Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
So you remember my cousin TJ, right? The one who flings cats into pools to see if they can swim?
Well, he asked me recently if I’d feel comfortable using my blog to publicize a fund-raising event he’s involved with to renovate and re-open a pool in his northern Colorado community. And I said, “Heck, yes! There are days I debate using this blog to sell my children if I thought I could get away with it.” So helping my cousin do something that’s both legal and would benefit his community is a no-brainer.
And, almost even better, is the fact that the way TJ and his Loveland Swim Club compadres are raising money is crazy. Not like a little crazy. Like a lot crazy. They aim to get 3,942 individuals to each swim one length of a 25-yard pool in relay fashion in 24 hours or less (that’s an average split of 21.92 seconds per leg of this erstwhile relay).
Why 3,942? Because in January, 3,941 South Africans did it, and thereby got themselves into the Guinness World Book of Records (TJ’s a little fuzzy on the yards/meters differential, but he says their short-course yards pool fits the criterion). Anyway, if the community of Loveland can get this record back, I think it would do a lot to erase the sting of that 2004 Olympic victory by the South African men’s 400 free relay.
That plus it would help raise money to renovate the Loveland High School pool which has been shut down since 2002 when some authoritative agency deemed it “unsafe” because of its age and condition.
The Loveland High School pool was built in 1965. I would love to walk this authoritative agency through Mr. Coach’s current facility which was built in 1954. This should be its last year because the walls are going up, even as I type, on the new natatorium.
But a few missing tiles, a sinking foundation and a roof that lets in more air (and rain) than the actual ventilation system are no reason -- at least in our town -- to shut down a 55-year-old pool before a new one is built. Heck, there’s this one faculty member’s wife here who was complaining recently that she won’t swim in the current pool because the environment there is “completely toxic.” All of us who use the facility on a regular basis were like, “…and your point would be?”
(Actually I should never complain about people who refuse to swim in the current pool. Less people = more lane space for me.)
But in Loveland, they would probably love (no pun intended) to have too many people in a lane if it means they’ve gotten this particular pool renovated and back up to code. So what can you do to help? Well, if you’re within shouting distance of Loveland, fire up the snowmobile and get yourself over there to swim your length on the weekend of Nov. 6-7 at Mountain View High School’s pool. Conversely, if you’re already snowed in for the winter, then consider making a donation to this worthy cause.
For all the information you will ever need about this event, you can visit Loveland’s Web site. Tell ‘em TJ’s most fabulous cousin sent you.
Incidentally, the photos here were taken in our current facility by Marisa Obuchowski, one of Mr. Coach’s student-athletes, for a photography class. Isn’t it amazing how beautiful crumbling concrete and rusting radiators can look at the right shutter speed?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Anyway, the anecdote: Mr. Coach came home the other evening, proud to report that he had beat up good on the team that day. In fact he had beat up on them so good that afterwards, he said, he found one of the guys sitting in the shower eating an ear of corn.
Now a guy might read that and say, “Mmm, corn on the cob, that’s a good idea.”
And a girl like me would be even more stunned to hear Mr. Coach reply, “Yeah. Guys eat in the shower all the time. What do girls do?”
To which I said, “Shower?”
And even that isn’t exactly true because -- and ladies, feel free to back me up on this -- a lot of women don’t shower in public after their athletic workouts. They will go home to their dorms, apartments or houses with that flesh-eating layer of chlorine or grime on their skin and shower up in private. And even if you do shower in public, there’s not a whole lot of social interaction that occurs. Women may be champs at multi-tasking, but in the shower, we tend to be very purpose-driven.
But apparently there’s a whole other branch of the food-service industry going on in men’s showers. Now I knew about chairs being dragged in, because I had heard about that years ago (again, never seen it happen in a women’s shower and probably never will), but I never realized the chairs are sometimes there to accommodate food consumption.
But corn on the cob? Now, to be fair, Mr. Coach said that was a first for him, too. Usually, he says, it’s things like apples, bananas and granola bars, but an ear of corn is a food choice he applauds (mostly because he really likes corn, too).
However I hear that and I’m thinking this wasn’t like a random “open the fridge and eat the first thing you see” food choice. This took planning. And transportation. And then storage for a few hours in -- what? A locker that hasn’t been disinfected since the Roosevelt administration. The first one.
