MINNEAPOLIS, MINNEHAHA, MINNESOTA—THAT’S A LOT OF WATER!

“Minn” in the Dakota language means “water”, and there’s plenty of it in Minnesota—more than 10,000 lakes!

How did we end up in Minnesota, anyway?  It all started from two separate paths that met up perfectly in Minneapolis.  U.S. Masters Swimming Summer Nationals was scheduled for early August, 2017, and it’s a state we had never been to during our travels.  I had also missed the National Senior Games when it was held previously at the very same pool, so I thought it would be a great opportunity.

Meanwhile, I had been telling Bruce over the past four years how great the American Steamboat Company’s “American Queen” was when I took my mom on a paddle wheel cruise down the Mississippi, from Memphis to New Orleans.  It was an experience I thought he would like very much.

One day last year, Bruce greeted me at the door holding the new American Queen Steamboat Company brochure, exclaiming, “I found a cruise for us!”  I figured he had finally decided he wanted to try one of their one-week cruises from Memphis.  Instead, he picked out their 23-day re-positioning river cruise that paddles down the Mississippi from Red Wing, Minnesota to New Orleans!

It just so happened that cruise was scheduled for one week after Nationals, and he had a plan.  (I sometimes wonder what’s rolling around in his head when he takes breaks from his glass work, kicks back on the bed, and stares at the ceiling…)  “How about if you swim at Nationals, and then we’ll rent a car and do a road trip around northern Wisconsin?  We can return the car back in Minneapolis, and then we’ll take the cruise?” he asked.

Adding up the days, this plan amounted to five weeks of travel—piece of cake for me, but not so much for Bruce.  “Are you sure you want to be away for THAT long?” I asked.  “We did a seven-week road trip two years ago, didn’t we?”  Yeah, good point.  “What about your Etsy business?”  I asked.  “We’ll take it with us!” he replied.

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the phone and the cruise was booked.  (By booking immediately before the early-booking deadline, we saved $3,000 and were able to get one of the lowest-priced cabins that book up quickly.)

Fast forward to May of this year, the swimming part of the plan started to unravel (as you may have read in my July 8 post).  Due to injuries, I didn’t know whether I would be able to compete at Nationals after all.  The entry deadline was prior to my open water swim, and I wouldn’t have time to prepare for my usual competitive events.  (There’s a big difference between swimming the 200 Meter Butterfly or Breaststroke in a Nationals competition and a 1K freestyle fun race in a lake.  Others may argue with me on this point, but I’ll take the 1K as the easier-on-the-body-and-mind event.)

The deadline came, and I knew I wouldn’t be ready to compete at Nationals, so I let it pass.  We decided to go anyway, see (and cheer on) our friends, and stick with our travel plans.

We arrived in Minnesota on August 1 and took their excellent Metro Transit train downtown to our hotel.  The afternoon was spent taking a long walk down to the river and across the bridge for lunch, and then back downtown.

Here are some scenes from our first day in Minneapolis:

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Downtown Minneapolis

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Across the bridge from downtown Minneapolis

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Minneapolis has a thriving foodie food truck scene!

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Next up:  The M’s have it!  Minnehaha (Ha-ha!) Falls, Minneapolis, and Mall of America

 

 

 

 

 

YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP TO WIN!

It sure feels good to be back!

Ironically, just after submitting this article to Swimspire, my body decided to crap out on me all at once. After putting in several months of good training in the pool where I was feeling great (and racing my best breaststroke times in four years), my body rebelled. One day I felt great after a terrific workout, and the next day, I didn’t. That following day, an elbow injury from February and a shoulder repetitive stress injury from March—both land-based injuries that had not affected my swimming at all—decided to join me in the pool.  For the trifecta, I aggravated the scar tissue in my hip—again.  (Oh, and did I mention autoimmune issues returning with a vengeance?)

A visit to my orthopaedic surgeon resulted in a diagnosis of elbow tendonitis, shoulder bursitis, and a knowing smile about my hip.  We both knew that it took two months to heal last time I aggravated the scar tissue, and it will take two months to heal again.  “Don’t sweat it; you’ll be fine,” we both said with that smile to each other.

Meanwhile, I kept thinking to myself, “How do I listen to my body if it doesn’t give me any warning?”  It sure makes training iffy.

