View Full Version : celebration!

jim thornton
May 6th, 2002, 10:51 AM
I know there is something unseemly about bragging about ones swimming times. I think for many masters swimmers, a sense of personal accomplishment is best savored inwardly. John Wayne, were he to have taken up masters swimming, certainly would never have jumped up and down in giddy pride over a personal record. Nor, I suspect, would Clint Eastwood.

Having said this, I would just like to take a moment to jump up and down in shameless giddly pride over a recent swim I had!!!

At Y nationals in Ft. Lauderdale a couple weeks ago, at the age of 49, I swam the best 200 yard freestyle of my life--a 1:55.11, which beat my high school and college time by nearly a full second. I realize this may actually say a lot more about my former mediocrity that it does about my current prowesss, but the fact remains that as I near semi-centenarian status, I was able to whoop my teenage self!!! (Sorry about that, youngster Jim; you just didn't know how to race smart back then.)

I went into the race hoping just to break two minutes; I had never before broken 1:56, and this didn't even enter my consciousness as a possibility. When I finished the race--splitting 57 and 58 respectively--I wasn't even all that exhausted. I looked over, saw my time on the big board, and I have been ludicrously, bumptiously proud of myself ever since.

Anyhow, I'm hoping that rather than annoying my fellow masters swimmers who may read this post, this exercise in self-congratulations/aggrandizment will encourage others to pen their own moments of personal satisfaction. Where better to celebrate than here, where your fellow swimmers actually know about swimming times and (unlike the world at large) conceivably even care?

May 6th, 2002, 11:55 AM
Congratulations Jim!! It is inspiring to read about someone who has done this. Don't you just love those swims where you look up at the scoreboard and do a double-take because you can't believe you're seeing YOUR time? They are rare, but something you will remember forever.

Some day I hope to join you and post a similar message. At 42, I haven't given up hope of achieving the lifetime goals that I set when I was around 12 and never met in High School / College.

Terry Palmer
May 6th, 2002, 12:08 PM
Way to go, I'm very happy for you. It really gives me hope that I can equal my best times.

I imagine by now you are starting to think about breaking the magical 1:50 barrier next. I hope you do.

jean sterling
May 6th, 2002, 12:20 PM
It's really neat when you can set a personal record in an older age group.

I am in the 65-69 age group and had two personal records in the butterfly (the 100 and the 200) at the recent Y nationals. It helped that I didn't swim fly when I was a kid (always thought that fly with a frog kick was a pretty silly stroke). Anyway, I improved my 100 time by 4 seconds and my 200 time by 6 seconds. I remember that last year I was delighted when I swam the 100 in 1:49.99, which was the first time I broke 1:50. So you can imagine how delighted I was when I swam the 100 in 1:46.19! I didn't believe the electronic scoreboard and asked somebody to read the time for me.

Yes, a personal best is a wonderful thing!!

May 6th, 2002, 12:28 PM
Congratulations, Jim!!

I certainly cannot brag about any single event achievement, as I am still building the strength, flexibility and technique needed to run a *really* good race. (I am 44 and just started swimming a year ago; I train with an age group team in a pool located an hour and a half from where I live.)

However, I just returned from my first LCM meet of the season, having only ever swam two prior to this, and of the seven events I swam, six were repeats. From those six events, I shaved a cumulative 51.59 seconds - 20 of those in the 200 Free!! (Yes, I am proud of that!)

It was my first three day meet, as well, and by the third day the wear and tear of anxiety and nervousness was wearing me down. It was a USS meet, as I do not live where there are many opportunities to attend Masters' meets. This was the first time where I was in the single digit seconds behind the high schoolers.

(As a side note, another moment of pride stems from the fact that my 14 year old daughter shaved 38.12 seconds, cumulative, off of her nine events)!

I love this sport!!

May 6th, 2002, 01:41 PM
Now you've done it, Jim. Just when I had given up on the idea of ever achieving lifetime bests, you've thrown down the gauntlet and convinced me that it may still be possible. I don't know whether to thank you or curse you.

I only know times from three events from Junior College Regionals, prior to Nationals in 1971, from an old newspaper clipping, but I'm sure they were my best times. I always thought they were attainable again, since I now swim more yardage and I'm not "partying" as we did in 1971 (those of you who were there should know) so our team's results from that era were not near our potential.

