SIX SUGGESTIONS FOR THE SOLO SWIMMER

Note:  The following article appeared on Swimspire.com in September of 2016 and was adapted for the Georgia Masters Newsletter in December, 2016:

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Are you a solo swimmer?  If so, welcome to my world!  For many of us, swimming solo rather than with a workout group or team isn’t a preference; it’s dictated by circumstances.  In my case, the nearest U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) team is located quite a distance away, so the community pool just one mile away is the more convenient option.

Although swimming solo may have its disadvantages, I have discovered ways during my six years as a lone Masters swimmer to overcome them and make the most of my swimming experience.  Hopefully, the following suggestions will do the same for you.

  1. No coach? No problem!  Learn to coach yourself with video.

The most frustrating thing for me training solo was not having a coach on deck to evaluate my strokes on a regular basis, so I bought a waterproof camera and enlisted the help of my husband to periodically shoot video of all four strokes. Having to kneel down on the deck to record underwater views was a knee and back buster, so I rigged up a camera mount on a PVC pipe.  Now, my husband can stand up straight to shoot underwater video.  He simply twists the pipe to pan the camera as I swim by, or he holds it still at the end of the pool for front views.

In order to shoot video myself, I use reusable rubber-coated twist ties (available at Home Depot) to attach the PVC pipe to the pool ladder or railing.

Next, I upload the videos to my computer, and compare them to instructional videos right here on Swimspire.  I also compare my stroke videos to “Go Swim” and “Total Immersion” videos viewed on YouTube.

Alternatively, the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums (www.usms.org) are a great place to have your stroke video evaluated by other Masters swimmers.  Just upload your video to YouTube, and post the link on the Forums.  (You don’t have to be a member to sign up for a free account.)  Every time I have done so, other “Forumites” have responded with great advice.  Often these online “coaches” have been actual swim coaches or world-class Masters swimmers!

  1. Are you lost as to how to design your own workout plans? Check out the Internet!

The USMS website is THE place to find a variety of excellent workouts to suit your needs.  Sign up for that free account, and check out “Workouts” in the “General” section of the Forums.  Swimming workouts are posted on a daily basis by top-level Masters swimmers that are geared for sprinters, long-distance swimmers, triathletes, stroke specialists, and more.  There are even swim workouts specifically written for expectant mothers and those with limited mobility!

There are plenty of other options for swim workout ideas, too.  Google “swim workouts,” and there will be numerous options for ideas.

I copy and pasted my favorite workouts into Word Documents, custom-formatted them in larger font for easy reading through goggles, and printed them out.  They are kept in a three-ring binder in plastic sleeves, and I place a selected one in a jumbo Ziploc bag to keep it dry at the pool.

I also record my results (such as my practice “race” times) on a plastic SCUBA slate using a pencil.  After recording the information online in my USMS Fitness log, I use toothpaste and water to scrub it clean.

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  1. Be a sociable solo swimmer.

Many swimmers love the solitude of swimming solo, and escape to the pool to alleviate stress.  If you’re an extrovert like me, though, I enjoy being around people; so, I make an effort to be sociable when I’m at the pool.

Regardless of your personality type, there are advantages to getting to know others where you swim.

Over the years my friendliness towards others at the pool has come back around in ways I had never expected.  I get asked about upcoming competitions, receive a lot of encouragement, and get congratulated when I return to the pool following a meet.  There are several people who even offer to move (or just automatically do it) if they are using my favorite lane when I arrive for my workout.  (The other narrow swim lane has two ladders that are not built into the wall—painful for my fingers if the butterfly recovery isn’t timed perfectly.)

Striking up conversations with others at the pool has led to some wonderful friendships, too.  We already had one thing in common when we met; we loved to swim!

  1. Become a “Forumite” on the USMS Discussion Forums.

Joining USMS, and being active on the Discussion Forums has also led to cherished friendships over the years.  One “Forumite” (a FINA World Record breaststroker) who had viewed my posted stroke videos and responded with advice did something for me I will never forget.  At my first USMS Short Course Nationals, just two months after joining USMS, he surprised me by watching me race, and then meeting me at my lane to provide stroke feedback.  Hearing what I did well and how I could improve helped me going into my next race.  This “Forumite” has been my valued online coach ever since, and I am one of his biggest fans!