It has been over two months since my body took a dump on me. I’ve been very diligent about doing the PT exercises Dr. Andrachuk prescribed.  (Knowing I’ve had quite a past history in physical therapy over the years and was always diligent about doing my exercises, we both decided I would be fine on my own.)

Fortunately, I have mostly recovered– perhaps about 80%. I saw Doc at the end of June and received a positive report. Other than wanting me to lay off full butterfly and backstroke for awhile longer (I just started back at breaststroke), he said my prognosis was good for a complete recovery.  “Let pain be your guide,” my past physical therapist always told me.

Although I missed the National Senior Games and will not compete at U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships, I did a few test swims in the pool to see if I could handle swimming (not exactly “racing”) an open water 1K race.  I was fine, so I competed in the 1K at the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet, today.  (I usually swim the 3K and 1K; however, I knew not to even THINK about that yet!)

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What a blast!  It’s always one of my favorite events of the year; I LOVE open water swimming!  It felt great, and I was able to kick it up a notch to about 75% race-pace effort without repercussions.  What a glorious feeling to be back in the groove again!  I won a gold medal, too!!  (I will admit, however, that I was the only one in my age group.  Hey, you have to show up to win!)

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It has been tough (both physically and mentally), and I am still very unsure what my body will be able to handle in the future. I am fearful of injuries– especially since they almost always come without warning.  (For example, I’ve had two spontaneous floating rib dislocations and one at the sternoclavicular joint.  WTF?)

Whether I will be able to TRAIN to RACE in the future remains to be seen, but even if my future means “swimming” my races rather than “racing” them, it feels GREAT to be back!

STAYING SELF-MOTIVATED AS A SOLO SWIMMER

After writing two articles for Swimspire , I was asked by Julia Galan to continue with my “Solo Swimmer” theme and write a series of articles for her website.  The following article was recently published, and appears here:

Whether you swim with a team or solo, all of us swimmers have had our issues staying motivated at one time or another. Being a solo swimmer can make it even more difficult if there isn’t anyone around to encourage you. Self-motivation is the key to happiness and success when going it alone as a swimmer, so read on for tips on how to stay fired up to keep on swimmin’!

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Why do you swim?

First, it’s important to answer this basic question: Why do you swim? It’s very difficult to stay motivated to do anything you don’t really want to do. Are you swimming just because your doctor told you to swim for health reasons? Is it because you love running and cycling, but you have to swim to compete in triathlons (your latest New Year’s resolution)? Or, do you love the way swimming makes you feel, both mentally and physically? Maybe it’s because you swam as a kid, and you want to do it as an adult on your terms, rather than having a coach constantly barking orders at you. Hey, maybe it’s even for several of these reasons.

The bottom line is this: If you know why you swim, it will help keep you motivated to get wet.

Embrace habits that make you happy

Are you a morning person or a night owl? What time of day are you more likely to make swimming a habit? Work, family, and other commitments will dictate your available time slot for swim workouts; but, if you have a choice, swim at a time you are most likely to stick with on a regular basis. This is one of the advantages of being a solo swimmer – we have more control over our swim schedules than team or workout group swimmers do.

For me, I find it easiest to stick with a routine of swimming first thing in the morning. I’m not necessarily an early riser, but swimming is my first appointment of the day. Nothing else gets scheduled on any day until the afternoon, whether it’s helping my husband with his part-time business, doing volunteer work, scheduling appointments, or running errands. My friends also know I don’t check e-mail or make phone calls until after I return from the pool. Besides, I don’t function optimally until after a workout, so it’s just as well! I’m a much happier person during and after a swim!

Set flexible goals

By now, you have probably heard and read plenty about the benefits and how-to’s of setting goals; but I’ve learned a few things about my personal goal-setting that puts a different spin on the well-known S.M.A.R.T method of setting goals (Specific. Measurable. Achievable/Attainable. Realistic. Time-bound. There are variations on this acronym, but you get the picture.)

I add an “F” to my acronym. S.M.A.R.T.F. isn’t a word, I know, but the “F” is the most important part of my goal-setting: FLEXIBLE.

Until I added “flexible” to the equation, nothing took a hit to my self-motivation more than the constant frustration of failing to achieve my specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals!

