Swim Meet! My 50, 500, and 100 Race Reports.

>> Monday, February 24, 2014

Yesterday was the "Ys Guys" masters swim meet at the University of St. Thomas. I claim to be no "master" at this thing that I do in the water.

SOME PRE-RACE DRAMA: So I noted in a post on Friday that my goggles were splitting in 2 pieces during some practice dives. I got some well fitting goggles on Friday night, and I tested them in the pool on Saturday. I ran into someone special while testing them:

The goggles worked great during the practice swim. Crisis averted. For now.

Sunday I got to the St. Thomas pool just before they opened it for pre-meet warm-ups:

I did 300 once we could warm-up, and I threw in a few "race-pace turns" in the warm-up, and all was well. Then they opened up 2 lanes for dive-start practices. This didn't go so well:

• DIVE 1: My new goggles ended up slipping off and sliding down over my mouth during the dive.

• DIVE 2: I tightened them, and they still slid off during my dive.

• DIVE 3: I tightened them AS MUCH AS I COULD, and the still slipped off.

• DIVE 4: My only "extra" pair of goggles laying around were my FIRST pair of goggles that I started swimming with in 2005. Yes, they're pretty old. But I thought I'd try them at the meet... and they slipped off. Damn.

• DIVE 5: I tightened my old goggles, and they NEARLY stayed put! But they started filling up with water even by the end of 1 length of the pool (which is why I stopped wearing them in 2009ish).

• DIVE 6: I tightened my old goggles a bit more, and they pretty much stayed put! But they leaked a little water again by the far end of the pool.

• DIVE 7: I borrowed a pair of goggles from Scott. They were staying put for him, so I was hoping they would work for me. But they didn't.

That confirmed it: it wasn't the goggles. It was my diving.

After those horrible practice dives, my chest looked like this:

This is not altered in any way. Unfortunately.

About 90 minutes later as I was getting ready to race, it looked like this:

Some bruising starting to the middle-left and the lower-left.

I cheered on some old and new buddies at the pool. Speedy local runner Lance Elliott (who ran a 4:34 mile last winter) was there for his first swim meet. He was telling me that back in December he could barely swim down and back without dying. Here he is in his first 200 which he finished in 3:01:


Lance took hold of my camera to get some shots of my 50. THANKS LANCE! (He had just finished a 50 free 2 waves before me.) Here's the story of my entire race in 14 of his photos:

Beat-up chest on the blocks.


This was the exact moment the gun went off.
Apparently, my first reaction is to raise my toes! WTF?

I think I got my hands into a streamline position a little TOO quick.
But it's not too horrible yet. It REALLY gets bad in this next picture...

Sweet Baby Jesus. I don't think I'm supposed to be diving "knees first." Help me Lord.

OK Lord, I guess you did all you could with what you were given. This was the result. FLOP.

A bit of a bright spot here: that's a decent underwater streamline, right?!?!!

But then I ruin it by trying to take a stroke WAY to quick while I'm still underwater.
Talk about putting the brakes on. Sheesh.

Again, the horrible "too soon" stroke. Damn.

Swimming. Finally.

A big splash from a kick, proving that I WAS kicking.

A final breath before the single turn.

Back at the finish, checking my time.

I can't tell you anything about this race: it was too short to remember much. Really about the only thing I remember is telling myself to not breathe too much during the final half-length of the pool. I don't even know if my old goggles leaked - I really don't know. It was just a quick, hard race. I was a little disappointed because I was about a half second slower than my PR from last year: I went about 31.6 seconds. But with that shitty dive, I guess that's to be expected.

Two heats later in the 50, I got a photo of Katie (a new-to-the-metro-area swimmer/triathlete who had her gear next to mine so we chatted a lot) showing what a start from the blocks SHOULD look like:

Diving with the PROPER body parts first.

Katie's nice small splash in the middle!


About 35 minutes after the 50 was the 500. I wasn't going to take any chances here: I thought it'd be best to wear my GOOD goggles (that didn't leak but DID fly off with every dive start) and just do a pool-start for the 500. I basically decided to give up 1 second or so to ensure I didn't have goggles full of water for 7 minutes of racing. I think this was a good call.

