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  1. Lefty Lazarus

    by , July 15th, 2011 at 12:30 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    When my son Ben and I carried Lefty, trembling and feverish, anorexic and unable to stand without help, from the grounds of our estate, it crossed my mind that Lefty might not ever return again to Pugs' Escape at the Maplery. Ben later confessed that he also wondered if Lefty was dying. For 12 years, this wonderful little pug chap had been a constant and comical member of our family, his life as a dog paralleling Ben's odyssey from the 4th grade to the cusp of college graduation; Jack's trek from kindergarten to the start of college; and my own pilgrimage from monkey-grilling Oddventure writer to bankruptcy-fearing worrywart.

    As noted previously in Vicissitudes, we first took Lefty to a local vet who ran a variety of tests but concluded that she did not have the expertise and apparatus to know for certain what the main cause of his suffering was. A quick test of Lyme Disease was positive, but she feared that a more life-threatening problem was a possible bezoar of guinea pig litter. The X-ray of Lefty's stomach showed his stomach was so engorged with stuff that this normally small oblong organ had been shifted over to the right and was swollen to the size of a softball. Moreover, his liver was inflamed and his gall bladder was riddled with stippling, whatever that means.

    {Bezoar, by the way, is a term I'd never heard until this whole ordeal began. To save you a trip to Wikipedia, here's what it means:

    A bezoar is a mass found trapped in the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrointestinal_system"]gastrointestinal system[/ame] (usually the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach"]stomach[/ame]), though it can occur in other locations.

    It comes from a Persian word meaning "protection from poison," and therapeutic bezoars were once prescribed to absorb poisons in the gut before they could dispatch the poisoned. The term "caveat emptor" actually comes from a famous 1603 lawsuit in which a man sued another for providing him with a fraudulent bezoar. But enough on this subject.}

    Lefty's bezoar was by no means therapeutic. The local vet referred us to an emergency veterinary hospital about 45 minutes away. Not only did this have more sophisticated scanning apparatus but there was a staff surgeon on hand in the event opening up Lefty's stomach to remove the contents proved necessary to save his life.

    By the time we got there, Lefty was suffering greatly. His eyes were cloudy and smeared with mucous. His body was hot and he could not stop panting. His back legs were trembling nonstop as if he were shivering to keep himself from freezing to death. His breathing at times seemed ragged. I could not help but remember the death rattle sound of my father's last hours of breath.

    An incredibly nice vet, Dr. Lisa Sepesy, met with us and went over a treatment plan. If you are a fan of Law & Order, Dr. Sepesy looks a little like that affable middle aged blonde woman who plays the medical examiner.

    She explained that she wanted to run more tests--she suspected Lefty might have thyroid insufficiency and a urinary infection along with his other problems. She said they needed to keep Lefty hospitalized overnight. Ben and I both gave him a kiss and surrendered our buddy to the ministrations of veterinary science.

    Lefty's bivouac at the hospital would eventually last for two days. But as early as the first night, Dr. Sepesy phoned us to say he was improving.

    She had put him on intravenous fluids and started him on an antibiotic for his Lyme Disease. She also gave him anti-inflammatory medicine--doggie NSAIDs--for his joint pain. By the first night, Dr. Sepesy said, he was feeling better enough to actually eat a little. And though he had not yet evacuated his bowels, the occasional wafting of flatulence suggested that his system was not 100 percent blocked.

    Dr. Sepesy called again the next morning with more good news. X-rays now showed the bezoar had begun to break up, obviating the need for surgery. She wanted to keep him one more night to further hydrate and medicate him and see if peristalsis might further progress his internal burden towards liberation.

    It did!

    On the morning of the second day, she called to tell us Lefty was doing much better, still limping a bit but eating and showing signs of liveliness. He could come home!

    She arranged for us to pick him up at 2 p.m.

    Ben and I drove back to get Lefty, glad that he was doing so much better, both of us incredibly anxious to see him. The vet had cautioned us he was by no means 100 percent, and that he would need to be on medicines for the next couple weeks, and furthermore he could not "overdo it" with exercise. Keep him inside resting most of the time, with occasional quick sorties outside to relieve himself.

    As we drove back to pick him up, Ben and I both wondered if Lefty's brush with pain and mortality would leave him changed. Would Lefty, in other words, still be Lefty? Or a sobered shell of his former blustery self?

    As is, I suspect, the case with many dog owners, we had embellished Lefty's Christian name over the years with various additions and refinements.

    We had added, for instance, a last name: Lumpkins, i.e., Lefty Lumpkins. And for those occasions that required more pomp and circumstance--for example, during the annual televised Westminster Dog Show--we gave him a title, Sir Lefty Lumpkins. For our Hispanic friends, he became simply Senor Lumpkins.

    Besides wondering if Lefty would still be Lefty, we also wondered if he would still be Sir Lefty and/or Senor Lumpkins.