Now I have to reset my thinking and start looking at those times again as realistic goals.

Thanks a lot, Jim. No rest for the wicked.

Bert Bergen
May 6th, 2002, 04:01 PM
We're all adults here, Jim. No one should take offense at your sharing the tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations! As someone who considers the 200 his favorite event, I only have a suggestion for your goal at that next shave meet: take the race out faster (:55 or :54!!) and come back in a stong :57. Oh, and make sure someone has a video camera trained on your face when you look at the big board.

Again, congrats!!

Philip Arcuni
May 6th, 2002, 04:06 PM
Congratulations Jim,

Your splits indicate one way that us old fogies can still do ATBs (All-Time Bests) - swim smarter with great pacing.

There are other strategies that I am trying:

1) While I don't expect to do any ATBs in the 100 or 200 fly (If I did, I would be a 'Smith-Class' vessel), every time I improve my 50 fly I consider it a ATB, since I have no memory of ever having swum that event.

2) The Backstroke turns are a lot faster now than they were (at least the way I did them), and that can make up for some slower swimming. The underwater kick is also a potentially big advantage for a butterflyer like me. I am only 0.4 off of my ATB 100 back time, and there is a chance . . .

3) Anything with Breaststroke in it is a candidate for an ATB, both because of strategy 1) and also because I have the time now to improve my off-off-stroke.

4) While my peak yardage then was *way* more than I am doing now, I never swam year-round before. That means that now I don't waste time gasping while I try to get back in shape. That should help, I think.

5) I don't think *all* of my increased weight is fat - - some weight training, which I don't do yet, will help alot, too.

6) I am one of my coaches, now, because I spend lots more time analyzing and working on my stroke, and taking charge of what and how I am swimming. That increased maturity has made me a better, if not faster, swimmer.

Now, if I only didn't have to work . . .

Matt S
May 6th, 2002, 06:12 PM

I think you can tell by the overwhelming response that most of us are thrilled and inspired by your PR, and not put off by the strutting. (It's hard to object to someone "dissing" his younger self.)

Thanks to folks like you, I too have some hope to eventually take down some high school/college PR's. I thrilled myself last August when I figured out that my 400m time, converted to 500y, beat my best time from high school. (Now, the all time, college PR is another story.) In the beating my younger self competition, I don't count events that I never swam in HS or college, but those fly times are looking soft, and my meters PR's are a possibility since all my shaved, tapered swims were SCY.

Thanks for the note,


Ion Beza
May 7th, 2002, 03:55 PM
Originally posted by jim thornton
I know there is something unseemly about bragging about ones swimming times.

Not to me: to me this is the meaning of life.

Originally posted by jim thornton

At Y nationals in Ft. Lauderdale a couple weeks ago, at the age of 49, I swam the best 200 yard freestyle of my life--a 1:55.11, which beat my high school and college time by nearly a full second.

That's impressive.
Looks like cranking up the yardage to 15,000 yards per week like you mentioned in a thread, paid off as far as comparing it with recent training regimen goes. Regarding this being a lifetime best, including High School and College, I don't know what to say, except again that this is impressive.

Bert Petersen
May 8th, 2002, 01:03 AM
It is a great feeling, n'est pas ? But you realize, of course, that if you get older and faster at the same time you are immortal. That is what my wife told me, anyway......... (or was the word immoral). She has used both.
Don't ever stop being proud. ;)

Tom Ellison
May 8th, 2002, 06:09 AM


All kiding aside, 1:55.11 for a 200 free at 49 is a great time...., nice swim! Hard work and a lot of it...is the only way you swam that fast. Be proud....you earned it!

May 8th, 2002, 02:21 PM
Way to go James!

Just this last weekend a friend and I were talking about
going faster as we get older (I'm 49). I'm
not back to ATBs yet, but I'm swimming distances faster
than I did 12 years ago.

Did you see Laura Val in Swim? She's 50, just did a
:53 100 yard free--her ATB!!

You can get older and faster!:D

Mark in MD
May 8th, 2002, 04:33 PM

If you don't toot your own horn once in a while, no one will for you. You deserve every bit of a sincere congratulations!

