Archives For Masters Swimming



We bought the station wagon in 2003 and gave it to Abby last week. Today she loaded it with a bicycle, her guitar and some clothes, waved goodbye and started a cross-country road trip to Berkeley for graduate school.

Over the last thirteen years I have driven that car to hundreds of swim practices and meets and to camping trips and birthday parties with her friends. Every summer we drove it to the Adirondacks, often listening to Jim Dale read aloud the seven book story of Harry and Ron and Hermione.

When Abby went away to high school I drove it to visit her, sometimes twice a week during swimming and water polo seasons. One Christmas her present to me was five hours of music on CDs to keep me company during those long drives. When she graduated we drove it to a music festival in Tennessee and camped behind it for three very hot days and muggy nights.


After Abby moved to Chicago for college most of my trips in the station wagon involved swimming events with new friends. I drove it to open water swims in Ocean City and New York and to Lake Placid to hike and ski with friends. It carried my bike to the Iron Man and my canoe to Cooperstown.

But of all these travels, I cherish most the memories of the times when Abby was younger and we would stop at the Knoebels amusement park on our way home from visiting my mother as her health deteriorated.

It was about halfway and Abby loved riding the two wooden roller coasters there. On nice summer days we would spend a few hours riding the Phoenix and the Twister and maybe take a swim in the large swimming pool before grabbing a quick meal and finishing the rest of the drive. It was the perfect remedy to help us feel better no matter how sad our visit had left us.

Abby is now on her way to Berkeley driving the station wagon we bought in 2003. I love the memories made in that car and I’m not sure when I’ll replace it. But when I do I’ll be sure to find my way back to Knoebels Grove to ride the roller coasters and maybe swim a while in the large pool there.




Night Rider

November 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

On October 1st, I moved into a new office in the heart of downtown Baltimore and stopped driving my car to work. Sometimes I take the bus or catch a ride with Kathy, but most days I ride my bike.

With the shorter days much of my riding is done when it is dark outside. When I swim in the evening, my trip home starts at 9:00 PM.

Leaving downtown, I bike up Charles Street past the Washington Monument. At Mount Royal the traffic lights rise to a hillcrest at 28th Street and look like runway lights inviting a takeoff.

At Penn Station I catch and pass the number 11 bus but it passes me at North Avenue. A large line of riders waits at 25th Street and I beat the light while the bus loads. It does not catch me again this night.

At 29th, I cut behind the Johns Hopkins campus and wave to the security guards I pass on San Martin Drive. Tonight I surprise two deer who have strayed onto the campus from nearby Wyman Park.

I arrive home forty-two minutes after leaving swim practice and turn off the front porch light.


August 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Earlier today I finished the 3 mile Purple Swim to support pancreatic cancer research. There was a one mile swim followed by a two mile swim with the option to swim both, which is what my friends and I chose to do this morning.

The day was beautiful and the conditions were perfect. The humidity was low, with a water temperature in the high 70s. The water surface was basically flat. It was like swimming in a pool without having to do any flip turns.

At the end of each swim, I walked ashore and under the purple banner pictured above and remembered all the times my father encouraged me to finish what I started. My father never rushed into these matters. He waited, let things simmer a bit, and then said just the right thing to convince me to keep going.

I now realize that by encouraging me in this way, my father taught me a more valuable lesson. And that lesson was that once you know you can finish whatever you start, you will never be afraid to push your limits and strive for higher goals.

I just signed up for the “Half Full” triathlon scheduled for October 6th in Ellicott City. Until this morning, my plan had been to swim, bike and run for a total of 40 miles. Inspired by the memory of my father's lessons, I instead signed up for the 70 mile course.

I don't know how I'll do on October 6th, but I will finish.


The Atlantic Ocean is an amazing place to swim, but very intimidating. Yesterday, with a couple hundred other swimmers, I participated in the inaugural Ocean City Swim for Brain Research. My good friend and training partner, Claudia, swam the race as well. All in all it was a very well run event. The event staff treated us great and we were well protected both during the swim and after the finish.

The swim course was marked by a buoy line set 300 meters from shore. Swimming that far offshore was a new experience for me. Although the swells were gentle, the bobbing they caused was disorienting. When on top of a swell, you could see for miles. But, if you happened to take a breath while in the trough all you saw was water. These conditions made swimming a straight course difficult. You had to time the sighting to correspond with the swells and catch a quick glimpse of the buoy before sinking into the trough. Although we swam in following seas, the current seemed to push us to the Northeast, away from the shore. We must have zigzagged our way up the coast because we passed within a few feet of some of the buoys, but fifty meters from others.

The air was blisteringly hot in Ocean City yesterday, with no shade at any of the start points. When the nine mile swimmers started at 9:30 a.m., there were a few joggers and bikers on the boardwalk. Two hours later at the start of the three mile swim, it was too hot to even walk on the sand. With no shade anywhere, we tried to keep as much skin covered for as long as possible, and kept spraying and respraying the exposed parts with sunscreen.

The water was cold, about 65 degrees. This caused a number of nine mile swimmers to abandon the swim within minutes of starting. After learning of this, most of the three-milers decided to pull on wetsuits. This wasn’t an option for Claudia and me because we hadn’t brought any. We didn’t bother with much of a warm up before the start. I jumped a few waves and then immediately body surfed the next one to the shore, having decided that nothing would be gained by getting cold before the start. Our original goal had been to improve on the time we swam at last year’s three mile Swim Across America. As we walked back to our towels, that goal changed simply to finishing the swim.

