In less than a month, it will be our annual Association Championship meet. This year it is taking place in Corvallis, April 20 to 22. First of all, it is an excellent “middle of the state” location with a great pool and an outstanding organizing team. As you already know, it will be well-run, it will be fast and it will be a lot of fun with a lot of cheering and support from all the swimmers.
If you are new to swimming, I am sure you are still a little apprehensive and wondering what to expect. Here is your roadmap:
First and foremost– register. If you do not know which events to register for, ask your coach and time yourself at practice. This will give you the confidence that you can do it, and to be able to enter with a time. You are now committed and have a measurable goal.
Until two weeks before, keep your normal schedule, especially if you are new to swimming. Do not increase your swim load or mileage but keep the emphasis on technique, speed, starts and turns.
In the two weeks prior to the meet, you might start decreasing your mileage and start working on speed (how does it feel to sprint: faster tempo, faster kick to put you on top of the water!!) You also need to work on starts and turns. If you can, practice diving with your goggles, do they fall off? Practice your turns, mostly the nice push-offs with your two feet on the wall, the streamline under water, the flip-turns. Remember you do not have to dive or flip-turn, you can start from the water. A fast open-turn with a good push-off from the wall might be better for you than a flip-turn. In the last two weeks, most of your improvements will come from what you do outside of the pool: rest, healthy eating, and reducing stress as much as possible.
Last but not least, if it is one of your first meets, you are setting up your mark. Whatever you do is your own benchmark and an achievement in itself. Do not stress about performance, it will not be in the newspaper on Monday (however good or bad it might be). The Masters swimming community is very supportive, and both your coach and teammates will cheer you on, give you some tips on what to improve, recognize your performance and help you set up your next goals.
Now you are mentally ready to go to your first meet. What should you bring?
Extra towels and extra warm clothes: there is nothing worse than being cold. Once wet, the feeling of being cold will exacerbate, so you need to be able to dry yourself and keep warm to get ready for your next race. Don’t forget a pair of deck shoes (clean, non-slippery and easy to get on and off).
Snacks and drinks: The association championship is a pretty long swim meet which will last until probably mid-afternoon without any significant break. So be ready for it: you should have a nutritious breakfast before the meet, but you also need to stay hydrated and nourished during the meet. Keep drinking before, between and after each race. You should have your lunch and a lot of healthy snacks ready, such as fruits, nuts, sandwiches, pasta, etc. Personally, I am sticking with healthy, easily digestible food in small quantities throughout the meet and will not eat specialty bars, gel or energy drinks, but it is a question of preference. The important thing is to eat and drink before you feel starving and thirsty. Eat even if you do not feel like it, because of stress.
A camping chair: this is not required as there will be some bleacher seating, but it might be more comfortable and prevent you from having to sit on the deck if it is too crowded.
Extra goggles and extra team caps: both can break, and you do not want the extra stress just before your race. Association championships is the only meet in which we represent our own local team, so the team spirit is a key element. Showing your color thru wearing the team cap is nice.
Team spirit, a can-do attitude, sportsmanship and smile: this will be fun, you will meet new people, you will make new friends, you will achieve new performances, you will set up new goals and you will be motivated to go back to the pool the next week.
See you all in Corvallis!!!
And, adding to Collette’s suggestions….. Come and check the OMS Gear Exchange table and the Souvenirs table at the Association meet. The Souvenir table will have new items for sale, OMS caps, T-shirts, towels, license plate frames… cash or plastic accepted. The Gear Exchange will accept swimming things you don’t need (think… that suit that rubs, those paddles that hurt your shoulders…) and a selection of others’ donations that might be just right for you! Items at the Gear Exchange are free.