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Learn the Pool

When you go to a swim meet, you can usually count on a 50-meter pool being 50 meters long… or a 25-meter pool being 25 meters long. But if you assume that all 50-meter (or 25-meter or 25-yard) pools are the same, you will be in for some big surprises during your race. Here’s how to "learn the pool" and use that knowledge to your advantage when you race.

Most people think that a pool is a pool is a pool. But in reality, every pool is different, with its own personality, its own quirks, and its own secrets that must be unlocked if you are to swim your best. Every pool presents unique challenges, and it’s up to YOU to turn those challenges into opportunities.

When you get to a new pool, don’t just thrash about with all the other swimmers, trying to get in a standard warm-up. Instead, use the warm-up to study and LEARN the pool so that you won’t be surprised by its unique aspects during your big race. The worst thing that can happen to you at a swim meet is to approach a wall at RACE SPEED, only to discover that the markings on the bottom of the pool are not like the ones in your home pool.

This week we’ve been in Boston, working at a terrific pool, but one that has an incredible number of challenging markings on the bottom. That’s because it is an L-shaped pool that can be configured for either short-course or long-course swimming. Take a look at some of the cool aspects of this pool, and think about how you would handle them — and even use them to your advantage in a race.

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In a pool that can be configured for either long course or short course, there may be two sets of "Ts" at the end of your lane. There might be a standard "T"– as well as a line that continues AFTER the T. If you blink or space out as you swim over the T, you could end up crashing into the wall (painful) or jamming the turn (definitely SLOW).

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Oh man… it’s like a "T" PARADE! This is what happens when a long-course pool is used as a short-course pool. If you don’t pay attention on your way in, you’ll be flipping just a TAD early, and you’ll be pushing against NOTHING when you stretch your feet to the wall. That quick BACKWARDS swim to the wall will CERTAINLY add a few seconds to your time.

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At least there’s only one "T" here… but if you’re in lane 2, 3, 4, or 5, you have that extra line to contend with. Did you use your warm-up to figure out how which of those markings is a better cue for your flip turn or breaststroke extension, or will you wait until your first race to figure it out? In lane 1, you don’t have the extra line, but you have to deal with that quirky "T" coming in from the left. Did you notice and rehearse that difference during warm-up, just in case you end up swimming in lane 1?

Make sure, when you arrive at a pool you’ve not seen before, that you walk around the pool and look at the markings… especially if the pool is used for both short-course, and long-course swimming. Pool designers want to make sure the proper lines for BOTH are on the bottom, but sometimes it’s necessary for them to lay one over the other, and it can be a bit confusing. After taking a scouting trip from on deck, continue your studies when you get in the water. I

It’s GREAT to train in a pool like this, because you’ll seldom be surprised when you travel. We may have a few more photos next week… stay tuned.