So to sum things up here:
Girl + shower + corn on the cob = No. Just no.
Guy + shower + corn on the cob = Where can I get me some of that?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Now, granted, most of the time it’s the coaches who decide who goes where. But for warmups, warmdowns and less structured workouts where you can choose your own lanemates, this is serious stuff. It’s like picking a fraternity or a sorority, except the workouts make it seem like the hazing never ends.
Lane selection can be competitive, sometimes even judgmental, and a certain type of prejudice called “lane-ism” can develop. I know of some high-school teams in the area who get rather hoity-toity about who gets shunted to the outside, slower lanes. To be a “Lane Sixer,” in one team’s lexicon, is a terrible thing. I don’t know, but if I were them I’d be afraid of the kids in those outside lanes. I’ve usually found the outside-lane dwellers to be intelligent and sarcastic. Show me a bright smart aleck who has found a reason to work hard at a sport they never win at, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to be signing Lane Three’s paychecks some day.
But with Mr. Coach’s teams, I’ve noticed that the swimmers mostly sort themselves out by communication patterns. Gloomy whiners (the “Eeyores, ” we call them) like to whine to each other. Dumb-joke specialists flock together and are ignored by the lanes on either side. Chirpy Pollyanna types are happiest together and no-nonsense masochists (often your distance swimmers) are unhappiest together. And Mr. Coach has identified a subspecies he calls the “Meek Tweezlies” who go wherever the Alpha Males or Females in their lives tell them to go.
Many lanemates develop bonds outside the pool as well. One group of Lane Four swimmers, past and present, will go out to dinner at local restaurants together and apparently are quite strict about not letting non-Lane-Four types dine with them on these occasions. Another recent group dubbed themselves “Lane Fun” and they’ve been quite aggressive with the recruiting. But that’s OK because they help each other create a happy water home.
The only type of lane you don’t like to see form is a Loveboat Lane because that always ends up being more like a Titanic Lane. Nothing sinks an aquatic romance faster than sloppy kickboard skills and fart bubbles. So if your coach tells you that you can’t swim with your GF or BF, just say thank you and go find yourself another lane. You’ve got plenty of options.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
(Besides, he’s done South Florida in late summer before. Nobody needs to do that twice unless they’re trying to lose weight from sweating.)
So Mr. Coach talked Little Mr. Coach and me into coming along with him, and we had a jolly time of it. There’s nothing like walking into a room full of balding or gray-haired guys and being able to still see exactly what kind of people they were back when they fit Size 28 Speedos.
Even scarier is asking someone what their event was and their answer is pretty much exactly what you would have guessed. 200 fly guys have a pensive look to them, like they’re still looking for the wall. Backstrokers are wired kind of loose, although a couple I met had swerved in a more introspective direction. Divers – still neatly tucked and pressed. Sprinters – still loopy as all get out. Interestingly I didn’t encounter any breaststrokers, which I guess means they’ve either become hermits or have a short life span.
The reason why the group was balding or graying was simple: The ISU men’s swimming and diving program was among the earliest casualties of the misapplication of Title IX. Though the Act of Congress indisputably created much-needed opportunities for female athletes in the U.S., unfortunately some schools chose (and still choose) to balance out their male and female athlete numbers by cutting sports like men’s swimming, diving, gymnastics and wrestling. ISU lopped off all of those in the early 1980s.
But these guys weren’t there to dwell on that, which is admirable. They were there to honor their old coach with equal parts affection and insults. You’d have to know their old coach to understand why. And a lot of people do.
Archie Harris is a well-known figure in U.S. and college swimming. If you don’t know him from when he swam, you know him from when he coached. If you don’t know him from his amazing work with the Easter Seals Foundation, then you know him as one of the tall old guys who have run the College Swim Coaches Forum in Ft. Lauderdale each winter for the last 128 years. Archie wasn’t the tallest of the Old Farts (as Mr. Coach affectionately and bravely dubbed them), but he was easily the loudest. And they all have an unerring sense for figuring out who the most authority-fearing and nervous member of a team is – and then going after them for imaginary infractions. They tried getting me once for bringing a glass juice bottle into the facility. OK, they were right, but they didn’t have to be so loud about it.
