Mark commented asking about the Masters Swimming deal.
So, I went to Swim Meister Tony for the answer!
Tony hit me back with:
USMS has a tool that is not only good for finding masters groups in your area, but also anywhere in the U.S. if you are traveling.
It's good advice to call first, as not all of the information is up to date. For example, the Blazers masters group, this list says the morning sessions are 6-7 am, and they have been 5:30-7 for a couple of years now. So, it isn't a completely accurate and comprehensive list, but it is definitely a good place to start.
I'll follow up with my experience.
Winter of 2009/2010 I knew I needed to improve the swim and I didn't want to hire a coach to do it. There is only so far reading tips on the net and asking friends can get you when you want to improve.
That's when Tony told me about KC Blazers. At first glance of their web site, it's pretty intimidating thinking that you will be swimming with former college swimmers and people that live in the pool. I was nervous but knew I needed to improve. It was $5 a session so the price was right and they had 5:30am group swims.
So, I packed my swim jammers and headed to the pool.
First of all, the weekday option was not as packed as I thought it would be. Ten lanes and maybe 15 to 18 people. They group by speed (which I realized later) and the "coach" lists out your workout and you hit the pool.
Tip 1 - Make sure you swim with people maybe a little ahead of your skill set. Don't pick too slow, you won't improve. Don't pick too fast, you'll get frustrated. Not sure which lane you need? Ask the coach. If they are worth the title of "coach", they will know where to put you.
Tip 2 - Some coaches spoon-feed the workout section by section. Some just blurt it out and you have to ask when you get to the next set. The good ones have a dry erase easel and write the workout on it so you can reference it. If you have the courage, bring your own small whiteboard and write it down so you can go at your pace. Some coaches like to monitor your group's performance, so keep that in mind.
Tip 3 - Ask questions. Fellow swimmers and the coaches usually have no problem helping you out. That's what the coach is there for... to teach you how to improve. Swim stroke, hip rotation, body position - there are all points I was instructed on.
Tip 4 - You are not alone as the "lesser swimmer". I would say 15 to 20% of the people there were triathletes. Of those, 5% knew what they were doing and the rest were trying to keep and do their best.
Whatever you can get done, be happy with. There should be motivation to swim fast to keep up with better swimmers and enough influence to teach you proper technique.
Heck... just sit there and watch the "pros" swim. You would be surprised at what you can pick up.