Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Au Revoir, coach Jacki!

Dustin, Josh, Katie, Bob, Jacki: five decades of swimmers!
Our MIT Masters friend, teammate, and sometimes-coach Jacki Hirsty packed her bags and moved to sunny California to pursue outdoor swimming and winters other than in New England. We're all going to miss her! For those who don't know her, Jacki is a swimming phenom, holding numerous national records, owner hundreds of top-ten times, and all-American honors.

Jacki teaches us that swimming is a lifestyle, something one commits to, and a sport that you can continue to improve in as you age. This is not lost on many of us who swim with her, or - more realistically - in her wake. Last year a group of us (see photo to the right) realized that five of us representing different decades could swim together. In what other sport does this happen? It's also a good reminder that swimming is a meritocracy - it doesn't matter what job you hold on land, what your age is, if you swam in college or not - all that matters is that you can hold the interval and set that particular day. I'm sure this is probably the case for other sports, but swimmers are a different breed, in my opinion.

To those who Jacki will coach in California - you are truly lucky! However, don't ask her to do an open water swim. She only follows the little black line.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kingdom Swim

The 2015 Kingdom Swim is in the books, and what a fun swim weekend it was! The event took place at Lake Memphremagog (say that three times!) in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It truly was a stunning setting for a race. The event offers several distances - 15 miles (across the border to Canada), 10 miles, 6 miles, 3 miles, and 1 mile. A distance for everyone. The race director, Phil White, was an incredible host and thought of everything, from pre-race details, to a tour of the lake on a ferry, to all of the logistics around race courses and kayakers. If you are looking for a destination swim, I highly recommend that you visit Newport, VT next year.

The events started on Friday with a cruise of the lake to scout out the courses. I planned to do the 3 mile course, so it was pretty easy to determine where the buoys were and where we needed to go. The longer courses were more difficult, hence the need for a kayak escort. Even on the boat we got turned around, and although we were dry, high enough up to see all the buoys, and had a little map in hand, we got confused.

On Saturday morning the fog was dense. So dense that the 15 mile "border busters" had to wait around for several hours until it was safe enough to launch, so many of them started with a nutrition deficit. We went off late, but only by 90 minutes, and by the time the other races started it was sunny, clear, and near perfect swim conditions (see photo on right!). I was set up with a local kayaker named Rick, and he was awesome. Part of the fun of the race was trying to find your kayaker. As I rounded the first buoy I looked up to see 30 kayaks and had a hard time picking out Rick. I eventually found him and we settled into a nice rhythm. Prior to starting the race I didn't really think I needed a kayak for 3 miles. I realized quickly that I needed a kayak, as I would have been swimming the 6 mile course if  Rick was not there there. I swam 3 miles (which was like a sprint when others are swimming 6, 10 and 15!) so we were done early and got to hang out on the beach and watch all the other racers come in. I was happy with my swim and plan to return next year to try the 6 mile event.

New England Masters had a huge group participating in all four of the big races, so it was fun to track people. What a great group of people to hang around with - supportive, positive, fun. This is one swim to add to your list of destination swims!
Rick my trusty yakker!
kayakers deploying

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Swimming Still Wins

As I was lying on the physical therapy table this week I was telling my PT Andrew about my weekend, and how I went on a nice long trail run. He looked at me funny and said "you just told me you went on a trail swim". This came on the heels of me overhearing another patient mentioning his wetsuit and asking "what race are you doing?" when he was just heading up to go surf in NH. So, it's come to this. After over a month out of the water, I have become obsessed with getting back in the water. However, given that I try to make lemonade out of lemons, I decided to do a pro/pro list to see what I have gained in this time off. As you can see from the list, there are lots of benefits, but with apologies to Andrew and my massage therapist Morgan, I would trade all of the right hand column for the opportunity to text about how hard the workout was. I am not quite at the point where I want to add chlorine to my shower, but that might be an illogical next step.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Now THIS is how you age up!

