Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Don't Know Squat

So apparently I haven't done anything in the last 20 years that resembles 10 squats.  I know that because pretty much everything in my body hurts below the waist.  You'd think that feeding Flutter the cat for 17 years would count for several squats all added up, but no.  Nor does picking up the newspaper from the porch, even with Thursday having two papers and the occasional under-the-car throwing error.

It's now Week 5 of The Year of Marcia Getting In Shape, and I've moved on from slow jogging/walking around Lake Merritt and a 1:40 interval in the pool (Week 1-2) to slow jogging/less walking and 1:30s (Week 3-4), to a sprained toe, ground zero strength training, and only pulling in the pool.  I was t-h-i-s close to actually moving up to slow-lower-moderate jogging when I tripped on a step at the theater last Saturday night.  My toe turned a ripe shade of purple and refused to bend forward any more.  Now two days later it doesn't appear to be as bad as I thought, but it's amazing how much I took it for granted.

Today in my conditioning class we were doing step-ups with dumbbells and I couldn't step up or step down with any confidence.  Who knew toes were such a big deal?  I was partnered up with a water polo player who had no trouble doing any of the assigned exercises.  We were coached by a Laney colleague who played football at Cal and then on in the Arena League and NFL Europe.  At 38 Derrick still looks like he could start at DB, though like most coaches he has such an economy of movement that you can't tell if he's really crippled or just bored to tears coaching beginners.

What's funny is I used to be that water polo girl, the one who could do every exercise perfectly the first time.  Now I'm sure I'm seen as the old lady who inadvertently left her walker in the Pontiac.  Oops -- did you leave your velcro sneakers in your
NPR tote bag, ma'am?  Being the leading scorer in balloon volleyball at the senior center is probably all they expect of me now, though they might snapchat me if they need anything crocheted.

Today (two days later -- I got distracted), we did way more core and upper body stuff, which I was actually competent at.  I waved those ropes like a champ, did burpees, leg raisers, and planks galore.  Derrick gamely kept a straight face as his class did karaokes with extra lifts and lunges-into-hamstring stretches that quite resembled slow motion video of people breaking their hips while falling from ladders.

I don't think everyone has extreme pity on me anymore, especially after we shared all our day-after pain stories while waiting for today's class to start. I bought one of those self-massage sticks, which did a spectacular job of actually increasing my daily minutes of pain.  But it must be good for something, as I felt ready to take on the second class without crying to Derrick about all my personal limitations and/or faking a limp, which I strongly considered for 48 hours.  And you know, once you get going
it all feels better.  I also brought a towel today, to wipe the buckets of sweat I was generating.  As a swimmer for so long I'm not comfortable being wet, ironically.  Having that towel made me feel better too, as someone who actually had "gear."  This is my workout towel, mothaf***ers!

Because I hatehatehate triathletes who can't shut up about their daily workouts, I'm not going to blab on about how great if feels to train.  But it's awesome!  And I've still got 10.5 months until Masters Nationals in Portland.  Hopefully by then I'll be able to beat enough people in my age group to make Top 10 in something, which I used to do regularly.  If all else fails I suppose I can enter the 200 butterfly, which is generally hard pressed to find 10 women in all the land to do it.  Man, I hope not.

So back to my pain-inflicting stick, swimming tomorrow, and maybe a nice nap.  If I can just figure out a way to lie down without squatting.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Let's Talk About Our Feelings. No Thank You.

I just came back from a Women In Coaching swim clinic this weekend, with a bunch of lovely smart female coaches, nearly all of whom self-identified as "caring, passionate, and detail-oriented."  When asked to pick three words that described my coaching style I selected "over-dramatic, enthusiastic, and relentless."  Those in attendance who knew me shouted out loud like I had just made a hole in one.

Yes, that pretty much nailed it.  I think I'm pretty good about knowing who I am.  And basically I'm pretty simple.  I like competing.  I like winning.  And I love the journey, if it's anything that I care about.  I love that I have a job where I get to watch/make people compete all day long.  Some of my swimmers have issues with competition, which is just baffling to me. We never turn off that clock for a reason.

Am I a caring, passionate person?  Uh, I guess.  But it isn't something that I think about or self-identify with. And reflecting on my life? Pass. I don't really have anything on my bucket list, or feel bad that I only (actuarially) have 920 Saturdays left in my life.  I don't need to Find My Passion, because I'm good here! And I don't need to find the Person Inside, because that person is pretty much hanging out on the outside 24/7.

Today's speaker was a dear woman who spoke on the topic of "Desire to Inspire."  There were beautiful slides filled with pictures of sunbeams filtering through redwood trees, lighthouses in the fog, wildflowers that were too beautiful to be included in The Sound of Music, and I believe amber waves of grain waiting to be filmed in a Chevrolet commercial.  All of these images were the background to inspirational quotes and exhortations that what matters most "is how we live and love."  These slides and quotes were set to a soundtrack consisting of a pianist's right hand tinkling the last few octaves of a piano and four more violins than the Fire Marshall probably would've approved to be in that recording studio.