Jean's story reminded me of what I was able to accomplish at my first major meet (Colonies Zone) two weeks ago. I had to do a double-take towards the electronic board to make sure I wasn't dreaming about one my events.

When one works to accomplish a sincere goal, he/she has every right to brag, in my book. Again, a big Atta Boy!

Philip Arcuni
May 8th, 2002, 05:25 PM
Us near-sighted people will never have that double-take experience. At the last meet I dropped 2 s from my masters best in a 100, and didn't know it until the results were posted.

May 8th, 2002, 10:39 PM
Yo Phil,
Treat yourself to those goggles that incorporate
corrective lenses--don't be CHEAP! If you do a PR/ATB,
you deserve to know!!:D


jim thornton
May 9th, 2002, 12:55 PM
I'd just like to thank everybody for their very kind and tolerant replies! This summer, I get to swim in the 50-54 year age group, even though I technically won't turn 50 till Sept. 24th. I am hoping against hope to place on one the USMS much coveted top 10 lists--this would be a dream come true.

My one request: since the USMS Long Course Championships are (I think) in Cleveland this summer, could I please ask any and all potential 50-54 year old competitors to PLEASE boycott this competion? And if you insist on coming, could you swim only breaskstroke events? That would make my job significantly easier. Thanks in advance for your help. Remember: helping me get on a top 10 list is a GROUP effort. They also serve who sit out and wait!

Tom Ellison
May 9th, 2002, 03:31 PM
It's like Mohammed Ali used to say, "It ain't braggen if you can do it.":D

May 9th, 2002, 10:29 PM

I don't think it was Muhammad Ali who said that originally. It may take me a while to remember who it was, but I believe it may have been Dizzy Dean. I'll give this some thought and come up with a definitive answer, but I'm certain it was someone before Ali. At any rate, you won't hear any braggin' from me as I'm not yet to the point where I can back it up.

By the way, am I operating under some illusion or is my age group (50-54) seeemingly the toughest to compete in? It seems as if maybe we are in the peak of the baby boomers as pure numbers go and there just seems to be an awful lot of very strong swimmers in this age range.

jim thornton
May 10th, 2002, 11:21 AM

I think people in all age groups probably feel theirs is the toughest, but I agree with you--the 45-49 and 50-54 cohorts in men seem to me to be particularly tough. My theory is that guys our age all swam during the late 60s, early 70s Mark Spitz-7-gold-medals-around-the-neck era. The poster of this accomplishment seemed to hang on every other dorm room wall in the country. Male swimming was in its golden age back then, at least in the USA. (It's apparently in even more of a golden age in Australia right now.)

Since then, the combination of Title IX and the fashion trend towards baggy shorts have dealt something of a 1-2 punch to male swimming domestically. When I was a kid, the local Y team was significantly more than 50% boys; today, I doubt if 10% of the swimmers are male.

On our masters team in suburban Pittsburgh, there are a bunch of aging geezers like me, and a handful of 20-30-early 40 something women. In a sense, this makes practices kind of fun for us dirty old men. But it also hints that the next generation of masters record breakers are going to be distaff. I predict that many of the male records set in the next 5-10 years--by the likes of Jim McConica and his ilk--will stay in effect for an awfully long time. Twenty years from now, on the other hand, women's masters records will be dropping precipitously.

BTW, I don't mean to be mean-mouthing Title IX, because I do think it's done a lot of good for women athletes. It is interesting, however, to note that both of the 20-something ex-college swimmers on our team today say that they wish Title IX had NOT impacted male swimming programs so negatively. As one of these women put it, "As women swimmers, we want there to be men swimmers too to hang out with." Sadly for them, I suppose, today this means guys like me!

Ian Smith
May 10th, 2002, 01:04 PM
I agree with your analysis of which are the tough age groups. At the risk of over-simplifying, one can illustrate it by looking at the trend of the winning 100m Olympic times as an indication of the abilities of the vast majority of competitive swimmers in each 'era'.

The hypothesis being that all swimmers of a particular era will have benefited from the progress and implementation of improved research in technique and training methods even if they were not the top swimmers.