Case in point: After nailing U.S. Masters Swimming National Qualifying Times (NQT’s) in the 50 Yard Breaststroke at a September of 2010 meet, I thought a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be to aim to achieve NQT’s every year. Congenital physical issues led to a series of repetitive stress injuries (mostly non-swimming related), though; so, my goals were constantly derailed. Ultimately, I had hip surgery in late 2014, resulting in a multi-year succession of failed S.M.A.R.T. goals. Can you say, “FRUSTRATION”?

The moral of the story? Write your goals in PENCIL! Being flexible will help you stay motivated. If a road-block conspires to keep you from achieving your specific goal, reassess your situation, shift gears; and, start the S.M.A.R.T. process over again.

Although my hip injury prevented me from making NQT’s, I still wanted to compete at a swim meet that took place just a few days before my hip surgery. I was unable to kick breaststroke (or kick much of any other stroke for that matter), so I needed to reassess my situation. Rather than miss competing at one of my favorite meets of the year, I got my surgeons approval to compete, and then asked him to write a medical excuse to the chief official explaining I couldn’t kick breaststroke. My breaststroke races were swum instead with an in-pool start, breaststroke pulls, and no pull-outs, while my legs flopped behind like an injured frog. The 400 Freestyle was swum without a block start or kicking, and no hard pushes off the walls at each turn. My race times suffered tremendously, but I still won the points I needed to achieve one of my other goals of winning the Georgia Grand Prix Series for my age group. Had I not raced that day, I would have failed at a goal that took the entire year (and several meets) to achieve; and, I would have missed out on a trophy that I now enjoy as a symbol of my perseverance.

Set long-term and short-term goals

What do you hope to gain from swimming? For me it provides so many physical, mental, and social benefits that my long-term goal is a no-brainer: I want to be able to swim and compete for the rest of my life. In order to be able to achieve that goal, I need to stay healthy and avoid injuries that force me out of the water. Working backwards from there, that long-term goal dictates how I set all of my short-term swimming goals. I may have a goal to make NQT’s in breaststroke; but, if my hip starts feeling the effects of my training schedule, I need to reassess, switch gears, and adjust my goals until I’m ready to ramp up again.

Often, my workout goal (a very short-term goal) changes multiple times in a single workout. I may go to the pool on “Fast Friday” with the goal of conquering a USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) set of breaststroke, but if my hip is fatigued or sore, swimming multiple race-pace 50’s of full breaststroke is out of the question. Out goes the kick, and I swim it as breaststroke pulls instead to avoid injury. Then, the remainder of my workout gets adjusted accordingly, depending on how my body feels.

What is your long-term goal? Keep it in mind as you work backwards and break it down into shorter segments; and, remember that flexibility is key!

Variety is the spice of life!

Are you having a difficult time staying motivated because you are bored or burned out with your current swimming routine? Adding variety will help keep things fun and challenging—keys to staying self-motivated.

If you are a lap swimmer who only swims freestyle to stay fit, but you get bored staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool as you swim lap after lap, consider learning another stroke. In addition to taking adult swim lessons or hiring a coach by the hour to teach you, there are plenty of free resources available to teach yourself backstroke, breaststroke, or even butterfly. My favorite videos are at http://www.GoSwim.TV (you can subscribe for free), but there are also many other good ones on YouTube.

How about entering a competition? Although I highly recommend joining U.S. Masters Swimming for their numerous motivating resources (and to be able to compete at USMS swim meets), there are other options available. YMCA has excellent swim programs and competitions, or you could check with your local recreation department. Another option is to compete in your state’s annual pool or open water swim meet that is open to all ages (stategamesofamerica.com). If you are 50+ years of age, check out your state’s Senior Olympicsprogram. None of these organizations require you to be an expert swimmer, and you will find competitors of all skill levels and ages at these meets.

Having a competitive event to look forward to will keep you motivated to train and give you a built-in goal to shoot for.

On the flip side, if you are a burned out competitive swimmer, how about changing it up a bit to fire up your motivation? If you are a stroke specialist, give yourself permission to take a year (or season) off from your best stroke and focus on a different one. Can’t decide which stroke? Train for the individual medley, and you will get to add three other strokes to your specialty! This give you plenty of training options and adds a lot of variety to your training.