It's just not my thing.  It's too slow and too deep, and just kind of a downer.  I want to be inspired by things blowing up and fireworks splitting the sky, and some song by Queen.  I want leaping high fives, swinging strikeouts, and the clock running down in the corner of the screen. I want big people jumping onto little people and then everyone falling down while laughing and crying.  I don't want John Tesh anywhere near me.

And that's why I flunked out of my one and only yoga class.  I liked competing with all the others when we were supposed to be closing our eyes.  But the instructor was a slow-talking, soft-spoken, freakishly flexible guy, who never knew how much I wanted to head butt him on the way out each Wednesday.

There are just some topics at every conference that I just can't get into.  "Leadership:  The Process," "Maximizing the Moment." "Developing a Character-Based Culture."  That's when Facebook calls to me:  cat video indicator is one quart low!  But I sat there and listened, because she is a fine person and I know how it feels to be in the Conference Slot of Death, where all the people in attendance either haven't arrived, have left early, or are drunkenly watching a basketball game in the hotel bar.  Sometimes just being there is all that matters.  And she doesn't have to know that I am inspire-intolerant.

Monday, October 13, 2014

True Grit

Near the end of the 2010 sequel True Grit, Rooster Cogburn (played by the Dude, Jeff Bridges) rushes dear Mattie to the care of a doctor after being bitten by a rattlesnake.  Time is of the essence.  His own horse shot by the bad guys, Rooster gets on Mattie's beloved horse Little Blackie and throws Mattie atop.  It's far, and Little Blackie runs a full gallop for hours and hours.  With no water breaks (which doesn't really make big-picture sense, but whatever), the horse breaks down, heartbreakingly.  Rooster shoots the horse (pretty much ratcheting down Mattie's will to live, but whatever) and carries Mattie in his arms the rest of the way to help.

My MEMO team was that horse last weekend.

Oh they got plenty of water.  But swimming four events and four relays in one day was pushing it.  Some people actually swam seven events and ten relays in the course of the meet, which was the maximum possible.  Everyone suffered the same misery, as I had all hands on deck swimming relays that were either immediately preceding hard races, just after hard races, or just after another relay.  Sometimes all three.

It was hot:  86, 90, and 94 on the three days of the meet.  I missed watching many, many swims.  Mostly I was distracted rearranging relays, and then rearranging them again. And again.  I had to readjust relays when people didn't show up, when they begged out of butterfly, when they couldn't flex their ankle, when they had to go winetasting, when their kids were having a meltdown, and when they texted me the morning of the meet.  And sacrifices were made by everyone.  Breastpumping happened in the locker room -- how relaxing that must have been.  Spouses left at home had to take kids to soccer, watch babies, and generally hold the fort down for absentee swimmer parents.  Maybe even worse were the spouses that came to watch the meet.  It's pretty darn hard to sit for 10 hours for five minutes of action, in 90 degree heat.  I suppose it could've been raining or we could've been hit with locusts falling from the sky, but it was still a long, long weekend.

Occasionally I had to leap in the water to swim a relay leg.  When you haven't been in great shape for 20 years, reasonable shape for 8 years, or a shape you recognize as your own body for 3 years, that was a little humbling.  But I can just let that go now, along with the fact that I can't remember pretty much any scientific law (after majoring in Biophysics -- sorry, Cal), half my passwords, or how to use my turn signal.

But what fun it was!  Hanging out in the tent is the best.  We train each day only knowing (and occasionally exasperated by) the 3-5 people in our lane, and we shower with another third of the team (trust me, the math is correct).  But at meets everyone is together -- even people no one has ever met before.  Sometimes people even I've never met before.

And while times mattered to some of us when we were younger, they don't as much now.  Bettering one's times from last year is often good enough.  Trying a new event, scoring lots of points for the team, and braving the first swim meet in your life are really satisfying things to do.

We all fail, and that doesn't matter much either. Team MEMO totally hit for the DQ cycle this meet!  We miss our event because we don't check in, miss it because we're busy "visualizing" said event, jump in the wrong heat, leave early on the relay, don't leave on our back in backstroke (not like I've never FREAKIN' SAID THAT!), miss our leg in the relay, flutter kick in breaststroke, quit in the middle of a race, and sometimes just don't want to leave the dang tent.  And that's not counting all the DQs I saw that the officials missed.  Which is also a lot.

