GOIN’ DOWN IN A BLAZE OF GLORY

As I read in another blog post (http://goingdowninablazeofglory.tumblr.com/meaning), “…most people would describe ‘blaze of glory’ as a very spectacular downfall, but it is more than that; it’s about choosing to fight back, even though the chance of winning is very slim, and not just surrendering but going down fighting.”

That clearly describes me. In my book, it’s all about the fight. I’m not one to take the path of least resistance and give up.

Coming back to swimming after surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome was one case in point, as my story on Page 19 demonstrates (http://issuu.com/kitchendrawer/docs/6_3_final?e=0/8465165).

This time around, I’m scheduled for hip arthroscopy for psoas (hip flexor tendon) release and to clean up whatever mess my snapping hip caused as my hip flexor rubbed over the joint’s labrum of my right hip. Twenty years of this finally caught up with me.

Although the cause of my too-tight hip flexor tendon is unknown, it sure wasn’t due to a lack of effort in trying to keep it strong and flexible. My snapping hip was probably the result of many factors: genetics (I probably inherited my connective tissue issues from my dad), leg length discrepancy, a pelvis that tilts forward and to the right (no matter what physical therapy exercises I do to try to correct it), a life-long habit of walking fast with long strides, spending too many years as a treadmill rat, and did I mention genetics? Surely, having back surgery at the age of 25 was an indication of things to come…

Swimming is a great exercise for whatever structurally ails you; however, as much as I love to train (and I do so six days per week, 2500-4000 yards per day), I can’t live my life as an “Aqua Dog” all the time. Too bad my body doesn’t love being on land as much as it does being on the water. (My tussle with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome was one indication.)

My body also doesn’t love my physical therapist any more (no offense to my PT), nor does it respond to my diligent 30-45 minute post-swim PT deck exercises. I’ve run out of options, so it’s time for the operating table.

Dr. John Andrachuk was a fellow under the famed pro sports orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, so I believe I’m in good hands. Hip arthroscopy is his specialty, lucky for me.

I strategically scheduled my operation for December 17—after the U.S. Masters Swimming Dixie Zones Short Course Meters Championships at Georgia Tech. With permission granted from Dr. Andrachuk, I’m going to do in-water starts, swim my races rather than “race” my races, and push off the wall on my turns very lightly with my LEFT leg. I am also going to give breaststroke kick a big miss. This is how it’s been for me in the pool since the Georgia Senior Games in September.

Obviously, I won’t be breaking any personal records, but this meet won’t be about racing best times. It’s about participating to the best of my current ability and winning the Georgia Championship Series (for high points) for the third year in a row. (I can kiss 2015 goodbye, thanks to a 5 month ban from competition issued by the doc.)

I’m leading in points after the short course yards meet at Georgia Tech, the long course meters meet in Athens, and the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet where I won silver medals in the 3K and 1K races. All I need to do is complete one race cleanly at Georgia Tech, and I’ll have the series wrapped up with a bow (and a trophy).

Somehow that seems like a cop-out, knowing that I do more than that in the pool during my training sessions. I am still able to “race” the three most difficult races in the pool (400 IM, 200 Butterfly, and 1650 freestyle), even if they are raced at more like my 3k pace. Breaststroke kicking is really the only thing I can’t do without pain unless I severely modify the kick (or eliminate it), so I’ll make the adjustment.

I’m signed up for ten events over the two-day meet, but I’ve left the three breaststroke races off the line-up, opting for the less painful strokes instead. (I never would have thought butterfly would actually be easier on my hip!)

No, I have no chance of winning any of my races, but I’m not going to surrender. I’m going down fighting in a blaze of glory.

IT WAS GREAT WHILE IT LASTED

2012GeorgiaChampionshipSeriesAward

2013GeorgiaChampionshipSeries

For the second year in a row, I won the Georgia Championship Series for my age group. This series is a United States Masters Swimming year-long competition that takes place in the state of Georgia. The trophy is awarded to the swimmer in each age group with the most accumulated points in a designated short course yards (25-yard pool) swim meet, long course meters (50-meter pool) meet, open water competition, and short course meters (25-meter pool) meet. To qualify, a swimmer has to participate in at least three of those four competitions throughout the year.