Are you a sprinter? Try long distance events, and add an open water race into your meet line-up for the year. If you are an open water swimmer, see what it’s like to race between the lane lines and add a flip turn to your freestyle.

Perhaps your motivation has reached such a low point that you don’t even want to get out of bed to swim. If that happens, just think about how good it feels after a workout. You’re energized and feel a sense of satisfaction afterwards, right? If you skip your workout, you will deprive yourself of those great, healthy feelings! Get up and just go swim for ten minutes. If after that time your motivation still hasn’t kicked in, try doing something fun. Join the water walkers at the shallow end and socialize with them as you walk laps in the pool, go for a walk on the beach or bodysurf (if you’re at the ocean), or get out on deck and do some yoga. ANY exercise will feel better than NO exercise; and, perhaps you will regain your motivation to swim a few laps. If not, don’t beat yourself up; tomorrow is always another day!

Remember, as a solo swimmer, you have complete control over what, where, when, and how you train and swim! Just never take your eye off your long-term goal and forget the “why”, because “why” you swim is what will keep you motivated to take the plunge, time after time.


Elaine Krugman is a U.S. Masters Swimmer (55-59 age group) and writes articles for the Georgia Masters Newsletter.  She also writes a blog about three of her passions:  travel, swimming, and chocolate; and, she’s happiest when the three intersect! Check out Elaine’s blog here!

A SHARED PASSION

Since joining U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) in 2010, I’ve met so many wonderful people I would have never met otherwise.  Participating in any swimming event means being around others who have a shared passion:  SWIMMING.

My past few days have been happily filled with swimming and being around many amazing people who share my passion.

Two of the days were spent (in part) in Atlanta volunteering in the hospitality suite for the 2016 USMS Convention.  In addition to getting to spend time away from the pool with a few of my teammates, it was a great meeting delegates from around the country and seeing people again who I had met at previous competitions.

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Bumping into Tim Waud brought back fun memories of this:

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That’s Tim in the patriotic hat representing USMS as Head Coach for our team at the 2014 FINA World Championships in Montreal.  I’m the one in the white shirt, and all the other gals are my awesome teammates!

 

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I forgot to bring my camera back to the convention today, so this is a grainy picture of me with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowdy Gaines.  If you watched swimming in the last few Olympics, that was Rowdy’s enthusiastic voice you heard on NBC.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Bruce and I headed in the opposite direction to Warner Robins for the Georgia Golden Olympics, a qualifying meet for the upcoming 2017 National Senior Games which will take place in Birmingham, Alabama next June.

In addition to several of my other teammates, my favorite teammate, Anne Dunivin, came to compete in the meet.  Type the name “Anne Dunivin” in the search box up above, and you will see I have written about Anne several times.  She is a rock star in the swimming world.  Why?  Because she is going to be 100 years old on October 17th, and she is still passionate about swimming!

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Anne, with daughters Virginia and Barbara

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Queen Anne!

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Anne, ready to race!

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Anne, in great form racing the 100 Yard Freestyle.  She won gold!  (Of course, it helps to outlive your competition!)

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Anne and her daughter, Virginia.

Anne was in demand at the meet.  She was interviewed by a local newspaper and two TV stations (WGXA and WMAZ)!  Here she is giving an interview for WGXA:

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That’s Bruce getting a kick out of listening to the interview!

See the interview here:  http://wgxa.tv/news/local/100-year-old-woman-proves-youre-never-too-old-to-be-fit

It was a long day (10 hours!) in the 94-degree heat, but it was well worth the 90-minute drive south to spend time with Anne and her daughters, cheer Anne on, and qualify for the National Games.  I ended up with four gold medals and one bronze medal in the meet; and, I was the only woman to compete in the 200 Yard Butterfly.  (Hey, you have to show up to win!)

The picture on the left is with four of my medals, and again after I picked up my final medal.  I swam in the first event (400 Yard Individual Medley) and last event (500 Yard Freestyle), so it was a very long day.  It was dark by the time we arrived home!

