Review: Pacific Long Course Championships

EAH & RLF San Mateo July 2016
Me and my beautiful fiancee at the San Mateo pool.

Date: 7/22/16-7/24/16

I’ve had some bad luck with getting to meets over the past year.  I missed last fall’s meet due to injury and illness.  I missed this spring’s meets because of the move to Reno.  With Long Course Nationals just around the corner (starts August 17), I needed to get a meet in to test my fitness and race strategies.  My focus was preparing for the 400 IM, with the 100s of each stroke and the 200 IM.  My secondary focus was pacing for my 1500 meter freestyle by swimming the 800 meter freestyle.  I didn’t taper for this meet, so I arrived with some tired arms.

100M Butterfly – 1:21.23

My first race of the 2016 championships was also probably my worst of the meet.  I have been working on my fly technique for a year and a half, so there are lots of things going through my mind when I swim this stroke – relax (don’t do it), press the chest down, feet together, don’t come up high on the recovery — any more than that, I wouldn’t remember any of it.  I felt great for the first 50, and that may have been a curse.  I probably started to up my tempo a bit too early, and as a result I lost focus on everything that I was supposed to be working on – I lost my breathing pattern (1 up, 1 down), and didn’t even try to remember the rest of it.  The only thing going through my mind on the second 50 was: Get arms out of water.  I barely succeeded.  I hope that with 500m of fly two days prior to this race, and the lack of a taper, caused me to die on the second half, and that with some rest, I can get down to the 1:15-1:16 I am looking for to lead off my 400 IM.

100M Breaststroke – 1:34.86

My next race went significantly better than my first race.  The breaststroke followed the butterfly, so I only had about 20-30 minutes between these races.  I did an easy 100 backstroke in between events (to at least semi-simulate the 400 IM).  I executed my race plan exactly as I intended, with an easy controlled first 50 and an increased tempo on the second 50.  My time was over three seconds faster than it was two years ago.  I need to continue to focus on “pulling more water” and finishing my kick.

800M Freestyle – 10:48.27

My final race on day one was the 800 meter freestyle.  I had a couple goals here; the first was to test my brand new tech suit before the big meet next month.  I wanted to make sure it was comfortable and didn’t leak. The suit worked great, I could feel some extra floatation (despite it not supposed to do so), and I hardly needed to kick at all.  There were no leaks; I would feel comfortable wearing it for a 20-minute race.  The suit (Arena Carbon Air) gets an A+.  Next, I needed to work on my pacing.  My splits were 1:17, 1:23, 1:22, 1:22, 1:21, 1:21, 1:20, and 1:18.  I was happy that I was able to negative split this 800, but my second 100 was a bit too lackadaisical and overall a tad slower than I wanted, especially given that I was wearing a tech suit.  Ending the day with a distance event at the end of a day was slightly unusual because normally I start a meet/day with a distance event.  After the first 50 I was tired, but I pressed on and descended my 100s.  I just need to start a little faster at Nationals.  I typically see about a 4.5% improvement from shaving and tapering for my distance events.  I now have a projected 1500m time of 19:21.59 at Nationals – a bit slower than my seed of 19:15.

200M IM – 2:49.88

I found out the day before that I would not be able to swim the 200 IM at Nationals.  Because of the size of the meet, everyone’s sixth event was dropped (if applicable).  This increased the importance on this 200 IM because it’d now be the only time I would get to race it this season.  My strategy was simple: Go fast, good turns.  However, I ended up with lane 8 – despite giant lanes, mine was effectively cut in half by a ladder on each end of the pool.  It also meant that I would not attempt a basket turn back-to-breast in fear of smacking the ladder.  My attempt at a speedy butterfly wasn’t successful, I was a little bit more up and down than in my 100, and people on deck described it as “tight.”  Still it felt okay, and I was able to transition to backstroke better than normal (actually able to do some dolphin kicks off the wall for a change).  The backstroke was okay, but my tempo was probably a bit too slow, especially for a 200. My breaststroke pleased me for once. Usually I lose ground during this leg, but in this case, I kept pace with the lane next to me, even inching up on him.  I could see the scoreboard clock as I was sprinting home and knew my time would be close to my goal of a sub-2:50, which gave me a little extra oomph for the final 25 meters. Accomplishing my goal here made the 200 IM the swim of the meet for me.

