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Tips for your first international Masters competition

Competing at your first international Masters competition can be a daunting prospect.

Different venue, different accreditation process, different training rules, different call rooms – it can all be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect.

Adam Freer and Rachael Coleman consulted with their teammates at Barnet Copthall Masters to come up with their top tips for those at London 2016 swimming in their first international Masters competition.

Registration

  • Register and enter for your individual events as soon as possible. If you are swimming in relays, a representative of your club will make the entries.

Accreditation

  • Until you have completed accreditation, you will not be able to access the Aquatics Centre to train, warm up or compete.
  • Check the accreditation process in advance – where you need to go, opening times and what documentation do you need to take with you. Expect long queues!
  • Upon completion of the process, you will be given an accreditation card with your name, age and the events that you have entered. It is important to keep this card on you at all times while in the Aquatics Centre.

Kit

  • Make sure you have plenty of spare kit – goggles, caps, towels and costumes, but remember you will have to carry it around with you.
  • Ensure swimwear is FINA approved – http://www.fina.org/content/fina-approved-swimwear. Remember no taping is permitted on the body.

Before your first race

  • Try to get to the Aquatics Centre on the training days – Monday 23 and Tuesday 24. This will allow you to complete accreditation, check out the feel of the pool and try the diving blocks (they have a back board for track starts). You will not be allowed to use the warm up pool on the competition days that you are not racing.
  • Familiarise yourself with the journey as well as the layout of the venue – location of the changing rooms, lockers (£1 coin) and call room.
  • Check out the local area for food. Westfield Shopping Centre has lots of cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. It can be very busy even midweek so be prepared to either queue or consider takeaway food or bringing your own.
  • Check swim schedules – sometimes programmes change.

Race Day

  • Allow plenty of time to get to the pool. If you will are travelling by tube and train, check times in advance and allow extra time for rush hour and delays.
  • Journey planner: https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/
  • Tube/DLR/overground status: https://tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status/
  • Driving is not the best option as you may have to go through the congestion zone (which will add to costs). Also, there will be no parking at the pool – only at Westfield Shopping Centre.

Warm up

  • Ensure plenty of time for warm up in the training pool or competition pool if you are the first event of the day
  • The training pool will be very busy. You may even want to consider warming up in an alternative location:
    • 25m – Oasis Sports Centre (near Covent Garden), Marshall Street Leisure Centre (Soho), Queen Mother Sports Centre (Victoria), Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Pancras Square Leisure (Kings Cross).
    • 50m – Crystal Palace, Ealing, London Fields Lido (outdoor heated)
    • Check website for details – http://www.better.org.uk/leisure
  • Make good use of the warm up. Have a plan for your warm up – practice turns and sprints off the block. Tailor the warm up to suit your needs
  • Be considerate of your fellow swimmers as overcrowding is likely
  • Use the opportunity to test your goggles and caps. Make sure they fit well and are comfortable
  • Leave your fins and paddles at home. Remember the pool is for warm up and cool down, not training.
  • Straight after warm up, get dry and change into dry clothes.

Call room

  • All events are marshalled and you must ensure that you arrive at the call room well in advance of your race. For 400s and 800s aim to arrive three to four heats in advance. For shorter races, aim to arrive up to 10 heats in advance.
  • It is essential that you take your accreditation pass as this confirms your identity as well as listing the events which you have entered. You will not be allowed to swim without it.
  • Make sure you have goggles, cap, towel and are wearing warm clothes (carry spares).
  • On arrival in the call room your will be directed to sit down in a row with other people in your heat. As each heat in the competition pool finishes, marshals will then move your row forward – until eventually it is your turn to compete. Use this time to prepare goggles and caps as well as to stretch out.
  • Keep warm and take a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated. Stay calm and relaxed. Limit time on your feet and walking round.
  • When it is your turn to race, marshals will direct you to chairs behind the lane blocks (once the previous race is underway). There will be an empty basket beside the chair for you to put your clothes into – you will be able to collect these after your race. You will have a short time to prepare yourself for the race – remove clothing, secure goggles/cap, etc

Post race

  • Swim down as soon as possible after completing your race.
  • Make sure you stretch, especially if you are swimming again that day or the next.
  • Refuel and rehydrate soon after racing.
  • If you are swimming again the same day, post-race is very important for recovery. Get away from the pool and find somewhere quiet to relax. If weather is good, there is a large park on the doorstep of the pool, but remember not to sit in the sun.
  • It may take a while for the results to be posted so be patient. The timing of the medal ceremony will be announced after the results are available.
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