National Senior Games, Birmingham, AL

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I got the notice that I had qualified for this event last year, back in November. It said I had qualified to represent New York State in the games because of my performance in the NY state games. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go because I’d also qualified for the USA Triathlon Nationals in Omaha and I wanted to attend again. Problem was I didn’t want to do 2 long trips along with all the other short trip events I do throughout the year. So I decided to do the Senior games, I thought it would be great to represent the state of NY! Fast forward to June and it was time to make the 16 hour drive to Birmingham. I won’t go into the details of that but I’ll say it was uneventful which was a good thing.

My games consisted of 4 swimming events and a triathlon. Because my state games canceled the triathlon event for lack of participants I had to fill out a waiver to register for the triathlon. After submitting it along with some past race results I was accepted into the triathlon. My competition schedule was 50-yard breaststroke on Thursday the 8th, 100-yard breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle on Friday, 100-yard freestyle on Saturday then the triathlon on Sunday. I have to send a shout out to the Texas swim contingent of Brent, Coach Susan, Deb and Susan for their support throughout my 3 day’s of swim competition. Coach Susan, thank you for all the tips!!!

Event#1 – 50 yard breaststroke

My seed time was 5th best in this event. I was going to have to swim a personal record (PR) to make it into the top 3. That would mean I’d have to swim this a second faster than I had ever gone before. I was sure I could manage that but I was a little nervous because I felt a little winded when I was doing my warm ups earlier. But, knowing that I only had to swim one event, I could just go all out. I got a great start off the block but the guy next to me got a better one and popped up ahead of me as we hit the surface. He hit the wall after the first 25 yards just ahead of me. After I made the turn I really picked up my stroke rate trying to chase him down. I felt like I was gaining but it wasn’t enough as he touched the wall well ahead of me. I couldn’t see anyone else so I had no idea how I’d done when I touched the wall. I got out of the pool and looked up at the timing board…Seaton, Dale – 2nd place – 34:55, Woohoo, silver medal and a new PR by over a second!!! My heart was going a thousand mph…lol. Did I just do that, I said to myself! Wow that felt great. I couldn’t wait to get to the podium πŸ™‚

Event#2 – 100 yard breaststroke

I took a shorter practice session prior to this event. I didn’t want to do too much as I’d be doing 2 races today and I wanted to be rested going into the heat. I only did 2 practice starts off the blocks, one breaststroke start and one freestyle start. I have to admit the breaststroke start felt like one of my best! There was only 7 swimmers in this event and I had the 4th best seed time. The top 3 seeds had a 10+ second gap on my time so I’d have to swim out of my mind to get a medal. I didn’t let that phase me as I went into the race thinking maybe I could do it. As soon as I hit the water off the start I was in trouble…my goggles were full of water. Everything was cloudy and it completely through me off. I came out of my aero glide and pull way too soon as I panicked a bit. Once I hit the surface I thought to myself, well you don’t need to see, just go! That thought changed as I neared the wall and couldn’t tell how close I was. So I ended up gliding into the wall. I had to do that 3 more time before the finish. I got out of the pool and was dreading looking up at the time board thinking I did terrible. I took a look and it said Seaton, Dale – 4th – 1:22.06. I’d get a ribbon for that (only 4th – 8th place get ribbons) but I wasn’t happy. However after looking at the final results I was OK because I beat my seed time by .01 of a second and was only about 8 seconds from 3rd…I have some work to do to get there!!!

Event#3 – 50 yard freestyle

This would be the largest and most competitive field I’d be swimming in at these games. My 29.47 (my PR up to race time) seed time had me at 10th fastest in the heat of 10. That meant that I was the slow guy…lol. That was OK with me as I knew coming into a national event I’d be competing against the best in the country. I just wanted to beat my seed time and see where I’d finish. I wanted to at least make it into the ribbons! Off the blocks I hit the water and dammit, water in the goggles. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. Everything was a blur as I approached the wall for my flip turn. I did my flip but wasn’t close enough to the wall and didn’t get much of a push. Good thing I touched though or else I would have been disqualified. I just dug in and tried to go as fast as I could to the finish. I hopped out of the pool and look up at the board…Seaton, Dale – 8th – 30.37. Oh well it could have been better but hey, I get a ribbon and I’ll take it!