The MOMENT of the start: the woman in lane 7 is diving as I'm going under to push off.

THANKS!!!!! (And thanks for the photos, Katie's fiancé!)

At my turn at the 100 mark, I saw some times on the board: I was around 1:21. I don't know if it was good or bad that I saw that. It was nice to know that I was moving pretty good, but MAYBE it "allowed" me ease up a bit around the 200 or 300 yard point. I saw the scoreboard at the 200 yard mark too, and it said something just under 3:00. That was the last I even tried to look at it - time to just swim. If I had to do it all over again, I think I wouldn't try to catch a glimpse of my splits.

My back and shoulders started getting fatigued around the 300-400 yard mark. This was brutal, but I wasn't dying. Which meant I was doing it wrong. I maybe saved too much in the middle.

Near the middle of the 500.

Just taking a quick break to check on the weather out the windows: it was still sunny.
Good. So I got back to swimming. (But really, I don't do flip turns.)

Nearing the end, gasping for a breath before my push-off.

I hit the wall, looked at my time, and probably had the biggest disappointment of the day. I was really hoping to break 7:30, but I was HOPING to get closer to 7:00. I ended with a 7:26. It was my first 500, so I'll take it. I think my first 100 was great, and I think I needed to keep the middle 300 stronger! (Although I was fried by the end: I had lost track of lengths, and I was HOPING to see "17" on the lap board at one point - telling me I was in my final 100.) I'm curious to see my splits when they come in: I bet there will be a 0:15 spread between my 100s! I'll post those when I see them.


Again, I had about 35 minutes between the 500 and 100. No photos of me swimming here: just another sub-par dive (but maybe my BEST of the day), and a lot of pain.

Lance had just done the 500 and the 100 (3 waves before me), and he said he actually felt like the 500 prepared him for this race, and that he didn't feel tired from it! I was hoping for a similar outcome. I REALLY wanted to PR and break my 1:10.17 from last year, but I didn't know if I'd just be too pooped to do that.

I went out HARD like I did last year - when I see the splits, I'm sure they'll tell the same story. I remembered to kick well in the final lap of this race. I used as little oxygen as I could, and breathed only every 4 or 5 strokes where I could, instead of my usual 3.

I hit the wall not sure if I'd PRed or swam a 1:13, but I felt happy with my effort. I felt smooth and fast for the race. The scoreboard read 1:09.88! I HAD MY PR!!

Katie's dive (a little better than mine) during her 1:01 100!

The final wave of speedy 100 swimmers.

I'll post the official results with the official splits in the next day or 2. Until then, you'll find me working on my diving while applying various pain-relief creams to my chest...

From Instagram post-race: Who has 2 thumbs, a bruised chest from
horrible diving, and 2 new swim PRs? This guy.

p.s. If you want to see my horrible diving in action, check out the video and animated GIF from last year where I was diving a little better. And stop by for the official results in a day or 2.


Biker Pete 8:29 AM, February 24, 2014  

You need professional help with these starts.
Getting a red skin is not really a sign of progress :-)

My first thought: What are you doing with your feet?
Maybe I am too old-school, but feet should stand parallel on the block.
Everything else will cause "asymmetric" impact. :-)

Look in the eyes of the guy with that black training jacket on swimmeet_02.jpg:

It is like "OMG!" "That will hurt!"

Homework: Get some body tension! "Knees first!" is no option :-)

By the way: The smaller the splash, the faster you swim :-)

Melissa @ Faster In Water 9:03 AM, February 24, 2014  

I have always been a fan of the "track start" in swimming, which you are doing, but...maybe something does need to change! :)

Great job on your swims, Steve!

Better dives and flip turns would make a good amount of difference. You can do it!

SteveQ 10:14 AM, February 24, 2014  

I like how the people behind you when you start all have expressions that say, "I don't know where to look."

TriEric 10:30 AM, February 24, 2014  

OUCH. Did someone flog you after each dive hoping to beat some form into you? "Do it right or I will beat you again!!!!!"

That pictures was too painful.

Good job with the races though. I had a swim start that my wife said everyone went "Ooooo!!!" when I dove in. Yes it hurt.

