I was a bit apprehensive to sign up for this swim meet. Because it was an “all ages” meet, I suspected it would be mostly kids, and I was worried
Considering I’ve never done a swim meet, I had a fairly easy time setting goals for each of my events. US Swimming has a list of “motivational times” for people of different age groups. There are several tiers of times, ranging from B-standard to AAAA-standard. My times in practice for the 50y freestyle and 100y freestyle were within one or two seconds of the B-standard, so my goal was to hit that B-standard for both events. Striving for mediocrity!
50 yard freestyle—0:31.99
100 yard freestyle—1:09.39
Going in, I was more confident in hitting my goal in the 50 yard freestyle than the 100. My fastest 50 in practice was a low 32 (so close) whereas my faster 100 in practice was right around 1:11 (still at least 1.5 seconds off). However, I wasn’t extraordinarily attached to these goals. This was my first swim meet ever, and I wanted enjoy it and learn a lot.
I was a bit apprehensive to sign up for this swim meet. Because it was an “all ages” meet, I suspected it would be mostly kids, and I was worried I would be pretty much the only adult there.
I woke up the morning of the meet and checked my email. The meet director had sent out a list all the heats that would be swum. I scanned through, looking for heats assigned to the “17 and up.” I only saw two… both with a single, lone swimmer. And, of course, I was that single, lone swimmer. I was literally the only adult who had signed up for the meet.
“Are you sure you still want to go?” Rob asked after I told him.
“Yes,” I said. “I already paid for it.” (I like to selectively ignore what I learned about sunk costs in my one college economics class when it suits me.)
I would be the only adult, and I would be literally the only one swimming in my heat. At least I was going to win my age group!
The swim meet wasn’t until the afternoon, so in the morning, Rob and I headed to his company’s employee sale with a friend/co-worker of his. There was a lot of standing in line and a lot of walking around. We found some great deals. Rob’s haul included a bike trainer and a pair of $300 cycling shorts, both purchased for a dollar a piece.
The sale was worth it, but by the time we got back to Rob’s place around 12:30 or so, I was relatively knackered. I fit in a quick power nap and felt a little better (though still somewhat fatigued). We left for the pool around 2:40 or so and arrived around 3:15, just in time to check in for the meet and warmup.
I headed to the check in table and gave them my name. I decided to embrace the awkward, so I announced, “Yeah, I’m the only adult” to the guy checking me in.
“Oh yeah! When I saw that an adult had signed up, I was going to sign up. But my boss needed me to work instead.” I silently cursed the man’s boss and gave an internal sigh of relief. At least one person here didn’t think I was a total idiot signing up for a kid’s meet.
I warmed up with an easy 300, two 100 yard builds and a few starts. There was at least one benefit of being an adult at a kids’ meet—I think all the kids were afraid to hop in my lane, so I got to warm up in a lane all by myself.
After warming up, I sat on the deck, surrounded by a bunch of kids while they all swam their events. There were a bunch of high school guys who had pretty clearly never swam and were there for a good time. I’ll admit that it was a little funny to watch them get totally defeated by the races. One kids dragged himself out of the water halfway through his IM (individual medley) and moaned, “I think I’m gonna stick to football.”
Before I knew it, it was time for my 50 yard freestyle. I couldn’t understand the commands the starter was giving very well (megaphone in a bustling pool area), but I knew the noise to listen to for the start. I crouched down in the blocks. BEEP. I dove into the water, focusing only on getting streamlined quickly to avoid losing my goggles. The goggles stayed on. And I started swimming. The 50 yard freestyle is an all-out sprint. Start as fast as you possibly can and lose as little speed as possible. I felt strong coming into the wall and executed a solid (for me) flip turn. I held up my speed well through the second half of the race, only started to feel fatigued during the last 10 or 15 yards. I hit the wall with some force (to make sure I activated the timing pad). I popped my head out of the water and looked at the scoreboard, which was tracking time. 30.04. The woman timing with a stopwatch on deck gave me a time of 30.23. I wasn’t sure which was more “official,” but I honestly didn’t care. I was thrilled either way. I hopped out of the water and gave Rob a big grin and a double-thumbs up.
The woman running the meet came up to me after the 50 yard freestyle, told me I had swum well, and asked if I swam with a Masters group (was I just recruited? Who knows!). She also asked if I had a kid swimming in the meet as well, but she didn’t seem creeped out when I sheepishly admitted that I did not. After talking with her, Rob and rendezvoused on the stairs for a couple minutes afterwards, and I told him how happy I was with my time before heading back down and waiting for my heat of the 100 yard freestyle.
I hopped up onto the blocks for the 100 yard freestyle. The horn sounded, and I took off. Since the 100 is not (for me) a full-out sprint, I was a little worried about going out too easy or going out too hard. After the first lap, I felt tired but not spent and decided to keep up my pace as well as I could. My final turn was subpar, and I didn’t get nearly as much of a push off the wall as I would have liked. The last 25 was strangely familiar because it felt very similar to the last 100 of a 400m running race (which was a distance I ran pretty frequently in relays in high school). I was working so hard but felt like I was barely moving… and I had no real idea how fast or slow I was actually swimming.
I (finally) hit the wall and came up gasping. The big scoreboard showed 1:04.94. Shocked, I climbed out of the water where the woman on deck told me I had swum 1:07.1. I was a little confused considering the gap between those two times. This time, despite knowing that I would be absolutely thrilled with either time, I did care some which one was correct. Two seconds is a big discrepancy.
Rob and I took off after I was done swimming. He spent half his afternoon watching me swim about a minute and a half, and I didn’t want to force him to spend more time watching a bunch of kids struggle through the water. And I was ready to not be the sole adult in a sea of children. As we left, I asked if the official results would be e-mailed out. I was told that they would be, but I haven’t received them yet, so right now I’m waiting to see if I hit a 1:05 or a 1:07 for the 100 yard freestyle.
As I expected, I’m very glad I decided to face the uncomfortable situation of swimming with a bunch of kids. I was thrilled with my performance in both races, which far exceeded what I thought I was capable of. I’m looking forward to signing up for at least a few more meets over the winter and getting a better idea of my potential as a swimmer.