I came into this morning’s test set (after a slight detour, thanks to the construction workers blocking off Telegraph Road with no warning which sent me all the way to Van Dorn and back around the Beltway with no warning.) with a number in my head that I wanted to hit: 27.
Anything that started with those two numbers was a positive result. To this point, the fastest I had gone in a yard pool was 29.6 back in July. I went my fastest time in the meter pool at Mantua and the translation it was right around that 29 number.
But my goal going in was 27 and Jeff said if I swam a perfect race I’d definitely hit it. Well, you can say I achieved that goal.
In four races.
I hit one number three times. Exactly the same number. 27.8!
So, let’s start with the good. This is the number I wanted to hit. This is the number I thought would make a smile spread across my face. This is me achieving a goal I set earlier in the week.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t swim a perfect race. Not once. Something went wrong in all four races (I went 28.1 in the last one). So, what does that mean?
It means that I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to learning how to race. It means that even as I fought off a smile after the first race, I felt disappointed in the 27.8s after that because I knew I could go faster. It also shows just how perfect you have to be in a 50, because any one mistake will cost you. You slip here, you breathe wrong there, you flip wrong there and you can kiss your best time goodbye.
In the first race I knew exactly what went wrong. When Jeff said, ‘Go’ I pushed off as hard as I could from the block. Problem is, my back foot slipped. I seriously thought I was going to go belly first into the pool. I salvaged the start but started to shorten up my stroke as the adrenaline and nervousness crept into me.
I’m still not over that mental battle of “stroke harder to go faster.” I need to get into my mind that I have to keep my stroke nice and long and push down.
But I felt that if I could have a better start, I’d definitely best the 27.8.
Race No. 2 the adrenaline was still going. The start was much better and I liked my first 25 a lot. I got off the wall okay, but as I started to get into that second 25 my stroke shortened up again. It was the first observation of those who talked to me right afterward. I had to remember to keep the stroke long.
Okay, no problem. Fix this and you’ll hit somewhere under 27.8. Even though people have told you race number three is usually the toughest one.
And to be honest, I liked my third race more than any other. My start felt strong, my turn felt good and I tried to keep the stroke long in the final 25. I just think I was a little gassed and probably had a few problems with the short stroke again.
On the final race I had my cheering crew trying to motivate me to a 26. I really wanted to drop another second — as silly as that sounds — in the last race of the day. Or at least beat the stupid 27.8 I had heard all day long. I felt great on the start and the first 25 and took my first breath at the flags to get ready for that final 25.
The problem is I wanted to flip a tad closer to the wall to get a better push on the turn and I ended up taking an extra stroke and getting stuck because I was too close to the wall. I tried to battle back but I finished with the 28.1.
So that’s the breakdown, and all day long I’ve been going back through them in my head and trying to think of what I can do to improve. To me, there is one major thing in my head that is holding me back from getting a better time: strength.
I just feel like when I really try to have a long stroke and push through I get too tired too fast. So I’ll try to be better about my dry land and build some more strength where I think it’ll help me improve my times and my stroke.
Today really helped me to become more familiar with racing and all the nerves and everything that goes with it. I know how to mentally approach things a bit better, how to manage any nerves/adrenaline. Now my focus will be on getting out faster in the first 25 and giving myself a chance to go a 26 in the October Open.
Jeff joked that if I gave him six more months we’d have an even faster time, I think he said something like a 25. I reminded him I’ve only been doing this for a little over two months and have dropped from a 38 to a 27.
I know Jeff is going to kill me, but I have my eyes set on an even faster time in November. Again, I’m not going to say anything on here but there is a number in my head and that’s what I’m going to aim for. If I hit it, great. If I don’t, okay, but I’m aiming that high and I’m shooting for it.
For now, though, I’m going to feel positive about hitting that goal number of 27 — even if I didn’t swim my perfect race. If anything that just gives me hope that I can go faster and go faster soon.
Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio will train with a swim club over the next few months and chronicle his journey as he attempts to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer — everything from his waistline to his best times.