Marc Sze is heading into one of the most important swimming season of his life. A 5 year pillar of stability and inspiration for the North Shore Winter Club’s Marlins Swim Team, this season will be Marc’s last as he turns his life in a new direction as he chases down his PHD.
The good news is that Marc is a born leader of both athletes and other coaches. He’s been passing his knowledge on to other young and aspiring coaches at the club, and for Marc, the victorious legacy of the Marlins will inevitably reach new depths of prestige in 2015.
Sounds pretty great, right? Well, I wanted to ask Marc a few questions about his own history competing in the sport, as well as a couple questions that have absolutely nothing to do with sports whatsoever.
1. What were your favourite events as a young swimmer coming up through the ranks? Why?
When I was really young I liked the 100 and 200 metre butterfly events. When I was 12 I was ranked number one in Canada for a few months during our short course season. As I grew older I got jealous of the sprint swimmers and tried unsuccessfully to transition to become a sprinter. My dives and turns were never good enough to be competitive in those events. I transitioned back to butterfly in my last two years of swimming. I think because of this I understand how different the training really is for different strokes and distances.
2. What’s the best way to warm up before an event?
For race prep everyone is a little different. For me I would put my headphones on and listen to mostly rap and hip hop about 30 minutes to an hour before my race. At around 20 minutes to the race I would start rolling through my own activation routine, which included a lot of dynamic movement exercises. With around 10 minutes to the race I would start visualizing how I wanted to swim the race and how I would feel after each length. Most of this time was spent ultimately getting myself into the "zone" to be willing to swim to the point where everything burned and to then push though that, all while staying relaxed and maintaining minimal/constant breathing patterns and stroke rhythm.
3. What are your favourite events to watch?
I still like to watch 200 metre butterfly because I used to swim it a lot. Other events include the 100 metre freestyle because the hype, energy, and excitement before the race is a lot like the 100 metre sprint in track and field. Plus you have a lot of interesting characters in this race, for example, Gary Hall Jr would used to wear boxing robes and shadow box the entire time the announcer was introducing the athletes in the race. The final event I like watching is the IM or individual medley. These people have to be able to swim all four strokes pretty well and it is most similar to the decathlon in track. It is a little bit more of a cerebral race with people trying to maximize their best strokes while shielding their weakest strokes.
4. What are the toughest things about swimming?
Number one, the amount of training and distance you swim everyday. I probably averaged around 5.5 kilometres per practice since I was 11 years old. Mental toughness is another under-looked aspect. When you are behind that block it is only you against the rest of the field. If anything goes wrong it rests on your own shoulders and the preparation you did leading into the race.
Two, learning to love the water. I only say this one because in competitive swimming there is a lot of breath holding drills that are not for the faint of heart. We commonly did sets where you had to kick underwater with or sometimes without fins for 50 metres; no breathing allowed. Other times we would have to pull 75 metres without breathing or do sets where we would have 25 metres of no breathing and kick underwater but only get 5-7 seconds rest at each end.
However, in the end I came out thinking that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to since swimming gave me the discipline, determination, and focus that I have now in life.
5. If someone offered you 10,000 to swim to Vancouver Island, could you do it? Would you?
(Laughs) I had to look the distance up in google. It is 173 kilometres in distance. Some people would do this but it would take some serious training to accomplish. I prefer the pool for my swimming and don't particularly like swimming in open water, so you would have to pay me a lot more to get me to attempt this.
6. Name the last 3 movies you watched.
Hmmm… The Kingsman, Wild, and The Imitation Game.
7. What do you eat the night before a big event?
Typically the common staple amongst swimmers is pasta or some other form of carbo-loading. Going into the last day before a meet swimmers tend to stay away from "heavy" foods that take awhile to digest.
8. In the hit film Free Willy, Willy jumps out of the water to freedom over a young child. Is this possible? If so, can you train me to do it?
I don't think this would be possible for a human unless the barrier was small and you could push off a wall. I can try to train you to do it but you may not be able to practice anymore after the first attempt if it is a barrier like the one Free Willy jumps over.
9. Amazing. What’s the best part about swimming with the Marlins?
I think the team atmosphere that has been developed with the Marlins is excellent. Everyone genuinely cares about how each others kids do. The parents that are part of the program are amazing. I have to give them a lot of credit for trusting us with the type of program we wanted to put together and helping us continuously work towards making it happen. As a coach it has been great to have parents that support what we do and have seen the great atmosphere that we have created.
Honestly, I may have started at a different club but I couldn't see myself coaching anywhere else.