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Man in the Arena

September 2007

I began as a competitive swimmer in high school, mainly to stay in shape for baseball season (and because I had been cut from the eighth-grade basketball team). My first year was a little dicey--my goggles fell off every time I jumped off the blocks, I rarely did flip turns and wearing a Speedo wasn't exactly making me any cooler to non-swimmers. But the end-of-season championship meet evaporated any trepidations I had about joining the team the following year. The two-and-a-half-day event was so much fun, I couldn't wait to do it again.


The energy, excitement and intensity becomes so palpable at meets like that. In college it was even better. We got to travel to the meet and stay in hotels! It was a little tough finding that big-meet experience after graduation. While working in Boston I joined a Masters team, but as work ate into training time and my teammates seemed less inclined to actually race, I suppose I just went through a withdrawal period.


Sunday, I started to find that feeling again. The La Jolla Cove Ten-Mile Relay was as much fun as it was a challenge (our two-man/one-woman team finished in approximately four hours and 35 minutes). The fun started, like all good sporting events, early in the morning...



The excitement was present from the beginning. However, rather than people going for PR's or faster splits, the energy seemed derived from the challenge. From first-timers to solo swimmers, everybody seemed poised to give it their all for the sake of getting around two buoys just so they could get back in again.



Swimming, resting, staying warm, stretching, refueling, cheering on teammates, then swimming again. It had the elements of high school championship meets all over again. By the end (that's Carrie finishing up the final lap in the light blue cap, below),  our team was sore, tired but loving life.



I realized that's the key to finding the joy in continuing to compete. Capturing what made me fall in love with doing sports as a kid is what's going to make me keep loving to do them now. I can tell you right now, it didn't involve checking fantasy stats online or counting calories. More like getting dirty and eating orange slices after practice. Can't wait to do it again...

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Tomorrow, my team Sea Nettle Sandwich will compete in the open water La Jolla Cove Ten-Mile Relay swim. The three of usmyself, Active's own Energizer Bunny Toby Guillette, and Miss "Last-year-I-did-the-race-solo" Carrie Smithhave been a little concerned with the fact that we signed up as "skins." No wetsuits for us. The air temp should be around 60 degrees F for the 7 a.m. start, but the real worry is the water quality.


Today marked San Diego's first rainfall in 150 days. It doesn't take much to predict weather out here (and based on what I've seen, newscasts here haven't progressed all that far from the Anchorman days). But once it rains, people are warned not to go swimming for a least a day. The water washes away all the grime, oils and other bad stuff that collects in the ground, on the roads, and in gutters and drains, funneling it into the ocean. Local surfers and swimmers have recounted to me how they've gotten sick from going in the water after a rainfall.


Despite our governor's leanings toward environmentalism, it seems California still has a ways to go. As for me and my team, I'm hopeful that because the race is in the Cove, the water won't be as affected as if it were off a beach. If the worst part of the swim is the water temp, I'll take it. This will be a marathon swim for me, three laps of one mile each (Toby and I have stuck Carrie with an extra fourth lap). If we each average a half hour per lap, the event should take us five hours. I'm thinking it will be just like championship meets from high school and college, only without the high-pitched screaming.

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