The start of the race involved the new experience of getting beyond the breakers. We took a conservative approach and, because the current was flowing to the North, jogged to the South a little before entering the water to insure that we had the current at our backs when we reached the turn buoy.

I rely on the buddy system when swimming in open water. Even if I don’t have a teammate with me, I always stay close to other swimmers. From a psychological standpoint, I think I need to able to see someone else at all times in order to remain calm and relaxed. Yesterday, swimming far from shore, it proved especially important to have a teammate swimming next to me.

It was too cold to just put your head down and start freestyle so the first hundred yards were swum with heads up breaststroke. After getting our breathing under control, we started swimming for the finish and things slowly got warmer. Although we started close to last, we ultimately caught and passed about a third of the swimmers in front of us, (most of whom were wearing wetsuits) and the paddle boarders who were guarding them. Even with the slow start and sighting breaks, our pace was about 2 minutes per hundred meters.

The bottoms of my feet never got warm. My hands were fine until the end when I started losing feeling in my right hand. The numbness slowly climbed to my wrist and forearm and had reached my bicep by the time I made it to the finish. I had a similar feeling in my left leg as my calf muscle slowly cramped from the ankle to my knee. It was frustrating because I couldn’t find a way to generate the heat necessary to keep my arm and leg warm. Kicking harder didn’t work, nor did clenching and flexing my fingers during the recovery portion of the arm stroke.

At the race briefing we were told that the buoys would be 1,000 meters apart and that the last buoy would be orange and closer to shore. Pretty straight forward, I thought. Pass four yellows, head towards the shore to find the orange, turn left and head for the beach. Each time we neared a buoy, Claudia and I would stop briefly, exchange a few words of encouragement to make sure neither of us had become disoriented, and then ride the swell until we could sight the next buoy. After the third buoy, I repeated a line we often use during a workout, “half-way home.” Then it was head down, elbows high and on to the next buoy.

I had a good sight on the fourth buoy and felt strong as it got closer with each stroke. We reached it, took our break, and I started looking towards the shore for the orange buoy. It wasn’t there. Looking North, all I saw was more buoys. A nearby paddle boarder told us we only had eleven blocks to go. This made me laugh inside because, while that information would have helped if we were walking up the Coastal Highway, it was useless to us as we bobbed up and down 300 meters from shore.

Counting the buoys didn’t matter any more. We’d swim to one, exchange a few words of encouragement and swim to the next. I’m not sure if we passed two or three more buoys, but before we knew it we had reached the orange buoy. A quick left turn and another fifty strokes or so and we were being thrown onto the shore by the breaking waves. Not the most graceful exit from a body of water, but it worked.

A nice sized crowd of vacationers cheered enthusiastically and I felt surprisingly good as we climbed the beach to the finish. We were escorted to chairs and given water and Gatorade. This was followed by chicken and peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, cookies and brownies. I was dizzy for a while, but ultimately recovered okay.

As we sat on the finish beach waiting for the bus to come and take us back downtown, we watched other swimmers finish and, in some instances, suffer. Ultimately three ambulances were called. Two for hypothermic swimmers and a third for a swimmer experiencing breathing difficulties. This brought home to me the harsh reality that open water swimming, despite all of its joys, is not a sport without inherent risks, especially when the conditions are not optimal.

Which is why I am grateful to have had a friend swimming to my right yesterday. Thanks again, Claudia.

I first learned to love swimming in the summer of 1972, when Bruce Rinker was the chief lifeguard at the Sidney Municipal Pool. Later that summer, Mark Spitz would win seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics. Caught up with the Olympic spirit, kids from all of the villages in the area spent June and July competing in a newly formed swim league. Bruce coached Sidney’s team and outfitted us in the same suits that Mark and his teammates would wear in September. Although I don’t remember how we did, I loved swimming that summer because I was part of a team. We played card games and shared candy and cheered each other so loudly we lost our voices.

The swim league folded after a few years and, as I grew older, swimming gave way to Boy Scout camp, summer jobs, and college. I never swam competitively again and eventually stopped swimming altogether.

I fell back in love with swimming starting in 2001 when our daughter Abby joined the Mariner Swim Club. For the next seven years, swimming was one of the most important things in her life and I lived it with her, one swim meet at a time. No one trained with more dedication than Abby or tried harder to make every swim the best one yet. Backstroke was her favorite and she could spend hours gliding effortlessly up and down the lane on her back, sometimes so lost in her thoughts that she would start singing.

Inspired by watching Abby grow up as a swimmer, and with a lot of free time after she left for college, I decided to join a Masters swim team. I now train about seven hours each week with people who I barely knew a year ago but now consider to be my dearest freinds. They have inspired me to swim farther than I ever thought I could. My adventures with them have included crossing the Chesapeake Bay and the widest part of the Potomac and swimming up the Hudson past the Little Red Lighthouse that sits below the George Washington Bridge. Tomorrow morning I will add another swim to that list.

And for all this I thank Bruce, who first taught me the joy of swimming with a team, and Abby, whose love for the Mariner Swim Club inspired me to get back in the pool.