I recently returned from Slovenia where I competed in the LEN European Masters Championships in Kranj from 1st - 9th September. There were over 6000 Masters competitors attended, ranging from 25 - 95ish years old.
I returned with 3 silver medals, 1 best time in my 100m Breastroke, and some new friends and acquaintances from both the UK and across Europe.
I would never have thought to visit Slovenia on holiday but I'm so glad that I had the chance to go. It really was beautiful, very reasonably priced, and it's always a pleasure to swim long course in an outdoor pool - particularly when the thunder storm didn't start until 2 heats after mine...
My preparations for the competition had gone really well. I'd increased my training, particularly land training, and focused much more on breaststroke quality work & swimming underwater without breathing.
Then I contracted a mystery infection which left me in hospital for a couple of days, on strong antibiotics and in need of rest.
I was unable to train for 2 weeks. This was 3 weeks before travelling to compete in Slovenia.
I decided to still travel and just see how things went. The number of breaststroke races I have done over the years I figured my instincts and experience would get me through a race - even if I couldn't manage great times or medals. I was due to stay in a house with 6 other UK Masters swimmers who I felt sure would look after me if necessary.
The first event was the 50m Breaststroke. It wasn't a great race for me, I didn't feel that good and the time wasn't my best, but I got a silver medal which I was so happy with.
The next day was the 200m Breaststroke. This event is hard to fake fitness. I felt a bit better than the day before. I took the first 100m fairly steady, then was pleased to find I was still in touch with the leader, the same Italian lady who had beaten me the day before. However, I hadn't shaken off the Israeli lady in 3rd place, it felt like she might pass me. The second 100m was an excellent race. I raced the second 100m 1.5seconds faster then the Italian leader and she beat me by just 0.1 second. Another silver medal but it was such a brilliant race I wasn't disappointed at all.
I had a couple of days to rest and prepare for the final chance to race, the 100m breaststroke.
It was to be the same line up. A Russian lady was also seeded faster than me, but I had beaten her on both the 50m and 200m so didn't expect her to be a problem.
I took the race out as fast as I could and really attacked the final 50m while holding a long stroke. I was rewarded with a PB and another silver medal. Couldn't get that elusive gold, but I raced my best and left nothing out which is satisfying.
The experience of staying in Slovenia was wonderful. I loved spending time with other Masters swimmers.
On a personal note one of our rental house has returned home to be diagnosed with cancer and given weeks to live. He is marrying his long term partner. It does bring home the importance of experiencing life to the full and making the most of these wonderful opportunities to do what we love.