1924 59.0
1928 58.6
1932 58.2
1936 57.6
1948 57.3
1952 57.4 < Pretty slow improvement up to here
1956 55.4
1960 55.2
1964 53.4 < Sudden drop happening here
1968 52.2
1972 51.22
1976 49.99 < Leveling out again
1980 50.40
1984 49.80
1988 48.63

You can see a bend in the curve around 1956/60. These are the current 60-64 and 65-69 (more or less) A second real drop begins in 1964. (current 50-54) and runs until 1976 (current 45-49) before leveling out.

If you check out current masters times, a subjective evaluation might be:
* The 60-69 times are, in general, so-so (with the exception of Jeff Farrell who was 'first string' in his day)
* The top 50-54 times are significantly better and would have been world class in 1960.
* The top 45-49 times have surpassed the world records of 1960 even by masters who may have been 'second string' in their era.
* Times in younger groups will level out like the open times of today, with records going to 'first string' swimmers who stay in the sport. (e.g. 37 year old Olympic Gold medallist, Richard Saeger setting a new world record of 1:54.86 for the LCM 200 at Federal Way last year)

If you do the same exercise with the women's 100m Olympic winning times, the same phenomenon occurs but later in time. The big drop in times happening in 1976. As a result, there are a bunch of really good women in the 35-39 and 40-44's.

In summary:
Masters records will continue to be demolished until the current 45-49 age group has moved right through the system (and I am long gone)

The age groups younger than the 45-50 are ALL tough. With the usual exceptions, older age groups are "easier".

The 'average' masters times will also improve in unison with the 45-50's moving through.

After this there will be a leveling out as you point out - unless there are some major technical breakthroughs.

Ion Beza
May 10th, 2002, 06:09 PM
Interesting research.
Applicable to me, I retain from it:

Originally posted by Ian Smith

* Times in younger groups will level out like the open times of today, with records going to 'first string' swimmers who stay in the sport. (e.g. 37 year old Olympic Gold medallist, Richard Saeger setting a new world record of 1:54.86 for the LCM 200 at Federal Way last year)

the very important:

Originally posted by Ian Smith

The age groups younger than the 45-50 are ALL tough. With the usual exceptions, older age groups are "easier".


Originally posted by Ian Smith

...there will be a leveling out as you point out - unless there are some major technical breakthroughs.

Matt S
May 11th, 2002, 04:00 PM

Interesting, but I don't merely suspect that I am in the toughest age group, I KNOW I am in the toughest age group. Please review the NQT's for 40-44 Men. You will note that the fastest NQT's, FOR ANY AGE GROUP, are the 40-44 men for 200-1500 free, all 3 backstrokes, and the 200 fly!! I first noticed this last year (when I was 40) when I reviewed the potential competition at LC Nationals, and I noticed it was FASTER than the 35-39 group I had just left! Aging up does not do me a bit of good.

This also seems to be something that follows me. In the 1999 Pan-Pacs (when I was 38), the 35-39 age group was by far the fastest of the whole meet. It was particularly bad (or good, depending ou your point of view) in the 3K open water swim when my 10th place time in my age group was 28th overall, and would have been no worse that 3rd (!!) in ANY other age group.

As I said last year, "I got me a case of the too damn many baby-boomers havin' themselves a mid-life swimmin' renaissance and glogging up my age group blues..." <twang-a-bang-a-rang-a-dang-a-slang-doo...>


Ion Beza
May 11th, 2002, 06:33 PM
Originally posted by Matt S

Interesting, but I don't merely suspect that I am in the toughest age group, I KNOW I am in the toughest age group. Please review the NQT's for 40-44 Men. You will note that the fastest NQT's, FOR ANY AGE GROUP, are the 40-44 men for 200-1500 free, all 3 backstrokes, and the 200 fly!!
Also, for the 2002LongCourseNationals to be held August 2002 in Cleveland, men ages 40 to 44 have the fastest qualifying times off all ages, in:
200 free (at 2:21.82);
400 free (at 5:05.62);
800 free (at 10:54.98);
1500 free (at 21:05.94);
50 back (at 34.62);
200 fly (at 2:56.57),
and come close to the fastest in many others.
That's six fastest individual events out of a total of seventeen, more than a third of the entire meet.