By no means am I the fastest swimmer in my age group. The way I win is by competing at all four events, swimming the maximum amount of races allowed at the pool meets, and racing the hardest events that most women my age would never attempt. Last year, only 16 women in the country in the 50-54 year old age group competed in the 200 meter long course butterfly, and 24 raced the 400 meter individual medley.

At the open water competition, I raced the 3K and 1K back-to-back both years and discovered how much I really enjoy swimming long distance events!

The Lotto motto is, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” My motto is, “You can’t win if you don’t show up!” Of course, for me, I also can’t win unless I race all of the difficult events that nobody else wants to swim. How else do you think I win 1st places in those tough events? I’m the only one in my age group crazy enough to race them!

I’m not that slow; however, there are a couple of my teammates who are Top Ten swimmers in the country. The gal who won high points at the first 2014 Georgia Championship Series meet is #1 in the country and used to swim for UGA (University of Georgia). At least I beat out the other three gals to place second for the meet.

Winning two years in a row was a combination of hard work, motivation, endurance, having tons of fun, and being lucky enough that the faster gals didn’t show up to all of the meets. This year, it looks like Ms. #1 is planning on competing at every meet—including the open water competition. Oh well, she’s a super nice gal and an awesomely fast swimmer.

It was great while it lasted!

2013 Goals: She SCORES!

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I am big on setting goals; something I have done for as long as I can remember.

This past year, I did pretty darn well achieving my goals and even succeeded in making some I didn’t even have set at the beginning of the year (including winning the Georgia Championship Series for high points in U.S. Masters Swimming and swimming 3K & 1K races to achieve it).  Like the experts say, always write your goals in pencil!

I will admit that I “write” my goals on the computer.  But, I do leave plenty of room at the bottom of the printed out page to add more goals or make changes.  This last year, I added winning the series and the open water swims, just so I could have the satisfaction of putting a big fat check mark next to it!  Same goes for my 900, 2000, and 1000 yard butterfly swims. “Are you KIDDING me?”  That’s what I would have asked YOU, if you had asked ME if I could even swim 200 yards of fly!  But, I tried it one day, amazingly felt like I could keep going after 200 yards, and kept going… and going… and going…

But, when I added that new goal of winning the Georgia Championship Series, there were three goals (the only goals I did not achieve) that I was not able to achieve because of it:  Making National Qualifying Times in my three breaststroke events; my core events that I am best at.  Swimming a full slate of events at each meet to win high points meant not being rested enough for each race, in order to swim my best.  My breaststroke times, for the most part, suffered this year.  So, I was unable to achieve NQT’s for Spring Nationals (a meet it turns out that I won’t be attending, anyway).  But, I sure did have a lot more fun at meets this year!  I hate sitting on the bench…

2013 Long Course (50 meter pool) Summer Nationals, in Mission Viejo, California, is really what I am shooting for, when it comes to making National Qualifying Times.  By making NQT’s in my three core events, it would give me the opportunity to swim three additional individual events, for a total of the maximum six individual events allowed per swimmer.  In 2010, at my first Nationals, I did not qualify in any of the events, so I only got to swim three events.  The following year, I made NQT in the 50 yard breaststroke, so I earned the right  to swim four events, at both spring and summer Nationals.  And, the same thing happened this past spring.  So, I have been working towards qualifying in all three breaststroke events, so I could swim six events, just like the big boys (and girls).

As it turns out, I have officially made NQT’s, according to the U.S.M.S. rules that allow swimmers to use their best times going back two years.  I recently received confirmation from a staff member at headquarters that my times from the St. Nick’s short course meters meet, in November, 2012, count.  When entered in Swimming World’s Time Conversion Utility, I qualify with time to spare in both the 50 meter and 200 meter breaststroke, but make it EXACTLY in the 100 meter breaststroke:  1:42.58!

Now, having said all that, U.S.M.S. doesn’t actually verify your times; it is all on the honor system.  But, even if I don’t swim those times on race day in Mission Viejo, I absolutely wanted to honor the honor system going into the meet.

So, my main swimming goal for 2013 (once again) is to re-qualify, so my times are up-to-date; at least more current than going back to 2011!

