The setting - a beautiful Saturday evening - right around sunset, the event - the final heat of the men's 1650 at the New England Masters Swimming Championship. This was the scene for an amazingly scrappy victory on behalf of scrappy athletes everywhere.
As many of you likely will not know, and would have otherwise found out only in the 2012 Olympics, FINA (the world-wide governing body for swimming) banned the ridiculous high tech suits that were that were only affordable to rich kids and fat old men beginning January 1, 2010. I thought to myself, "Hazaah! No longer will I compete at a disadvantage at masters swim meets. But then, (assuming that the masters governing body is a bunch of large old men that enjoy how these high tech suits slim their muffin-top waistlines and cut as much as 30 seconds off of their mile times) the US masters governing body ruled that these suits would be legal through the SCY swim season. Which means that this last weekend, for the 1650, I again raced at an unfair disadvantage.
Not to worry folks - like I said, this story has a happy ending. After a pleasant morning of outdoor fun (a 2 and a half hour bike ride, and a 20 minute run), a meeting, and a nap, I arrived at the pool for my race. I stood amidst 6 large backed, broad shouldered, men in blue seventy racing suits (shown below). Many of these men were fit, but there were a few whose bellies protruded well beyond the intended curvature of the fabric. There were 6 of those, and then 2 (myself included) without those shoulder to toe cheating machines (again, shown below). The other rocked a straight up speedo. I'm not even talking a small, tight speedo. This guy was wearing the kind of suit that Gered wears. Bright blue, a size or two too big, and hiked up to about half an inch from his belly button.
"Take your mark... BLURP." And we were off. I had every intention of taking out the first 300 or so harder than would be considered wise by most swimming coaches. I wanted to simulate an open water race start, in which I would need to sprint out ahead into the open water. Unfortunately, as it turns out... I've got no pop. I went out in what I felt was a sprint for the first 100 to find that I only split a :57. Now I don't know your experience with swimming, but for me, this was not a time I would expect to see when sprinting. I went a :57 in practice the other day. It showed in the race too. I made no ground on the others in the heat in that first 100. In fact, Mr. bright blue speedo, pulled out way ahead. A little disheartened, I figured that if I wanted to achieve my goal (breaking 17:00) I would have to maintain the effort I went out in. So I continued sprinting. Sprint, sprint, sprint, sprint... and one by one, everyone around me fell behind (except scrappy speedo man - who remained about 6 seconds ahead of me).
Around 600 I thought to myself, "Wow I'm holdin' up pretty good here!" Then about 200 later things started setting in. I started to get what Emily's family would call "leg-lock" on each turn. My quads would lock up from the bike ride earlier that morning. Still, I was able to maintain things at about a half second slower than the first half. I held my ground on king scrappy at 6 seconds behind for the rest of the race, and together we whooped all those cheaters in their fancy over-priced suits.
Next year, scrappiness will have to be achieved in some other way, as the playing field will be leveled by reasonably comparable racing suits. I guess me and speedo man will just have to win by more. :-)