Event#4 – 100 yard freestyle

It was time to redeem myself in my last swim event of the games. I took more dives off the blocks to make sure my goggles were set and didn’t get water in them. All my practice dives were good except once when I got a little water on the left. Other than that I was good to go. My 1:11.01 (my PR up to race time) seed time had me 7th fastest so as long as that held I’d get a ribbon. The top 6 guys were really fast with the 6th place guy’s seed time being 12 seconds faster than mine. I’d have to swim out of my mind to make it to the medals so I was just going to concentrate on getting a PR. Off the start guess what happened…yup, goggles full of water. WTH, I couldn’t believe it. This was really going to suck. I did my first and second flip turns and I wasn’t close enough to the wall and got very little push off the wall. Going in for my third and final turn I looked at the bottom of the pool for the mark that shows you’re close to the wall. Now I’ve never used it to judge my flip but I had to try something. I spotted it then look up for the wall. I thought I’d better take one more stroke then I flipped. My feet hit the wall and I pushed…unfortunately I was too close to the wall and my push sent me towards the bottom of the pool. After getting my bearings and finally surfacing I went into a mad dash to the finish. Instead of gliding into the wall at the finish (because I couldn’t tell how close I was) I decided to just keep stroking. I knew I’d most likely slam into the wall but I didn’t want to glide and lose more time. I hit the wall and my HR was through the roof. I didn’t see how I finished because they had loaded the names for the next event. I had to wait for the results to be posted. I was sure I’d be dead last. They finally posted the results and I was amazed…Seaton, Dale – 5th place – 1:09.82 (a new PR). I don’t know how that happened but all I could think was how much better it could have been had I hit my turns! I think I did the first 50 faster than I normally do because I was trying to make up for the bad turns. That and only having to do one race helps you be fresh for the race.

Parade of Athletes – Friday night

For all whom have watched the Olympics know about the parade of athletes when the participants march into the stadium with their country. Well this also happens at the senior games but the athletes march in with their state. This was a great experience to walk in with all the other athletes. NY State had some what of a small group of 14 athletes. Some athletes didn’t know about it and some might have already been gone after competing earlier in the week or not have arrived yet for their event. I met a guy named Mike Veeder who was also going to be competing in the triathlon so we chatted it up about the tri. I told him that I planned on being the first out of the water! It was nice to chat with other athletes from the state who also competed in our state games. I’d never gotten to meet them because I was usually gone after being at the pool all day. Marching into the stadium and high five-ing the other athletes from other states and all the cheering was awesome. After we were seating listening to the speeches about some of the ages of people competing (3 people who were 103 years old) was just inspirational. I literally felt like a kid!

Event#5 – Sprint Triathlon

The day before this event I drove down to the park to check out the course. The first thing I did was walk the run course. It was all contained in the park and was laid out in 3 loops around the park. The first section was a gradual climb but nothing too drastic. I knew it was going to test me coming off the bike. A decent amount of the course was shaded so that would be a plus if it was sunny and hot! After I finished my walk I went to drive the bike course. I had watched a video of the course and it didn’t look too bad but when I got out on it I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. Lots of rolling hills with not much break in-between. There was one hill that was stretched out and I had a feeling that it was going to cause me to drop out of my big front gear. I know when I do that it was going to be slow going.

I didn’t sleep well the night before the tri. It seemed like the time zone change was finally getting to me. It was only an hour difference but that was enough to get my body clock off. I was also playing my game plan for the race in my head and that kept my mind going. I tossed and turned for over an hour before decided to turned the TV on to try and distract my brain. I think I finally fell asleep at around 1am. My hotel wasn’t far from the park so my plan was to get up at 5:30am to be at the park by 6am. I woke up a little earlier at 5am and got to the park just before 6am. It was already 74 degrees so I was anticipating a hot day. After getting my race packet and getting setup in transition it was time to go for a practice swim. We were told the water was 83 degrees and wasn’t wet suite legal. I had a lycra speed suit that I could wear but I didn’t want to waste the time to take it off in during the race so I didn’t put it on. I had on a new tri-suit that I’d never wore in a race. I’d bought it specifically for this race and had my last name and state put on it. I also put a shout out to my hometown on it. I’d done some bike practices with it on and it felt very comfortable so I was looking forward to wearing it in the race. However once I started to swim in it I noticed I was going to have a problem. The opening around my neck was catching water and lifting up away from my chest. Every time I’d take a stroke it was opening like a mini parachute. I swam out to the second buoy then turned around and headed back. Normally I’d have a wet suit on and this wouldn’t be a problem so I thought that if I put my speed suit on I’d be good to go but because I was wet I’d never be able to get it on. I couldn’t even get to my towel because it was in my bag and it was in the transition area which was closed. Oh well, I’d just have to deal with the drag! My game plan was to sprint out to the second buoy which was about 100 yards away. I was in the first wave and there was only 15 of us so I made sure to be up front for the start.

