'Y's Guys Meet:' My First Swim Meet!

>> Monday, February 25, 2013

Saturday was the "Y's Guys Meet" at the University of St. Thomas just down the street from my house. I've been swimming for 7 years, but my only "swim only" event was a 2.5K open water swim race 3 years ago. Now it was time to step it up and try an actual swim meet. Intimidating.

I posted last week about learning how to dive off the blocks and the resulting red chest I got, and really THAT was my biggest concern at the meet: simply entering the water! Once I was in the water and swimming, I knew I'd be FINE. But being I'm new to the start, that was my "x-factor" for how speedy or slow I might be.

I got there just as everyone was starting their warm-ups:

Lots of swimmers.

St. Thomas has some sweet facilities.
I watched this being built a few years back as I was running intervals on their track.

Steve H and Julia pausing during their warm up.

Julia and I had our Coach Jen Harrison water bottles with us. (That's Julia's coach and
the coach I worked with when I attempted a sub-60 at the TC 10 Mile 2.5 years ago.)

Oh yeah, and as you can see from the corner of that photo above, I wore my "Tutti Frutti" shorts for the meet!

I chatted a bit with Aaron, Marcus, and Pete as things were getting ready to start. When they opened up 2 lanes for "sprint" warm-ups, I tried diving off the blocks. Pete and Aaron saw me dive, and Pete told me it was totally "passable." I told him that "passable is the best I can hope for!" Then I asked him if he saw my first strokes. He smiled. He had seen my mistake. I was still WAY too far underwater to be trying to take a stroke. I needed to hold my streamline position for another 2 seconds. But the dive itself wasn't too horrible. That was a little "confidence boost" that made me feel a little more at ease before my races.

Aaron was in the first heat of the first wave. Here he is (in the black and green suit) showing pretty solid form as he dives off the blocks in the 200 free:

I'll come back to this photo of his butt in the air in a moment....

Aaron on his way to a 2:12 200!

Julia on the blocks (in lane 2)

Julia swimming.

Steve H in the pool.


I figured it'd be good to do the 50 free if for no other reason than to practice a "race intensity dive-start" before the 100. (I was only planning on signing up for the 100, but figured I might as well try the 50 as well.) Julia grabbed my camera to take a video of the entire race. THANKS JULIA! Here's a screenshot from the video of me on the blocks just a second before the start.

When the buzzer went off, I didn't think at all. I just pushed off into the water. And it looked like this:




I'd failed to pop my butt up like Aaron's doing in the final picture of his dive above. I needed to snap my hips up to get my arms to come down so I could enter the water hands first. ....Not "chest first" like I did. Oh well.

After that, it was just time to swim. I didn't think of ANYTHING for the first length of the pool - I was just trying to go fast. Once I'd made my turn for the finish, I had my ONLY thought all race: "don't take too many breaths!" This was a 50 free - I didn't need to take a breath every 3 strokes for the entire race. So I kept my head down and ended by breathing every 4 or 5 strokes so I hit the wall out of breath.

Popping out of the water... I'd MADE it!

Seeing Julia right above me (still catching my breath).

"Hi Julia."

Julia's video ended with 2 awkward crotch-shots of me as she was figuring out how to stop recording.

About 60 seconds after my "chest-first" dive, you can see my chest is already turning
a little red. And that yellow-ish area to the upper-left of my nipple is still
some bruising from learning to dive last week.

So those were all screenshots from the video Julia took. Here's the entire (unedited) 69 second video of my first race at a swim meet:


A few notes from that video:

I love how "fast" a swim meet goes. I was at the meet for over 4 hours (so it's long), but notice we're being called onto the blocks just 1 or 2 seconds after the woman in lane 4 crawled out from the previous heat.

My right foot moved WAY too much on the push-off of the dive. I picked it up and set it back down before pushing off. NOT fast. Not right.

I couldn't see too much of my actual swimming, but 2 people told me after this 50 that my form looked pretty good. I was just churning water trying to go as fast as possible.

Watch the video again and look at lane 7 (2 lanes to the left of me). Aaron put down an estimated time of 0:45 for the 50 free, but he KILLED our heat in 0:25!! It looks fine until I hit the far wall with the 3 or 4 swimmers around me - then you notice that Aaron is half way back already! What a solid swim!

And Julia's laughing at the end as she realizes she was filming my man bits for a bit too long.

So I had estimated that I'd swim a 0:38 50 free. But officially, did my first 50 free in 31:03!!

I snapped this next photo after a few more heats of the 50 free. It had looked like the pool area had cleared out, but really, everyone was just standing behind the starting blocks because EVERYONE does the 50 free!

Aaron taking a break with Kacey in the stands.

A bunch of better splashes than mine.