100 Backstroke – 1:17.53

I’m a backstroker, but I don’t like the backstroke start.  I never have.  I just feel all kinds of awkward.  I’ve tried various start positions but I almost always end up with the same result – smacking my back and not getting into a streamline position as I enter the water.  I can deal with the back smack, but the lack of a streamline is not so helpful.  The start here was exactly as described, but I still managed to come out even/ahead of the two lanes on either side of me.  It is hard to describe how far 50 meters swimming on your back outdoors is with no clouds.  It is eternal. I was wishing for the wall all the way down the pool on the first 50.  I reached the flags at a half stroke, meaning I would either be long or short at the turn (I chose to be short).  If the front half was eternal, the second half was even longer.  Once again, however, I got to the flags at a half stroke, and once again I chose to be short – I lost my heat by hundredths of a second, making me wish I had chosen to be long on one of the walls.  I need to work on starts and turns at full speed (unfortunately I am never at that speed in practice.)  My new projected 100 back time for Nationals is 1:14.00, below my goal of 1:15.  Extrapolating to my 200 back, my projected time is now 2:41.18, just above my goal of 2:40.  If I can nail my turns I can shrink that gap.

100 Free – 1:08.70

At the end of a long meet, two full days of either being chilly in the shade or frying in the sun, I swam the 100 free.  My plan was to breathe every four strokes and relax on the first length.  I did that, but then I breathed right off the wall and my plan to breathe every four went right down the drain.  I didn’t like being in the end lane (yet again) — I couldn’t see anyone on the way down, and I probably took it too easy.  Sometimes you just gotta go after it, but it’s easier if you can see everyone else pulling away from you.  I wasn’t crazy about my turn, but my deck watchers said it was a good turn.  I think it can be better. I finished just over my goal of 1:08.20, which I guess is okay since it was at the end of the meet.

Overall, I would give myself a B+ for the meet.  I need to build fly endurance, pull harder and finish my kick on the breast, work on my starts, turns, and walls on backstroke, and don’t be so afraid to die on freestyle (see both the 800 and the 100).  My updated projections for Nationals:

1500 – 19:21.59

400 IM – 5:33.42 – 5:45.02 (best guess is 5:40)

400 Free – 4:53.65

100 Back – 1:14.00

200 Back – 2:41.19

Movie Review: Prometheus

prometheus

Released: 6/8/12

I loved Aliens.  I saw it before Alien, but that didn’t seem to bother me.  When I did get around to finally watching Alien, it didn’t have the same impact.  Aliens had the building suspense that freaked me out.  It is one of the few movies that are A) scared me and B) I liked it.  Why am I talking about Alien(s) when this review is about Prometheus?  Because Prometheus is very reminiscent of the Alien(s) saga.  A little too much like the original (Alien)

The first hour draaaaagggged along.  There was no conflict to bring me in to the story.  I was so bored I started doing chores while leaving the second half on in the background.  It’s probably a shame because it seemed to get more interesting, but I kind of already knew what was going to happen, because I had already seen Alien.  And there were a lot of elements straight from Alien.  A lot.  In fact, when as I prepped to write this review, I checked to see if Prometheus was a prequel to Alien – and the short answer is yes, yes, it is.

I might have given up on Prometheus a little too early, but even then I had some logical questions about the ending (which I will drop, because I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who wants to watch it).  That said, it took too many elements from Alien to be a decent original movie.  If you are an Alien saga fanatic, then I would recommend Prometheus, otherwise you can probably skip it.

WWYT Rating: 4.0

IMDB Rating: 7.0

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_Poster

Released: 6/1/2012

I really enjoyed Maleficent, the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty.  I had hoped that Snow White and the Huntsman would also live up to or even exceed the original.  I was greatly disappointed.  I can’t imagine a more disparate acting performance in the same movie than Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.

