I’m a Baby Geezer!

When Bruce and I made the decision to move to a Del Webb Sun City community, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to switch from being a gym rat and return to being a water dog.  The treadmill hadn’t been kind to my paws; I had developed a fierce case of tarsal tunnel syndrome and knew it would be an ongoing battle.  But, the pool where we lived in San Antonio was an outdoor pool, open only during the (very) hot summer months.  That situation wasn’t kind to me either; I developed fierce heat intolerance issues.

Sun City has a climate controlled indoor pool- perfect!

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So, I returned to the pool, in 2009, soon after settling in at Sun City Peachtree.  I worked on building up my endurance.  Then, one day, I decided to try swimming my old competitive stroke again:  Breaststroke.  Once I built up enough speed and confidence to time myself, I brought my watch to the pool and timed my race from a push off the wall.  Aaaaaack!  It was far from the 1:19.06 best time I got as a high school senior.  But, I went home red-faced, sat down at the computer, and looked up where my time would have ranked if I had competed as a 50 year old, at the Georgia Golden Olympics.  Of course, I was only 47, BUT, I was also just getting back into it and figured I would have plenty of room to improve.

To my surprise, my time wasn’t so bad in my age group.  So, I looked up where my time would have placed me at the National Senior Olympics and was relieved to see I wouldn’t have placed last!  Actually, I would have ended up in the middle of the pack.

So, at that very moment, I set a goal for myself and announced to Bruce:  “In 2012, when I turn 50, I am going to compete in the Georgia Golden Olympics!”

It was time to get to work.

After 8 months of swimming on my own, I realized I didn’t have a clue how to properly train to return to competition.  And, I could tell by watching the Olympics, in 2008, that breaststroke had changed dramatically, since 1979.  I needed a coach.  Badly.

After doing some research, I learned that the closest indoor competition pool, Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center, was located 25 minutes away, in Clayton County.  I called the pool to see if they could refer me to a coach who could take a look at my strokes and get me back on track.  That is how I met Mike Slotnick, the founder and head coach of SMART (Smart Motivated Athletic Respectful Teammate), a kid’s swim team.

Mike Slotnick 2012

Lucky for me, Mike was willing to take me on for reasonably priced private coaching sessions.  He had his work cut out for him, for sure…

Meanwhile, I remembered that my sister had been a member of United States Masters Swimming, so I checked out the website and decided to join.  Unfortunately, the nearest team was located too far away to train with, but I could still compete with a team at swim meets.

One month after my first coaching session, I competed in my first meet.  Thankfully, Mike was there to help calm my nerves, give me last-minute advice, and clue me in as to when and how much to warm up before each race.  It turned out to be a great experience!

The following month, Georgia Tech hosted U.S.M.S. Short Course Nationals.  How could I miss that with it being just up the freeway from my home?  But, Nationals?  Whoaaa; that’s way beyond my swimming level.  But, U.S.M.S. is an inclusive organization, allowing all members to compete in three events at Nationals, if they don’t qualify to swim more (up to six).  So, I went, competed, and ended up second to last in my events.  Mike competed, too, we gave each other a lot of encouragement, and I ended up having a blast.  The best part was meeting fellow “Forumites” (U.S.M.S. Discussion Forums members) and cheering each other on.  And, nobody cared about my swim times; they only cared that I was happy to be there and competed with enthusiasm.

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It was because of my great experience at 2010 Nationals that I have gone to most of the Nationals since.  And, it has been well worth it!  And, all of the local and southeastern Dixie Zone meets have been swimming highlights, as well.  It has been a terrific 21/2+ years as a USMS member.

Fast forward to January 20, 2012; my 50th birthday.  After swimming in numerous U.S.M.S. meets, I had come to realize that the level of competition is far greater than at the Senior Olympics level.  Comparing qualifying times and Nationals results, there was no comparison.  But, I had set a goal and I was excited to see it through.

So, 2012 became the year of competing in Senior Olympics meets, in addition to U.S.M.S. meets.  As I wrote previously, I competed in the Gwinnett County Golden Games, last April, as my very first Senior Games.  It was at that meet that I officially declared myself a “Geezer” competing in the “Geezer Games” and was proud of it!  And, as the youngest competitor there, I was even more proud to sit next to my team’s matriarch, 95 year old American Record Holder Anne Dunivin, for the medals photograph.  I had won two golds and three silvers.  Anne, one of the oldest competitors in the country, proudly admits that she has won those records by outliving her competition.  She also won five gold medals at that meet.

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The Geezer Games I was really looking forward to competing in, however, was the meet I had my heart set on, back in 2009:  The Georgia Golden Olympics, my adopted states’ qualifying meet for Nationals.  So, last month, we made our way to Warner Robins to compete in the maximum allowed five races.  My coach, Mike, competed too, as well as several of my teammates.  I ended up again with two golds and three silvers (my first two medals shown below), getting beaten at both Geezer Games by former collegiate swimmers who were awesome breaststrokers.  The gal at the state meet crushed my time; I didn’t have a chance for the gold.  But, I achieved my goal, had fun, and swam well, considering the poor conditions (slow pool, too-warm water, too-warm air, no warm-up or cool-down lanes available; it was a joke, really…)

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I won’t be going to Cleveland for 2013 Nationals, however, even though I qualified in four of my events .  Cleveland isn’t exactly at the top of my bucket list and I am allocating my travel budget, instead, to U.S.M.S. Long Course Nationals, in Mission Viejo, for 2013.

My final Geezer Games competition as a baby geezer was the following week.  The Clayton County Senior Games was organized by my coach, Mike, and ran in conjunction with one of my favorite meets, the U.S.M.S. Southside Pentathlon.  As the women’s sprint pentathlon (50 yard races in each stroke and the 100 yard Individual Medley) winner in 2011, I wanted to defend my title, so I signed up for both meets.  Four of my events counted for both simultaneously, but I was the only baby geezer who signed up for the Geezer Games.  So, by default, I won four gold medals.  But, I did defend my Sprint Pentathlon title and won another trophy, beating out a 39 year old in the process.

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My teammate, Joyce and I wearing our Georgia Golden Olympics medals from the previous week and the Sprint Pentathlon trophy I had just won.

It has been FUN being 50.  If it weren’t for Mike’s excellent coaching and friendship, U.S.M.S., and my fellow Forumites who have coached me online, I would have never gotten to the level where I am now with my swimming.  And, it just keeps getting better and I keep having more fun, trying new things.  Between the Geezer Games, Nationals, my first open water races, winning the Sprint Pentathlon, and winning the Georgia Championship Series trophy (the last meet for the Series is in December, at Georgia Tech, however, I have already mathematically eliminated my competition), it has been a fabulous year.

Life is good being a baby geezer.

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