Steve H finishing a relay leg with the next swimmer diving over him.
(And a super buff, potentially naked man to the right.)

More relay action.

Pete swimming hard! Pete and I are planning on teaming up as a relay for the Gear West Du
this spring. Matt (my brother-in-law and normal relay partner) can't make it this year.

Julia on the blocks for the 500.

Lap counters for the 500.

I counted laps for Julia for her 500. You're given a plastic flip board of odd numbers so you can count lengths (not laps). So when they start, you hold "1" in the water (that's what they're doing in the photo above). The swimmer gets back to the starting blocks and heads back towards you on their 2nd lap, and you hold "3" in the water. The 500 is 20 lengths, so instead of showing "19" on their last lap, you show a big orange square which means "get back to the wall and you're done!" Julia told me that she was hoping to see orange on her last lap - she'd lost track and was working hard and NEEDED to be done!

I ran upstairs to grab a few photos and to say hi to Kacey.

Julia (in the white cap) talking to Dominique (in the black cap)

Suddenly, I had to get down to the pool in a hurry - they were starting the first heat of the 100 free, and I was in heat 3. "Bye Kacey!"


A little "side race" popped up in the 100 free. Julia and I saw that we'd be racing RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER!! Julia is BY FAR the better swimmer, but in a shorter race, I'd MAYBE have a chance of catching her. I was hoping to finish CLOSE to her. She joked that if I beat her, she'd have to fire Coach Jen! Ha! So if anything, I wanted to catch Julia so I could tease Jen!

The line-up (and predicted times) for Heat 3 of the 100.

When the buzzer sounded, I THINK I hit the water a bit better this time. I realized shortly that I was a bit in front of Julia, but I was trying to go out hard - I was planning on dying before the end.

In the first lap, I had the same thought of "don't breathe too much" like I had in the 50, but I also had the thought of "make sure to lengthen your strokes." My turn-over was so quick that I wanted to make sure I was getting some good "glide" to my stroke. But those were the only 2 thoughts during the race. Ideally, I would have checked that I wasn't over-roating to breathe, that my elbows were high, that I was kicking strong, that I was pulling through the entire stroke, that I was really pushing off the walls, and that I was holding a good streamline for the right amount of time. But in such a short race, it's really all just muscle memory - there was no chance for me to think about what I was doing.

Kacey got a photo of the half-way point of the 100, and you can see I'm about a half body-length ahead of Julia:

I thought Julia would catch me on the final lap because she's better with turns and I thought I might be slowing up. But she never got closer! I ended up finishing almost a body-length in front of her:

Big splash from a final kick!

Julia DID just swim a 6:4x 500, so that MAYBE took something out of her, so I can't really feel like a big stud. :)

By the time I took off, the official 100 results weren't posted yet. But I remember seeing 1:10.xx after I finished! I had put down 1:17, I was HOPING to be around 1:14 if I could be, and anything faster than that would be thrilling. So I'm ecstatic with my 1:10!!!

I tweeted Coach Jen on the way home. I said "Julia says your fired. I beat her in the 100 free." She tweeted back: "Ha. She needs a penis at that distance. What about the 500 ?? that's more fair. ;)" Julia would kill me in a 500, but I'll have to try it sometime. As we were getting ready to climb onto the blocks in the 100, Julia asked "So will it be MUSCLE or FORM that wins?" MUSCLE can (apparently) win a 100, but FORM will kick MUSCLE's ass in the 500.

Julia was sticking around for the 1650 (the final race), but I headed home just before that. I had to get one last photo with my old "swimming buddies" from the Y:

Me, Julia, and Steve H.

I'll be back in a day or 2 with the official results, along with what I'll do differently in my next swim meet. Yes, I'm TOTALLY doing more of these. I'll see if I can improve upon my belly-flop starts, my 31:03 50 free, and my 1:10.xx 100 free. And I'll probably add in another race or 2.


Nikki,  7:13 AM, February 25, 2013  

This is a great first swimmeet ever! Your start didn't look to bad at all. Congrats!

GoBigGreen 8:36 AM, February 25, 2013  

That was ALOT of fun Steve and you did GREAT!
I wasnt going to go to the meet unless i knew someone there, and look i am a Steve Sandwich! :)

Jennifer Harrison 8:58 AM, February 25, 2013  

Oh I loved this blog, Steve! I LOVE reading about swim meets -- I am so glad you did one and did so well -- and had fun with Steve H and Julia!

KUDOS to you...it was fun talking swim trash with you on Twitter yesterday! :)

Congrats on your 31" 50F and great 100!!!

1650 next!

Carolina John 1:57 PM, February 25, 2013  

My masters team has meet practices where they teach jumping off of the blocks and race simulation. I hate those practices. i did consider doing a meet last year but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Good on ya brother. have fun.

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