Wednesday, April 26, 2000
It's 10:28am Denver time, and the plane just took off for Indianapolis. I can overhear conversations throughout the cabins of swimmers from all over the western US as they talk about the upcoming meet. A group of 60-somethings behind me are particularly excited; they're comparing training regimens and providing information about how fast other competitors in their age groups have been swimming so far this year. They're even talking about their plans for next year's meet at Santa Clara, but we still have this weekend's meet ahead of us.
We hosted Coach Chris Campbell and Jason Salmanoff last night for a pre-meet psyche-up dinner. My wife, Amy, and mother-in-law, Donna, made a great lasagna (I accidentally bought "smoked" mozzarella cheese, but it worked out really well), Jason brought some tasty carmelized peppers, and Chris brought a bottle of sangiovese and some delicious flan for dessert. My sister and her boyfriend, Rob, and Lynn Reda and husband, Jack, also joined us for an all-MVM evening. We ate, laughed, and watched the Sharks beat the Blues to advance to the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Go Sharks!
The grand finale of the evening was shaving a mohawk on my head. Yikes! Lynn and Amy took turns buzzing off the hair that I'd left uncut for 4 months, leaving a 2-inch wide and very long stripe right down the middle. I plan to keep the mohawk for tomorrow's 1650 Free and then shave the rest of it off in preparation for my big day Friday.
I woke up at 4:40am this morning. That's actually 10 minutes later than I usually wake up on Wednesdays: extra sleep! I had dreams of my mohawk all night long last night - I wonder what I'll be dreaming of tonight after I shave my legs and arms... My flight from San Jose was at 6:20am, and I will get into Indy with plenty of time to settle in to the hotel and shave down. Chris arrives this evening, and his parents will also stop in for a visit and maybe dinner. We swim the distance events tomorrow. Suzanne Topp will arrive late Thursday night (from OR), and Jason arrives Friday afternoon. Jason is also bringing a posse of fans along with him made up of his sister and a few friends. It should be a great weekend!
I've trained 6 days / week for almost every week since New Year's Day, I've been in the weight room 3 nights / week since November, I've cross-trained with basketball at least once / week for a year, and I've tapered for 2 weeks. I feel strong and ready for the meet. I plan on swimming fast and furious, and emailing the team back home with updates on our progress.
Thursday, April 27, 2000
Wow! What a day!
We slept in at the hotel since the meet began with the Women's 1000 Free. It really pays to get here the day before and leisurely rise and prepare for the meet. Chris and I ate breakfast at the hotel, and Chris went on to the pool to swim his 1000 Free. I stayed behind to shave down.
The meet is running fast! There are only 1300 or so swimmers registered for the meet this year, as compared with 2000+ that register when it's located in the Bay Area. Chris arrived at the pool with only 30 minutes to dress and warm-up before his race. The stress and rushing around may hae affected his swim somewhat, but Chris still pulled off a 13:27.63 and finished 15th in his age group. He was then able to get a massage, eat lunch, and relax before my swim.
I just missed Chris's race - they were finishing as I walked into the pool. Though I would have liked to see his swim, I still got his splits from his parents and saw how he placed. That left me with 3 hours to kill at the pool before my 1650. I watched, slept, shopped, and stretched until the event began. hen, I hit the warm-up pool, which is extremely warm, maybe 85 degrees. I had to stay relaxed in my warm-up to avoid over-heating! I also kept it short, 1200 yards, because I was about to do a ton of yardage in my race as it was!
I was seeded 2nd in my age group, 14 seconds behind the top seed. Unfortunately, he was in a separate heat, so I couldn't race him, just the clock. I had been swimming 35's on my pace 50's in the week before the meet and in warm-up. My goal was to hold those 35's and try to swim a 19:30 for the race. I figured that that would give me a shot at winning since the top seed's time was also a 19:30.
I was in heat 7, lane 5. The swimmer from lane 4 approached me before the race to wish me luck. He, like everyone else at the pool, noticed my mohawk. He was jolly and ready to swim. So was I!
We got up for the start, and we were off! The competition pool is nice and chilly, which makes us start out at a fast pace. I felt strong in the water and kept up with the leader in Lane 4 for the first 300 yards. Then I settled in to my groove and let him creep away, along with Lane 3. I started watching my splits on the pace clock, and I was holding under 1:10 per hundred, which is faster than the goal of 35's per 50! I kept the pace up figuring that the faster splits would give me some cushion to meeting my goal time.