I compete in this toughest age group, without having a teenage swimming background which would peak for my generation in 1984 of Ian's Olympic chart: in 1984 I was learning to swim by myself, and afterwards I trained alone in public swim for three years.

It's an achievement for me if I can make now a National Qualifying Time in men ages 40 to 44.

November 20th, 2002, 10:55 PM

There are a lot more members out there now than then.

I just did my PR in the 3000 yd Postal event this year after
swimming it four out of the last five years (lowered it by 50 seconds). I'm 49, just for reference.
Who else is getting faster as they got older?

(Not necessarily All Time Bests, but faster since USMS?)

JT--you are undoubtably right re: the mediocrity thing:D

November 21st, 2002, 08:39 AM
That is pretty sweet... beating your high school times. Congrats on that one.

As for John Wayne swimming.... Its a stretch to visualize "The Duke" in the 200 free. It would be hard for a Pilgrim like the duke to swim with revolvers on. Unless we talk about the real Duke... the Hui Nalu! (personal hero.) Although, Clint,"aka Blondie, Harry Calahan" is a bad dood... he should have been a swimmer.

"You gonna swim this race or whistle dixie..."


jim clemmons
November 21st, 2002, 03:15 PM

I'll reply to your question of "Who else is getting faster as they got older?" in the hope of giving others a little assistance in goal setting.

I swam for a year and a half in high school and through 4 years of college. 1967 to 1972 inclusive. Approximate best times for scy swims versus current best times as a 50-52 year old are as follows:

Event - Then (all college) - Now (Hawaii02)
500 fr --- 5:12ish----- 4:58.94
1000 fr--- 11:15ish--- 10:23.50
1650 fr--- 18:08ish --- 17.15.00
200 im --- 2:14+ ------ 2:10.00 (Indy2K)
400 im --- 4:33.5 ----- 4:32.85
200 br --- 2:23+------ 2:22.98
200 fly --- 2:02+ ----- 2:10.13

My shorter distance times all approach what I did 30 years ago but the above (with the exception of the fly) still kind of "blow my mind". A 30 year old goal of breaking 5 minutes in the 500 achieved.:cool:

Now, for the last 3 years, I've trained year round. In college it was a different regimen. My first year back, I averaged 24000 yds/wk. After establishing that base, I've pretty much been able to scale it back to an average of around 18000 with ups and downs depending on competition schedule. I generally compete in ALL meets (pool). This seems to get me the intense quality effort required for speed. 5 events one day, all 100% effort.

I've also discovered that a 3 week taper works better along with arriving at the major competition sites a day or two in advance to rest, check in and mentally prepare.

The last thing (but probably most important) is the program. Our head coach, Brian Stack, and his assistants truly make the effort to put together a quality program for the varied levels of swimmers that we train with. It also certainly helps to have the fast training partners that we get to swim with on a daily basis.

Jim Clemmons
Manatee Aquatic Masters
Oakland CA (Mills College)

November 21st, 2002, 06:09 PM
I've been improving in the three years that I've been competing. I am still pretty far behind what I could do in High School though. The events that I never swam before, I have my best times in though (I didn't swim USS). A big difference between me now and in High School is 75 pounds of added weight/drag. My technique is definitely better and I'm approaching those times.

Phil Arcuni
November 21st, 2002, 06:38 PM
Thanks for that information, Jim.

I wonder how many people are like Jim - I think he is very unusual. Most of the very good masters swimmers (all americans in middle-age age groups 30 - 60) were also very good as youths - swimmers who could at least qualify for NCAA nationals. Jim was not in that class (sorry Jim) but now he is one of our best.

Definitely one of the most hopeful postings (for me) in quite a while!

Bert Petersen
November 24th, 2002, 03:08 AM
I'm delighted to report that I am finally escaping our age group. so you won't have me to kick around for a few years !
Seriously, it is scary to see some of the younger swimmer's times.
Some of those 40 to 59 year olds are going faster than I did when I was a kid.
Thanks to Masters swimming we can all age up and go against people from our time.........
A friend of mine told me that his goal was not to be the fastest swimmer, just the oldest one. Food for thought.....

Bert ~~~^o^~~~