At another national swim meet the following year, my husband and I got to know the guys from another team sitting next to us in the bleachers.  When it came time for my 200 breaststroke race, I heard a booming, “Go, Elaine!” echo from the bleachers as I stepped up onto the starting block.  That jolt of inspiration propelled me to swim a personal best time!

Besides learning a lot from the other Forum contributors, many of them have become real friends—unlike the so-called “friends” many people make on Facebook (that they may never meet face-to-face).  When I compete at swim meets—especially USMS National Championships—I get to see and spend time with my Forum friends.  One of them even traveled across the country to visit me in Georgia, and participate with me at an upstate meet.  It was a blast!

Overall, the swimming community is a friendly, open, and supportive one.  Become a part of it, and you will be happy you did!

  1. Volunteer.

Are you a non-competitive fitness/recreation swimmer?  You will be welcomed with open arms if you go to a local swim meet, and volunteer to time races, count laps during distance events, or assist the meet director!  It’s a great way to meet other swimmers, and become a part of your local swim community, even if you never swim a race.

When I was unable to compete following hip surgery, I timed races at a meet.  I had so much fun cheering my teammates on and socializing with the others.

Are you considering becoming a competitive swimmer, but a lack of self-confidence in your abilities is stopping you? Do you feel intimidated by the thought of competition?  Volunteering at a local Masters or Senior Games meet is a great opportunity to see what it’s really like.  Watch the other swimmers, and see how you compare.  At a recent local swim meet, there were swimmers of all levels; from a three-time 1980’s Olympian to a swimmer who appeared to struggle with completing the race.  Nobody paid particular attention to either one; we were all there to race against the clock and achieve our personal goals.  As always, the atmosphere was fun, friendly, and supportive.

  1. Share your skills.

Related to the last suggestion, sharing your skills with other swimmers will bring joy in unpredictable ways.  When I complimented a new resident at my community on her freestyle stroke, she lamented the fact she hadn’t been coached since her age-group swimming days; so, she wasn’t sure how her stroke looked.  I offered to shoot topside and underwater video of her stroke, so we met up the following day for a video session, and I recorded her stroke from several angles.  I then uploaded the videos to YouTube and sent her the links.  She was so appreciative that she treated me to lunch!  We had a great time, and a new friendship was formed.

I also write a monthly “Swimmer Profile” column for the Georgia Masters Newsletter and contribute photos I shoot at swim meets.  In addition, I periodically submit meet recap articles.  I enjoy the writing process, and interviewing profile subjects has been a great way to get to know other area swimmers.  Friendships I’ve formed have deepened, and the compliments on my writing have been gratifying!

Think about your skills and how they could benefit other swimmers at your pool or your local swim club.  It will be a rewarding experience!

Putting these six suggestions into action is sure to make your solo swimming experience more enjoyable.  Give them a try and see for yourself!

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THE “M’S” HAVE IT! MINNEHAHA (HA-HA!) FALLS, MINNEAPOLIS, AND MALL OF AMERICA

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According to the results of my Google search, Minnehaha is a fictional Native American woman documented in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha”. She is the lover of the titular protagonist Hiawatha and comes to a tragic end. The name, often said to mean “laughing water”, literally translates to “waterfall” or “rapid water” in Dakota.

The name does make you chuckle, don’t ya think?

Minnehaha Regional Park, where the 53-foot falls are the star attraction, is one of the most popular sites in Minneapolis and was highest on our list to visit.  Walking/hiking and travel photography are our “thing”, and there were plenty of opportunities for both.  Besides, the park is also home of Sea Salt Eatery, a popular casual seafood restaurant reputed (on Trip Advisor) to have tasty fish tacos.  The great outdoors and delicious food; what a perfect combo!