Peter Phildius turns 85 today, but instead of celebrating with his wife in Florida this weekend, he competed at the New England Masters SCY championships at Harvard. Pete's journey to age group champ is an interesting one. He didn't swim competitively until age 68, when he "trashed his back running marathons and triathlons."  He got a coach and started 2-a-day swim practices. By 70, he was third in the country in the breaststroke. As he aged up he met a lot of amazing people through swimming. Meanwhile, clearly seeing his potential, four of his grandkids recently challenged him to become a certified lifeguard, which he did. So, Pete now works the early shift at the Longfellow Club, rising at 3:30am to open the pool. I won't complain about morning practices ever again!

Pete also learned the dark side of aging up. A successful businessman, Pete found discrimination, not continued challenge, in his work world. Channeling his energy, he started an initiative to help people age gracefully and combat the obstacles of age discrimination.  Sadly, his close friend and partner in this effort died suddenly in December, and the loss is profound for Pete.

Yet Pete doesn't want admiration for his athletic accomplishments, he wants to win. He knows exactly how many people were in his former age group (500 in 80-84) and how many are in his new age group (150). He likes his odds in this new AG. This guy is a stud. I hope we will see a time where people like Pete are the rule, not the exception. Happy 85, Pete!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Swimming Through (and with) the Decades

As I made my way to the pool on Saturday for a cram session to prepare for the upcoming NEM meet, it dawned on me: I would be swimming that morning with a twenty-something, a thirty-something, a forty-something (moi), a fifty-something, and a sixty-something master's swimmer. As I arrived on deck I mentioned this to the fifty-something, who said he thought about the exact same thing on his way in. I am hard pressed to think about any other competitive sport where there is a forty-year difference between the youngest and the oldest and we are all doing the same workout on the same intervals. But it happens in the pool, and it speaks to the uniqueness of master's swimming. I have written before that master's is a meritocracy - what you do for work, how much money you make, or how old you are doesn't matter when you get into the pool, but how you swim does. The exception, of course, is that the people who make a lot of money buy those fancy technical suits, but notwithstanding that, it's about equal. I will say that age and experience did come into play late in the workout. The sixty-something began to crush everyone, as is usually the case.

300 swim
2 x 75 drill/swim
2 x 75 kick/swim
2 x 75 descend
300 on 4:20
300 on 4:10
300 on 4:00
200 on 3:00
200 on 2:50
200 on 2:40
100 on 1:30
100 on 1:25
100 fast
400 pull
4 x 75
2 x 50

Friday, January 9, 2015

Moonlight Swim

A few years ago I tried to drop in to a Master's practice near my mom's house in Virginia and it was a disaster. I was put in the slowest lane and everyone was grumpy and mean. I left about halfway through.  So it was with trepidation that I agreed to go with my friend Laurie ("don't call me Lori") to practice with a group she swims with in Naples, FL. She promised it would be different, and the experience did not disappoint. 

It was 54 degrees on the pool deck at 5:30am (reminder: I am on VACATION) and the moon was bright as the steam rose above the 50 meter pool. The locals were cold, but did I complain? No way. It was zero at home and I was about to get into an outside long course pool. Immediately I sensed this was different as everyone was as friendly as could be, especially given the early hour. I swam with Ian and Michelle, who could not have been more welcoming. There were a few notable differences:
  • The swimmers were there and ready to go at 5:30! I have to attribute this to time saved in not having to heat up car or scrape off snow/ice. 
  • The coach Chris did not bring coffee, he made it on deck. Yep, they have a Keurig machine on deck. That is first class master's swimming, people.
  • I kept waiting for the sun to rise. At one point I asked when it would come up and was told that when it starts to get light, practice is over. That was about right. 
  • The Penn State swim team was on deck after master's practice. Nothing makes you feel your age and bring you back to reality like a bunch of 19-21 year olds. 
While I might attribute my warm welcome to the fact that Laurie introduced me, I have enough sense to know that this is just a great group. The only small issue was that the coach had on a Michigan hat. Nothing is perfect! So, if you are in Naples, check out T2 Aquatics!