Those two kids from St. Thomas are wondering, "What the hell is he wearing."

cheryl 11:27 AM, February 24, 2014  

Since you are wearing a swim cap, wear two. one cap on first, then goggles, then second cap on top. should keep the goggles on. good luck!

Steve Stenzel 11:59 AM, February 24, 2014  

Ha! Love these comments! :)

Cheryl, I forgot to mention that I tried putting my goggles under my swim cap for 2 dives too. That didn't help. It was all my crappy form. :( Ha!

Joe 12:23 PM, February 24, 2014  

This may not be helpful, but don't have your head up when on the blocks. Your "jump" should pop your head up to see the other side of the pool, but you need to tuck your head between your arms while also popping your hips up so you enter hands first.

Your first couple times doing this will probably result in you entering way too deep in the water, but as you learn control, you can get a more shallow entry, work on that streamline, and get a better idea of where the water surface is so you don't have start your first stroke too deep under water (remember to use your bottom arm first and don't breathe on that first stroke or two!).

You're probably having trouble getting over the arc needed, so I told kids to pretend that they're diving over a kick board held at knee height to emphasis popping their legs up and over while also pushing off the block strongly.

try a few high arc swan dives to get the head first mentality in your mind.

Remember, it's just water. Going in head first won't hurt, and it'll certainly be better than the welts you have on your chest.

Wendy 12:24 PM, February 24, 2014  

You need to introduce your chin to your chest and keep it there when you dive in. You want the water to flow over your head, not hit you in the face. That will help keep your goggles on.

And that is a fine first 500 time! Just think of how much faster you'd be with a flip turn ;)

Joe 12:26 PM, February 24, 2014  

clarification: pop your head up to see the other end of the pool when you leave the blocks, but then tuck your head quickly between your arms and pop your hips up to enter the water. your head should basically be: donw (while on the block), up (right after your push), down (between your arms for the entry)

I've taught race dives to a decent amount of kids during swim training, and they have the same problem i'm guessing you have based on your photos.

Jennifer Harrison 1:47 PM, February 24, 2014  

Congrats Steve! You wanted sub 7:30 and you got that - next time you do the 500 in a meet, that time will go down even further, it is like you have to "shock" your body into this type of effort in the pool.
Congrats on your 1.09 PR!

Pedergraham 6:42 PM, February 24, 2014  

Steve, Wendy is right. Put your chin on your chest (or the idea of "head down") for diving. Spend a few bucks to take a diving lesson at the Y--learn to dive from a sitting then kneeling then standing position from the side of the pool and then go from there. Bring your son and make it a "semi-private" lesson! BTW, don't take the "look up" advice. ~ Danielle, competitive swimmer for 36 years, ASCA Level II Masters Coach, and spouse-to-a-former-runner/slash-non-swimmer-who-had-a-red-chest-like-yours-when-he-started-competitive-swimming

Nick Campbell 10:03 PM, February 24, 2014  

Steve, your dive is classified as an 'aerodynamic stall.' All drag, no lift. Kudos for the cojones!!!

Kyle 7:27 PM, February 28, 2014  

I'm sure you've gotten tons of advice on your start, but try keeping your head down the entire time. On the fourth photo from the 50 free you can see that your head is up and looking ahead. Maybe thats straightening your body out and preventing a smooth dive. If you can keep your head down and under your arms the entire time you might keep away the red chest. Good luck

Audrey 5:23 PM, June 18, 2014  

As a former competitive swimmer (13 years) with ~ 5 summers of summer-league coaching/swim lesson experience, I feel moderately qualified to give you the following brief racing start advice:

1) Practice from diving from the wall instead of the block first to get the proper technique, which will cut down on red chest;
1a) Your goal is to have your body go into the water through one hole: the one created by your hands (a la Katie's dive in your post);
1c) You can slant your hands up in your streamline as you kick hard after you dive to bring you to the surface quicker;
2) To prevent goggles coming off, tuck your chin to your chest and pretend it is glued there as soon as the starter says "take your mark." Leave it glued there until you take your first stroke to break the surface;
3) To prevent goggles from leaking, make sure the straps are not in the same place on the back of your head. Also, mash them into your eye sockets really hard until you hear them squish, which ensures you've got them sealed;
4) Put your goggles on under your cap.

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