Kingdom Masters Gala 2013

Last Saturday, I had my first swim meet for 2013, the Kingdom Masters Gala. This was a short course meet and was held in Tralee, Co. Kerry. This is a very nice pool and one that I hadn’t competed in for a few years so I was looking forward to the gala. Also, I’d recently restarted training with Fermoy SC so I was looking forward to seeing how I performed after some club sessions…

I arrived at the pool early, having driven across Sliabh Luachra, and armed with a day’s supply of wine gums (a gala essential). Once the gang from Dolphin SC, with whom I would be hanging out for the day as I was the sole representative from Fermoy SC, we started the warm up. I never manage much of a warm up at galas and this wasn’t an exception. I finished up after about 850 m, but wasn’t the first so didn’t feel too guilty!

Photograph – Kingdom Masters SC (Facebook)

My first event was the 400 m freestyle – my personal best (PB) for this event is 4:39.90 but that’s a very old time which I aspire to break at some juncture. I was placed in Lane 3 of my heat with two 52-year-olds on either side of me and Carol Cashell in Lane 1. It was a great race, I felt much better than my last 400 m at Mallow Masters late last year. I finished up with a 4:55.25 which, while not great, I was reasonably happy with as it was ~5 s faster than my swim at Mallow. Carol finished with a 5:07 which was faster than her seed time but she felt she could have been faster as she was suffering from a head cold.

I then swam in the 50 m butterfly which was just for fun. I didn’t think that I swam very well but finished up with a 31.50 swim which is a PB for me – I don;t get many PB’s these days! My next event was the 100 m freestyle which was a disaster. My PB for this event is 1:00.10, just shy of the magical minute mark, but I was well behind in my heat and finished with a 1:03.91 so wasn’t too pleased. I really need to work on turning my arms over faster for that one…

There was a huge spread put on for the break, which may have been the downfall of a lot of the swimmers for the afternoon session! I only had two events left: the 200 m freestyle and the 100 m backstroke. My 200 m freestyle performance was not great, as usual. I swam a 2:22.25 which is a good 10 s off my PB. I’ve never liked the 200 m anyway as it’s not an all-out sprint like the 100 m but not a distance event like the 400 m either so I’m never sure of how to approach it. My 100 m backstroke time was a bit off as well at 1:16.48, my PB is 1:13.50, but I still enjoyed it as I always enjoy swimming backstroke even if it’s not that fast for me.

In total I came away with four gold medals and one silver (no, the 19-24 age group os not the most competitive in Irish masters swimming). The silver was in the 100 m backstroke and I lost out to Arif Yilmaz of Mallow Masters SC who posted a 1:03.62 (yes, faster than my 100 m freestyle time that day) so I wasn’t too put out! It was a great gala, good fun and very well organised, well done to Kingdom Masters SC.

The benefits of training with someone other than yourself…

As you may know, I do pretty much all of my training on my own. Most of my swimming is done at the Mardyke Arena (membership is compulsory as a UCC student), but I also do the odd session in Fermoy Leisure Centre and at Source Health & Fitness. While all three of these pools are regular short course (25 m), indoor, heated, chlorinated pools, they are each very different to swim in, for reasons that I won’t go into here for fear of sounding like a downright poolside fascist! Suffice to say that trying to get any proper training done can be “frustrating” at times…

Photograph – Unknown

The pool in the Mardyke Arena, UCC. My usual training haunt…

Anyway, rant contained and moving swiftly on! My average weekday training session at the moment is usually between 3,000 m and 5,000 m and is done at the Mardyke before lectures around midday. Sometimes, I’m lucky and the lane is quiet so I can train reasonably well, but other times, it’s busy and any attempt is futile. Occasionally, I’m extra lucky and I get to train with someone! In my opinion, no matter how focussed you are, it is always easier to apply yourself when training with others. Maybe when you do a lot of swimming on your own, you really look forward to the company. I found this especially true during my Channel training, when the club sessions came as a huge relief.

Last Friday, I was joined for my regular Mardyke session by Sunday’s Well SC swimmer and international triathlete Chris Mintern. Chris is a first year student at UCC and lives just around the corner from the pool so it suits us both to do the odd session together. Here’s what last Friday’s session looked like:

We warmed up with 2 × 250 m freestyle while Cork Triathlon Club were finishing up their early morning session. Even though I’d been up for over two hours already (it’s a long bus journey and walk to the Mardyke from my house), it still felt like one of those stupid o’clock sessions that I did as a club swimmer! Chris suggested that we start off the main set with a bit of “distance”, as he called it, so  we did 3 × 400 m freestyle, turning around on 6:00 and coming in on 5:16, 5:07 and 4:57. I could only manage a 5:00.78 (I used to be faster) at the Mallow Masters Gala the week before, being faster in training than I am in competition is new to me…

Photograph – George O'Keefe

Chris Mintern wins the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim 2012, surprising no-one.

Next we decided to finish off a bit of a session that I had left over from earlier in the week. The turnaround times were slow so we decided to push the swims. The first part was a steady 4 × 200 m freestyle, turning around on 3:30 and coming in on 2:25, 2:25, 2:28 and 2:25. These again were good times for me as I don’t often go under 2:30 in training, though these would be fairly normal times for Chris. Next was 4 × 100 m freestyle, turning around on 2:00 and coming in on 1:09, 1:10, 1:09 and 1:08. Again, I was delighted to get these times as I almost never go under 1:10 in training, which is a bit embarrassing when you consider that the main himself, Trent Grimsey, turns around on these times!

We eased up then with 200 m backstroke at recovery pace and with 5 minutes left to spare, we decided to do some sprint work (I thought that that was what we had been doing for the last half an hour), which consisted of 4 × 25 m butterfly sprints, turning around on 1:00. It’s just as well all open water races are freestyle! I needn’t say any more… Finally, we cooled down with 100 m freestyle at recovery pace and called it a day as Chris had a very exciting-sounding “abstract algebra” lecture to go to.

For me, that was a quality 3,300 m session and well worth the 5 hour time investment for a mere 1 hour 10 minutes in the water. Being able to train with one of Ireland’s top triathletes, or indeed anyone with the type of attitude to training and sport that Chris has, is a real luxury and great motivation. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know that someone else is feeling the same pain as you! I should also point out that all of the above times are from push-offs as diving ist verboten in the Mardyke…