Satisfaction and near whole-body-failure both came to poor Alex, fresh out of college, who wrote me a couple of weeks ago about getting back into swimming.  One guy short, I asked him if he'd consider swimming a relay on Sunday.  He was game, and after I Googled him and saw that he was a backstroker in the day (hahahaha -- in the day, to a 22-year-old!), I penciled him in.  He had a pretty beautiful 75 backstroke and a reasonable last lap.  Then, needing another body in the next relay, a rejuvenating 8 minutes later, I pencilled him in for the 100 fly.  Man, that first lap looked good!  By the fourth 25 it was T-Rex butterfly, like watching the Ironman girl crawl across the finish line mixed with a dose of helmet-to-helmet wooziness.  I hope he comes back.  And doesn't sue me.

But we all got to really laugh at ourselves.  Besides forgetting to check in for the 800 free, I was too hot to wear shorts and looked like Queen of the Dorks in a swimsuit and polo shirt by the third day.  I also had my 40th high school reunion on the evening of the second day of the meet.  While meaning to apply teeth-whitening gel to my smile for five days in a row, I again hopelessly failed.  Getting in the car Saturday morning, I q-tipped a gob on and drove out to the pool grimacing ferociously while attempting to keep lips away from teeth.  I had to cover my mouth every time I came to a stoplight or merge point, to keep other drivers from becoming terrified.

And it all worked out.  The reunion went great, and MEMO took second place for the second year in a row.  We scored 1306 points, after just 833.5 last year, which was pretty amazing.  Every single swimmer earned points for the team.  And even the people who couldn't make it helped us, by helping the people who were there train harder in workout.  But that "help" is a one-time pass.  Next meet, you're in for real.

I'm so proud of my team.  I'm so happy.  True Grit, by everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I've Turned Into That Weird Guy With a Clipboard at Safeway

I've been spending the last several weeks emailing, and texting, and posting, and chatting up all my current students and past students and teammates, in the hopes that they will enter an upcoming Masters swim meet.  I'm getting tired of hearing myself at this point.  But it's just amazing to me that people don't want to compete.

I know, ex-swimmers.  It's been years and years, and you've moved ON.  I hear you.  But for those I am trying to seduce, coming back as a Masters swimmer is all of the fun with none of the pressure.  People don't warmup, they scratch events, they go out drinking during the meet.  They buy an expensive racing suit that they squish into after missing every other practice for a month, and every other month for a year; or they don't even bother and wear any old suit that's hanging on a doorknob or on the shower curtain.  They bring their distracting kids or spouses to the meets, they lay in the sun between events to catch some rays, and they even get disqualified because they haven't paid any attention to the rules since 1988.  And no one cares!

Imagine going to school like that -- miss the first five weeks of the semester, then wander in late during a test and just draw pyramids in the margins and write A-B-A-B-A-B in the answer key.  The teacher invites you out for a beer after Section 1.  You go!  You can't recite the book from heart, but you are in the Top 2 percent and everyone thinks you're Neil Degrasse Tyson because you're cool and smart and just know stuff.

That's what it's like now for experienced swimmers.  It's like the sport you know, but with 6-foot baskets.

But for the inexperienced swimmers it's a total terror.  There are whistles going off, men and women in blue and white with clipboards to disqualfiy you, heats and lanes to remember, stroke rules that must be adhered to, and waiting and waiting and waiting.  People

are watching you, staring at you all the time you're swimming -- they're either laughing or crying with laughter.  How many laps in a 200 again?  Do I have to dive?  Why do I have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes?  It can't be 10:30, I've finished my lunch already.  When will this hell be over?

I get it.  But it grows on you.  Oh some people bang out an email or five on their phones, some can't wake up early on Sunday and just pass.  But after a few meets you learn to enjoy the slow movement of time, interspersed with moments of action like it is when you watch a baseball game.

The ex-swimmers have moments where they can't believe their once-proud physique has been reduced to a shapeless blob, and the days of fitting into a 28 are so long gone that one leg would need a good greasing just to accomplish it.  But hearing the sounds and the laughter, and the cheering from their teammates brings them back to a happy time.  For the ex-swimmers it was when they were young and strong.  For the new swimmers, it's a chance to challenge yourself with a new skill.  You WIN ribbons, rather than get handed a finisher's medal.  That is pretty dang impressive.

And everyone can agree that a beer and some food sounds really, really good after it's over.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hi! Can You Still Swim? Part IV

Besides having three different Team MEMO shirts to wear all three days of the recent PacMasters Championships, I knew I'd stepped into the legit world when I paid for my relay entries with a Team
MEMO check.  Okay, it was number 1002, but it was a really l-o-o-ng business check which makes me feel like a Wall Street Banker, though a kindly one wearing flipflops.  Getting the business account was a little more complicated than I expected.  First I had to go to the Alameda County Recorder's Office, near Laney College, and fill out and pay for a Fictitious Business License, which just seems wrong.  Next, over to the legal newspaper to pay to have the notice published in what I believe borders on a fictitious newspaper.  Then back to the bank with proof of DBA registration, and on to signing up for my Business Savings account, with a $500 minimum deposit.  Since Business Savings comes with one book of free checks, that was good enough for me.  I'm mainstream!