Swim – 1st place in AG.

On the horn I took 2 steps then dove forward. Three people off to my left got into their swim before I did. It was 2 guys and one lady with the lady being closest to me. I launched into my 100 yard freestyle swim and sped right by them. The lady got a little too close to me and I felt my foot hit her. It didn’t feel like it hit her hard but I needed to clear her so I put my head down and pulled away. By the time I got to the second buoy no one was near me. After I made the turn I relaxed and went into a slower pace. This was a first for me being out front on the swim and to tell you the truth, for some odd reason I got nervous thinking I might go the wrong way. I had to drop that thought and just take one buoy at a time. After I made the turn to head back to the beach I started thinking someone was going to catch me. As I got closer to the beach I took a few peaks back and caught a glimpse of a swim cap so I put it in overdrive because I was dead set on being the first out of the water. I kept swimming until my hand hit the bottom then took a couple more shallow strokes, then I stood up and took off. I heard the guy announce β€œAnd the first out of the water is Dale Seaton of Utica, NY”. That was exciting to hear!

T1 – 1st place in AG.

I was in an all out barefoot sprint down the shoot to get to the bike. It was nice that part of it was in grass which made it easier to run on. I’d pulled my goggles and swim cap off while running and felt relief that I wouldn’t have to pull off a wet suit. I got to the bike, put on my helmet and took off out of transition.

Bike – 3rd place in AG.

After I got mounted on the bike there was a slight incline out of the parking lot. I knew I needed to get my feet in my shoes quickly because there was a downhill section coming and I wanted to take advantage of it. I slipped my feet in my shoes then fastened the straps then I got on the gas. For the first time I was behind the guide motorcycle. I wasn’t sure what the temperature was but it didn’t seem all that hot which I was happy about. There was a fast decent on the road that led from the park but you couldn’t take of it for too long because there was a sharp right out to the main road so I had to hit the brakes to make the turn. After that it flatten out a bit until the rolling hills started. The hills were tapping me out though. One after another and it seemed like I wasn’t going fast. Just after 5 miles I got passed by the first guy. He was still in site as we made the turn at 6 miles to head back to the park. The hills seemed even more challenging going back the other way. I couldn’t do a thing as the guy that passed me pulled away. I would find out after the race that he rides these hill all the time and was use to the course. I made the last turn to head back to transition and it was a hill climb to get back to the park. That’s when the second guy passed me with about a half mile left in the 12 mile ride. Once I hit the top of the hill I prepared myself for my dismount by slipping my feet out of my shoes. With no hill to have to deal with I made up the ground on the second place guy as we turned into the transition shoot heading to the dismount line.

T2 – 2nd place in AG.

He stopped to un-clip and dismount his bike but I did a running dismount and ran right past him. I racked the bike, pulled off my helmet, put on my running shoes, grabbed my race belt with my bib and took off. I have to admit both my transitions were spot on!

Run – 5th place in AG.

My legs just didn’t want to get going after getting through those hills on the bike. The first part of the run was on a gradual uphill grade. The guy I had just passed went right by me early in the run and I couldn’t match his pace. There wasn’t anyone else near me so I just had to wait to get my legs back. That didn’t happen until about 2 miles into the run. The sun was high in the sky now and the temps were probably in the mid 80’s. I began dumping water on my head at the water stations to cool myself. There was no chance of me catching the second place guy so I just settled in to make a strong finish. I knew I was in third place in my age group but I had to wait to see what my overall finish would be.

I finished in 10th place overall out of 140, 3rd in my AG which meant I’d get a bronze medal. Certainly not where I’d thought I’d end up but as good as I could do on that course on that day. I guess I have a bit of a dilemma…slow down on the bike to save my legs for the run or continue to bank the time I gain on the bike knowing I’ll lose some on the run…hmmmm!

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