Last summer I decided to swim in the FINA Masters World Championships (long course meters) held in August 2006 at Stanford University. Normally I wouldn't have even considered traveling to such a big meet, but I had just been asked to speak at a Sports Medicine conference that was accompanying the World Championships so why not? Never being a good long course swimmer I was not anticipating that I would place very high. I had eight weeks to prepare and I trained pretty hard with the Sun Devil Master's swim team, averaging 4 days a week and 2500-3000 meters per day. Wow, it paid off! I did great, placing 18th (out of 105) in the 50 m breaststroke (:35.4) and 19th (out of 90) in the 100 m breaststroke (1:20.5). I scratched the 200 because I couldn't stay six days at the meet. I am sorry that I scratched that race because I believe I would have placed 14th (out of 70) in that event with an approximate time of 2:55. To put these times into perspective, my lifetime best times (from 1974, the summer after junior year at Oberlin College) are 1:14 in the 100 and 2:43 in the 200. My goals for the next time I swim these long course races are to break 35 in the 50, break 1:20 in the 100, and break 2:55 in the 200. If can maintain or improve on my long course times before the next world championships in 2008 I have a shot at making the top 10 in each breaststroke event in the 55-59 age group. That is my goal. The only problem is that the 2008 Worlds Championships will be held in Perth, Australia. Am I that serious of a swimmer to travel around the world to swim in a meet? I'll have to think hard about that one.

Here are three photos taken by my wife, Debbe Simpkins, at the meet on Saturday, August 5 during the few minutes leading up to my 50-m breaststroke race.

Photo 1
 Stanford's competition poolPhoto 1 shows a wide shot of the men's competition pool at Stanford (further to the right was another 50-m pool for the women's events). There were 11 heats of the 50-m breaststroke for men 50-54 years old. The times shown on the scoreboard show the results for heat 9. I swam in heat 10 (second fastest heat).

Photo 2
 Just before the start of heat 10Photo 2 shows my heat as we prepared for the start. I'm the 3rd lane from the top (lane 8 out of 10). I wore a black Speedo Fastskin bodysuit for this race with a white Arizona Masters swim cap. It was one of the suits used in our bodysuit research study.

Photo 3
 Rick's out in front!Photo 3 shows the glide just after entry in the start. If you look carefully I have a lead of several inches over my nearest competitor, with my fingertips extending beyond the flags and beyond the blue lines on the bottom of the pool.

This is the first meet I have used a "track start" for my races and it appears to have been a success! It was not a "rear-weighted" track start nor a "front weighted" track start, but rather a "mid-weighted" track start. For me, leaning back slightly so as to get a good hand pull on the block (but not too far back so as to extend my time on the block) felt the most comfortable and fastest of all the variations of the track start that I tried. Rob Welcher, if others have success like mine with this mid-weighted track start, we are going to have to re-think our recommendations for the best start (based on our research we thought the rear-weighted track [or slingshot] start was the best)!