WARNING! Videos contain Joe with his shirt off! You have been warned!
There is a first time for everything, and for me, this was the first time competing in a Swim Meet. The Love to Swim 2017 Meet at the Vancouver Aquatic Center.
The group I swim with, Sea Hiker, is now a registered club and therefore able to compete in meets. I took this opportunity to sign up and see what it was all about.
I had a general idea what the event would be like, but realistically had no idea. I got there early and along with fellow Sea Hiker and Coach Powell athlete Alison, we claimed the bleachers closest to lane 1.
As more and more Sea Hikers arrived, I began to get a better idea of how the day would progress. Each event had a set amount of heats and lanes for each heat was already assigned.
At 9:45 am, the pool opened up for warm up. I did a few laps and was feeling very good. 15 minutes later, they opened up 2 lanes for start practice. We had 3 options for starts; Dive off the starting blocks, dive from the pool deck, or start in the water. I took a go at diving off the block. Everything went great until I hit the water. My goggles did not fly off, but they did shoot straight back into my eyes, then filled with water. I could have taken another test dive, but in my mind this would not help. If I tried again and everything went fine, then I had a 50% success rate. i did not like these odds when it came down to the actual heats. Many people suggested putting my swim cap over my goggles. I know from experience that my swim cap would start to slide up. I also knew that wearing 2 swim caps would cause me to overheat. I was content with an "in pool start." It's what I know and what I am comfortable with.
The meet started off with the 400 meter freestyle. I was was not competing in this event, but several teammates were. I opted to do the 50, 100, and 200 meter events. I know how my anxiety gets when I do something new like this and did not want to do too much for my first meet.
I watched my fellow Sea Hikers as they raced their events and cheered them all on. Soon it was time for my 100 meter swim.
I made my way to lane 7, informed the timing officials I was going to be doing an "in water start" and waiting my turn. My heart was racing. I was hoping it would calm down once in the water. The whistle blew for us to take our starting positions. I jumped in the water, grabbed the pool desk with one hand and put my feet up on the wall.
The start sounded and I was off. I know I am capable of a 1:36 100 meter in a 50 meter pool, and this was a 25 meter pool, twice the wall push offs. I knew I was going to have a great time if I pushed it. The one thing I had not planned for was the anxiety.
I could feel that my heart rate was higher than usual but not to the point of stopping. Right before the wall I realized I was very close to the lane divider. I forgot I had the whole lane to myself. I made it to the wall, turned/pushed off and was on my way back to the start. One more down and back, I said to myself. I made it to the wall, turned/pushed off and was over halfway done.
Then it happened.
I started to feel cold. Then I could not breath. Then my vision started to go. That was it. I am going to swim to the wall and drop out. Only 75 meters in and I was ready to drop out.
I made to the wall and was ready to signal to the official. I needed to catch my breathe and regain my sight. I took 4 or 5 deep breathes, regained my vision, then got mad. What the hell was I doing!?!? Having a panic attack during a 100 meter swim? STUPID!
At the time my brain was calling me stupid, I head butted the walk 3 times, let out my frustrating audibly, then pushed off the wall for the final 25 metes. I made it 20 meters before my arms felt like lead. I kept going and made it to the wall.
I looked to my left and only saw that only a few people had finished ahead of me. I did not look at the times. I was pissed. I found out later I had come in 3rd in my heat with a time of 1:35.52.
I was mad. Although I had made great time. I was mad. I could have come in at 1:30 and possible made 2nd in my heat. I was pissed that I had let anxiety ruin what could have been an amazing heat.
After taking some time to let my body and mind calm down, I went up to the stand to talk to Jen. I told her how it went and she showed me the video. In the video I could see my right come staying straight during the recovery. That is the tell tale sign that I was pushing too hard. I was sacrificing form/technique for power. If I had form/technique with power, I would have done better and maybe even been calmer.
I went back down to the team bleachers to watch and cheer on my teammates while I awaited my next event.
There was a 30 minute break for lunch and Jen came down to join us on the bleachers. I did not want to eat anything as my 50 meter sprint was coming up.
The time approached faster than I would have liked.
I did a few warm up laps then made my way to my lane. Luckily my lane was lane 1. Right next to were we were sitting.
I approached to start, let the officials know I was going to do an "in water start," then it was time.
The whistle blew and I got in the water. The start sounded and I was off.
I was pushing hard but for a 50 meter that was fine. I made it to the wall and proceeded to turn. My turn was not as smooth as it could have been and I may have wasted a few seconds. But as I was turning, I could see that almost all the other swimmers were right there with me. Almost an even heat.
I turned on the gas thinking I could edge out a few of then with a sprint finish. Halfway to the finish, I began to feel my heart rate go too high. I glanced up to see how far I had left to go and decided it was a short enough distance to keep pushing. I made it to the wall to the cheers of my fellow Sea Hiker team.
I stood in the water desperately clinging to the wall trying to find and then catch my breath. After I had not responded to the cheers and "Good Jobs" of my teammates, there was a series of "Are you ok?" I shook my head no and they gave me some space as i got out of the water.
My whole body was shaking. The adrenaline mixed with the physical excursion was taking it tole on my entire body.
I grabbed my towel and immediately start down. Jen was still there and helped calm me down. My teammates came to check on me and congratulated me on my heat. Once again, I did well, but knew I could have done better. Although there was no panic attack or stopping, I was still upset with my time. 0:39.47 and either second or third in my heat. I know I can do better and especially in a 25 meter pool.
I ate my lunch and watched to the other events while I waited for my next heat.
As I watched the other heats I got to know some Sea Hikers who I had never met. We were a loud, encouraging bunch and it helped take the edge off.
I watched some of the other teams as well. During the 200 Individual Medley, I saw a man who was about a foot taller than me and bigger than me as well. He was absolutely crushing the medley. His butterfly was faster than my front crawl. I turned to my swim coach and said, "So much for me saying I don't have the physique for other strokes." I spoke with that swimmer later and found out he swam at the Junior level for 15 years and at the Masters level for 10.
There was also an older man who walked with a cane that competed in several backstroke events.
It was quite the menagerie of swimmers, but from end of the spectrum to the other, we were all having a blast.
My next event was the 200 meter. But before that happened, there was a mix up with the relay team. We did not realize that the 4 person relay teams has to be comprised of 2 men and 2 women. There was a scramble to reorganize all the teams. We needed one of the men to step down, so myself and fellow Sea Hiker Matthew, took part in the most epic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors I have ever played in my life. I ultimately lost but was fine with it. I was already feeling pretty spent.
Soon it was time for my last event, the 200 meter. I decided not to go fast on this one. I was done trying to race the other lanes, chasing numbers, and being disappointing when the numbers were not achieved. I would to my 200 meters as if I was doing a training swim.
I made my way to the lane, informed the officials of my start, got in the water, and started my swim. I swam with long smooth strokes constantly repeating which lap I was on with every stroke. After 50 meters I had a rocky turn but kept on. On the last 25 meters, the timing board was on my breathing side. I glanced up with every breath. Only 2 swimmers had finished! I could take third. I turned on the gas and continued to glance at the board. I knew I had third place.
When I got to the wall, I looked up at the board. 4th place. Someone had sedge me out by 3 seconds. I laughed. I was feeling good. I was not out of breath, shaking, or exhausted.
With my last event done, I changed out of my swim shorts and then watched the relays teams before heading home.
Despite the frustration of my first 2 events, the day was a ton of fun. Now that I know what to expect both mentally and physically. I look forward to signing up for the next meet.