The Metro Transit train stop was just across the street from the park, and the falls were located a short walk through lovely gardens, once we entered the park.

We arrived before the restaurant opened, so enjoying the gardens and watching the falls was a great way to pass the time before the restaurant line started forming.  (The lines get long, so we wanted to get ahead of the rush.)

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The fish tacos?  As tasty as the reviews stated, and dining alfresco was a lovely way to enjoy our brunch along with the hypnotic sound of the rushing water over the falls.

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Fueled up, we were ready to rumble, and hike along Minnehaha Creek (which flows over the Minnehaha Falls) to see where it met the Mississippi River.  The scenery along the creek was beautiful, and it was interesting to see the confluence—the perfect fishing spot for this fly fisherman:

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Taking a different path back and going the (unintended) long way back to the station gave us the opportunity to see more of this 167-acre park.

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The remainder of the afternoon was spent walking the city and checking out two sports stadiums—homes of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins—both located in downtown Minneapolis.  The glass building of the football stadium made for some fun photography!

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“The times they are a changing.” This is Bob Dylan, then and now.

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The following day was a cold and rainy one, so we planned everything just right for our Minneapolis visit!  The first day was spent all outdoors, and our second one indoors.  We took the train out to the University of Minnesota to see my friends compete at U.S. Masters Swimming Nationals.  The weather at Minnehaha Falls couldn’t have been better, so we didn’t mind having a rainy day where we had planned on spending it indoors, anyway.

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Georgia Masters Teammates: Malena, Marianne, and Ed

It was great seeing a few of my teammates, but I was most excited to see our friends from Oregon, Allen and Carol.  “King Frog” (as I have called him since he broke the 200 Meter Breaststroke World Record in his age group) has been my breaststroke mentor on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, since I joined USMS in 2010.  We (and our spouses) became friends and look forward to seeing each other at national competitions.  (We even met up at the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal, in 2014!  King Frog broke a World Record then, too.)

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“King Frog (Allen) & Carol

After lunch with King Frog and Carol, we took the train out to Mall of America.  Shopping wasn’t the draw (we don’t particularly enjoy it); however, the spectacle of it all was what we were curious to see.

The mall completely surrounds an amusement park, and I managed to find plenty of photo ops. at the rides and throughout the mall.  The massive Lego sculptures were especially must-photograph features, as was the irresistible Crayola Crayon store where the colors on display were so cheerful.

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Coming up next:  HITTIN’ THE ROAD TO WISCONSIN

 

CONQUERING THE IRONMAN PENTATHLON (U.S. MASTERS SWIMMING)

The following article was written in the middle of the night following my participation in the SouthSide Pentathlon last Saturday.  I have never been able to sleep through the night following a swim meet, so I have made a habit of rolling out of bed and hittin’ the keys.  

This article will appear in the next “Georgia Masters Newsletter,”  for Georgia’s U.S. Masters Swimming regional team.

CONQUERING THE IRONMAN PENTATHLON

By, Elaine Krugman

Since joining U.S. Masters Swimming in 2010, I have competed in a pentathlon swim meet each September.  Sponsored by the SouthSide Seals, one of the small local teams that fall under the Georgia Masters regional team umbrella, the SouthSide Pentathlon is a fun meet.  Rob Copeland, along with other members of his swimming family run the meet and do an outstanding job.  This year, Megan had the results out in a flash!

Remembering back over past pentathlon meets, one of my favorite Masters Swimming memories was the 2010 Peachtree Pentathlon (as it was called then when it was held at the Kedron pool in Peachtree City), when I participated as a newbie in the Sprint Pentathlon which included the 100 Yard Individual Medley, and 50 Yard races of each stroke (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle).  In the 50 Yard Breaststroke, I made National Qualifying Times (NQT’s) for my age group—exactly to the hundredth of a second!  Being so new to Masters Swimming, I was shocked and very excited.  It meant I could swim an additional race at Nationals beyond the three races allowed for all swimmers.

Little did I know that would be the last time I would make NQT’s in an electronically-timed meet.  (Hand-timed meets typically result in faster race times, and that was the case for me when I last made NQT’s in 2013.)

