Monday, April 25, 2011

Swimming History Revived

Technically speaking, I can say that I have swum for almost all of my 25 years of life. In fact, still technically speaking, I have competed in swimming for almost two-thirds of that time. However, I didn't get "serious" about swimming until the summer after my senior year of high school. That was when I joined the Woodland Hills Aquatic Team (appropriately abbreviated WHAT).

WHAT was one of the local club swimming teams--the cheapest and most accessible team, for me at that time. I had actually wanted to join WHAT much earlier in my swimming career, but when I first made my case somewhere around eight or nine years of age, my mother told me that I could either swim on the club team or I could keep my other extracurricular activities (which, at the time, included flute and piano lessons, tap dance class, basketball, and a once-a-week paper route). I chose the more well-rounded route.

Instead, I swam for my community team every summer starting when I was 8, up until I graduated from high school. I also joined my high school team swim team in my senior year because I quit playing basketball...that's a long story. However, the important thing is that by swapping basketball for swimming my senior year, I met the best coach I have ever had: G___. G___ taught me to love swimming and training and competing in a way I had never experienced before. He was the most motivating coach I have ever met, and when our season ended, I approached him and asked whether I could join the club (WHAT) team, which he also coached. He said yes.

Thus began what I consider my "true" swimming career. Rather, it could be considered more of an education in endurance training, since it ultimately set me up to become a long-distance runner, as well. But progression went as follows:

  • Summer 2004: Joined WHAT. Trained through the spring and summer--first time in a long-course (50m) pool.
  • Winter 2004/2005 (Freshman Year): Went to college at University of Rochester (UR). By happenstance, roomed with swimmer. Swam on my own during the pool's open lap times.
  • Summer 2005: Returned to train with WHAT, this time with the goal of joining the UR team.
  • Winter 2005/2006 (Sophomore Year): Given permission to "walk on" to the UR team by the coach, with the understanding that I could be there if I could/would do the work. I did the work. I was the only swimmer left behind when the team flew to Atlanta for the year-end meet.
  • Summer 2006: Trained again with WHAT.
  • Winter 2006/2007 (Junior Year): Discovered that I am a middle-distance swimmer; trained for the 100 and 200 free in particular. Only competed half the year because I went abroad in January. Found a pool in England and swam on my own to stay in shape for the summer and following year.
  • Summer 2007: Trained with WHAT. Received a call halfway through the summer from the head coach at UR, informing me that I would be "unable to perform at the level the coaching staff was now expecting" and that I could stay on as a "team manager" if I wished.
  • Winter 2007/2008: Took morning shifts at my job at the campus coffee shop to replace the time I had expected to be at practice. Swam 2-3 days a week with the community masters team (hosted at the UR pool).
  • Spring/Summer 2008: Graduated. Moved to NYC. Started running in lieu of swimming. Found city-subsidized pools and started swimming again.
  • 2008-2009: Taught my new 30-year-old friend how to swim.
  • Summer 2009: Met open water swimmers; started swimming at Brighton Beach.
  • Summer 2010: Competed in my second-ever open water race (NYC Aquathalon).
  • Fall/Winter 2010/2011: Formed Chelsea Chubs with other swimmers at public pool.
  • Spring 2011: Competed in my first swim meet since 2006.

    Plans for this summer (2011):
    1. JUNE: Liberty Island Swim (1.2k)
    2. AUGUST: NYC Triathlon (Olympic distance, 1.5k swim)
    3. SEPTEMBER: Little Red Lighthouse Swim (10k)
    Also, now that I am back in "competition" mode, I dug out my old "personal bests" from college and updated them according to my latest performance. Here is how the times compare. All-time bests are in red. One might argue that I am in the best "long distance" shape of my life right now...!

    Event2005 (Soph)2006 (Jr)2011 (Masters)
    50 free31.4429.86n/a
    100 free1:08.61:05.811:05.84
    200 free2:23.612:21.982:25.34
    500 free6:26.41n/a6:24.19
    50 backn/a37.5n/a
    100 back1:23.71:17.36n/a
    200 backn/a2:43.86n/a
    100 breast1:30.2n/an/a

    Neen said...

    Swimming is one of the few things I ever have "what if" feelings about. I noticed problems in my shoulder at FHST long before I finally had an MRI when I did more distance swimming at Oakland Catholic. After surgery to repair a slap lesion, what did I do 5 months later? Completely dislocate the elbow on the OTHER arm. Brilliant. I never quite felt the same fluidity in my strokes after that.

    But I often think that now (in my second life, as I often see it) I could give it another go. Your story of teaching an older friend to swim makes me think I might not be as far away from it as I feel. And I live literally next door to a pool.

    I still have the FHST suit from my last year on the team. Never could give it up. :)

    agoldste said...

    Oh my gosh DO IT! Swimming seriously is the best sport, especially if you can find people to swim with. I love runners to death, but I think swimmers are the most supportive athletes out there. Just saying :)

    And you must send me a picture of that old suit. Mine disintegrated a looooong time ago. Although I am still wearing my polyester training suit from sophomore year of college. Those things really last!