We have a full slate of conveniently located championships coming up in the next year! Here are four of them (and there are more):
- Apr 13-15: Colonies Zone Championship in Fairfax, VA
- Apr 26-29: USMS Spring National Championship in Greensboro, NC
- July 5-8: USMS Summer National Championship in Omaha, NE
- Aug 25: 1-Mile Open Water National Championship in Lake Lure, NC
About 35-40% of our memberships compete in pool meets or open water races, and only a subset of them venture to the championship events. While many derive motivation from the challenge, it can be a little intimidating for others, especially those who haven’t participated in a championship meet before.
So why do it? I read a recent article that answered this question from a cycling perspective, inspiring the following reasons.
Turning Back the Clock
There’s a saying: the older we get, the faster we were. Except it isn’t necessarily true for quite a few masters swimmers! Dara Torres isn’t the only one: it is not uncommon to find people approaching or even beating lifetime best times well into so-called “middle age.”
Swimming with the Stars
Larger championship meets are where you are most likely to see some of the big swimming names of yesteryear. USMS counts quite a few Olympians as current and former members, and every year USMS Nationals will have at least half-a-dozen of these athletes in attendance. And almost without exception they are all approachable and friendly, willing to share stories and tips.
Sure, it can be nice to marvel at the silky-smooth strokes of Olympians and former collegiate stars, but for my money the most impressive masters swimmers are the ones who overcome adversity to compete in the sport they love: health issues, work schedules, family obligations, age, the list goes on! Seeing a 75-year-old come home strong in a 200 butterfly — long course! — is every bit as exciting in its way as watching Michael Phelps win Olympic gold. And even more inspirational: most of us could only dream of Olympic gold, but the idea of being able to swim a 400 IM at age 70…that’s something we can strive for.
Because That’s Where the People Are
Bank robber Willie Sutton is well known (inaccurately) for explaining that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.”
Why go to championship meets? Because that’s where you’ll find the largest number of masters swimmers.
Whether you go as part of a small or large club, championships are a time when you get to connect, or re-connect, with people from all over the country. I’m constantly amazed at how small the swimming universe can really be, meeting former teammates and coaches from decades past. When I went to Masters World Championships in Stanford in 2006, I spotted a former coach of mine from when I was a 14-year-old living in Athens, Greece.
Even if you don’t have a long history in the sport, championships are where you can gather together with like-minded people from around the country.
Let’s be clear about something: nobody gets embarrassed at championship meets. Young or old, fast or slow, large or small, swimmers of all abilities, ages and body types are present. And they are welcomed and supported.
Some people thrive on a little friendly competition, while others enjoy the social aspects of meets. But that circled date on your calendar can help get you out of bed for morning practice, or out of that easy-chair for an evening swim. And isn’t that really what its all about: getting in the pool and staying fit?
So mark your calendars, enter a championship, and keep swimming!