Musings, Race Reports

Testing the Waters

I joined the Okanagan Masters Swim Club two years ago, after my first triathlon, and with a view to swimming across Okanagan lake.

I had watched the masters sessions from the public lanes for a few weeks before I was convinced to give it a go (thanks Jeanette). I was sure I wasn’t good enough, I mean, these guys were Masters afterall.

That first session ended with a set of sprints:

“Just dive off the blocks and sprint 50m down the pool”

10 times.

“Can I run away?”

Oh these people are so fit, they would probably catch me anyway.

I was so scared!

Blocks, dive sprint….

I had never successfully dived (and some might say that’s still true), much less of starting blocks. And sprint? 50m was such a long way.

What on earth was I thinking, I’ll just slip off back to my safe public lane……

Well, you probably guessed that I did it…

Very badly!

My fastest sprint was around 66 seconds and my best dive could possibly, if one were very charitable, be better defined as a flop.

But I didn’t die…and the only way was up.

That summer I did swim across the lake, and it turned out I rather enjoyed open water swimming.

Fast forward to today and I’m still there, still slow, but we are a ‘seriously social’ swim club and it’s (nearly) always fun.

“So, when are you going to enter a swim meet?”

Oh probably…Never.

I’m too slow

I can’t dive (still)

I can’t turn

Did I mention how slow I am?

Theres so many technical rules

Its too exposed, in a lane on my own…it’s just TOO SCARY

I’ll just volunteer, we need volunteers right?

Recently the club President had asked me what needed to happen to encourage me to enter a meet.

Oh, so many things: Dives, turns….etc etc… I’d probably enter the next one…

He probably didn’t realise that in that moment I made a scary promise, that I would now be honour-bound (if only in my own head) to keep.

All too fast, a couple of months later, chatting in the hot tub after practise (I only swim so that I can sit in the hot tub afterwards), my friend tells me that there is a meet in a couple of weeks…I should enter.

Emergency, emergency! Sirens started going off in my brain.

They had an encouraging answer to all of my reservations – Masters is very inclusive.

And I signed up for my first swim meet.

I’d spent some time working on my dives and turns over Christmas, so whilst still a long way from technically perfect, they were slightly less of a gamble.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all

O woke up on the day to find it had snowed overnight, thus followed a nerve-wracking hour of driving along the highway to Vernon. A spin around half way really got my heart-rate up and did nothing to improve my stress level.

I bumped into my team mates just outside the pool, further ensuring that I couldn’t run away. We changed and headed poolside. As we checked the heat sheets, I felt totally out of my depth, a fish out of water – this is probably how these idioms originated!

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Everyone jumped into the water to warm up, I hung back, maybe they won’t realise I’m an imposter.

I tested a couple of dives and turns, which seemed to go quite well, I felt slightly better.

The first event was 400m freestyle.

As I stood shaking on the starting blockone of my teammates shouted my name – I hoped I wouldn’t let them down or do a spectacularly bad dive in front of everyone. I decided to just aim to complete this first race.

The whistle went, deep breath, dive.

That was OK…now, swim.

Here comes the wall, deep breath, turn.

Still OK…keep swimming…I’m going too fast, that’s bad, but I can slow down, not a crisis.

Wall again, deep breath, turn…

…and crisis!

The turn didn’t go well, I came off the wall at the wrong angle, and I took breath that consisted largely of water…keep swimming, slow down.

Can’t breathe

I tried swimming slower, breathing deeper, I swam with my head up for a bit, but I couldn’t get it back. I couldn’t stop (actually I was later informed that I could have stopped to catch my breath and then continued).

The realisation hit me – this isn’t going to work.

And so, in the first event of my first ever swim meet, I recorded the first DNF of my life.

My teammates were very supportive, but it felt like I’d proved that I shouldn’t be there. I consoled myself with the fact that the next event was unlikely to go worse than that, the only way was up!

There was a short break before my next event, 50m breaststroke. This was the event had been most worried about; I was worried that getting my stroke wrong could get me disqualified.

In the event it was fine, I concentrated hard on getting my stroke right. I could hear my teammates cheering, which made me smile. As I came to the wall I saw Brent there, encouraging me.

Don’t screw this up now

Two hands together…and go.

It felt really good. My time of 56:25, whist not groundbreaking in the slightest, was the fastest I have ever recorded. Not so long ago, a 50m breaststroke sprint was nearly impossible for me, so definitely an improvement.

100m freestyle came next. I was still jittery about those turns. I made the first one, but then my nerves go the better of me, I decided to err on the side of caution and finished the race with touch turns. I was definitely getting tired by the second 50m but I kept pushing on.

1:42:85, I’ll take that.

50m freestyle, I’ve already proved I can do this, just need to do it again.

47:88, cool, that’s quite a bit under a minute.

So all in all, the day turned around pretty well. Thanks to my OMSC teammates for their support… and for refraining from laughing (at least whilst I was in the room).

It’s clear I won’t be breaking any records in the foreseeable future, but that’s OK, we are a seriously social swim club after all.

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