Archie is 86 now and he (and his wife Harriet) retired from running the Clinic about three years ago. My husband was very keen to have our son meet one of the most pivotal people in his own coaching journey. On the first night of the reunion, we gathered for a social at a hotel. Mr. Coach introduced our son to Archie who gently held his elbow and pulled him close.
“Do you say your prayers every night, young man?” Archie asked our son. And I got a little tear in my eye, watching my son nod nervously and I thought with just a hint of melancholy, “Oh dear, Archie’s finally gone soft around the edges.”
“That’s good,” Archie told him and he pulled him in even closer.
“Tonight,” he said, “when you say your prayers…I want you to get down on your knees and thank the Lord…that you take after your mother.”
Now, I ask you -- who would not want to swim for a guy like that?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The critical verb there is “made” because, while I know my daughter appreciates the opportunity to earn money for herself, the reality is Mr. Coach and I have been waiting for the day when we could have our own personal lifeguard. We’re not the first parents in our university community to do this. There are others who’ve gotten their kids certified for the express purpose of having a backup lifeguard for those days when the assigned lifeguard doesn’t show up. At a small pool with a small community of daily swimmers, it happens. But there’s nothing like being able to say, “Oh, I’ll just call Herbert and get him over here. He’s only sleeping.” And then, about 15 minutes later, you get in to swim while surly Herbert sits and watches and prays that his dad goes under just so he can not rescue him.
And now we can do the same thing to Little Miss Coach! For her certification, she got tag-team taught by her father and his assistant coach who are both Red Cross certified lifeguard instructors. Boy, was she psyched!
And she should be. Mr. Coach is very highly regarded in local lifeguard-certification circles, and most especially for his victim skills. As part of the certification process, the would-be lifeguards have to jump in and rescue drowning victims. Mr. Coach has two specialties: One is the Victim Who Doesn’t Float and the other is the Victim Who Fights Back.
Both “victimizations” are brilliant, but other instructors don’t like to bring Mr. Coach in for just any group of would-be lifeguards. That would be like using a howitzer to go bird shooting. No, rather, they tend to hold him in reserve for their big strapping college guys (and a few gals) who are going for the open-water lifeguarding jobs where they’re more likely to encounter difficult victims.
Your municipal and country-club pool guards might encounter a modified version of either the dead-weight victim who goes right to the bottom or the spastic-meltdown victim who could break your nose in a panic. But for the most part, they’re only going to be dealing with unsupervised 5-year-olds in the deep end.
In the open-water situations, that’s where a guard could go down with the victim if he or she can’t maintain control of the situation. So if a guard can get past Mr. Coach, you can rest assured they can wrangle in a drunken 27-year-old who can’t swim but decided to wade out over his head to retrieve a Frisbee.
But, for lack of any other victims this time, Mr. Coach was deployed on his own daughter. He decided to go with the Victim Who Doesn’t Float which I thought was an audacious choice, given that Little Miss Coach barely cracks 100 pounds on the scale. However I can understand the logic: Her skull is just as titanium-hard as his and the two of them have given each other black eyes before with accidental head butts. A Victim Who Fights Back would just be asking for another black eye.
So she brought in her dead-weight father without mishap, earned her lifeguard card, and now will be at our lap-swim beck and call. Who said parenthood was all give and no take? Certainly not us!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Anyway, the NCAA is divided into three divisions: Division I schools tend to be larger universities and, as long as they have the money (an increasingly shaky assumption), they can give out sports scholarships. Division II schools tend to be smaller public universities and they also can give out sports scholarship money, though not as much.
Division III is what I call the “Chariots of Fire” division: Its founding philosophy derives from ye not-so-olde days when sport was viewed as a lovely part of a well-rounded lifestyle for which monetary compensation was viewed with disdain (like in the movie “Chariots of Fire”). Where a student-athlete spent his or her day developing a research project to restructure a small East Asian nation’s debt load, completing a vigorous workout in the pool while discussing Emily Dickinson’s mid-career poetry between sets with the other sprinters, and then dining with local dignitaries on oysters, terrapin soup and roast duckling, whilst using the correct utensils.
There also used to be a requirement that coaches of Division III teams had to be academic professors. That died out a couple of decades ago, though there are a few genuine professor/coaches left, including Mr. Coach.
