September 2, 2008

The Masters Swim Team

Today was the first day of practice of the (school) year for the UIUC Masters Swim Team. The term masters generally means old people. In running this means age 40 and older. In cycling it's 30 and older. In swimming it's generally any adult (18 and older).

I began swimming with the masters team in the summer of 2002, shortly before my first triathlon. I had only started swimming a couple months earlier and I was looking to improve with some sort of coaching and training regimen. It worked. Even in my very first triathlon I was near the front of the pack out of the water.

I enjoy swimming, but not to the extent I enjoy running & bicycling. If it weren't for triathlon I probably wouldn't swim at all. There, I said it. It was really helpful for my motivation to have a coach, a schedule, and training partners waiting for me four times per week. That's why I stuck with the masters team for the next couple years. When my knee injury sidelined my running, triathlon went along with it. I continued to swim for maybe a year or so, but as my knee continued to cause problems I eventually lost interest in swimming.

In the mean time, IMPE underwent renovations, closing both the indoor and outdoor pools. There was another pool on campus but it was much smaller and now had much more traffic, so it was pretty crowded.

After about four years off I started running again and it went well. Triathlon was the next natural progression for me, and that meant swimming. The pool situation was still less than ideal. I swam at the other pool on campus a couple times in the spring. In the summer I swam twice per week at the Crystal Lake Pool. By the end of August the renovations were completed at IMPE (now named ARC) and the outdoor pool was reopened.

Now it's time for masters swimming again. The team meets for 90 minute practices 5 times per week (all optional). Some people train for actual races (swim meets, or in some cases triathlons), others train for fitness, others are there to socialize, and others are there simply to learn how to swim better.

Every once in a while the team organizes practice meets where the team members race each other (for time) at various distances. I participated in one of these meets about five years ago and targeted the 1000 yard race. Most swimmers are terrified of racing that far. I kind of wanted something longer. Interestingly I also participated in a 4x50 yard relay because pretty much everyone else did it. That was an experience.

time lapse video of Rob racing 1000 yards & Joe racing 1600 yards at a practice meet in 2003

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