Thursday, July 5, 2012

on my way to swim in Micheal Phelps' wake

Tomorrow I step up onto the starting blocks in Omaha, Nebraska to swim 100 meters of butterfly. I am in Omaha for the US Old People National Swimming Championships. Competitors from all over the US, ranging in age from 20 to 92, and organized into age groups blocks of 5 years. I am in the 40-44 age group. Guys who swam in college and never stopped in my age group are still damn near as fast as they were 20+ years ago. I, however, am not. I am doing pretty well considering I got back into the water in February after a 20 year break in my swimming career. Having said that, I am nowhere near as fast as I used to be. But I will be again. In fact, I have decided that I am going to be that one oddball freak-of-nature swimmer who goes faster as an old guy than he did as kid. I am on it. Done deal. Going to happen. Though probably not at this meet. The target for that one is next year.

The 100 fly will be the first of four events that I will compete in over the following three days. The 100 has always been my favorite event. As a kid a in the 1980s I had about 15 minutes of fame as a flyer. I swam that race about a million times in some incredible pools and against some awesome athletes. Having said that... tomorrow's venue and competition beats all of that history by light years. Built for last week's US Olympic Team Trial Swimming Meet, the pool is absolutely unrivaled in the world of swimming. The kind of place that gives swimmers goose pimples to visit. Where the chlorine heads wander about with a dazed and amazed expression. Today at registration I took heart from the fact that I was not the only one gawking like a bumpkin in times square for the first time.

The people I am joining with and racing against are from all of the United States, from a myriad of different backgrounds, and range across the age spectrum. One of the people I most want to introduce myself to is Mr. Bob Doud. Bob is the oldest guy entered in the 100m fly. He is 89 years old and is swimming in a lane next Mr. Thomas Maine. Thomas is 87. I'm rooting for Bob, though I am cool if Thomas wins too. One of things that makes masters swimming so extraordinary is that it is full of these stories. Every event has a story of human triumph that inspires and uplifts us. I spoke with a guy in warm ups today who is focus made flesh. He is here to try to set the masters world record for the 400 Individual Medley Relay. This a particularly brutal event where you swim 100m of every stroke. He has a legitimate shot... though the competition is fierce. There are 21 people swimming his event in his age group and three of them can potentially beat him. He is 73. His age group is 70 to 74 year old men.

I am not going to break any world records tomorrow or the next two days after. What I will do is step up and be counted. I am a man with a mission and tomorrow I take an important personal step forward toward accomplishing that mission. If you don't know about the mission, please check it out in my past blog.

For all who are interested in watching me swim (or any of the meet for that matter) the whole thing is being broadcast on the internet. You can tune in at The state of Nebraska is in Central Daylight Time Zone (UTC - 0500, an hour behind EST, two ahead of PST). My races are:
Fri 6 July - 100m fly between 11:20-11:55am
Sat 7 July - 200m fly between 3:45-4:20pm
Sun 8 July - 400m free between 8-10am
Sun 8 July - 50m fly between 3:10-3:40pm

If you have never seen me in a bathing suit or watched a swimming meet... maintain low expectations. Both share a high degree of anti-climax. My hope, ambition, secret plan, and solemn vow is work to make both be more exciting in years to come. For this meet... I will settle for not embarrassing myself in either a suit or (more importantly) in the pool. I hope you tune in and give me a virtual "cheering on" to speed me along.

1 comment:

  1. John-
    I was at the Nationals once and recall being rather humbled by the competition. Don't these people work?
    All they do is train and swim fast! All the best, mate!

    Craig Imler