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  1. I don't even play golf!

    by , December 22nd, 2016 at 09:51 AM (After a long rest)
    I had been feeling increasing pain in my elbows since the beginning of 2016. Initially it was sore after practice but would go away and later my right elbow developed ongoing pain to the point that it would throb constantly. After spring nationals I finally decided to go and see a physical therapist who gave me exercises I incorporated into my dry lands to strengthen the affected muscles. It's hear I heard the term golfers elbow. My left elbow reacted really well to treatment and gradually the pain went away. Unfortunately the right elbow did not react the same and actually continued to get more painful. After several more months of trying to rehab the right elbow I moved to an orthopedic surgeon. We did an MRI which initially did not highlight a tear and we tried a cortisone injection and no use of the arm while swimming. Still the pain grew and now I was struggling sleeping. I would go to sleep but was woken by a radiating pain in my elbow. Next the orthopedic surgeon asked for a contrast MRI which highlighted 3 tears; 2 in the medial epicondyle and 1 in the bicep tendon. By this point I had swelling in my forearm and numbness in the arm and hand. We tried a PRP injection and finally a stem cell injection. Both seemed to help with the swelling but again the pain continued to radiate from the funny bone. The final straw was a local meet where I had pain during my race.

    Last Tuesday 13th December I had surgery to cut and reattach the medial epicondyle tendons and the bicep tendon. The doctor also elected to move the ulnar nerve and clean up the affected area. Nothing against doctors or hospitals but I am a nervous patient and I don't like being in hospital.

    The surgery took about 90 minutes and the pre op process was very smooth. When i came around the first thing I noticed was the radiating pain from the injury had gone. I had spoken to the surgeon about my desire to not use narcotic pain meds like condene due to my dislike of the affect and it causing me nausea. The point of the surgery was obviously sore but the pain was definitely different. I used over the counter pain meds for a few days and was then at the point of not needing any.

    I am now a week out from surgery and doing great. I have a hard splint and it's a pain in the butt, but have my post op and first physical therapy appointment next week so hope to be able to start moving the arm soon. The no exercise for 2 weeks has been and will likely continue to drive me nuts but I am hanging in there. It's my hope I can start kicking as soon as the stitches heal. Rehab is 3-4 months so it's going to be a long road to recover. I am setting Budapest and World Masters Championship as my light at the of this tunnel. I will do my best to follow doctors orders during my recovery and suspect like all journeys there will be ups and downs. I just hope mine is now too hilly. Feeling good though!!!
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  2. What makes a great swimmer?

    by , October 15th, 2015 at 04:32 PM (After a long rest)
    Several months ago I was asked by my masters coach Tom to consider coaching one or more of the age group training groups. At first I was reluctant, due to my crazy work schedule and my fear of making a commitment I could not honor. With some creative thinking Tom made it pretty easy for me to give it a try. We devised a method by which 3 coaches were assigned to 2 groups and between the three of us we cover the groups with the fall back that if none of us is available Tom would cover. We each have hectic schedules but a monthly coordination email on travel dates allows us to make sure we have the group covered. I have also tried managing my travel calendar so that I miss no more than a day each week. Most of my work trips are two days and if I time them right I can travel the morning of my kids off day and be back for practice the next day. I still get the crazy weeks but communication with the coaching team has enabled us to make it work so far.

    I can not put into words how much I have REALLY enjoyed working with the kids in the group. I knew I would like it because I am passionate about swimming but did not realize how rewarding the entire coaching experience would be. In most cases the kids in my group don't have any USAS motivational times and have significant technical challenges with most if not all of their strokes. Despite knowing how to swim I have never really had to put it into words how to do a stroke; I have always been on the receiving end of the advice. I had never had to break strokes down into small bite sized pieces so that a new swimmer could make improvement without having to get the whole recipe right. It's been intellectually challenging, frustrating and exhilarating and at times all at the same time.

    One of my 11 year old kids asked me what he needed to do to be a great swimmer. On face value this would seem like a simple question and as I started to explain what I believed made a great swimmer, my list got longer and longer. I thought this would be a great list to document and wanted to share my list.