I embody the motto for Georgia Masters: “The older we get, the faster we were.”

Since that first pentathlon meet, I have looked forward to competing in it each year.  In 2011 and 2012, I raced the Sprint Pentathlon, because I was a sprinter.  (Everything I did was fast:  walk fast, talk fast, move fast—it was the only speed I knew!)

In 2012, that all changed.  I discovered the joys of distance swimming when I competed in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet.  I entered the 3K and 1K races and swam faster as I progressed through each kilometer.  When I told Coach Mike Slotnick (co-host of Masters swim meets at Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center) about it, he declared, “That’s a sign of a distance swimmer.”  I replied, “But, I’m a sprinter!”  (His declaration became a regular thing during subsequent training sessions when we swam together, and he noticed my speed increasing as the session progressed, rather than the opposite.)

Mike finally had me convinced, and I started training for the long pool events:  1650 Yard / 1500 Meter Freestyle, 400 IM, and 200 Butterfly.  After successfully completing (meaning I wasn’t disqualified and I didn’t drown) the 200 Butterfly at a meet, Rob Copeland challenged me to compete in the Ironman at the next SouthSide Pentathlon.  “You’re on!” I replied with enthusiasm.  “Uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into…” was what I later mumbled to myself.

In 2014 (there was no pentathlon meet in 2013), with much hesitation (and a stomach full of butterflies), I registered for the Ironman.  Top-Ten swimmer, Marianne Countryman did too, so I knew I wouldn’t win my age group; but, my goal was to just complete the darn thing without getting disqualified on any of my events—and, without the lifeguard having to jump in to save me.

I succeeded at both goals, and a funny thing happened after touching the wall after my last event, the 200 Yard Butterfly (Yes, they save the hardest event for last!).  In between panting like a dog and gasping for air, I said to the swimmer in the neighboring lane, “That was fun!  I’m doing this again next year!”

Unfortunately, I had to pass on the 2015 meet due to a setback after having hip surgery, but I was back at it this year with much anticipation and preparation.  Prior to the meet, I had “raced” the Ironman four weeks in a row, completing the events in 35-40 minutes with short rest in between races.  My race times were horrible under those conditions, but I figured it would make the actual meet seem easier in comparison.  It worked.  I actually took the most time off my last event of the pentathlon, the 200 Yard Butterfly, and I even had something left in the tank to anchor the 400 Medley Relay at the end of the meet!

I was proud of our small group of Ironman competitors.  Out of the eighty swimmers at the meet, only eight of us took the Ironman challenge; four women and four men.  Since we were all in different age groups, we all won first place (Hey, you have to show up to win!)

The youngest “Ironman” was Nautical Miler, Gina Grant (18); and, the oldest was John Zeigler (70).  Other Ironman participants included Sara Edwards (39), myself at 54 years-old, and Ellen Clay (57) for the women; and, meet host Rob Copeland (59), Joe Hutto (64), and 1984 Olympics Bronze Medalist for Sweden, Michael Soderlund (54).  (As a side note, Michael also competed in the 1980 and 1988 Olympics.)

Hey, Ironman guys and gals, let’s do it again next year!

*As a side note, I finished first of the four women, and I beat one of the men.  Woohoo!

QUEEN ANNE (AKA ANNE-WITH-AN-E)

Do a search within my blog site on “Anne Dunivin,” and you will see I have written several times about this amazing woman and teammate who has been a great inspiration to me.

Now 99 years old, and swimming faster than she did at Nationals three years ago, Queen AnnE had every swimmer at the U.S. Masters Swimming meet at UGA echoing what I said to Anne when we first met, “I want to grow up to be just like you!”

Check out this link to read on about Anne’s amazing accomplishments at last Saturday’s swim meet.  This article appeared in print in yesterday’s edition of Atlanta Journal Constitution:  http://www.ajc.com/news/lifestyles/health/99-year-old-atlanta-swimmer-completes-swim-and-set/nrbXf/