At the 500 point, I thought to myself that I should have entered the 500 instead, because then I'd be done! But I kept going, and still felt strong in the water. At 700, I started to fatigue and tried to keep my focus on reacing and pulling a lot of water with each stroke. I held my pace, but I was starting to feel the wear and tear. At the halfway point, I celebrated and made it a goal to try and maintain the pace to the finish. At the 1000, I thought to myself that I should have entered the 1000 Free instead, because then I'd be done, and I knew that I had a decent time. But I kept on going. At 1300 I was getting rather tired, and I started to lose count and focus. It was great to have Chris doing the lap counter for me, and as my splits slowed by a half-second, he started shaking the counter to get me focused again and back on pace. At the 1450, I put my head down and tried to finish as fast as I could. I spotted Lane 3 about 2 body lenghts ahead of me, and I tried to catch him. At the 1600, I had gained a body length on him, but it was too late. I didn't have enough left to catch that swimmer, but I did finish strong.
In fact, I finished much better than I had anticipated. I crushed my 19:44.00 seed time, and I crushed my 19:30.00 goal time. I swam an 18:41.47, which is a lifetime best! I knew I had a good chnce to win my age group, and the top seed was swimming in heat 8 at the time. Unfortunately, I missed his finish as I was warming down, but later on I checked the results and sure enough, he swam a 19:20+, and I won my age group! I thought that I would never win my age group, ever, but I did it! I got a gold medal with the meet logo, and I got a patch saying National Champion. Good thing I decided to enter this event!
Flushed with victory, we returned to the hotel. I checked my email and found out that a co-worker bet my boss that I'd get at least one Top 5 finish. So, I helped her win the bet on the first day of the meet!
I also emailed the team back home with the update, and hopefully, the updates are being posted on our website. Chris and I will head out for dinner soon (this time we need a place that has a non-smoking section). Suzanne arrives tonight, and her bubbly personality will add even more excitement to the meet. I just need to shave this ridiculous mohawk before she gets here, or she'll tease me about it for years.
Friday, April 28, 2000
And then there were four...
Suzanne arrived last night, after a long lay-over in Chicago. She and I went to the pool early in the morning and swam a warm-up during the 50 Back. Once again, the warm temperature of the warm-up pool made me feel heavy and sluggish. I swam some pace 25's at 15+ seconds to get ready for my 100 Breast, and felt relatively good and ready to go.
I was seeded with last year's 1:06.25, and I was hoping to beat it. At the start, I got a great push off the blocks, but my pace was slow on the first lap. I did my best to get the pace to a sprint, but my rhythm never set in. I finished with a 1:06.95, good for 21st place out of 29 swimmers in my age group.
Chris was feeling ill and showed up later in the day. He was worried that his cold might be something much worse and though about seeing the doctor, but he decided to swim his 200 Free before doing anything else. And what a great swim it was! Chris beat his 2:14.00 seed time easily with a 2:10.88, and though he was tiring at the end of the race, he had enough left to pass ad beat a swimmer next to him. Needless to say, his swim made him feel a lot better, and he's psyched to swim again on Sunday.
I finished the day with the 400 IM. Last year's 4:34.77 was a great swim, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to match it this year. The race was at the end of the day, and I felt a little tired in warm-ups. Heading to the blocks, my arms felt heavy, but I kept my mind on the positives: this is my favorite race. The heat was separated by only 4 seconds in seed times, but I knew that the field would spread as we transitioned from one stroke to another. The start went off without a hitch, and my fly felt long and strong (which is what I was repeating to myself through the whole 100 yards). On the backstroke, I saw my 1:00 fly split on the clock, and knew I was on pace for my goal time. However, after the first 50 back, I saw my split again, and it wasn't good. I switched my stroke from a focus on fast-rotation to a focus on a high catch, and my second 50 was faster. On the breastroke, I gained ground on other swimmers and managed to pass a few. On the free, I was very tired, but did my best to hang on and maintain my position in the heat. In the end, I beat my goal time and swam a 4:33.44, which earned me 5th place! It was a great way to finish the day.
We went back to the hotel and Jason showed up with his sister Laura. We went out to dinner at Alcatraz Brewery, which was pretty good. Laura's boyfriend, Todd, joined us as well. We filled them in on the goings-on of the meet. After dinner, we all crashed early to get ready for the Saturday swims. Suzanne and Jason have their first swims tomorrow, and I have the 200 IM and 200 Fly. It's going to be another great day!