We had 30 relays in this past meet, which was a lot of scrambling to do each day as people often inexplicably left and new ones came late.  And I had a surprising number of relays in the older age groups, 45+ and 55+.  Each club was only allowed two relay teams in each event, so having a third wouldn't help any.  I often had to move people around to other, younger, teams to maximize MEMO's point-scoring potential.

The 45s were led by speedy Clare Burger's 20 points, in a tough age group filled with fast women.  Joining her were Kari Boeger, Green Huse, and Anna Musco in their second meet ever; Tracy Ostrom and Jean Tucker in their first meet, and veterans Pia Macchiavello, Kimberly King and Liz Hurt.  Jean and Tracy kind of eased into it, swimming just one event and then leaving.  Tracy stayed awhile to soak up the atmosphere and cheer for her lanemates, while Jean flew off to barely make it to the Giants' home opener on Friday afternoon.  Both are hooked, though.  At least that's what they told me.

Anna, Green, and Kari were splendid teammates.  All three ditched their children, which seemed to
give them an even better experience.  I've got to agree with that, as I find I can't even remember that I have children when I'm at a meet.  It's nice to have the adult companionship and not have to be ever vigilant to prevent death at any moment.  While Kari was worried about . . . many, many things, she performed splendidly in two-thirds of her events.  The last one, she didn't quite make it to.  It was, however, a planned sacrifice.  No more kindly coach from me next year, though.  Tough love, baby!  Anna, 50,  had the weekend's toughest assignment, when she was forced (by me) to join the 25+ mixed medley relay for the meet's next-to-last event because of an unexpected AWOL.  Clearly wondering what the heck she was doing there next to superstars Brian Berry, Yusef, and an exhausted Sarah Stretch, she swam a fantastic breaststroke leg on that relay and gave the two remaining swimmers an opportunity to catch up and still earn fourth-place relay points.  While she was swimming my husband David, who was the Starter of the meet, said that all three of the teammates were cheeering Anna on, down at the edge of the pool.  It was like some sort of Budweiser commercial, where the big horses are cheering for the little one.  So sweet.

Kimberly and Liz came through like the champions they are in workout -- no complaints, and lots of speed!  Dear sweet wonderful Liz has been with me forever, and no one could ask for a better lanemate or teammate.  Kimberly is a recent returnee, and has very specific goals and knowledge of her body's limitations -- such a dream to coach.  And though she's not 45+ I've got to give some props to Renske Lynde, who also swam the mile on Friday, because I forgot to mention her yesterday.  After the mile Renske scurried off to pick up her inlaws at SFO.  Unfortunately I missed every miler except Dan swim while I took a mid-day leave of absence to drive back to Laney to teach my once-a-week Beginning swim class.  I hate missing anyone's event, but especially the milers because it's so fun to yell at them over and over.

Pia used to swim with me and my husband at our local pool in San Leandro, which is where I hide so that no one I know sees me and asks me for coaching "tips."  I feel like the realtor who everyone is
always asking whether it's a "good time to sell," or the dermatologist who is asked to "just take a look at this mole."  I need some quiet time to just do my own thing, though it's an odd little place and one I've written about several times before.  Pia is an awesome swimming machine.  A Peruvian Olympian (1980, and I'm still mad at Jimmy Carter for that one), she has fantastic skills, amazing endurance, perfect temperament, and a great accent -- especially when she pronounces her daughter's name, Laura, with like six syllables.  I've only got to change 30 years of bad habits, and she'll be the rock star of the MEMOs.  Bring it on, Pia!

For the 45+ guys I had Craig Coombs, David Lopez, Robert Inchausti, Danny Wan, and (for a wonderful one minute eleven seconds) brand new MEMO Jeff Everett.  Robert had the most adventures [see blog, Part I], but all had great swims.  David Lopez, the chatterbox of Lane 4 at noon, swam six events and placed in just one, the 50 breast.  He demonstrated the virtues of the coach selecting the events for the swimmer.  Danny swam extremely well in his first meet, considering he dives like one of the train-robbing victims described in the last post, and was undoubtedly motivated
Good vs Evil
after watching hunky Jason swim breaststroke.  Seeing it done like I describe must be such an epiphany, especially when most folks do it more Gangnam style than Olympic style.  And Craig, who is a Bay swimmer and has crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, and done two huge inter-island swims in Hawaii, had a great meet.  Taking Saturday off to please the missus (smart man!), he had fine swims in the mile, 1000, 200 IM, and three other events (that I suggested, DAVID LOPEZ).  Craig last swam 30 years ago in high school, and even though he went to Stanford, has proved fantastically coachable and brings it every day.

