Another swimming post

Sunday is my first opportunity to swim a US Masters Swimming Nationals Qualifying Time in breaststroke — basically the only stroke I think I have a snowball’s chance in hell of swimming a qualifying time in… this year. 

Frequent readers will know that I swam in my first post-high-school swim meet just two short months ago. In that meet I swam the 50 breaststroke event, but opted out of swimming any longer breaststroke events because I hadn’t been training regularly and my endurance was crap. In that meet I swam the 50 yard race in 40.26 seconds. Not too shabby for someone who hadn’t been training.

For those of you with no context for swimming times, you can check out the full USMS National Qualifying Times here. Right now I’m just focused on these three times:

  • 38.22 (50 breast)
  • 1:23.32 (100 breast)
  • 2:58.03 (200 breast)

On Sunday I swim the 50 and the 100 breaststroke. And yes, you read that right, I need to drop at least 2 full seconds (and a couple hundredths) off my time in order to beat the qualifying time for my age group. Now, 2 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it’s actually a pretty large chunk of time for such a short race.

As if that weren’t enough to worry about, I haven’t raced 100 breaststroke since high school and I’ve never raced 200 breaststroke (not a high school event). I’m pretty sure my best time for the 100 breaststroke in high school was 1:18 or 1:19. Do I need to remind anyone that was 18 years ago? (Ugh. I did not need to do that math. That can’t be right. When did I get so old?)

I’m nervous. So I’m writing about it and obsessing. Can you tell?

In preparation, all this month I’ve been increasing the percent of my workout that I swim “in stroke” because that’s what the coach at the stroke clinic I went to told me to do. She basically told me that I had great form (my mom is laughing right now… I’ve always had nearly perfect form, but fast and form are not the same thing). She couldn’t really find anything to tweak and suggested I just need to build endurance.

Annoyingly, breaststroke is the slowest of the competitive strokes and swimming more of my workout as breaststroke (instead of fast freestyle) means workouts take longer. And are exhausting. But some sets are starting to get easier, so I think I’m building my endurance and I plow ahead and hope this is all going to pay off.

So why is this worth it? What does swimming a qualifying time get me? Basically nothing. See, you can actually enter up to 3 events at Nationals without ever swimming a qualifying time. Anyone can go, no matter how slow they are, and compete. You’ll likely get your ass handed to you, but you can go. If you want to enter more than 3 events, you need to have “qualified” in any events in excess of your 3 “free” entries, up to 6 events total (note: not actually free). 

This year Nationals is in Indianapolis, IN. It’s kind of a great excuse to visit my family in Chicago and take a quick drive down I-65 to race and see the pros in action. I am pretty sure that Olympic athletes don’t compete at USMS Nationals, so not that kind of pro… but definitely some swimmers there can say they are *almost* as fast as Rebecca Soni

On the other hand, the Pacific Region (the one I belong to) has a regional Championship race. I think all the regions probably have their own. The Pacific Masters Short Course Championship is held in the Bay Area and will definitely attract some fast swimmers (judging from previous years’ results online). So, I’ve made this deal with myself, I’m not going to Indy unless I “qualify.” If I don’t qualify, I’ll leave it all in the pool at my regional Championship and be happy with that.

Even if I don’t go to Indy, I can still achieve my goals:

  1. Swim a qualifying time in at least one breaststroke event. (Probably do-able)
  2. Swim a time that lands me in the “top 20” times for my age group for at least one breaststroke event. (Probably do-able if I do #1)
  3. Swim a time that lands me in the “top 10” times for my age group for at least one breaststroke event. (Stretch goal… )

So, by now you all think I’m completely nuts. Maybe I am a little obsessed. What can I say, I like competing.

Anyone placing bets on how I do this weekend?

Predictions for times? (I’m seeded at 40.26 for the 50 and 1:23 for the 100).