Charlize Theron was incredible as the evil step-mother. She played the batsh*t crazy really well – like almost too well.  On the flip side was Kristen Stewart. I have a feeling that the director threw up his hands and just crossed out most of her lines and told her to walk around a look pretty – which to her credit, Stewart did well at that.

The downside to that was Stewart played Snow White – the title character.  As such she had way too much screen time.  I would have greatly preferred to see the evil queen’s backstory.  Was she always loony toons or did something happen to cause her to snap – twice the writers indicated it was the latter.  The first was her insistence that all men are evil.  The second was a completely incoherent flashback that didn’t fit in with the story and only served to confuse viewers more.

A focus on Theron would have made for a better movie – obviously she would have been on the screen more, while simultaneously giving us a better background for her character.  And the story would have made more sense – a little background on her magic, how she murdered the king would make sense, why the heck is she insane.    Even knowing the story going in didn’t help – the writers managed to make it a jumbled mess of a plot.

Snow White and the Huntsman was visually stunning.  The special effects almost made it worthwhile to sit through the writing and Stewart’s strolls.  Almost.  If they had focused on the evil queen, I think that might have been a good movie and it would have highlighted Theron’s performance.  Instead it was not worth your time.

 

WWYT Rating: 5.0

IMDB Rating: 6.1

Review: US Swimming Olympic Trials

Omaha
Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!

Aired: 6/26-7/3/16

In hindsight, we should have seen this coming.  After last year’s disappointing World Championships, we should have seen that the old guard would be replaced.  The average age of this year’s Olympic team is nearly five years younger than it was in 2012 (23 years old in 2016 vs 28 years old in 2012).  Two-thirds of the team will be in their first Olympics.

How will the youngsters fair in Rio?  There are some who consider the US Olympic trials the toughest swimming event in the sport — with only a maximum of two swimmers per event, third place gets left at home, despite frequently being a medal contender.  With that in mind, the Americans typically arrive at the Olympics much looser than they were for the Trials.

I thought the nerves showed – times were slower than what everyone is capable of swimming.  Despite the slow times the racing was terrific.  In an environment where second is first and third is last, everyone raced each other rather than the clock – and it led to fantastic finishes and heartbreaking results for some (several races saw people left at home by mere inches or a scant few hundredths of a second).

I expect most to swim faster than they did at Trials, but the Americans won’t be as dominant as they have been in past Olympics.  With the rise of Adam Peaty and James Guy from Great Britain, the Campbell sisters from Australia, and Hagino and Seto from Japan, the Americans won’t be the favorite in very many events.  But they will still be medal contenders in every event (except the women’s 200 Breast).

Now it is time for my quadrennial complaint about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics.  They.  Are.  HORRIBLE.  Let’s start with the lack of live coverage on the west coast.  They cover it live out East, but those of us in the Pacific time zone have to pretend the outside world doesn’t exist for three hours.  Next they didn’t bother to show every race.  They aired every day from 8-9, but they needed an extra 30 minutes.  Believe me NBC, you aren’t airing anything else worth watching.  Their coverage consists of 10 minutes of swimming, 20 minutes talking about Michael Phelps, and 30 minutes of commercials.  Finally, my biggest peeve as a 1500m swimmer myself is their shameful coverage of the 1500 – They showed 6 laps, cut to commercials, came back to an interview with Missy Franklin, showed another round of commercials, then showed the final 6 laps.  When they were actually talking about the race they were complaining about Americans not winning this event – gee maybe it is because you don’t show any of the race!  The race is typically broken into 500s; I would like to see how the best swimmers pace the race.  Can’t do that with the race interrupting all the commercials.  I have 1,000 different ideas of how to improve their coverage, but sadly they will never consult me.

The Olympics are a month away.  It is time for the swimmers to fine tune their strokes, starts and turns, get some yardage in before that final taper before Rio, where we should see some more exciting racing.