My fellow AARP-eligibles, Peter Tsugawa, Suzie Haufler [see blog, part I], Julie Johnson, Tom Chew, and Danielle Ruymaker had one awesome 55+ mixed relay team.  I can't really label them "old" because I'm older than all of them except Danielle, and I am not old whatsoever.  And in the Masters swimming community being over 55 practically makes you a teenager.  An awesome 85-year-old, Dixie Germolis, competed in seven events at the meet including the 200 breaststroke.  Swimming at meets actually makes you enjoy the inevitable age-up.  When you're an age group swimmer, moving into the next age group makes you the young, small, slow kid.  But as a Masters swimmer, moving up makes you even less decrepit than the others.  Your first year is a very good year, except for the inevitable fast people that follow you around for your entire swimming career.

Peter, who breathes so hard at workout he sounds like the Big Bad Wolf engaged in blowing down the brick house, had a terrific meet.  Though he succumbed to the David Lopez School of Event Selection,
Peter had a fine 50 freestyle, swimming the sprint of all sprints in 31.83.  The idea of pacing has eluded Peter, though he is nothing if not dependable when it comes to swimming the very first repeat in a set at warp speed.  Day after day.

Danielle swam Gibraltar with Craig, and would prefer swimming in SF Bay any day to swimming with me.  But somehow she still keeps coming, forcing herself to do all the things she hates  -- which include kicking, sculling, using fins, swimming breaststroke, swimming butterfly, sprinting, diving, and going first in her lane. I need to back off the hypnosis on her, I think.

Conversely, I need to get much better at the Vulcan Mind Meld on Julie.  She is the poster girl for Not A Morning Person.  Going to workouts at 6 a.m. is just torture for her, though I tell her over and over that once she forces herself to go at least twice a week she'll get used to it.  She theoretically believes me, but it just hasn't clicked into reality.  When Julie worked a few blocks away she could swim with my Nooners and she really thrived, but once the office moved it just got so hard.  She was a trooper to swim in the meet, with minimal preparation, but being 55 and having a pulse helps a lot in the points department.

Tom Chew, chiropractor to the stars, or at least the athletic masses, goes w-a-y back with me.  When I took a diversion from Cal and swam at Laney College in the 80s, Tom was my trainer.  When I coached swimming at Laney, Tom coached Water Polo and was my swim assistant.  Our kids were pals when they were little, before mine grew up and embraced irony, Communism, and British musical theatre.  Getting Tom to swim in a meet isn't tough; getting Tom to swim in workout is much harder.  But like many of these swimmers, a day or two a week is good enough.  Or for Tom, once or twice a month.

So now I've shared a little something about all my swimmers at the meet.  There are more too, but you've got to pay the price of the meet entry to get written about!  I've already started recruiting fast friends for next year, and have ensured a promise by my husband that he will at least slog across the pool 66 times to score two points in the mile, whether or not he wants to.  If everyone enters a distance event (where it's easier to score points) and we get at least two points/person more, and have a few more relays, everyone is healthy, and we have no missed events or disqualifications, we should be #2 next year.  Five points/person plus all of the above and we're #1.  I'd better buy another turquoise shirt.  I just can't wait to use check #1003.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hi! Can You Still Swim? Part III

Our team colors, turquoise and chocolate brown, were not picked to go well together, or even with much thought at all.  Our first team t-shirt was turquoise in color because I'd read somewhere that turquoise is the unique hue that looks good on all skin tones and hair colors.  Our second shirt was chocolate brown because I wanted to make a joke about Hershey bars.  Team MEMO's official colors were picked because those were the colors of our first two shirts.  Kind of after-the-act decision making, the kind I'm strong at.

And Team MEMO was wearing the colors in force at our big meet last weekend.  One of the biggest age groups was the 35-44 gang.  Led by high-point MEMO Tanya Mahn and Megumi Ozawa [see blog, part I], the team proudly arrived rocking the turquoise and brown.  With the arrival of this year's matching caps we finally looked totally legit.  Next year:  team suits and a banner.  Dream purchase:  EZ-up custom tent.  The EZ-up I have now is their discount version, the NotEZ-up.  It doesn't help that it was dropped repeatedly some years ago and never recovered from the bent leg.  But the effort required to get the top into the four supporting pegs just about wipes out any energy the four swimmers conscripted to assemble it will have for the meet's first hour.  My NotEZ-up has been around for at least ten years, when I got it for my husband as a Father's Day present.  We've hung out in it at meets on rainy days, put the birthday cake underneath at backyard parties, and even camped in the backyard.  It's next duty will be housing us as the downstairs hardwood floors get redone.  Why stay at a hotel when we can drag a week's worth of possessions into the charming ambiance of the 10x10 NotEZ-up?

