20 January 2024
A beautiful pool named after the world's second tallest mountain should be inspiring ...
... and it was. But, racing long course for the first time in two years left me breathless and my whole body aching as if I had just climbed a mountain. That this otherwise wonderful & massive sportsplex did not have a separate warmup/cooldown pool made it all the more challenging!
Beyond the racing (which I'll get to soon enough), the day was a grand adventure. With our commitment to not having a car here and some engineering works on a key train line, the 80 mile commute required 5 different modes of transport ...
Northern Line from my home station of Totteridge & Whetstone to Euston
Victoria Line from Euston to the Victoria Underground Station
Southern Railways train from Victoria Train Station to Three Bridges
Fastway bus from Three Bridges to a stop about 0.5 miles from the pool
My feet the rest of the way (pics #1 to #5 taken en route, pic #6 taken coming home)
... and took a little more than 3 hours each way. As I have found that I love tubes and trains as transport, this was actually an enjoyable, stress-free way to travel, allowing me to listen to music and a Champion's Mojo Masters Swimming podcast, as well as make significant progress through the latest novel I'm reading, Babel by R.F. Kuang.
I anticipated my first event, the 200 back, wouldn't start until around 11:30am and didn't want to be up so early to make the 8:30am warmup, so I broke up my journey with an 8am, 1500 meter warmup at the Queen Mother Sports Centre (already #pool #652 ), a short walk from Victoria station, in between journey steps 2 and 3.
As for the events, let's just say that racing with advancing years is more an exercise of ego acceptance and ego abandonment than it is of ego gratification! Mind you, I have been training fairly hard since the start of the year, I had not rested for this and I had even told myself going into the competition that my times wouldn't matter.
But, when you get out of races #1 and #2 having gone the slowest times ever in your Masters Swimming career, humbling is nowhere near strong enough a word to express your emotional state. I did manage to get over myself before the second session to more fully enjoy the last two events and truly swim them without results expectations.
Here's what I did ...
200 backstroke - 2:35.89 vs. a Masters best of 2:27.40 (2011) and a previous "slowest ever" of 2:34.43 (2010)
50 fly - 30.75 vs. a Masters best of 28.39 (2011) and a previous "slowest ever" of 30.00 (2022)
200 IM - 2:36.86, which actually was NOT my slowest ever as that honor goes to a 2:38.50 effort in 2013, but my Masters best is 2:22.62 (2012)
100 fly - 1:09.67 vs. a Masters best of 1:02.34 (2011) and a previous "slowest ever" of 1:07.82 (2020)
Admittedly, it's a pipe dream to think, at 56 years old, I'm likely to get down to times from my early 40s, but the temporal toll the aging process is taking can be hard to stomach.
Putting all that grumbling and moaning aside, though, I did enjoy the racing and managed to execute my 100 fly well so that I finished strong. And I left the facility in that combined state of exhaustion and endorphin high that I absolutely adore from racing. I celebrated my efforts with a high quality burger and chips from this food stand by the station before making the long trip home, satisfied with effort well-put, and planning my racing for February, March and April!