I'm not a swimmer. I used to be a swimmer. Now I'm a triathlete who is a faster swimmer than most (but a slower cyclist/runner than all). Somewhere between the two I was a rower. I'm not a rower anymore either.
There's a huge difference between being a good swimmer and being a good triathlon swimmer. In most triathlons I do, I finish easily in the top 10% of the swim, even in ironman. Masters swim races... not so much. I'm lucky if I'm seeded anywhere near the top 50% (and, assuming I wasn't overly delusional about my seed time when I submitted my entry, I'm lucky if I can finish in that top 50%).
There's an even wider disparity if you just look at age group rankings. I'm still usually top 10% in my age group in triathlon swims. But in pure swimming races? Ugh.
While some of my recent best times are good enough to qualify for Masters Nationals, they're certainly not good enough to even put me in the top 25, let alone anywhere close to the times of the top 10. The time standards are low enough so that more people can/will attend, which makes a lot of sense and is a good idea to boost participation. There's no such thing as a professional Masters swimmer, so why wouldn't they welcome all comers?
Why am I writing all this? I keep thinking I'd like to make a run at Masters Nationals one year soon. While I'm sure the trip would be fun, I really only want to go if I have a decent chance of finishing well (I don't feel like traveling far away to sit in the bleachers for hours at a time waiting for a two-minute race, just to get DFL -- I did that enough of as a youth swimmer).
But then I think about Open Water Masters Nationals. There's an event I might be able to train for and that would cater to my talents -- which is the ability to go slow for a long time. I'm still not at the level to finish in the top of the pack, but I'd be a lot more competitive than in a pool swim. That and Hannah could probably go off and have a decent time for an hour or so, and come back and watch the finish. The only thing worse than traveling far away to sit in the bleachers for hours at a time waiting for a two-minute race, is then having to sit around some more and watch that two-minute race.
Of course, she wouldn't even have to go at all. It's not like you can hear or see your supporters in a swimming race, especially open water events. I could just tell her how I did! And since Hannah doesn't check results online, I could "win" every event. Hmmm.