This is my first masters swim meet in New Zealand and of the New Year. It’s in the small Bay of Plenty town of Katikati. I’ve looked at some of the results from various meets around the country and noted that there are quite a few fast swimmers in my age group. The Taupo club seems to have a few of these and there’s a guy in his early 60’s called Les who is very fast.
It’s a leisurely start from Waiheke on a mid-day ferry followed by a drive of just over two hours. There’s even time for a power nap at the Katikati motel before walking a few blocks to the Dave Hume Pool for a 4pm warm up.
It’s an out-door 33.3m pool, a distance I haven’t raced since my teens and as I arrive, the last few casual swimmers are leaving. Inside, the lane ropes are being rolled out so I head for the changing room where 85 year old Syd spots me putting on my TAMS t-shirt (the rest of my gear has Out to Swim logos).
‘I’m an honorary member of TAMS’ he says and we introduce each other. It’s good to know I’m not the only gay swimmer here.
Kati Kati pool
There isn’t seating and we all find a spot on the grassy bank on one side. There are about forty swimmers and I get a warm welcome from one of the organisers who tells me I’m the first Team Auckland swimmer to come to this meet – he had to add the club to his data base. The next thing that happens is a woman introduces herself as Sue Pollard, and I’m thinking British comedy actress, who says she’s a colleague of Sara’s. Sara? I’m thinking hard and eventually twig (the brain is a bit slow these days) that Sara who has the weekend house down the bottom of my garden has told be about this woman. So Sue and I become fast friends for the rest of the day.
I’ve forgotten what events I’ve entered and there’s been no sending out of heat sheets. I’m in Event 1, Heat 2 – the 400 freestyle, so it’s best to get warmed up. There’s a guy behind me and Sue and I overhear something that suggests he’s from Taupo. I turn around and ask him if he’s Les. He is, so I shake his hand and tell him that he’s faster than me. At it turns out in the 400, around a minute faster – wow. As there are mostly two or three heats in each event, things go pretty quickly and I find there’s only one heat for the 200m Backstroke. The time’s a bit slow, but I’m the only one in my age group. It’s the same for the 100m Backstroke and Les tells me that his shoulders aren’t up to doing this stroke at the moment, though I’ve noticed that he did the 200m Individual Medley at last year’s Nationals. The whole meet takes less that two hours and Les wins all his races, I win two backstroke races and come third in all the freestyle while a guy called Mark comes second. Mark, however, wins a butterfly race so the overall result is that Mark and I share second place for the event and get a silver medal.
While we are getting changed, the lane ropes are rolled up and the barbecue lit to cook sausages and steak. There’s a great selection of salads and second helpings of steak followed by ice-cream. It’s been one of those lovely small meets but quite a challenge to do five races in that time. The main thing is that I’ve worked out my place in the pecking order in New Zealand swimming and what I have to work on for the long course Nationals in March.