Division III as originally designed was a lovely sepia-toned vision of "mens sana in corpore sano” (that’s Latin for “a sound mind in a sound body”). But “D3” has pretty much gone Technicolor and High-Definition now in its pursuit of “citius, altius, fortius” (that’s Olympic Latin for “swifter, higher, stronger”). Consequently we’re left with a division that is peppered with programs where athlete-students don’t have the time to do anything other than eat, sleep, swim and attend a few classes.
But not all of them are like this. There are still a few Division III programs where you get an intriguing mix of overachievers who are determined to cram everything into their days they possibly can…and then some. About this time of the year is when Mr. Coach finds himself having many, many discussions about time management with his young charges.
“Do you think I can take four science labs this semester, Coach?” one will ask him as they sit in his office.
“Only if your goal is to have a nervous breakdown by Halloween,” Mr. Coach will reply.
“But only one of them overlaps with practice on Wednesdays.”
“Even if you weren’t swimming, you wouldn’t take four labs in one semester,” Mr. Coach points out. “If you do, then I have to notify Counseling Services.”
“OK,” the student-athlete will pause and reconsider. “How about three labs, one Habitat for Humanity house-building project on Sunday afternoons, and the first bassoon seat in the university orchestra?”
That’s when Mr. Coach reaches for the can of wasabi peas in his top drawer. It’s not easy, but somebody has to coach these kids.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
But this isn’t a matter of just matching a name to a face and a set of details that Mr. Coach has heaved at me (which usually goes something like, “He’s the one from Kansas…5:06 but never trained right…6’3”, 130…and, best of all, he put ‘Monty Python’s Holy Grail’ down on the questionnaire as his favorite movie”; Mr. Coach takes great pride in his questionnaires. You can definitely tell a lot about someone from asking what their favorite color, workout, book and movie are. Or whether they even turned the questionnaire in. [Insert judgmental-raising-of-one-eyebrow emoticon here.])
But back to me. No, the hardest part with matching these names to faces is that I have to learn how to match these names to two types of faces – one wet and one dry. Most people look completely different when they’re dripping wet.
It’s not as hard with the guys. Thanks to the vagaries of male growth patterns, there’s enough variety in their builds to give me a running start on positive identification. The challenge is when your beanpole freshmen guys return from a summer of massive growth spurts and suddenly have pecs and facial hair. It’s like meeting a whole new person.
But generally it’s the girls who are hardest to sort out because they wear caps and sometimes I can go an entire season without seeing their hair until one day, Mr. Coach and I are walking in town and he’ll say hi to some bright-faced coed with an explosive halo of frizzy brown hair and, after she passes, he’ll be like, “That was Araminta. You know, the one whose mom brings soup to the home meets.” And I’ll be like, “Whaaaat?” because the Araminta I’ve met and even discussed soup stocks with does not have that much hair. And yet it is Araminta.
Sometimes Mr. Coach will bring in a batch of freshmen who, through no fault of his or theirs, all look alike. There was a stretch of about three years there which I refer to as “The Blonde Years” when every freshman girl had a round Caucasian face, shoulder-length blonde hair and no bangs. Some of them graduated without my ever addressing them by name because I wasn’t sure if I was talking to Blonde No. 3 or Blonde No. 14. I had to have stern words with Mr. Coach and motivate him to put a little more effort into the brunette and women-of-color department. Thankfully he has and I’m back on track. And now I’m back for another season of matching names to wet and dry faces. Wish me luck!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Typically it begins a couple of weeks after the calendar turns from July to August. The subject awakens one morning (or afternoon, as the case may be). A stomach-acid panic attack suddenly grips the subject when it spies the pile of luggage and empty boxes that the subject’s mother has dumped on the floor of the bedroom some time during its slumber.
The subject stumbles to the bathroom and steps on a scale – only to discover that it cannot see the numbers on the scale because of the bulge of flesh blocking the view. The subject sucks the bulge in, only to confirm that it now has less than a month to regain the fitness and physique that will enable it to “fool” its college swim coach into thinking that it spent the summer doing triathlons, hiking the Appalachian Trail and putting a new roof on the local convent like it said it would back in May. (When, needless to say, the subject’s main accomplishment that summer had been something that involved five wooden palettes, 12 yards of surgical tubing, one herd of Guernsey cows, and a Latvian au pair.)