So that turned out to be the headquarters of Team MEMO, along with the two other (truly) EZ-ups brought by Dan Jegers, which I dubbed our Annex.  Having 48 people, though not all at the same time, crowded the NotEZ-up and the Annex.  The few ringers I had, Jason Corbett [see blog, part II], Andrew Naber, and Brian Patterson, who didn't actually know any of the MEMOs, hung out elsewhere with their friends.  But the rest were enjoying the close quarters.  

Dan, who is the Hardest Working Man in the wedding business, sets up our team area with more thought than I gave to my entire lifetime of camping, getting there every day way before I did to organize and unpack.  He also knows which way the wind will blow before it does (like some sort of swimming shaman), and ties all things down appropriately, with actual knots.  My only set-up idea is “pop the corner of the tent” to let the wind pass through, which is about as knowledgeable as putting around Lake Merritt and then taking the helm of one of the America's Cup boats.  Dan was a member of the second swim team I ever coached in my life.  Despite knowing just about nothing for my first year, I pretty much lived and breathed swimming when I came to Walnut Creek in year two and had a good bit of success with his Las Lomas Knights.  Dan swam butterfly for me then and now, and turned out to be a terrific husband, dad, and person.  I don't know how many coaches get to coach the same person again 25 years later, but I'll heartily recommend anyone trying to, especially if it's Dan.

Two of my ringers were also from the same era.  Dave Barber, who anchored the awesome 400 free relay on Saturday [see blog, part II], was on my first and second Las Lomas team.  Somehow on Facebook a few months ago Dave and I got to talking about swimming.  (This is not unusual for just about anyone who talks to me, unless they have a teenager or a cat.)  Living in LA, and the winner of some sort of Sound Award in showbiz, where you wear a tuxedo and hold it aloft while people clap, Dave and I have corresponded since then.  I send him workouts, which he does in the 30 minutes he has free a couple days a week.  He sends me reports on how he did, and then I critique them and send more workouts.  He sends videos, and I laugh and laugh and then critique those too.  Somehow, in 30 minutes a day a few days a week, with weeks off to do this and that, he lost 25 pounds and swam less than three seconds slower than he swam as a senior in high school, 25 years ago.  Now for girls, getting in shape like that would take like five years and we'd have to stop eating solid food.  But guys like Dave, no prob.  Amazing discipline.  Why can't my family listen to me like Dave does?  Really, just give me 30 minutes a day and I'll be happy.

Brian Patterson also joined the relay on Sunday, after I saw his green Facebook light on late
Saturday night.  Just like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby thought that the green light must have represented how the first vision of America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers, Brian's green light represented the future of my Sunday 400 Mixed Medley Relay.  What an inspiring American Dream it was.  Sometimes I scare myself.  

Brian is also the same vintage as Dan and Dave, and has kept in amazing shape by doing every sport known to man, with some gnarly road rash along the way.  A few years after I coached Dave and Dan I started training again seriously.  The age group team I swam with when I was 30 years old (what is now the Terrapins) had high school-aged Brian as my teammate.  We've had a couple of reunions since then and stayed in touch.  On Sunday morning at the meet Brian changed teams, signed the waiver, and voila -- instant MEMO.  How lucky am I?  Trolling the Internet pays off, kids.  So long as it’s for relay swimmers.

Now for my regular, garden-variety 35+ folks who swim with me every day (or their best approximation of every day), I didn't have quite that depth of swimming experience.  Andrew Slakey, the first mortician I've ever met, was at his first meet ever.  Blindingly pale, as befits a man of his profession and a swimmer at 6 a.m., Andrew was at his first swim meet ever.  He charged to a 1:05 100 freestyle in the relay, which was at least 15 seconds faster than I had ever seen him move before, and undoubtedly faster than his pace with his paying customers.  Though he only entered one individual event, he like almost every other person was conscripted to swim on as many relays as there were in a day.  

Conan Chin from my Nooners, and Michael Kellenback, who swims with one of my colleagues at Laney, also scored points in both breaststroke races they swam. How lucky I am to have two guys who can do this well!  Breaststroke is a specialty like no other.  I have a really challenging time teaching adults in my Beginning swim classes, as well as MEMOs, how to do it properly.  It seems you either do it well and like it, or have one uncontrollable foot that doesn't respond to human thought.  It's amazing that those non-breaststroke people can even put on their socks and shoes and walk down the street, but they all seem to get along in the world just fine.  Sarah Lindahl and Becky Espinosa are two such members of society.  Sarah, inexplicably, enjoys doing it and enters it (at least within the 100 IM) every chance she gets.  My strategy so far has been to try to distract the officials.  Stroke and Turn officials, or S&Ts, are the lowest peg on the food chain of officiating.  When there aren't enough officials volunteering at a meet, they skimp on the coverage of S&Ts.  This, fortunately, was one of those meets.