Today, after returning home from the USMS convention, I received a wonderful message from Julia Galan of Swimspire.  She had asked me to write another article for her website, and she notified me that it went live.  Here it is:

http://www.swimspire.com/six-suggestions-solo-swimmer/

Julia had asked me to submit a photo of Bruce shooting underwater swimming video and another of me swimming.  Little did I know, she dug up some photos her dad had shot of me at 2014 USMS Summer National Championships to add to the article, too!  It was such a happy surprise to see the article on her website with some fun photos that brought back great memories!

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Julia, with her brother, Peter, and her dad, Florian

These past few days have been so joyful, inspiring, and FUN!  I hope you have a passion– or discover one– that brings you this much joy as well!

 

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/

2016 U.S. MASTERS SWIMMING SPRING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

I knew my body would take a beating at the two-day Georgia Tech Spring Splash meet (written about in my last post), so when I signed up for the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet, I didn’t have high expectations.  After all, the meet was scheduled for less than three weeks after I would be racing an incredibly grueling event line-up in my first meet back with my newly repaired hip.  If it hadn’t been for Nationals taking place just a six-hour drive away in Greensboro, North Carolina, I would have given it a miss.  (Please note:  The deadline for registration was long BEFORE HB 2 was signed into law!)

Since I didn’t make National Qualifying Times for this meet, I would be limited to racing three individual events, so I decided to race during just two of the four-day meet and enter races I knew my hip could handle after the Spring Splash.  That eliminated sprints, and all breaststroke races which were my best events, but stressful on the hips.  Since I love racing distance freestyle, I entered the 1650 Yard Freestyle (just short of one mile) on Day 1, and the 500 Yard Freestyle on Day 2.  For my third event, I chose 200 Yard Butterfly, one of my favorite events, but also one I “race” slowly.  In addition, I was placed in two freestyle relays on Day 2.

The Good:

Racing the mile was more enjoyable (and faster!) than at the Spring Splash meet, because it was my first race, and I felt strong.  It also helped having a cheering squad pulling for me.  At the far end of the pool was my buddy Michael who yelled for me while Bruce kept busy displaying my lap count, and next to the starting block was Michelle, a USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” who I hadn’t yet met in person.  I couldn’t figure out who the heck that was bending down to yell at me when I hit the wall for a few of my turns!  Although I do open turns due to having Meniere’s, an inner ear disorder that makes doing forward flip turns difficult without getting motion sickness, I try to do them as fast as possible.  Still, I caught just a glimpse of Michelle a couple of times and thought to myself, “Cool!  Somebody is cheering me on!”

At the finish, I looked up at the electronic board and saw I had beaten my Spring Splash time by 32 seconds!  I also beat all of my practice race times since before my surgery.  Medals are awarded for 1st – 10th places, so I was tickled to place 10th and bring home a nice souvenir from the meet.

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The Bad:

Racing that mile must have worn me down, because I just didn’t have what I needed for a fast 500 Yard Freestyle race the following morning.  I enjoyed the race, but my fatigued body was sluggish in the water, and I ended up with a time that was ten seconds slower than my race time at Spring Splash.

Later in the day, I (figuratively) hit a wall.  One flight up the stairs to the bleachers where I met up with Bruce, and I knew my strength was zapped for the day.  Racing the 200 Yard Butterfly that afternoon?  No way, no how, no can do.  That race requires all of my strength, and when I feel good, I love to race it, but when I feel bad, it is a living HELL.  Instead, I gave it a miss and saved myself for the two relays at the end of the day.

The Good (again!):

Although our team’s relay coach, Donna, was aware I wouldn’t be able to sprint in the relays, there wasn’t another swimmer available to complete the two relay squads I was placed in.  It was either take me as a slow fourth swimmer, or the relays would have to scratch.  There was no way I would risk my hip by sprinting, and my body was fatigued anyway, so I did what I could do.

Although I was unable to give my swims 100% effort, I had a lot of fun with my teammates, and I left the meet happy.

Here is a link to a video Bruce shot of the 400 Yard Mixed Freestyle Relay.  I swam the third leg, so look for me in the blue cap and flag-print suit:

https://youtu.be/M8X9YpIeKRc

The Ugly:

Greensboro won the bid for the USMS Spring National Championship meet long before North Carolina enacted HB 2, the extremely hateful and discriminating bill that was signed recently by their Republican governor, Pat McCrory.  How unfortunate, because U.S. Masters Swimming is an inclusive organization with many LGBT swimmers, including an entire team (Atlanta Rainbow Trout) here in Georgia.