This is where Nationals will be held, August 7-11; the pool where several Olympians, including Greg Louganis (diver) and Dara Torres (swimmer) trained:http://www.mastersmvnswim.org/SubTabGeneric.jsp?team=scmvnm&_stabid_=23601

My chosen events will be:

August 7:  1500m Freestyle

August 8:  100m Breaststroke

August 9:  50 Breaststroke

August 10:  400 Individual Medley and 200 Breaststroke

August 11:  200 Butterfly

And, if our team can field enough swimmers for relays, I hope to swim relays each day, as well.

As for other 2013 swimming goals, I have set 475 miles for my U.S.M.S. Go the Distance goal (I set 400 miles in 2012 and swam 452 miles).  And, there are a few non-core races I have set goals for swimming personal best times.  Oh yeah, and I’m going for the Georgia Championship Series, again, too.

Meanwhile, I also have non-swimming goals, too; just the usual stuff.

How about you?  Have you set goals for this year?  If so, feel free to post your goals in the comments section; I would love to hear about them!

Happy New Year!

There’s a First Time for Everything

I didn’t intend on the year of my 50th birthday being a year of firsts, but it sure has turned out that way!  This has been a year full of firsts; our first time visiting Washington, D.C. and my first time seeing Chicago, for starters.  But, more than anything, it has been a year of fun firsts as a U.S. Masters swimmer.  What a blast!  But, first, before I get into that, there is another first I am very excited about…

In my July 1, 2012 post, I wrote about Cullen Jones, one of my favorite swimmers who I admire and respect not only as a swimmer, but more importantly,as a person.  If you watched the Olympics on August 3, you saw him in action, winning his first individual Olympic medal; a silver!  He even beat sprint great, Cesar Cielo, current world record holder in the 50 meter freestyle.  In addition, he won silver in the freestyle relay and gold in the medley (he swam in the preliminary heat).  Congratulations, Cullen Jones, now a medal winner in two Olympics!

My firsts in swimming are, ummm, extremely modest in comparison, but they are my firsts:

In February, I decided for the first time to sign up for the maximum allowed individual events in Auburn’s two-day short course (25 yards) meet; eight for that particular meet.  They were all 50’s and 100’s, besides the 200 yard breaststroke.  But, it was a lot for me at the time; especially since I was also placed in two relays.  I ended up with personal best times in three of my events, so I was happy!  And, encouraged to try it again…

I did it twice in April; once at my very first Senior Games.  Yes, at 50, I’m officially a geezer, so I now call Senior Games “Geezer Games”, since I am one of them and can get away with it now.  So, I entered five events at Gwinnett County’s Geezer Games and ended up having to swim them all in 1:15!  I won a gold and four silver medals for my efforts and enjoyed every minute of it.

I also signed up for five events at the one-day short course Georgia Championship Series meet, at Georgia Tech, hoping to have a shot at winning high points in my age group.  I also swam in two relays.  I ended up with another personal best time in one of my events and won the high points trophy.

At that point, Walter, our team relay coordinator, had a talk with me at the post-meet social and said, “As high points winner, you are now in the lead to win the Georgia Championship Series trophy for your age group.  So, you need to swim in two of the next three events in the series to qualify and be in the running.”

Well, I had already planned on swimming in the Athens long course (50 meter pool) meet, in June, as well as the short course meters meet at Georgia Tech, in December.  “But, what if you get sick or hurt and can’t make it to the meet?  You need to swim in the open water meet just to make sure you get your three events in and qualify!”  Walter was very convincing…

As you can see by my last post, I entered the open water swim at Lake Acworth and swam the 3k for a silver medal, immediately followed by the 1k, for the gold.  And, yes, it was another first; I had never competed in open water before and ended up winning high points.  (I also won high points the month before, in Athens).

So, without having to include December’s meet at Georgia Tech, I won the Georgia Championship Series for the first time.  (I still plan on entering the meet at Georgia Tech, though, and going for high points.)

That high points thing really got me thinking.  High points awards aren’t necessarily won by the fastest swimmer, because some of the fastest swimmers only enter their core events at meets to focus on getting their best times.  But, I don’t fall into that category.  Not only am I not the fastest breaststroker in my age group (I rank in the top 35-40%); I haven’t been able to beat my best time in quite awhile.  (Perhaps aging is working against me here!).

I’m in this for FUN.  And, as much as I love swimming breaststroke, beating my head up against the wall trying to beat my best time is getting to be NOT fun.  So, I’m trying new events and entering a lot of them at meets to see where my other strengths (if any) may be.  Having goals and working towards achieving them is what keeps me motivated and if I win a high points trophy along the way, all the better!

