Shani Stallard Sports Contributor and Ad Astra Swimmer

Last weekend the UCD Swimming Team’s first squad travelled to Uppsala in Sweden to compete in the first leg of the Swedish Grand Prix Series.

UCD Swimming’s first squad consists of thirteen swimmers, viagra including myself, site who train in the pool eight times a week under the watchful eye of former Olympic swimmer Earl McCarthy. Our team includes International squad members, try Irish record holders and a Paralympic gold medallist, and some of us are fortunate enough to be supported by the Ad Astra Elite Athlete Academy and also by the UCD Sport Scholarship Programme.

The week running up to the competition is a little different for us than for any other normal week of training, even for a minor training competition like this one. The tough threshold and sprint type training sessions that we usually do, are abandoned the week of a competition, in favour of low level, recovery training. This allows our bodies to recover from the intense training that came before, and to prepare us to race fast at the upcoming competition. Morning training sessions are also cancelled in preparation, so that we can avail of a few hours extra sleep in the mornings.

We travelled from Dublin airport on Friday morning, arrived in Stockholm and checked into the hotel. Before we could settle in and unpack, we grabbed our togs and headed to the competition venue to do a light stretch out swim. The trip to the competition pool the day before the competition starts is crucial, as we will learn where the call room locations are for our races, and also where we can swim down afterwards. Minor things like where the changing rooms are, and where drinking water can be gotten, are also important to find out before racing, so that we can be as relaxed and as prepared as possible for our races.

Dinner, followed by a brief team meeting is had when we get back to the hotel, where breakfast and transport times are discussed for the next day’s competition. I then head off to bed early, to get a good night’s sleep before racing.

Race morning arrives, and the atmosphere in the group is more anxious than it had been the previous day. We are all eager to get to the pool and start our warm ups. Everybody has their own personalised competition warm up that they have developed after years of racing, and everyone also has their own routine for race day, from what time they put their racing suits on at, to what kind of music, if any,  that they listen to as they line up for their races. We all also have our own specific goals for this competition. As it is only a training competition these are mostly technical points that we have been practicing in training, and will now try to implement for our races.

The heats take place in the morning, then back to the hotel for lunch and a quick nap, and then we return to the pool for the finals at 5pm. On both days, UCD were very successful, and we had many swimmers returned in the evening for finals, and we even finished the competition with some podium places. Alex Murphy, a new member to the swim team, having just joined in September, finished first in both the 100 metre and 200 metre breaststroke. 2014 UCD Sportstar of the year, Shauna O’Brien, finished first in the 50 metre butterfly, and second in the 100 metre butterfly. I also finished second in both the 200 metre and 400 metre Individual Medley, which I was delighted with, especially because I had been able to implement technical aspects in my races.

We flew back to Dublin on Monday morning, with plenty of time on the flight back for us to catch up on missed lecture notes from Friday. Balancing student athlete life can be hard, but we were back in time to attend evening lectures, but were given Monday evening off of training so we could recover. Tuesday morning we were back to the daily grind of training, and with only a few weeks left before the qualification period for International competition begins, we were glad to be back in the pool, trying to make every metre count.