Many of us who are against the bill felt conflicted about visiting a state governed by such hateful politicians, and from what I was told, there were about ten swimmers (of nearly 1,800) who canceled out because of it.

For those if you who think the bill is just about who is allowed to use which bathrooms, you might want to read this article:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/north-carolina%E2%80%99s-terrible-anti-lgbt-law-even-worse-we-thought

If nothing else, at least read this:

The legislation doesn’t stop there, however. Tucked inside is language that strips North Carolina workers of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center in Raleigh, “you no longer have a basic remedy.”

 Ugly?  Definitely.  In protest, one of the swim teams at Nationals wore these shirts:

T-shirt

This will be one  memorable takeaway  from the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet.

I will also remember the fun I had with my teammates:

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Relay Coach, Donna Hooe; Graham Fuller, Dan Beatty, and Me.

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Stan Delair, Carrie Hughes, Pam McClure, Ian King, Lesley Landey, Marianne Countryman, and Linda Zollweg

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Relay teammate, Ian King after beating his seed time in 100 Freestyle

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USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” Michelle Toner

 

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Marianne Countryman and Ed Saltzman (teammate and official)

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Michelle shot this photo of me racing the 1650 (mile).  That’s Bruce counting laps for me at the end of my lane.

IT FEELS GREAT TO BE BACK!

The following is something I recently read that may seem quite basic, but it really hit home as I soaked in the atmosphere of the Georgia Tech competition pool this past weekend:

“Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things you do every day.

Compare the lists.

Adjust accordingly.”

It had been since September, 2014 since I had last competed in a U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) meet due to my hip injury and surgery.  Although I was able to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet last July, I popped the scar tissue in my hip the following month which set me back from race-pace training and competition for the rest of the year.

Over the past few months, I have been joyfully working my way back, savoring every day I’m in the pool.  Swimming is definitely on my lists of what makes me happy and what I do every day (well, six days per week, to be more accurate).

Adding yoga to the physical therapy and stretching exercises I do on deck following my swims, I’ve been improving my flexibility, strength, and balance.  As I see improvement and my ability to master more difficult poses, the resulting satisfaction I feel has convinced me that yoga is up on those lists right after swimming.  The two go hand-in-hand as part of my regular routine.

Returning to competition, though, was something I was itching to add back to my “to do” list, even though it’s not something that can be done daily.

This past weekend, I was able to “adjust accordingly” and compete at the USMS Dixie Zone Championships at Georgia Tech, home of the 1996 Olympic swimming competition.

As my husband, Bruce and I entered the swim deck, butterflies returned to my stomach, something I hadn’t felt in a too-long period of time.  I smiled to myself, remembering how it used to feel, and how I had to learn to embrace rather than fight it.

For this two-day meet, I decided I would go all in and sign up for the maximum events (ten) figuring I could always scratch races if my hip wasn’t up to the task.  Practicing my chosen events in order over two days in March, I knew I could do it.  The difference, however, was not having to swim the extra warm-up and cool-down yardage in between events that weren’t scheduled back-to-back.  In practice, I had done all five events sequentially each day with only a couple minutes of rest in between each one.  Although it definitely gave me the confidence I needed for the meet, I wasn’t sure how my hip would respond with the additional yardage, starting blocks, and cooler water temperature—all important factors.

In addition to signing up for the maximum events, I entered what is considered some of the most difficult events, because those are the races I enjoy competing in the most.  I also threw in a couple of sprints for variety, even though I knew I would have to protect my hip by not going all-out in my kicking.

Saturday’s line-up:  400 Yard Individual Medley, 50 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back with 100 Yard Butterfly, 200 Yard Breaststroke, and 500 Yard Freestyle.

Sunday’s line-up:  1650 Yard (the “mile”) Freestyle, 200 Yard Butterfly, and 100 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back-to-back with 200 Yard Backstroke and 50 Yard Butterfly.  The day concluded with me swimming freestyle on the Women’s 400 Yard Medley Relay.