Two of the hardest events in swimming are the 400 IM (Individual Medley; 100 of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) and butterfly.  I had avoided them like the plague, because I didn’t think I had enough strength and endurance to tackle that much butterfly.  Besides, I’m a sprinter!  But, it was time to put my body to the test and see if I could prove myself wrong…

In my quest to see if I could swim 200 yards “fly” without needing lifeguard rescue, I actually kept going and ended up swimming 900 yards continuously.  Here it is:  http://youtu.be/4fmP1szg4mo .  Two weeks later, I decided to try it again and swam 2,000 yards of continuous fly.  I was so slow and the digital camera file was so large, the camera stopped at one point to write to the file.  So, the swim is in two files:  http://youtu.be/4PJouksr3wI  and http://youtu.be/BfKKZa3uUYM .

At that point, I realized something it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out:  If I could swim 2,000 yards of continuous butterfly, I surely could swim 200!  It may be slow, but I can do it!  So, that little exercise in endurance was a whole bunch of firsts that made June an exciting month of swimming for me.  And, at that point, my coach, Mike, declared me a “distance swimmer”; a very different pill to swallow, considering I was a breaststroke sprinter who walks fast, talks fast and basically does everything like a hare, rather than a tortoise.

For my next meet, I decided to enter a full slate of events at our regional championships, “Dixie Zone Long Course Championships”; 10 events in two days, in addition to getting recruited to swim in two team relays.  My new events on Saturday included 100 meter butterfly and 400 freestyle.  Sunday’s new events included 200 fly, 400 IM, and 800 free.  The goal:  SURVIVE.  Knowing there would be a bunch of fast swimmers at this meet, I knew I wouldn’t win high points.  And, I knew it was too much to expect of myself to get any personal best times, considering the circumstances; especially since my 400 free event didn’t go off until 7:30 PM, we didn’t get to the hotel until 9:00 PM (and still needed to eat dinner), and had to be back in the pool at 8:00 AM the following day for warm-ups.  To make matters worse, the indoor/outdoor “climate controlled” pool facility was not exactly climate controlled.  The huge doors were rolled up and it was very hot and humid in Greenville.  The only air conditioning to be found was in the locker room.  The locker room became my friend- as was the shower turned on COLD.

In the end, not only did I survive last weekend’s meet; I had a blast.  A swim buddy of my on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums posted this about me and Bruce:  “Elaine had a great meet! She boldly took on the toughest events in the pool, including the 200 fly, and the 400 IM, and the 800 free, all on the same day! At the end of the day, she was still full of energy, bouncing up & down on the deck, saying, “Let’s do it again!” It was fun hanging out with Elaine and Bruce.”

And, after looking at my times in the 400 and 800 free, my coach, again, declared me a “distance swimmer”.  I will never give up sprint breaststroke, but it looks like I will be wearing a new hat (swim cap?), as well.

So, it was a weekend full of firsts!  And, it has been a year full of fun firsts.  I love firsts; it’s what makes life exciting, inspiring, and sweet.  But, I also learned something from all those firsts:  Always write your goals in pencil- and leave plenty of room at the bottom of the page to add more!

GinaBarber,ElaineKrugman,CherylAyers,NanaWhalen

These are my 400 Women’s Medley Relay teammates:  Gina Barber, Cheryl Ayers, and Nana Whalen.  Nana is 75 and won high points in her age group.  She swam butterfly in our relay and also swam the 400 IM and 800 free!

DavidMiller,ElaineKrugman,MalenaHankins,MikeStilles.jpg

After swimming my first 400 IM, I celebrated with my Georgia Masters Teammates:  David Miller, Malena Hankins, and Mike Stilles.  Malena and I swam on the 200 Mixed Freestyle Relay together.  The previous week, she swam in a 10 mile race!

MarkRogers-ElaineKrugman-Post800Free.JPG

This is my buddy, Mark Rogers, immediately following the 800 free race.  He was in the lane next to me and made up for coming in after me in the 1k open water swim.  He beat me in this race by :45!

GAJA.JPG

Our team won the high points award against all teams who were from outside of South Carolina.  The only reason I’m holding the trophy was because Walter (far left) asked Bruce to shoot the picture!