Remember that time I reached a new milestone as a wannabe swimmer and completed my first meet? It turns out I am a glutton for punishment: I signed up for my second one!
Who is a wannabe swimmer and loves pain? This girl!
Since all the strokes are going down again in a few weeks at the Metro Short-Course Meter (SCM) Championships—I registered for the 50m and 100m freestyle, plus the 100m and 200m IM—I’ve been reflecting on my first competition: what I did well, what I could do better, and what I learned overall. The most important thing—aside from not bellyflopping off the blocks, not losing my goggles, and not finishing last—is applying everything I experienced the first time around to my second showing. Ideally, this will translate to faster, smarter swimming and a more mentally sound mindset … plus ultimately growing as an endurance athlete–and a swimmer.
When I took the plunge—metaphorically, not literally—and registered for the Bearcat meet last month, I selected which events I’d swim based purely on the stroke and distance; I neglected to study the order of events and ensure there was enough time to recharge between each. Case in point: it was an aggressive move to swim the 200m medley relay and turn around and uncork a 200m freestyle just minutes later. On the bright side, I didn’t realize this would be less than ideal—it’s not like I knew what an adequate recovery time between events should be—so ignorance was a bit blissful.
This time, though, I was slightly more discerning with my selections. I say “slightly” because I did opt for both the 200m IM (the meet’s fifth event) and the 50m freestyle (the meet’s sixth event). That IM will be the biggest, most challenging event of the meet, so as soon as I complete it, I’ll be able to relax—and hopefully survive a 50m free right after.
Second, I need to warm up adequately. In October, my teammates suggested swimming 800-1000m before the meet officially began, but I only did around 600m (because I was chatting with my amazing Work Husband who was there cheering for me). Would a longer warm-up have translated to better results? Maybe, maybe not—but I do know I did not feel ready for my first event.
However, I made it a priority to cool down between events. After each, I immediately moved over to the designated warm-down lane and swam anywhere from 50m to 200m based on the length of the event: after my 50m free, I swam 200m easy; after my 100m free, I swam 100m easy. I buried myself in the hurt locker for each event, but in general, the shorter the swim, the more intense (read: faster) it is, which demands a longer warm down to alleviate the lactic acid buildup. Between events, I also slipped on a long-sleeved sweatshirt in an effort to keep my upper body warm.
Third, I will continue to play with my nutrition plan. As a short-course triathlete, I don’t think a lot about fueling since my races last only 2.5 hours or so. However, for an all-afternoon swim meet—I arrived around 2 p.m., and we left for post-race libations around 6 p.m.—I was conscious about what and how often I was eating. My coaches and teammates advised using the same products I take in during triathlons, so beforehand, I had my normal pre-race breakfast, plus a carb-heavy lunch of sweet potatoes and plenty of coffee. Throughout the meet, I consumed one bottle of Skratch Labs (which I drink during the bike portion of a triathlon), one banana, half of a Powerbar, plus water to thirst. Toward the end of the meet, I felt hungry, but that problem was solved fairly quickly with pizza and adult beverages. Overall, the old athlete adage of “nothing new on race day” served me well. Since my next meet takes place at night, I will push back my meals as much as possible: eating breakfast around 10-11a and lunch around 2-3p. I’ll also bring more “Carrie-friendly” foods like bananas and Picky Bars to eat on deck.
Finally, my main goal is developing a better handle on navigating my emotions during the meet. Before tris or running races, I get amped up, but still retreat inward to deal with the anticipation that builds. Once the gun goes off, the anxiousness vanishes, and I just race; it’s a slow release of adrenaline that I ride. During this swim meet, though, the rush of energy was unprecedented. I’ve played in some big field-hockey and basketball games back in the day, and nothing compared. I harnessed that all-encompassing excitement during each swim, but once it ended, I struggled to calm down. I was basically wired for the entire day. In fact, I felt more mentally spent than physically exhausted when the day was done. My coaches and teammates said this would most likely be the case, and they were right.
How I felt at the end of the meet as depicted through Zelda
With this in mind, I hope to create a “between-event” practice. I don’t know what this looks like, but it will likely contain my warm-down routine, plus some form of deep breathing and meditation.
Much like triathlon, my life as a wannabe swimmer is a work in progress, and I’m focusing on the journey, not the destination.
When’s the last time you did something totally outside of your comfort zone?