Several pieces of good news here... First, I think we are getting started pretty soon planning next year's event. Greg Erne has offered to get into the fundraising process early this year, and be an even bigger help than he was last year. Next, we are going to be featured in the US Master's Swimming Magazine for January. This was arranged by Derek Weaver, one of our swimmers, and with the help of Laura Hamel, we were able to put together a small article explaining what we do and why. I have read Laura's draft and it is awesome. She is a great writer, as you'll see. Finally, I was named Distinguished Athlete of the Year at the DAC (Detroit Athletic Club). This is no big deal, but I do get a kick out of the fact that it took untilk I was 54 to get this kind of athletic honor. I was nominated largely on the strength of my being able to navigate Lake St Clair from Harson's Island to the Grosse Point Yacht Club twice (in two years) without drowning. I also managed to swim a shade over 500 miles in 2009 in the DAC pool to lead the Club's annual mileage contest. I didn't intentionally get into this to crank out the mileage, but now that I'm doing it I hate to stop. My goal for December is always big (for me) - this year I am trying to do 75 miles - which is 2.5 miles every day of the month (except Christmas, I guess). This may sound like a lot, but there are Masters swimmers doing 150 miles plus each month, and even my young friend Derek swims something like 10 miles a day as a part of the Wayne State swim team. Of course, I am 54 years old, and Derek is barely 25 or something. But there are are other older masters swimmers doing some pretty incredible mileage. And to be fair, I am not what I would consider a great swimmer. I can swim a long way, but I am not going to win any races. Some of these masters can swim more miles faster, and consistently.
But, as they say, I do what I can, and for me that means averaging about 45 miles/month. It is therapeutic, healthy and invigorating. And I need to say, at least twice in my life my lower back was so bad I was effectively disabled - I couldn't go for more than a week without it going out and incapacitating me. And I love to work hard - construction, etc. It was debilitating - I had to find a way out of it. My chiropractor suggested running in place in a pool, which I did at the Detroit Yacht Club (on Belle Isle) back in the mid nineties. It was extremely helpful, but I hated it - I couldn't wait to get better. But I didn't get better for a long time, and after a while it got so that I was very used to getting in the water, but I didn't like the running in place deal.
So, one day, I remember thinking I would try to lean forward a bit and propel myself for several laps. That was the start. I ended up quitting smoking and swimming more and more. A couple of years later, the first month that I swam 25 miles I thought I was on fire!! 44,000 yards!! I couldn't imagine doing more than that. And then I came to the DAC and met a couple of guys who kept pushing me and pushing me. At one point I couldn't see how Jim C. could do 1.5 miles 3 times a week - with a hip replacement!! And he beat me consistently. He also taught me how to flip turn over the next 5-6 years. But nobody motivated me more than George H. George refused to lose to me when we swam - EVER... I worked very hard for at least a year before I could beat him. I distinctly remember the first time I clearly beat him. We started at almost exactly the same time, and I was about 3 lengths behind him. I chased him the entire 35 laps - passing him in the last lap. It was exhilarating, and I was hooked. I owe a lot of my endurance and technique to Jim C., and certainly to George, but also to a handful of other members who help out with "clues" about what I could be doing better.
On another day, I swam my second fastest mile, and watched Mike B. pass me 4 times in the process!! I did a 26:22 and he smoked me. It is amazing to watch truly good, efficient swimmers. For those of you who are not great swimmers, the key is being as efficient as possible in the water. Never do anything that would hinder your process. It sounds so simple, but after 10+ years and a couple thousand miles, I learn something almost every time I'm out.
My training regime is pretty simple - I swim 2.5 miles in 70 to 75 minutes, period. I try not to stop and to keep up a good pace. I generally swim faster as I get into the workout. My last mile is most often my fastest.
There are any number of people who will tell you that this is definitely not the way to train, and I am certain they are correct. But for me, when I start doing 50's, 100's, etc., and alternating strokes and hitting faster times for shorter distances, I seem to pull muscles and have injuries more often. As it is, my arms and upper back are sore almost all the time. Occasionally I will go through a week or two when I'm not sore, but that hasn't happened in a while. Right now my right arm is numb from typing, etc. My genetic history seems to include a good deal of arthritis and bone issues, so I just keep going. Sometimes I take Motrin, but mostly I just keep going. If anyone has any good ideas out there, let me know. As therapy it is unparalleled (for me), but it would probably be even more fun it were less painful... Every time it gets tough, I think of Rickie, and I just keep going...