goggles on Sunday.

She recommended I put my feet side by side with my toes curled around the edge of the block. I double forward my body with my fingers gripping the block too, and my knees slightly bent. Once cleared by the start signal, I need to use my leg strength to push forward, which will lift my arms forward too, while keeping my chin firmly on my chest. Roseline recommended I do not look ahead for now.

I practiced on Monday and again on Wednesday, both for about 5 to 10 minutes. Hopefully that will allow for four smooth starts tomorrow -- staying motionless when required and keeping the goggles in place will be my key goals.

Wednesday was a sharpening session; again we swam 1.6K in total including 3 sets of four 50s, doing each set slow, medium, fast and superfast respectively. I did not feel superfast.

Friday morning's workout I almost missed as I woke up late and tired. I am glad I went, though, as the core set provided a great boost of confidence. After a 400 warm-up, we did 3 100s of drills, swimming on our side, and streamline kicking. Then we swam four 50s aimed at a target time, followed by 30 seconds rest between each (unless we missed the target time then the recovery got shorter).

The Coach had me aim for 50 seconds, saying 55 would be OK too. Swimming behind Andrew and Tim in the lane, I forgot to watch the clock in the first 50 metres. I thought I made the 50-second target in the other three, possibly even 45. I felt good, strong and comfortable in the water.

Next we swam another 400 free, then did a second set of four 50s. My goal was 50 seconds this time -- no leeway to 55. I paid better attention to the clock, and left when the four coloured hands were on 15, 30, 45, and 60 respectively, though I focused on the blue one on 30.

Both the coach and I were surprised to see me hit the wall in 43 seconds. And repeating that time in the other three 50s too. Roseline's coaching and the taper are working, yay!

Earlier in the week I had questioned my decision to do the meet, but now I am glad because it has helped me become more aware of my splits and current level of fitness. I will not be among the fast swimmers tomorrow, indeed I will be among the slowest, but I will certainly be a more educated, and therefore more motivated, one because of the preparation for the meet.

It is not just about times but knowing them helps gauge your progress, and encourages you to sustain the training. It has only been seven weeks since I joined Roseline's squad, and I cannot wait to see the results after another four months. 
Each swimmer is allowed to compete in four events and had to provide time estimates for seeding. I opted for the 100, 200, 400 and 800 free, predicting I'll need 1:45, 3:45, 7:30 and 17:00.

The 100 free is the most popular at tomorrow's meet, with 89 people registered. My time estimate of 1:45 ranked me at 80, shared with two others including fellow Squamish Titan Andrew Clegg. Tim's 1:30:01 put him at 69, while the fastest Titan in this meet, Simon Crevier, is ranked a shared 13th with an estimate of 1:02.

The longer events are less popular: I am one of only 19 people listed to do the 800 free, and my 17:00 predicted time seeds me last. Both Tim and Andrew are among the 17 registered for the 1500. 

Tomorrow will be the first time in eight years that I will swim 800m continuously, a thought that is less intimidating when considering that distance makes up less than a quarter of the 3.8K I will have to swim in August at Ironman Canada.

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