Elementary PE teacher Orin Bentley is another non-breaststroker, but one who avoids it at every opportunity.  Orin is a great butterflyer, and was on the awesome 400 free relay with Yusef, Dave, and Jason.  Another guy who dropped at least 25 pounds since he started swimming, Orin loves going to meets and it takes no cajoling at all to get him to register.  Orin is just about the mildest guy out of the pool you could meet, with a gentle voice and an open, friendly face.  But put him in the pool and his inner beast busts out.  My daughter, who swims in his lane occasionally, and is used to leading the lane, described him as "aggressive," which is no small thing coming from someone who can devour her dinner in less time than it takes her to swim a 50 freestyle.

The final swimmer in the 35-44s was Deborah Bevilacqua.  Man I just love saying that last name!  It just rolls off the tongue!  Deborah lost a leg in a motorcycle accident some years ago and is an amazing athlete.  She has a Cheetah leg for running races, like Oscar Pistorius, and goes with her natural 1.5 self for swimming.  Everywhere I go, and everywhere she goes when doing athletic stuff, she gets stopped

by strangers telling her how inspirational she is.  Well, that's nice.  But what's inspirational to me is how awesome she is at "take your mark."  I completely overlook the rest at workout.  But "take your mark," balanced on one leg, with two hands holding the front of the starting block and head down -- followed by the starting "beep" is what's the truly athletic thing. Deborah dives off more cleanly and straight than just about any of my other swimmers.  No torque, just pure straight-ahead power.  Most of my MEMOs look like they have been thrown out a moving locomotive by a trainrobber in a 1940s Western.

All in all, a fun group.  Some old, some new.  The elderly, in Part IV.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hi! Can You Still Swim? Part II

90.6 percent.

That's the percentage of registered MEMOs that participated in the recent PacMasters Championships, in Moraga last weekend.  Looking at some of my other competitors in the Medium Team division,  Santa Rosa checked in with 24.2 percent, while the winning Davis Aquatic Masters could only muster up a pitiful 6.5 percent.  If you figure that the more experienced swimmers are the ones that compete (except for yours truly's team), then DAM is sending just its superstars.  No wonder they won the Mediums.  We got our points the old-fashioned way -- we scraped them out in ones and twos, except for the ones I kinda hustled for (more later).

Masters relays, for competitions in 25-yard pools, are composed of age groups determined by the youngest member of the team.  Because I only had a couple of people 18-24, I often had to "borrow" from my 25+ team, and even once from my 45+ team to make a foursome of 18+ folks.  You'd think lots of 18-24s would still be swimming, as they're still relatively uninjured and often without kids.  But it takes awhile for most good age-group swimmers to miss swimming.  And it takes awhile for those who never swam to get injured running or biking, and thus turn to swimming.  Those are the two main categories of Masters swimmers -- ex-good kid swimmers, and beat-up runners/bikers.  There is a small window in their lives for healthy, wealthy triathletes to participate -- and I have a couple of those -- but it's like pulling teeth with tweezers to get those guys to do much besides their beloved mile.

I'd like to showcase the 18+  and the 25+ folks who participated in the meet.  My youngest kids!  Leading the way was Jason Corbett, 21, who was a friend of a MEMO, but of course is now in the fold.  Jason would've been in his senior year at Cal State Bakersfield, except for the fact that he's not.  With swimming injuries and a very reasonable desire to leave Bakersfield, he's back in the Bay Area.  You used to swim?  You're just what I'm looking for!  Jason split 1:00 in his 100 breast on the medley relay, which is not Division I caliber anymore, but definitely the fastest guy in the pool last weekend.  That time was faster than all but five of our 48 swimmers could even do going freestyle.  After his leg in the medley relay, which was the first event he swam as a MEMO, the 16 women who had just finished their medley relay came barging over to my table shouting "WHO WAS THAT BREASTSTROKER?" as though Ryan Lochte had parachuted into our pool and ripped off his tuxedo to reveal a pink Speedo.  Just because they had never seen him in workout before, or even ever in their entire lives, doesn't mean he can't cough up the USMS fee the night before.

I also had Francesca Ginocchio, who has three part-time jobs and must make several hundred a night in tips in her gig as the most beautiful bartender in the Bay Area.  Francesca has a flair for butterfly (which is a blessing and a curse, as you then have to train for it), and had a fantastic swim in the women's relay and her individual events.  Newest California driver's license holder Yuri Nishizawa came on Sunday, after many weeks of non-training (that will prove to be a unifying theme with many of my MEMOs), and still managed a respectable few events and even-better relay legs.  She ended with the 1000, and then undoubtedly practiced DWE (Driving While Exhausted).  Brian Poggetti also staffed the young 'uns group.  Brian swims with the Nooners, and decided that the thousands of yards he has swum since joining would be just the thing he needed to sign up for . . . only the 50 free.  Sigh.  Next year, Brian!  And your wife too!  She's good, I can tell that.