Although my race times were (much!) slower than before my hip surgery, I enjoyed every stroke that I swam in that pool, and I was thrilled to end the meet in second place in my age group.  (Ok, I’ll ‘fess up.  There were only three in our age group, because several of the other swimmers I usually compete against didn’t enter the meet for one reason or another.)

Still, regardless of my race times or the colors of my ribbons, just being able to compete was a fabulous feeling.  Just as wonderful, though, was seeing my friends and making new ones.  That is what USMS is all about:  Enjoying swimming and competing with others who feel just as passionately about it as you do.

Swimming is what makes me happy, and it’s what I will keep on doing as long as I can.  It feels great to be back!

Elaine-Blocks

That’s me in a timid-looking (careful!) block start in Lane 4 sporting a blue Georgia Masters swim cap that clashes with my suit!

MY FAVORITE RACE MEMORY AT WORLD’S

Our week in Montreal was a whirl wind of activity and excitement even in our down time between competition and sightseeing. The head coach for the Americans had started a Facebook page before the world championships began, so I found myself spending more time than I had intended sifting through the posts for any helpful information. Between intel being shared there and on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, and keeping up with e-mails, additional blog posts never got written.

I try to keep a very limited presence on Facebook but find it necessary to be on that site to keep up with swim team and meet information. In the case of Worlds, it was a must due to FINA (the world governing body of the five aquatic sports represented at the world championships) falling down on the job. Without getting into details as to why it was necessary, trust me when I say how crucial it was that the competitors and coaches themselves stepped in to help each other out.

The swimmers and coaches are what made the entire experience a fabulous one for me. The memories I will take away from the meet and our time in Canada are ones I will always cherish and hope never to forget.

In the pool, my race times were very forgettable. Bruce and I had way too much fun seeing the city of Montreal in between competition to be well-rested to race at my best! There was one race, however, that was special.

Most of the time when I race, I am unaware of where the other competitors are in the pool until after I hit the timing pad at the end. I put my head down during my race and just focus on my stroke and where I should be at any given moment.

During my 200 breaststroke race, however, the French swimmer in the adjacent lane was constantly in my peripheral vision, and we were matching each other stroke for stroke. I tried ignoring her, but as I focused on my stroke cadence, she was always right beside me.

After the final turn, I tried to shake her knowing it was time to go all out and sprint for the wall. Still, she was right beside me.

In the final 20 meters, I knew there was no way I was going to let her pass me after the fight I had put up over the past 180 meters. I dug as deep as I could to muster up what was left in my tank and sprinted to the finish, increasing my stroke rate the best I could. I had no strength left at that point in the race, so quickening my stroke rate was what I believed would make the difference.

It appeared in my peripheral vision as if we both touched the pads at the same time. Neither of us could see the electronic time board due to tents blocking our vision, so we didn’t know the results. We knew we came in 3rd and 4th in our heat, because the other gals were still racing after we touched the wall; however, they were in the next older age group, so they didn’t matter to us in the results. (There will be a combined heat when it is necessary to fill the 10-lane pool to keep the meet running more efficiently and faster.)

After exiting the pool, the French gal and I gave each other a high-five and a hug, congratulating each other on a great race– she in French and me in English. We didn’t speak each other’s language; however, we both knew exactly what the other was saying: “You pushed me to swim faster and harder than I thought I could push myself to swim during that race. Thank you.”

Not having access to our official race times (the timers at each lane are only there for back-up in case the electronic system fails), we left the pool only knowing that we had given each other one heck of a race, and I had just touched her out.

It wasn’t until I saw the official results that evening that I learned that less than a quarter of a second had separated us at the finish, and we were the last two finishers in our age group.

It didn’t matter, because I had the race of my life, and if the smile on my French competitor was any indication, I’ll bet she had the race of her life, too.

2014 FINA MASTERS SWIMMING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN MONTREAL

When I left competitive swimming after high school, I never thought I would ever compete again, especially in any sort of national competition. Fast forward to 2010 when I joined U.S. Masters Swimming and entered Spring Nationals, because it was just up the freeway at Georgia Tech. Since then, I have swum at several Nationals, from Greensboro, North Carolina to Mission Viejo, California. Those experiences were huge for me, way beyond what I had ever dreamed of doing with my swimming. Now, here it is, four years into my Masters swimming “career,” and I am in Montreal, Canada competing at the 2014 FINA Masters World Championship!

