milemeet.jpg (276101 bytes)SLAM Short Course Long Distance Meet
February 8, 2009

(Click here for photos)

The day arrived for the swim meet, something I never dreamed I would do again. I was calm, cool and collected, well except for one brief moment. Josie, Betty and I rode to Ladue High School together for the meet. This was the first swim meet Betty has ever participated in. Iíd say she was the most nervous of the three of us. I donít think she had ever watched a meet so this was a big unknown for her.  Betty had an awesome swim.

We arrived and checked in at the pool and hung out for around 15 minutes. At 8:15 we got in and warmed up. The Ladue pool is cool and clear and this forced me to swim the first 2 or 3 laps fast to warm up. Josie and Betty both confided that the very deep water of this pool was unsettling at first and I hadnít even noticed that, but the pool is built for deep for diving and our YMCA pool is not.

St Louis Area Masters (SLAM) puts on this meet and it is a casual and laid back event. The meet started with one heat of swimmers doing the 1000 yard swim. Josie, Betty and I counted laps. During long distance swims volunteers have a bundled set of big plastic cards with numbers written on them to count laps for the swimmer. The numbers have a handle and the counter drops them into the water as the swimmer comes to the wall so they can see the number. When the swimmer has one more length to go an orange card is presented to let them know they are finishing.

Josie and I were in the second heat and Betty in the third. Josie would swim in lane 4 and I in lane 6 of this 8 lane pool. The official announced our names and then our lanes and it was at that moment standing at the end of my lane that I felt really sick to my stomach. I didnít panic; rather it was more of a foreboding acceptance of the unpleasantness to come. I was sure this was just a flashback of my past and forced myself into a better mental place. Again it was cold starting in the water but this time I was racing and by the time I hit the first turn I was warm. The first 500 my breathing was hard and I knew I couldnít sustain that pace so I focused of pulling hard and keeping my kick steady. Long distance is all about efficiency and there is no way you can sprint the entire effort. I concentrated on working at the highest level I could attain and hold. Around 500 yards I could see the timing results on the wall and I was in the 7 minute range and that pleased me. By the time I reached 1000 yards my goggles were too foggy to see clearly but I could tell that I was in the teens and the first number was not a 2 or 20 plus minutes. 

For me the race was a string of little challenges, get the first 500 yards done, ok now youíre close to halfway, get to 1000 and then youíre more than halfway. Once I hit the 1000 then it was simply a 650 and mentally that was a nice place to be. When the lead swimmer in the heat reaches the starting end and has two more lengths to go the race official will blow a horn or in the old days they would shoot the gun. Around 1300 I kept waiting to hear the gun. Iíve swam with Josie enough to know that she should have been getting close. Whereís the gun? ďCome on Josie!Ē  I thought to myself. Then I heard the horn blast and wondered if she was in the lead. Prior to swimming we had decided that it would be totally cool if this happened, and yes Josie did win our heat.  Once I heard the horn I powered through the water until I had two lengths to go, then I just gave it everything I had left.

milemeet2.jpg (313120 bytes)Betty was next and all I can say is incredible. Her focused form kept her steady through the entire distance and I think she surprised herself with a time that was quicker than she anticipated. It was a good day for the three of us, a PR for Josie and me; well I just dragged those ghosts of swimming past out of the closet and kicked them to the curb!