Also in the 25+ group were experienced ex-swimmers (Yusef Freeman, Sarah Stretch, Tara Stoop, as well as Brian Berry and Nia Doyle [both of whom I mentioned in my previous post]) and novices John Han and Leilani Castro.  Yusef gave me perhaps my best memory of the entire meet when he gave me a huge shout-out after their awesome 400 free relay team almost defeated the 18+ group from Walnut Creek.  Thank goodness I kept it together because I almost burst into tears.  Having a 16-year-old at home I never get thanked for anything, much less appreciated.  The last time anyone at the pool called my name from 25-yards away it was followed by "don't forget to turn off the pool lights."

Because Jason was on that relay team we had to call ourselves 18+, even with our magnificent 42-year-old anchor, Dave Barber. The closeness of that race defied those ages.  Yusef later said that it was way more fun being on a team at a meet like this, then swimming your events alone.  So true.  Yusef had a great age-group career in swimming that tailed to an end in college, but thank goodness he never really burned out.  It's still something that he and many other MEMOs are good at, so they keep on doing it. It's hard when work takes you all over the country.  You're always just getting into shape when you take off for a week or two.  But we can't be picky after awhile.  Any day of swimming is a good day.

I had the great joy of coaching and teaching Tara in high school, as well as coaching her for a year on the Laney College swim team.  She is someone that returned after having two kids (impossible to tell that from looking at her) and a busy job.  At 34, Tara is the age when many people start looking in the mirror and wanting more.  Sometimes it's because the kids sap so much "me" out of a person, and sometimes you just want to start taking better care of yourself.  Tara scored in both of her events and was on a second-place relay with Jason, Yusef, and Yuri.  Tara was also one of several swimmers who brought their spouse, family, kids, and/or friends to watch.  That is just sooo cute!  It's great that they're proud of their activity, and I love it when people introduce me to their family.  I always get "I've heard so much about you," which I just generally assume to be a compliment.  That's true, right?

Sarah Stretch coaches the Women's Swim Team at Laney College, a job that I had ten years ago.  Besides being eternally grateful to Sarah for joining me, I'm happy that she got a chance to see what it was like being a swimmer again.  It might give her a little more insight into some things that her swimmers may be feeling as they approach their championship meet next week.  We coaches all know that stuff, but we forget.  Sarah swam with a shoulder that needed icing for days afterward, which puts a little crimp in her style when she teaches boot camp and plays in a soccer league besides training for this meet.  Despite the fact that I wouldn't play in a soccer league if someone paid me in trucks of gold bullion, we faced a lot of similar problems with our teams at Laney.  I am happy to see how great the Laney team has turned out since Sarah took over.  Let's hope she stays active forever and doesn't turn out like me, who has now resorted to parking far away from things and hoping that might be considered aerobic exercise.

And finally my novices John and Leilani.  John was easier to convince, especially after he purchased the parka.  When you look the part it's easier to go to a meet.  When you've got a grocery bag and a mismatched set of bath towels, you just know you don't belong.  But John swam a fine 500 free on Saturday, and joined a great men's medley relay.  John swam high school in Oakland (I think), which is a little like saying you're a fine water-skier in Death Valley.  Masters meets are completely different from any other competition.  The officials generally wait while people meander to the blocks, and the rules are different slightly, to adapt to the stroke modifications some folks make as they age.  I think that John enjoyed it.  Most people would say that the meet is welcoming, once they get used to the two-races-happening-at-once thing.  It's kind of like a track meet, when sometimes you don't know who to watch.  I got fooled as a coach several times.  The worst was when Yusef, who is 6-5 and about the only Black guy in the pool, swam directly in front of me in his 100 IM and I never even looked up.

Leilani, at under five feet tall, was easier to miss, but I didn't.  She was at her first meet ever, and I was worried that she wouldn't enjoy herself.  Most of the rest had gone to a practice meet a couple weeks before.  It took plenty of convincing by me and all her 6 a.m. lanemates to get her to enter, but she did.  Still working on her diving technique, she gamely swam two freestyle races and a 50 backstroke, as well as two relays.  That 50 backstroke sprouted at least a dozen more grey hairs in my head, as Leilani routinely turns over (disqualifying herself) just about every single lap of her life.  Thank goodness she crashed into the wall at her finish.  I've never been so happy to see that before.

Sorry for the length.  That's it for the young folk.  35 and over is coming next.