The subject lumbers into the kitchen where its mother has already laid in a supply of rice cakes and protein shakes. The industrial-sized box of Sugar Bomb Oaties has been discarded. After a 14-calorie breakfast (or lunch, as the case may be), the subject spends the next half-hour in the basement, digging through boxes still unopened since May until it finds a pair of goggles and a swimsuit, both caked with mildew but otherwise useable. And then it’s off to the local pool where the subject puts in a brisk 8,000 yards of swimming (half of it with a pull-buoy because too much kicking too soon is bad for the…well, it’s just bad).
The subject does not swim for the next five days but does ingest the maximum allowable daily dosage of ibuprofen and rice cakes. And it does go bike riding once with its grandmother who dusts the subject going up that one hill. The subject feigns a groin injury then drives Granny back to the nursing home.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, the subject maintains a scrupulous regimen of dwindling swim yardage, run-jog-walks around the neighborhood, more ibuprofen, and building a tan which would bespeak a summer of vigorous outdoor activity. By the time the subject returns to college, it has whittled two inches off a well-tanned waistline but gained an additional five pounds (all muscle, it insists). The coach takes one look at the subject, rolls his or her eyes, then says, “Open swim’s from 11 to 2 each day.”
Welcome back, kids!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
But that would also be to assume that Mr. Coach thinks in narrative form. And he doesn’t. It’s more like bullet-point form. And there’s no telling what’s going to shake a bullet point loose. The other day, it was the smell coming out of the kitchen garbage can. Next thing I knew, he was out the back door and then back in again, carrying a pair of sneakers that had been sitting outside since he got back.
“Smell this,” he said, holding them up.
I know, I know. Probably not the smartest move, but seeing as how Mr. Coach is not the type to abuse the privilege of telling me to smell random things, I thought, “OK, what the heck.”
The shoe smell was a doozy, immediately summoning childhood memories of when our dog Bobo went swimming in the creek.
“That’s the English Channel,” Mr. Coach said proudly. The shoes were the ones he wore for David’s relay swim on Thursday, Aug. 6. They had gotten soaked but good, not during the 13 hours and 25 minutes it took to get to France, but on the 3-hour boat ride back. He had spent it on the back end of the boat, getting splashed by the waves. We agreed he could pitch the shoes and get new ones.
So little pieces of the story keep dribbling out. There’s been the story about running into a guy from Chicago who swam for him 10 years ago: They were all visiting Dover Castle at the same time. That was a little surreal. I’ve also heard about the meat pies and the hikes through the English countryside.
If you followed along on Facebook, where I was posting the URLs from GPS pings that David’s mom sent out every 15-60 minutes, you know that we were following the team’s progress across the Channel (they showed up as a little green arrow on a Google map). They started at about 9:30 a.m., their time in Dover (4:30 a.m. my time) and went until 11 p.m. their time (6 p.m. mine). The relay consisted of 21-year-old David, 71-year-old Stanley (founder of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in Florida), Clive who is British and that’s all Mr. Coach is remembering right now, and Ann, another Brit about whom he also remembers little except she’s dreamed of swimming the Channel since she was a little girl (I wonder if that’s a British thing).
Toward the end, we noticed that the little green arrow started drifting south and further away from Calais, France, which is the traditional destination. Anne, a veteran Channel swimmer, was serving as our online expert analyst. She’s done several solo crossings herself, including a “there and back” double. Ouch.
Anyway, Anne explained to us online that currents and winds out of the ENE were probably pushing the swimmers southwest. They would be aiming for a small bit of beach just south of the lighthouse at Cap Gris-Nez called “Dragon’s Teeth.” If they didn’t make it, she explained, they’d have to either head further south toward Boulogne-sur-Mer to find land-able shoreline or wait until the tides change and double back around the Cap toward Calais. Either way, it would be another 5 or 6 hours of swimming if they didn’t make it to Dragon’s Teeth.
We watched online as the arrow finally righted itself and began heading due East toward the Cap. If you clicked on the satellite version of the Google map, you could see this was where the water color changed from dark blue to light blue, but you could also make out how rocky and steep the French coast was with one small clear spit of sand.
“now is where the swimmer must sprint to make land…if they pass Cap Gris Nez it will be a while…”, posted Anne.
And at that moment, Mr. Coach remembered a couple of days later, David was indeed sprinting across the strong current. He got them to within 400 meters of shore, and then in went Stanley who was the swimmer to make land. He picked up souvenir rocks for his teammates, tucked them into his swim suit and then rode the accompanying dinghy boat back out to the waiting Viking Princess fishing boat where everyone else was.
