“The Micawber Effect”

Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield

Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield

In Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, Mr. Micawber has a simple solution for happiness.  ”Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result: happiness.  Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result: misery.”

We who swim think the same way.

When I did the ePostal 3000 in October, I had artificially set up a goal of breaking 50 minutes.  I knew I would not be fast due to some medical issues this fall, but that time seemed reasonable.  When I was done, my announced time was 50:30.50.  I was not miserable, as Mr. Micawber predicted, but I was not amused either.  Drat.

I went home, and, as is my normal practice, I reviewed my splits.  I’m usually pretty consistent, even when I’m slow, but my fifth 500 split was 48 seconds slower than all of the other 500s.

I started figuring each 50, since we did not have one of those watches that automatically figures splits for you, and discovered the split between 2250 and 2300 was 1:47.47. Voila!  My timer had skipped a 50.  I had swum 3050 yards.  My actual time for the 3000 was 49:42.26.  I was under 50 flat!  Hoorah!  I had a Micawber moment!

We swimmers do this all the time.  We set an artificial goal time before a race, and if we make the time, we’re happy, and if not, we are miserable, even when we win.  Instead, we should adopt the credo of the ancient Roman philosopher, Robertus Brutus, est quid est; “it is what it is.”

I am all in favor of goal times, but we should never let them determine how well we swim a particular event.  Finish is always first.  Did you compete?  Were you technically very good?  Then, comes the time, and the time is only a measure of that race in that pool at that moment.

So when you swim the Hour Swim in 2018 (you are planning to do that, aren’t you?), don’t automatically set a goal time that will make you happy or sad.  Work in these winter months to swim a smoothly paced race with even splits.  Work on good, long turns in practice so you can do them for 60 minutes.

Trust your stroke even when it doesn’t feel right.  That will get you through most difficulties.

Plan ahead on what you want to do regarding fluid stops, technique, counting problems and what you will do if the swim doesn’t feel well at any one moment.  And trust me, somewhere in any swim over 1000 yards there will be moments of frustration or angst.

Remember, too, that Mr. Micawber was an optimist.  He always felt that something good would happen in the end.  In swimming, that is literally true in every race.  You stop.

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