Hey--thanks for all the great comments!!!! It is so inspiring and encouraging to have so many of my co-conspirators here with me in the ether.
I just finished my first day of competition. The meet began yesterday with the distance events, and I spent some time there, watching awesome swims (including 4 new national records--one in the men's 90+ category!), counting for someone for the 1650, getting a swim in to get more used to the pool. Then I came back to the hotel, got out of the sun, and watched Ellen. How great is that?
The PP arrived after dinner, and we had a little pow-wow, making a plan for the morning, getting my head in a good place so I could go to sleep. He is so smart, the PP, and so able to help me be smart in my thinking about big races and so forth. How great is that?
I even got a decent night's sleep (no hockey players in the vicinity), and choked down a little breakfast. Meanwhile, it was POURING DOWN RAIN outside. This was at about 6:45. Warm-ups started at 6:30, so I think the meet timeline was set back a bit, given they were using the word "hail" in the weather report on local TV.
We drove through MORE RAIN to the pool, but by the time we got there it was not raining (only 110% humidity, I'd guess). I found a good spot to plop down my towel and bag, and we got the lay of the land. The first event was the 400 IM, so there was plenty of time to look around before getting in the extra pool to warm up.
One real benefit of doing kids' meets was having the experience of warming up in a lane with about 16 other people--that made the warm-ups here NO PROBLEM. 6 people to a lane? No sweat. How great is that?
After the 400 IMs were over, they opened the competition pool for more warm ups and starts, then the 50 FL was the first event.
They are running 2 separate courses here, the "odd pool" (where I belong--heh) and the "even pool," with the odd heats in (guess which?) and the evens in the other. I preferred calling them dual pools, but whatever. Anyway, I went to the appropriate pool and waited for my heat.
In the heat before mine, a woman false started and was therefore disqualified. I felt very bad for her, but tried to refocus as I got to the block. They called the "take your marks," then we waited, then they made us stand, and 4 of us, including me, dumped into the pool.
Great, I thought. DQed in my first race at Nationals. But it turned out that the announcer had spoken over the loudspeaker after the take your mark, and the first false-starter had responded to that, so we were all cleared. How great is that?
Got back on the blocks, got a new start, and I swam :32.93, half a second off my best. Given that I was treating this as a warm up--and there was the crazy false start thing--this was just fine. The odd thing? I didn't get flustered by that false start, once I learned I could get back on the block and swim. The sad thing is I missed 10th place--and so a medal--by about a tenth. But that's OK: that's not what I was supposed to do in that race.
Then after warming down I waited around for a. long. time. Even got a little nap. Then I listened to MAKING THE ULTIMATE HAYWIRE for a while, got psyched, cooled off in the warm-up pool, and went to the blocks for the 200 BR (my target event, and the one I always dread in meets because it is so painful).
The really odd thing? I was nervous, of course, but SO MUCH less than I usually am at meets. I went to the blocks, they called for the start, my goggles stayed firmly in place, and I felt like it was going to be a great race. I pulled out of my streamline, got into my rhythm on the first length, with 7 strokes on the first length. How great is that?
My other lengths got a little less efficient, a couple of 8s, a couple of 9s, and then 10s and 10+s. But throughout the race, I felt GREAT, like I knew how to swim this race, like there was no question whether I could make it through the whole thing.
I finished with a time of 2:49.72--a best time by almost 3 seconds! HOW GREAT IS THAT????
I sat down for a second, got my wind back and got the little spots to go away from my eyes, and reveled in that moment, of knowing I swam a good race AND being able to see the scoreboard to know what the finish time was. I was the only person in my heat who did not swim in one of those fancy fast suits, and that felt kind of cool, too. But THEY did not have my lucky purple swimsuit, picked out for me by the PP and our friends from Asheville who came down for my last meet in Greenville. And who knows the power of the lucky purple swimsuit?
Warming down felt so good--being done with that race, and having honored my coaches and competitors with the best swim I could give--it all felt great.
And then I realized: given that my swimming background is summer league, and so outdoor meets, I had a natural advantage in this meet that I never have in the indoor meets. Swimming in that beautiful blue sun-filled water just felt so perfect, so cold, so familiar.
So one day down, and the PP and I are trying to decide what to eat for dinner. How great is that?