They ate scones and jam on the boat ride back (during which time the weather disintegrated). But David’s mom’s Dramamine worked this time and she was fine. Wet and cold, but otherwise fine. David was very sore the next day, but now Mr. Coach has something to heave in his face the next time he complains about fly day during the college season.
And Usman did his long-distance swim in solidarity with David, two days later in a 25-meter pool in Pakistan. He swam for 8 hours and was probably a babbling idiot by the time he was done. I saw what he was like, back in April, when he and David did a four-hour swim in the university’s pool, and it was not pretty.
It still doesn’t make much sense, why the British government wouldn’t issue Usman an entry visa to swim the Channel, but I'm not going to dwell on that. Instead, I’m going to dwell on the fact that Mr. Coach just told me that he thinks the university team should make this a biennial or triennial thing, to take a relay over and swim the English Channel. They want to keep the Channeling Peace movement going. That’s great, I said. I just want to know who’s going to pay for all the new sneakers.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
In other words, it’s been a pretty normal week. You know, one of the things I was hoping for when I started doing this blog more than a year ago was that it would bring a few other swim coach spouses out of the woodwork. I figured we could commiserate with each other. But that hasn’t been the case. Though I’ve heard from lots of really nice people, I have never heard from any other coaching spouses. (Interesting side note: the “traffic reports” that I get from having this site on Blogspot tell me what the search terms are that lead some people to the site. Most of them are just “mrs. coach blog,” but there are others I’ve started keeping a list of because they’re just so…interesting. Like “coaching a paranoid spouse,” “national velvet gertrude english channel” and, my personal favorite, “boys in showers.” I’m probably not getting a lot of repeat visits from that last one. At least I hope I’m not.)
But I’ve realized, from a year or so of doing this, that 1) not a lot of women interact online about sports, and 2) not a lot of coach’s spouses feel the need to connect. And that’s OK because probably most of us are too busy being the air-traffic controllers in our family’s lives to have time to connect.
Although, I have to say, during my first year of marriage to Mr. Coach, I was taken out to lunch down in Fort Lauderdale by some of the other coaches’ wives, all of them in the 60+ year-old phase of life. Mr. Coach said they were softening me up so that some day we’ll agree to run the winter training camp down there. And as I sat there with the ladies, some of us face-down in our margaritas at 2 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in December, I thought to myself, “You know…I could get used to this.”
But the truth is -- and this is part of why it's still fun even after almost 18 years -- is that you never really do get used to it. There’s always going to be some new challenge heaved your way, whether it’s a new pool that only took 17 years to secure funding for or a pair of athletes who decide they’d like to swim the English Channel. There’s always something new.
(Oh, and next week, I promise I’ll do a wrap-up on the whole Channel relay experience because I’ve got some seriously good stories to tell about that.)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Copied below is Dick's first collection of thoughts on the attempt. I hope you enjoy reading it as much I did:
"What David did today was amazing and I am beyond proud of his accomplishment of swimming for nearly four hours in his channel-crossing attempt. He endured a physical challenge that most of us will never understand. This takes a very special type of motivation, one that not all of us possess. While David had some external motivators, his mom, Tami, the boat pilot, Andy, myself and even chocolate, none of these have the ability to drive someone to what David accomplished. To overcome what he endured and to keep going for the period of time he was swimming takes extreme internal motivation. Those of you who know David understand this attribute and yes it is even stronger that the promise of chocolate. The success in this crossing attempt is not in the completion but in the intended goal, process, experience and what is learned. We never really expected David to make this solo crossing but instead to swim as far as David possibly could in the conditions on that day. He did that and will take this experience with him the rest of his life.
I feel disappointed for David and Usman in that they will not get to do their Channeling Peace Initiative relay across the channel as originally planned. After what I witnessed today, I feel quite certain that they would have been successful. It would not have been easy, but they could have accomplished one of their goals in the intended endeavor.
