Choosing the events
This year, for the first time since 2016, I didn’t need to use the Irish Masters Open to prepare for a larger international gala. This meant I had a little bit more freedom in the events I wanted to do. So, in January when I sat down to do my entries, I started to look at events I was curious about doing. Two that popped out were the 1500m and the 100m Fly. I swam the 100 fly back in Slovenia, but my splits in the 200 IM that week have me convinced that I can do faster. While I have swam 1500m in open water events in the past I can’t rely on the times because of wetsuits, currents, weather, dubious measurements of both time and distance, and of course a lack of walls to push off. Things then got a little complicated.
I have decided to have a short racing season this year, and because of various family events I realized in January that I would probably only have two galas this season after Christmas. The problem is that I plan on racing in the European Masters next season and I really want to be on the Masters Development Squad again. So, I figured I had to enter my “big money” events, the 100 and 200 freestyle, just in case I missed it in one I would get it in the other one. The first of those is the 200 freestyle, of course I know that I never do well on the first event of this competition, so I decided to put in something short as a first event that wouldn’t really create much lactic acid. The only thing available, but far away from the 200, was the 50 fly, which I entered. To top off my competition I decided to throw my name into the 200m Backstroke, simply because I was the only person in it last year and who knows, it could happen again. I felt pretty confident back in January that I would get pretty close to the level of fitness I had back in Slovenia.
The 1500m was on the Friday night, to help with counting I decided to do what I do in training for anything more than 100m. For the third length of every four I breath to my “other” side. I initially didn’t expect to do the full 50 of each of those lengths breathing to my right, but I fell into the rhythm and stuck with it. It worked a charm for counting, which was something I was worried about as I often get unsure of myself in 400m events. I did get worried around 700m as my arms started to feel a bit heavy, and even more so 100m later when one of my goggles started to slowly leak filling entirely over the next 200m. I picked things up for the last 200m and finished the last 100 as hard as I could. I did wonder why some people were waving me on for the last 50m, it became clear when I hit the wall, I just scraped under 20 minutes picking up a gold. Something I didn’t expect, but really hoped I would get, especially when all my training was geared for the 100 & 200 with one session a week spent on 400s. This is important for what happened next.
As soon as I entered the water for the warm up on Saturday, I felt that 1500m race. My legs felt heavy and I was sluggish. Never the less I stuck with my warm up plan and did feel better by the end. My first race was a “warm up event” but I was curious about what I would get because of that split from my 200m IM I mentioned earlier. It was a strange race, I took my breaths every 1-2 strokes to make sure I didn’t load myself with lactic acid. I hit the wall on 29 seconds, the first time since I was 19-20 going under 30 and my first time doing it long course, it also earned me my second medal of the competition: a silver.
For my 200m freestyle I donned my brand-new Arena Carbon Flex VX. I wasn’t too confident for this event, I reckoned a 2:14 would make the squad for next year and I figured I should be able to comfortably make this, but I wouldn’t hit my PB. I felt the race went well, the last 50m felt rough and I did think “uh oh the 100m is really going to hurt”. I hit the wall and was surprised and delighted to see that not only was I second, but I was only 0.2 seconds off my Slovenia time, earning me a silver. Not only could I now relax about making the squad, but I’m positive I can do better than that Slovenia time.
Wheels Came off
I was shattered after my 200m freestyle and had expected there to be more time between that and my next three events. I was a little tired getting up on the blocks but was confident that I would at least break the minute again. My breathing pattern on the first 50 could have been better, I honestly didn’t focus on my turn, but I definitely felt my legs as I pushed off. The second 50m was tough and by the time I hit the mark for 15m from the wall I could feel my stroke beginning to degrade badly. I hit the wall and just missed on breaking the minute by 0.17 seconds. Still I hit the wall second and won a silver.
I was now in very bad shape and knew the 100m fly was not going to be a PB and decided to just swim it as best I could. I didn’t even bother wearing one of my “good” suits and instead used one of my entry level ones. For the race I just focused on rhythm and technique and had a very slow turn so I could get more air in. This worked quite well all things considered and while tough, the 100 wasn’t as bad as I expected, and I was only two seconds off my Slovenia time and was my second fastest time ever in this event in a long course pool. Surprisingly this time earned me another Silver because someone else ended up adding more time to their PB than I did.
The 200m backstroke was right after the fly and 6 heats after my 100 fly I was back in the water. At this point I just wanted to finish it and just about did. I vowed to never choose an event on such a whimsical idea again and because two other faster guys were also entering this event, I had resigned myself to getting bronze. In a bizarre turn of events neither of them showed up and for the first time ever I won back to back golds in the same event two years in a row. Even more odd was that I had no competition either time.
Having reflected on the day and from talking to some people and our masters club coach realize I made the following mistakes: nutrition on the day was a bit off and I went off my plan, I did too many events thinking I would have more time between them, my taper was a bit off, and the 1500m took too much out of me. If I ever do have another go at a 1500, I will definitely do more distance training and will avoid any events the next morning. To add insult to injury by the time I got out of the sports arena and to a restaurant nearby my sinuses were stuffed and my throat was sore. I would miss the next week of training due to illness.
Still despite the tough afternoon I did get three great times for the first events, I should easily make the squad next year, and I came home with more medals from that competition than ever before.
Everything is back on track now, I just have to decide what I want to do for our home gala in a few weeks’ time.