    Great Technique - Do you have the best stroke technic possible? For example on freestyle do you have a long streamline stroke, strong slightly forward looking head position, great catch with early vertical forearm, a complete and strong streamline pull straight under body with no pause, six beat kick in sync with your pull, tight quick turns, strong body position and leg position on the wall, streamline push from the wall, engaged dolphin kick at the point the push is about to slow, great transition from dolphin to flutter kick with no pause and a strong pull and stroke before first breath.
    Desire - how much do you demonstrate that you want to be all you can be?
    Handling negativity - what do you do with negativity? It's a fact of life that things don't always go as you hope so how do you handle these situations. Do negatives motivate you or do they destroy you.
    Toughness - Can you dig deep and race even when you are spent or in pain.
    Vision - can you see where you want to be before you are there. Can you see and feel your goal, like it's already happened.
    Listening and coachable - can you really hear what your being told and are you able to do something about it.
    Strength, Power and Flexibility - are you as strong, powerful and flexible as you can be and can you translate these with ease into the pool?
    Nutrition and hydration - what kind of fuel and oil do you put in your personal car. Regular or premium, synthetic or natural
    Sleep and rest - is your body able to recover between workouts and races
    Racing - Great swimmers race, that's what they do! Practice is great and where we hone the skills to race. We improve by training hard and smart but we also learn how to race by racing. Nothing replaces getting on the block or in the pool and just going for it. It shows us our improvement and what we need to work on next.
    A plan - it's one thing to know your goals but another to have a plan to get there. What's your plan?

    I don't believe that there is one unique recipe to make a great swimmer but I do believe if you ranked these attributes above on a scale of 1-10, high scores in each category lead to a great swimmer. I also believe that EVERY swimmer on the planet can get better, they can find something on this list they can improve on.

    I plan on sharing this with my kids and welcome any input.

    Updated October 15th, 2015 at 04:43 PM by StewartACarroll

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    Ramblings
  3. The life of a traveling swimmer

    by , September 25th, 2015 at 10:39 PM (After a long rest)
    I don't know if it is my age or my circumstances but I have been having some deep thoughts recently and today I had one of these after a simple question at the end of practice. Today I am in Alexandria, Virginia and after practice I got talking to one of the members of Alexandria Masters who asked me where I swim. It got me thinking! Where do I swim? I am (for sure)by no means the most traveled Masters swimmer but I do travel a lot and I do take advantage of two member benefits that not many realize are out there; places to swim on the USMS website and the visitor drop in policy.

    When I first got back into swimming 3 years ago I would only swim at my home pool in Rockwall, but as both my confidence in my swimming ability and my work related travel grew I started dropping in on teams around the country. For those who don't know, USMS has a drop in policy that most if not all teams will honor in which any USMS member can contact any USMS coach and ask to drop in for a swim practice. Some teams charge a drop in fee while others will let you join there practices for free.

    I accidentally came across the places to swim on the front page of the USMS website after reading someone else's blog(pwb's I think). Initially I was skeptical as to how often I would take advantage of this benefit but later places to swim became one of my most active links. Initially I would use the tool to see the closest pool to my hotel and email the coach 24hrs or so before I would drop by. After a few months of doing this in places like Omaha Nebraska, Chicago, Illinois, Tacoma, Washington and Birmingham, Alabama I started to realize that this benefit was really cool and extremely useful.

    Once again, as my confidence grew, instead of finding any pool near my hotel I instead looked for the programs and pools I wanted to drop in on and booked my hotel and travel around these programs. In a number of circumstances I would stay a long way away from my business location so that I could swim with a specific program. I vividly recall booking a hotel in Shannandoah, TX while visiting Houston so that I could swim with the Woodlands Masters Swim team only to realize that my meeting was almost 75 miles from the pool. If my boss is reading this, I made both the workout and the meeting As time went by instead of finding a pool near the hotel I started choosing facilities and programs that I wanted to swim at or with. So for example I went out my way to swim at the University of San Diego, Stanford Masters, Longhorn Aquatics at the University of Texas, SwimMAC, Swim Fort Lauderdale at the Hall of Fame pool, Alamo Area Masters at the Northside ISD pool, Nitro, and the list goes on.

    I am a naturally introverted person despite professionally having to spend a lot of time with people I meet once or meet very infrequently. As I have gotten older I have become more comfortable in doing this but I am always a little nervous walking into a room or place full of strangers. One of my hesitations initially with the drop in policy was overcoming my own introverted tendencies. However, by going out of my comfort zone I have met some awesome people and I have found teams who are so warm, friendly and inviting that I go back time and again when I visit teams like Alexandria Masters, Georgia Masters, Detroit Masters, Stanford Masters, etc.

    To date I have not met any team who has refused me entry and in all circumstances I have had a blast. Another benefit has been that I have become friends with many people who are equally passionate about swimming as me. In fact at world masters in Montreal last year I met one of the US coaches who I had swum several times while visiting Washington DC and swimming with Alexandria Masters. At Spring Nationals I hung out with a couple of swimmers from Tulsa Masters who I met while swimming in Jenks and again this Summer in Cleveland the first person I bumped into I had trained with in Dearborn Michigan and the Detroit Masters.

