April 21, 2013

Speeding up in the pool

As the deadline to sign up for the MSABC Provincial Championships in Vancouver got closer, I began doubting my plan to register for the three-day event. I had not missed any training, but felt that I was lacking progress.

A few weeks earlier, when our coach was away for spring break, I was convinced enough that I had sped up in my 400m time to send her a note about it. She was excited too and said she would time me upon her return the following week. I was convinced my 6:54 400 had dropped to 6:40-ish.

But on March 27, the coach's stopwatch showed I swam a 6:49. And no matter that it marked a five-second improvement from my 400 a month earlier, I was not happy. At all. My mind was fixated on that 6:40, and those extra 9 seconds made me grumpy with impatience about getting faster.

It is easy to lose perspective, despite good intentions. I was sure I had swum better the previous week. But the clock did not lie.

I knew a 6:40 400 was not going to make me a "competitive" swimmer at the provincials either, but I wanted the time and money spent on the meet to boost my confidence and enthusiasm with a good chance to better my own times from February's meet.

In February, five of us swam at the one-day meet while Squamish Titans swim coach Roseline was there to guide, time and cheer us. A lot of fun. This time, few people from our squad were interested or able to compete at the three-day provincials.

But, after some encouragement by the coach, Triathlete Tim and I decided to register after all.

For $85, you can race as many as 7 events. Tim and I both ticked all freestyle distances: there is the 1500 on Friday evening, followed by the 400 and 100 on Saturday, and the 800, 200, and the 50 on Sunday.

We are not sure yet that we can both attend Friday's 1500.

I mailed the registration package on Monday, so it could arrive by the deadline.

And then I ended up having a great week of swimming. On Wednesday we did some hard 50s, 100s, and 200s. And on Friday the coach was timing another swimmer in my lane, when she asked if I wanted to be timed as well. I was feeling good that morning, already in the 200m warm-up, as well as the 350m of drills and an easy 600m free that followed, so I said sure.

I also promised that I would not be grumpy, no matter what the stopwatch showed. 

There were just two of us in the lane, with my teammate soon well ahead -- I had left five seconds after him. I felt in tune with the water, moving through it smoothly without much effort. "I feel fantastic," I thought, and kept repeating that phrase so I would hold on to that sensation.

I briefly had to adjust my swim cap after 300m, and increased my effort in the final 100.

"Six thirty-eight!" Coach Roseline said.

Wow, are you sure?! As it turned out, she had not yet deducted those five seconds I had started after my teammate, so I had in fact swum 6:33, a 16-second improvement from the time that had so disappointed me just 2-1/2 weeks earlier. (And compared with 7:32 I did in a time trial in January.)

I am getting excited for provincials now. The 400 qualifying time for the 2014 FINA World Masters Championships is getting closer -- at 6:15 it might not be within reach next weekend but I sure am going to try my best.

The standards for my age group in the other events are 36 for the 50, 1:20 for the 100, 3:00 for the 200, and 13:20 for the 800.

By comparison, in my first swim meet two months ago, I swam 1:27 for the 100, 3:12 for the 200, 6:56 in the 400, and 14:24 in the 800. Securing one, any one, would make me very happy.

I have no intention of going to Montreal if I qualify (though I never say never either) but the times provide great goals to work towards. Goals are what keep me interested and focused on digging a little deeper, which is ultimately what makes me happy -- knowing that I gave it all I had, whatever that might be on that day in whatever aspect of life.

That is what I love most about training as an endurance athlete -- it teaches you to keep challenging your beliefs about your ability and what you have to give, physically and mentally. You always find more than you expected. And on days that you don't, you just try again the next day.


Roseline said...

A coach can stand on deck and give you all kinds of info and feedback but it's what you do with it Margreet! It is your determination and ability to translate my words into your efficiency that makes you a better swimmer. Maybe you are only thinking of making the qualifying times for the Worlds. I am totally planning on taking you there :) I hope my words will take you to Montreal. You can swim for Team Canada or Team Netherlands. Your choice but I want you to swim :)

Margreet Dietz said...

OK Coach I am ready to give Montreal a go!