Saturday, April 29, 2000
It was indeed another great day of racing!
Suzanne began her meet with a "relaxed" 100 Back, swimming a 1:20.25, and feeling good in the water. It was just a warm-up for her 50 Free. Jason also began his meet, swiming the 50 Breast in 39.27, finally cracking the 40-second barrier for the first time this year. Suzanne placed 12th, and Jason placed 27th.
Although I wasn't swimming until later in the day, I came to the pool early with Suzanne to watch her and Jason swim. Jason's friends Erica and Cristian came down rom Detroit to watch, teaming up with Laura and Todd to make a sizeable cheering section for Jason's 50 Breast.
After Jason's swim, I warmed up in the too-warm warm-up pool for the 200 IM. Again, I felt sluggish and heavy in the water. At the end of warm-up, I did 4 pace 50's, one of each stroke, and that cleared the sluggishness from my body. I was seeded 19th in my age group, and a lot of the seeds were round numbers - obvious fakes. I didn't know what to expect of my race, but I wanted to not only beat last year's 2:11, but to also break 2:10.
I got up for the start of my race and felt good. Jason had the video camera, Chris was getting the splits, and Suzanne was cheering me on from poolside. At the start of the race, I kept the fly long, and though Suzanne said later that it looked a little too slow, my split was a few tenths of a second faster than in 1999. The back felt good as I remembered to catch the water like I did in my second 50 of the 400 IM back leg. Again in the breast, I tried to move as much water as I could, but my split of 37+ was a little too slow. I put everything I had left into the free, and I finished in a 2:10.10, just missing breaking the 2:10 barrier. I finished in 21st plae of 26 swimmers.
Later that day, Suzanne's main event, the 50 Free, came up. She was focused and confident, and we were all cheering her on wildly. Suzanne's start was strong, she kept her head down, and she finished well. Her time was 27.25 which placed her 16th in her age group, and was a great time!
At the end of the day, I swam the dreaded 200 Fly. This year, I only trained one fly day, as I was usually too tired. I figured that since I only trained Breastroke and IM in college, and still managed to swim a good 200 Fly, that I could do it again this yera. At least, I hoped that I could despite being 6+ years older. In warm-up, I again had to do a pace 50 to get the bugs out of my system. I thought that I felt good, but it was difficult to tell because it was the end of the day.
I saw some amazing swims before my heat. Bill Specht went a 1:51, and another guy went a 1:53 later on. It was motivating.
My heat was up. I was seeded 11th, and I didn't know how the other heat of 25-29 swimmers would do. I was racing against 3 others from my age group in my heat, so I knew who I needed to beat to get a medal. At the start, I got off quickly and swam the same pace as my 200 IM fly leg. At the 50, I told myself to keep the stroke long to conserve energy. But I wasn't getting tired at all. I felt as though I was literally flying through the water. At the 100, I still felt fresh, so I tried to go a little faster. I began to pull away from the heat, and I still wasn't feeling any fatigue! At the 150, I still felt 100% fresh, so I pushed the pace on the last 50. With about 15 yards to go, I started to feel my stroke shortening up, but I powered to the finish. I won my heat (which may be a first) in a 2:07.94, which is almost 6 seconds faster than my 1999 swim! I finished in 7th place, earning that coveted medal!
I guess that the training scheme still works, but I don't want to tell any of my flyers or they'll all start to skip the fly sets...
We all went to dinner at Palomino's in downtown. It was a decent attempt at 90's styling in Indiana. The food was tasty, but a little expensive. It was prom night, so Laura and Suzanne were evaluating all the dresses that went by. Afterwards, we all went back to the hotel, talking and joking on the way. We all went to sleep early to be rested for our last day at Indy. We hope to finish with a bang!
Sunday, April 30, 2000
The final day began with the Men's 500 Free, which gave all us MVMers a chance to sleep in again. Suzanne headed off for the pool first to get in a good warm-up, and Alan, Chris, and Jason all ate a good breakfast before going to the pool. We checked out of the Radisson, got on the shuttle bus, and went to the Natatorium for our last day of swimming.