    Traveling can get old and at times I think it's going to drive me crazy but I have grown to love swimming in different places. So back to the simple question I was asked this morning, "Where do you swim?". After reflection I guess the answer is anywhere and everywhere and I love it!

    Updated September 26th, 2015 at 08:04 AM by StewartACarroll

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  4. Why compete in masters meets?

    by , June 30th, 2015 at 10:41 PM (After a long rest)
    I am arranging a 2 day meet in Rockwall the week after summer Nationals and it has made me think a lot about why did I signup to try to put this meet on? Other team members are helping and the meet is by no means a solo effort but I asked myself why do I care one way or the other whether other masters swimmers compete at our meet or not; and even more broadly why am I as passionate about the sport of swimming as I am.

    As I have written previously I am a former national level swimmer and quit the sport after the 1992 Olympic trials, burnt out and frustrated. At the time swimming had become something I needed to do rather than something I wanted to do. 20+ years and a lot of weight later I was roped into swimming in a corporate challenge event at work. After competing(I did not win) and having so much fun I decided I was going to give swimming another go. My initial intent was to get back into some semblance of physical shape. Initially swimming was tough but after about 6 months I ventured to Bryan, Texas and competed in a very small local meet. Again my times were not stellar and I was nervous but once again I had so much fun. Unlike the last year or so of my college swimming career where I was not enjoying myself and despite having success Swimming had lost the fun element, masters swimming was a lot of fun.

    Again as I have written numerous times on my blog I travel a fair bit with work and no matter where I am I go out of my way to swim. Traveling for work is highly overrated, boring, tiring and most of the time the complete opposite of fun. Despite my job requiring me to meet and interact with large groups of people I am naturally a quiet and fairly introverted person. When I first started dropping in on masters teams both domestically and internationally I was quite nervous but again soon realized that no matter where I went I had something in common with those I choose to join at 0-dark something; a passion for swimming. I was not the only crazy guy who had fun following the black line at the bottom of the pool.

    I realized that win or loose I liked the feeling of swimming fast, racing and pushing myself to my physical limit. After a while I even stopped comparing my times to what I did when I was younger and compared my times to my last swims. I still get upset and disappointed with not so great swims but it's no longer a love hate relationship with swimming, its purely a love relationship.

    Despite my weight loss and body transition over the last three years I still don't have a 20 year olds body and obviously I never will. When I first started masters swimming I was embarrassed by my body shape and this initially caused me hesitation to compete. Somewhere along the way I realized it did not matter. Everyone in masters swimming has aged from our memories view of our physical glory days and our body shapes and sizes are what they are and are not important. Someone said to me one time that we all have two things in common, we are all born and we all die. He followed this with, what makes a great life is what you do with the time in between these two events. I can't control when my time is up but having the ability to have the highest quality of life while I am here is within my control and swimming has provided me some wonderful experiences. I truly believe, that swimming has given me a stronger relationship with my wife, most of the stress I used to bring home from work I leave at work and I believe I have become less flustered and frustrated as a result. I am still able to keep up with my kids, and my daughter specifically and I have a shared passion and spend time together as a result of swimming. I believe I bring more value to my business because I am more alert and mentally strong at work because of swimming. I have made friends I would not have made and in nearly every case feel like I have friends for life.

    So why compete? I believe that meets add even more value to the masters swimming experience. Swimming is to a large extent, a fairly solitary sport. Somehow we get to know each other without really spending much total time talking. After all how much conversation can be conducted in the 10-15 seconds between swims and the 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of practice? Meets allow us to share more time with our team mates. Meets allow us to support each other in a way we are unable to in practice. I realized in several cases that not only do I share a passion for swimming with my team mates but life experiences ranging from kid stories, work stories, college experiences, etc. My team mates are cool interesting people and traveling to and from meets, hanging out in deck and supporting each other is so much fun. There goes that word again!

    Personally I had a very successful Spring Nationals but none of my own swims rank as the highlight of my meet. Seeing our entire team supporting one of our team mates who entered her first meet and completed the 200fly and 400IM was really awesome. Somehow we all shared every stroke Martha made and everyone got something from Martha's achievement. USMS is a big supporter of inclusion and I really do believe that competing enables swimmers to compete as a team and masters meets should not just be enjoyed by the few but rather every masters swimmer deserves to share in the experience and fun associated with a meet.

    I hope we have a great turn out at our meet but above all I hope everyone has fun.

    Updated September 26th, 2015 at 08:06 AM by StewartACarroll

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    Ramblings , Masters Swim Meets / Events