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 Although it sounds impressive, the qualifying times for the Masters World Championships are actually slower than U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) national qualifying times. I qualified in every event except for one; whereas, this year I didn’t make qualifying times for Nationals. Since non-qualifiers still get to compete in three events (rather than six) at USMS Nationals, we’ll be heading to Maryland after Worlds and a few days of sightseeing in Quebec City.

I may be in the lowest 20% in my age group here at Worlds, but I’m so happy to be able to be here to compete. How fortunate the swim meet is just up north and located in one of the two Canadian cities on my bucket list (Quebec City being the other)! Last year it was in Italy, and next year it will take place in Russia.

Here in Montreal, there are 1,500 Americans competing in a group of 5,868 swimmers from 93 countries. In all, there are 9,000 athletes competing in Masters swimming, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo.

The aquatic complex is a beehive of activity; tanned and (mostly) fit wet bodies ages 25 to 97 have completely taken over the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex. It’s insane! What a scene, and I’m lovin’ every minute of it.

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The warm-up pool:  8 lanes for 5,868 swimmers!  It got much more crowded than this…

Although FINA, the international governing body of five aquatic sports, has done a poor job of running this meet (the complaints are wide and universal amongst the international swimmers), it hasn’t dampened the spirit around the pools. The excitement and enthusiasm is contagious; I can’t think of a better place to people watch! It is really quite a festive atmosphere, seeing a bunch of fit swimmers in their racing suits, smiles on their faces, laughing, giving each other hugs and high-fives.

Under the big tent by the main competition pool, it’s one big international social scene. Teams gather in clusters, swimmers spread out their towels, and they sprawl out all over the place leaving no path to walk. (Thanks to FINA and the facility not supplying chairs.) To get from the warm-up pool to the marshaling zone where swimmers line up for their races, it’s an obstacle course. I’ve gotten pretty good at hopscotch!

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Hanging out under the tent with Bruce, a couple of teammates, and my USMS Discussion Forums buddy, “King Frog” (aka Allen Stark).  At the meet, Allen broke the world record in his age group for 200 breaststroke!

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It’s a festive atmosphere with many different languages being spoken and many excited conversations going on at once. In addition to swimming talk amongst teammates, another “sport” is taking place between swimmers of different countries: trading swim caps, t-shirts, and pins. I got in on that action as can see in the photos below:

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Andreas and I traded caps from Berlin and Auburn University.

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My Canadian cap-trading partner.

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This swimmer was from Costa Rica.

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Damian, from Team Hong Kong

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My new Chinese friend was out of team caps; however, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on my USMS cap (which I got for free at Nationals), in exchange for the official World Championships cap he had just purchased at the Speedo store for $11.99.

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Yes, he’s Italian!

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And, she’s from Brazil.

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I was so happy to make a trade for an Australian cap after having spent so much time in her country over the years!

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When I told Peter (next to me) that I loved his home town of Prague, he didn’t want to trade caps.  Instead, he wanted to just GIVE me his competition cap as a gift!  I insisted on giving him a U.S. Masters cap as a gift, too.

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I keep a very limited presence on Facebook under an alias; however, I found it necessary to keep tabs on Team U.S.A.’s World’s page to get updates we weren’t receiving otherwise.  In the process, I got to know Andy, a Canadian who graciously provided a lot of tourist information to us Americans, so we would enjoy our time in Montreal.  I was so excited when I finally caught up with Andy and his wife on relay day.  We even ended up swimming in the same heat of one of the two relays I competed in that day.

As for the actual racing, it has been exciting to see several of my teammates and U.S. Masters friends win some impressive hardware, including gold, silver, and bronze medals. Since I am not anywhere near that caliber of swimmer, I’m just happy to be able to be here and race. I’m having a blast!

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Some of my Georgia Masters teammates with Tim Waud, Team U.S.A. Head Coach

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Georgia Masters teammates

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Marianne Countryman

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Bruce and I visited the Biosphere.  (This is what you saw in the background of the photo at the warm-up pool.)  Over my shoulder is a view down to the main competition pool at the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex.

For more photos from World’s, check out my album at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/DB1CA7062961254