Suzanne started the day with the 100 Free. She felt great that morning, and her swim showed it. She swam a strong race, start to finish, and placed 18th with a 1:00.05 (just barely missing that 59!). Her swim set the tone for the day.
I swam the 200 Breast next. It was my 6th and last event of the 4-day meet, and I wanted to finish strong. Once again, I felt sluggish and tired in the warm-up pool before the race. This time, my legs felt like they were made of lead, and not even the pace 50 would wake them up. I changed into my race suit and tried to stretch some more to get my body ready.
I swam a 2:23.88 the previous year, and I really wanted to match or beat that time this year. With the way my body felt run down after the long meet, I thought it was a little too ambitious to go for the 2:23, but I also noticed that I was swimming in Lane 2 of Heat 22. So I decided to go for a 2:22 instead - what the heck! It was my last race.
Standing behind the blocks before the race, I ignored the competitors around me and focused on how I wanted to pace the race. As I got up on the blocks at the starter's whistle, I just thought "200 yards breasrtoke, 200 yards breasrtoke...". I got off to a good start, and felt smooth in the water (which is always good in a 200...). I was even with the swimmers to both sides of me through the first 50. On the second 50, I tried to maintain the pace and stroke, and it still felt good and smooth. I started to pull away from the swimmers next to me, and I wasn't feeling any fatigue. Was it going to be like the 200 Fly? I sure hoped so. I tried to pick up the pace on the third 50, and I felt great. At the far wall, with 75 yards left to go, I kicked into high gear. I held a strong pace through to the finish, sprinting at the end, and feeling great the whole way. The 4 months of training and 2 weeks of taper really paid off! I finished in 2:23.01, just barely missing the 2:22 but beating last year's time. I was very happy to finish the meet with another good swim.
After my 200 Breast, Suzanne and Jason were both in the 50 Fly. The heats were running fast, one right after another, and I almost missed Suzanne's swim. But I am sure glad that I saw it! She swam a great 50 Fly, with perfect technique: pull, kick, and hips. Suzanne's time was 31.35, and she finished in 14th in her age group - her best place of the meet! Jason then went after his ambitious 37.00 seed time, and he pulled off a great 37.82! He looked strong through the race, and we were all happy to see him swim so well.
Chris finished his weekend with the 200 Back. There were a lot of great swims from the women and the men, and the energy level at the Nat was very high and intense. For a 200, the event was moving fast! Chris was still feeling a little ill, but I think he knew that he had another good swim in him. He was seeded with a 2:41.00, and we all wanted to see him break it. Chris got off to a great start and was on a fast pace through the 100. On the last 75, Chris said that he felt his energy drain, as his lungs started to give out because of the cold. But he kept the turnover going and the kick kicking, and he powered to the finish in a 2:38.56! Chris finished in 16th place too!
At the end of the day, Suzanne and Jason each swam the 100 IM. Suzanne had secretly been working on the "novelty" strokes and the transition turns up in Oregon, and she was expecting to beat her 1:15.50 seed time. Again, she swam an awesome fly leg, her stroke so much more improved than last year, had her usual strong back leg, hung in there on the lap of breast (which she doesn't appreciate as much as she should), and kicked it home on the free. Her final time was 1:13.11, her best 100 IM in a few years. Suzanne was psyched to finish her meet with the great swims.
Jason had entered his most daring seed time for the 100 IM with a 1:20.00. With all the great practicing he put in for Free, Breast, and Back, we were all cheering him on for that time. His sister and Todd showed up to yell too. He was the last MVMer of the meet, so we all gathered for the event. Jason got out at the start well, swimming a strong fly through the turn. His backstroke will need a little work, but e did well to keep the pace up and get to the breastroke. His kick was looking awesome on the breast leg, and he made a good transition to the free. At the end of the race, it looked as though he was starting to feel the fatigue, but he kept his head down and swam to the finish. Jason's final time was 1:25.78, and he'll continue chasing that 1:20 next year.
Chris, Suzanne, and I ran off to the airport, leaving Jason with his sister and Todd. Suzanne and I had time for a pint of Newcastle at the airport to celebrate our great swimming as Chris went on to a motel for the night. I got on the plane for Chicago from where I would make my conection to San Jose, and it was full of Masters swimmers basking in the glory of another National Championships swum well. I sat with 2 high school girls, and as I passed on my "wisdom" of life in high school, college, and beyond, I really started to feel like an ol' fogey Masters swimmer, and it is great!