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

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