It was not the intent of the Channeling Peace Initiative to have David attempt a solo English Channel swim. Due to some bumps along the path to the intended endeavor, when Usman’s visa request was denied, David and Usman agreed upon a backup plan. This new plan included a solo channel attempt by David and a virtual channel swim by Usman in his pool in Pakistan. We now anxiously await Usman’s swim in Lahore, Pakistan in the next few days. It is so wonderful to see the resourcefulness of these two young men when faced with a challenge over which they have no control. They have kept the real meaning behind Channeling Peace alive with their ability to adapt. And as Usman put it in the CNN article: "Even if I have to swim in a lake in Pakistan while David swims in the English Channel, it's still a powerful symbol."
"Symbols gather power not from the act itself but from the people who are supporting them," he said. "A lot of people around the world are supporting us and our message. As long as they support it in their hearts and minds, we have been successful." "
I am sorry to announce that I did not make it across the Channel. Nevertheless I gave it as valiant an effort as I could.
The first hour went smoothly, making good time and breaking briefly for a feed. Half an hour later I threw up four times (unpleasant experience!). Over the next two hours I found myself throwing up an additional seven times and unable to keep down even plain water. Needless to say, after an additional half hour and still without fuel, my stroke had clearly deteriorated the pilot became concerned about how much I was shivering. Shortly there after, the decision was made.
While the result is not as enticing as the idea of reaching a French beach, all us here are proud of the effort made. There were a lot of unfortunate and unpredicted hurtles preventing our original plan of a relay with Usman and I. But we continue to try and make the best of the situation. Usman is in the process of planning his own long-distance swim in Pakistan, and David has been invited to participate in an additional Channel-swimming relay later this week. More updates will come for both of these, and as always, thank you, all of you, for your continued support!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
As anyone who’s been following the FINA World Championships (of swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming, open-water swimming and synchronized underwater ice hockey) in Rome knows, FINA -- swimming’s organizing body – has decided that the high-tech suits which have enabled the rewriting of the record books over the last two years will be banned as of Jan. 1, 2010.
It’s been an interesting two years, watching the suits creep into the world of competitive swimming. Mr. Coach was dismayed and opposed to them from the start when Speedo rolled out its LZR suit in February 2008. (Me too.) He called it when he said the LZR suits and every polyurethanic abomination that followed would quickly make their way into even age-group meets, would create more entry barriers with their exorbitant costs for underprivileged athletes and financially-strapped college teams, and would undermine the integrity of the sport because the suits made folly of basic technique and training wisdom. When he asked the other coaches in his collegiate conference to forgo the suits earlier this year, all he got was a chorus of crickets and one long-winded email dissertation from one coach that could be summed up in one sentence: The ship had left the harbor, so wave bye-bye.
Guess what? Last week the ship returned to harbor. Somebody must have discovered it had a rudder. So while the braying of Internet haters (nearly all of whom are suit lovers) will likely continue for a while, I hope the rest of the swim world embraces this return to pure swimming with positivity. I’ve always maintained that swimming, like running and wrestling, is one of the only pure sports, where all you really need to do it is your body. (That’s not to say other sports are impure. I just find this detail interesting.)
But there will be one significant obstacle that athletes will have to surmount now -- and I’m sure it will yield a couple hundred studies to be published in the "Journal of All Things Exercise Physiological and Polysyllabic" -- and that is: How will athletes deal now with going slower? How will they learn to accept slower times when they’re working just as hard, if not harder, than ever before?
To which I say: Welcome to my world! I know ALL about working hard and going slower. Actually anyone who’s ever gotten older (studies prove this happens to about 99.9 percent of the population) knows what it’s like to work hard and go slower.
It happens and somehow you find new goals and redirect your mind (and body) to them. That’s what these elite athletes are going to have to do as they kiss their personal records goodbye. They can organize the numbers however they want: pre-suit, during-suit, post-suit, whatever it takes. The sooner they let go of those during-suit numbers, the sooner they’ll get used to feeling – and enjoying -- the pure water on their bodies again.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
But then the mom who rounds up volunteers came looking for people to work the bullpen on the last night of championships, and there went my peaceful evening of eavesdropping. Oddly enough, in all my years of swim parenting and coach spousing, I had yet to work a bullpen. Now I know what I’ve been missing and I have the aching back and roughed-up vocal chords to remind me, just in case I forget.
