I mentioned in the previous article that I was wary of making the same mistake a I did for my first race in the Worlds. It’s something that niggled at me in the run up to the competition, I was determined to leave nothing to chance. I would get to the pool early to make sure the settings on the outdoor blocks were the same (they weren’t), to get familiar with diving off said blocks and with the pool, and I would make sure I am in the call room ready to go with plenty of time. Ironically this plan probably cost me.
To get to the pool for the morning warm up I had to get up before the rest of the family and go. It was raining, but I decided to just wear a rain coat and leave the umbrellas for the others. Unfortunately, the rain was very heavy, and I got completely soaked. Even things in my bag got wet. I didn’t take much notice, I got to the pool, did my warm up, and got used to the blocks. I felt confident as I got out and looked for showers. I get cold easily and ended up shivering after this and every other swim in the outdoor pool, so I really needed a hot shower. For some reason there was none to be found. I tried the changing rooms for outdoor pools, nothing, the ones for indoor pools, nothing. I had to try and make do with a lukewarm shower that didn’t really help. My tracksuit pants and shoes were soaked through, so I had to make do with my hoodie, t-shirt and shorts. The day was cold and damp. In hindsight I should have stayed around the indoor pool, but I was so worried about missing my heat I sat in the poolside café. I did look for air dryers for my tracksuit but couldn’t find any in the changing rooms or WCs in the outdoor areas. So, I foolishly stayed around for an hour or two before going to the call room where it was a little better. I soon settled into my dryland warm up and went through the rigmarole of a call room.
The Big Swim
On the deckside it was raining and cold, most people if they came out from under the tarp that the timekeepers were under, only set their blocks and went back in. I set mine, put some water around my suit and did my last few warm up bits. The water was because of a recommendation for Carbon Flex suits, this was my first time wearing one. It also helped get rid of any shock when I hit the pool.
This first race was the 200m Freestyle, one of my best events, in fact the best over the last twon years if I’m honest. I went into it with some goals; I would get a PB (specifically I wanted to get 2:10 or better), I would get top 20, and I would win my heat. I had a plan and race pace, the first 50m was comfortable fast and I aimed to get near the front of the heat. The plan in the second 50 was to push things a little bit more than I usually do, from previous races and my anaerobic sessions it should have been ok to do this. Things went a little awry on the third 50 and it felt a lot tougher than I expected, still I managed to hang in for the last 50 and won my heat. Unfortunately, I only knocked a few micro seconds off my PB and didn’t get the time I had expected. My first 100 was on target, but the second was off by at least 1-2 seconds compared to what I normally do for the second 100. It is a little disappointing, but I have to keep in mind that I am getting older, it is still a lifetime PB and compared to my first Europeans in 2016 I am 3 seconds faster now. Even better, it felt great to win my heat and to hear the announcer call out my name, my family got to see my swim and I ended up getting ranked 10th. My highest individual ranking ever in one of these competitions. Of course, numbers were down compared to Budapest and London but looking at those results I would have been ranked 24th and 16th respectively, so I’m very happy with that. If I look at it objectively then I am happy with it, but there is still a sting of what if.
One of the best things about these events is the warm up pool. We don’t usually get them in Ireland. It makes a great difference and feels fantastic to get into a pool when heavy with lactic acid and swim 600m flushing it all out. When I got out I still couldn’t find any hot showers, but I did find 4-5 dryers, seemingly the only ones there. I must have looked crazy, but I dryed out my tracksuit and shoes so I was finally able to warm up a bit. Even better the sun came out a little, so my family and I made the most of the sun loungers.
With the first swim over and my recovery work done I was very relaxed before my 100m Fly. Being honest this was because I didn’t expect much from myself. I had a target earlier in the summer, but shoulder issues meant I couldn’t do nearly enough fly as I had wanted. I was also going into this event with a very low ranking, so low I was one of the slowest in my age group and was put into a heat with older guys. My goals had therefore changed to; stick to the race plan so I don’t die, and don’t go over the qualifying time. This would be my second time ever swimming this event long course. The race ended up going fantastically well. I was behind on the first 50m, but I had expected that. I swam the first 50 with an easier more undulating style, but in my “comfortable fast” speed. I was so careful on my turn to touch correctly that I ended up “sticking” to the wall. As soon as I surfaced for the second 50 I switched my style and picked up the pace. I knew within a few meters that I was going to pass the people next to me as they seemed to flag a little. Focusing on technique I managed to maintain it and speed. For the second time I hit the wall first and got to hear my name called out by the announcer.
A look at the screens next to the pool showed that I had met the target I had set myself, I had also gone 4 seconds faster than I ever had before as a masters swimmer and 2 seconds faster than I had ever gone as a youth swimmer (even more if you convert that time from short to long course). Things got even better when the rankings came out and I had climbed up to 17th. It also looks like I broke the Munster record for that event, I’m currently waiting for official confirmation.
I had a rest day after this, so I could relax and try to soak in what I’d achieved. I was really looking forward to the rest of my races now.