The bullpen, for those of you who know how to evade volunteer coordinators, is the place at a meet site where swimmers are corralled, sorted into events and heats, told they can pee in the water if they really have to go that bad but they cannot leave the bullpen for the bathroom now, and then marched out to a pool deck where, half naked, shivering and surrounded by fully clothed, screaming adults with video cameras, they have been conditioned to fling themselves into cold water when a buzzer is sounded and they cannot get out again until they are exhausted and disoriented by oxygen deprivation. It’s like a cockfight, only less humane.
But I wouldn’t know how the pool part of the evening actually went that last night because I was working the bullpen. We had 64 chairs set up under a tent, eight rows of eight chairs each. For a little while, it was only 63 chairs until we figured out that some woman (in a Hermès scarf, I feel compelled to note) had stolen one so she could sit and watch her little muffin swim in the kiddie pool. I sent the bullpen mom with the loudest voice to go get it back. It wasn’t easy but she got the job done.
We chased hovering parents out of the bullpen – also not an easy job. Yes, I realize that all this chaos could be emotionally scarring for little Dagmar or Robespierre, but two minutes before we ship them out is not the time to rethink your decision to sign them up for the swim team.
We stared down TWA (Tweens With Attitudes) and threatened them with disqualification if their eyes didn’t stop rolling in their sockets. We negotiated with coaches who insisted that “the other half of the B relay is here…somewhere…they just might not make it to the bullpen…but don’t scratch them.”
And we did have the heart-warming experience of being able to put one alternate into a race when a kid did not show up for finals. Those first and second alternates are the ones who tug at your heartstrings because they do show up and stand outside the bullpen, waiting patiently and hoping against hope that they’ll get another chance to swim. As with my beloved 6 & Under swimmers, these are the kids who remind me why an aching back is a small price to pay for inspiration.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
This ritualistic homage to my own birth started when I was a high school runner. I decided that, since I was born at 6:33 p.m., I needed to be running at that exact moment every year on my birthday. And for many years I did just that -- until one day in my early 30s when I suffered a terrible realization. For all those years of birth-moment running, I had been living in the Eastern U.S. time zone – but I had been born in the Pacific U.S. time zone, which meant I had been running three hours too early every year. I should have been running at 9:33 p.m.
I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out. As anyone who knows me will tell you, details like that don’t usually escape me because my brain is a graveyard for minutiae. Need to know the N.Y. Yankees’ starting lineup for the 1978 World Series? It’s in there. The middle names and birth dates of all my grade school classmates? Yup, they’re still in there, too, taking up space that could be better devoted to remembering when I last changed the oil in the car.
And yet, this detail had eluded me and that irked me to no end. My slavish devotion to the moment of my birth was tainted by operational error.
Well, you say, just wait til 9:33 p.m. Look, I don’t know about you, but by 9:33 on the balmy summer anniversary of my birth, I prefer to be digesting a filet mignon, a twice-baked cheesy potato and a spinach salad with sliced strawberries and Catalina dressing. And I’d rather have a snappy little Shiraz, and not a cocktail of adrenalin and lactic acid, coursing through my veins. In other words, a 9:33 p.m. workout is not an option.
So it was back to the drawing board for the Birthday Workout. Over the course of the next few years, I expanded my workout repertoire to include yoga and swimming. With the Heavy Heart of The Deeply Disillusioned, I continued to do some kind of “special” workout on my birthdays, but I wasn’t feeling the love...until I hit 40 and stumbled onto a new Birthday Workout strategy.
Inspired by my husband’s triathloning, I decided to create my own Birthday Triathlon. That first year, it was 40 minutes of yoga, 40 laps of swimming and 4.0 kilometers of running. Each year, I’d add another minute, length or repetition of whatever I decided to do.
It was after my 44th birthday, two years ago, when I made the swimming segment 44 50s that I realized I had a potential problem. 44 50s wasn’t a problem now, but thinking ahead to, let’s say, my 95th birthday, it might be. I could just see it now: The EMT squad would show up to fish my corpse out of the pool. What would they write for “cause of death” on the official report? “Stupidity.”
So I thought, well, what if I keep adding minutes and repetitions til I get to 50 and then start subtracting them until I zero out on my 100th birthday (when you figure it’ll take the whole day anyway for my 104-year-old husband to serve me my Birthday Dinner)? But that felt too Countdown-ish to Death, so I quickly nixed that idea.
So that leaves me back where I started – working out at the anniversary moment of my birth.
I only have to make one slight modification: We’ll have to move to Hawaii.