    I used my camera phone to document our moment of reunion. Here is video of Lefty emerging from his recovery room. He is doped up, a bit wobbly, and discombobulated by his changed environment. But both Ben and I could tell immediately: Lefty was still Lefty!

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkhkIkvsYNc"]‪Lefty Lazarus!‬‏ - YouTube[/nomedia]





    Ben holds a revitalized Lefty as Dr. Sepesy tells us which medicines to give Lefty and on what time schedule. Ben, who is wearing a BallouSkies charity wrist band on his arm-- http://www.ballouskies.com/ --later says that Lefty's I.V. bandage reminds him of the elbow brace that Allen Iverson wore when playing for the Sixers.




    Like Allen, Lefty wears his therapeutic bandage on the front right limb.

    I realize this vlog entry has gone on at some length here, and it hasn't mentioned swimming yet. So let me just mention that.

    Swimming.

    Now back to Senor Lefty Lumpkins. In the interest of keeping this account as complete as I can make it, here is Dr. Sepesy's summary of Lefty's travails and instructions for his ongoing treatment at home. I will also appendage the various tests and other expenses associated with his care:





    (Please note the highlighted sentence above. Most pet owners believe their pets are the best, but here we have a woman of science, with an extensive background in animal analysis, officially proclaiming that Lefty is a sweet dog.)





    (Note: in addition to the $2286.08 paid so far to the veterinary hospital, the original local vet charged $241.)

    When we arrived back home, a real estate agent had arranged to show our house to a prospective renter (we're trying to rent our ancestral home, Pugs' Escape at the Maplery, in order to pay our usurious health insurance premiums), so I carried Lefty up to a platform we built in the woods. Biscuit, our other pug, joined us, wagging her tail somewhat nonchalantly at Lefty's return. Within several minutes, both pugs were using their compact four-wheel-drive style bodies to snorfle around the surrounding hillside. Lefty then circled several times and...evacuated his bowels! He looked so happy and relieved!

    Ben started to laugh. "Well," he said, "that was a $2500 ****."

    Actually, $2527.08.

    And worth every penny we don't have.

    At this point, Jack and his rocker musician friends also joined us on the platform and suggested throwing a Concert for Lefty to help pay the bills.

    The real estate agent never showed. We carried Lefty down the stairs, I fixed his dinner with its extravaganza of medicinal condiment additives, and we tried to coax him to go to sleep. Debbie had bought him a Beanie Baby to carry around in his mouth and throttle, a cute little koala bear. Lefty curled up next to the koala and sort of rested for a little while, then he started begging for Milkbone treats. I gave him one or two or maybe five.

    The next morning, I went down to kitchen, prepared to clean up whatever combination of revolting byproducts had left Lefty's various orifices overnight. To my delight, there were no accidents of any sort upon our kitchen floor. Lefty stood at full attention, trembling with excitement and total alertness, his signature voracious appetite having returned in full force.

    Back in his puppyhood, Lefty got so excited at the prospect of being fed that he emitted these loud humorous yawns, as if anticipation of eating was tapping all the energy he could muster: a narcoleptic's catalepsy. Debbie found his yawns so adorable that she began to reward them.

    Now, whenever Lefty believes food is imminent, he emits these wild yawning sounds that have nothing to do with sleepiness.

    This morning, Lefty was yawning up a storm! He seemed more full of vim than he had been in years.

    There was only one disconcerting sign: Biscuit was nowhere to be found. Unlike Lefty, who has never figured out how to open the kitchen door, Biscuit has mastered this trick and goes to sleep in the living room if we forget to prop a chair against the door. I searched the house for her but could find no signs. Then I looked in the garage and around the immediate outside vicinity. Again, no Biscuit.

    Yikes! How awful the prospect to bring Lefty back from Death's doormat only to have his healthy bride disappear forever!

    I made Lefty's breakfast of beef Alpo, pills, and elixirs, put Biscuit's breakfast in her bowl where he couldn't steal it, and hoped she would eventually show up. While doing some work in my office, I noticed Ben wasn't in his bed, which is very strange given that it was 8 a.m., and he usually doesn't get up much before 1 or 2 in the afternoon. That's when I realized where Biscuit might be.



    Ben and his two friends, Will and Nick, decided to camp out on the platform the first night of Lefty's return. Knowing that Lefty was doctor-ordered to take it easy, but still wanting some dog companionship, they had carried Biscuit's dog basket up with them, where she spent the night. Though I told Lefty to stay at the bottom on the hill, he climbed up most of the way -- I carried him the last six steps --and began snorfling around the boys and his pug bride. I left them all to continue sleeping up there. A half hour later, Biscuit and Lefty both showed up at the kitchen door. I gave Biscuit her breakfast and gave Lefty some treats and tried to get him to rest.



    Lefty proudly displays his koala bear and front leg bandage, the latter which somehow worked itself off overnight.

    Epilogue: Lefty has continued to improve ever since he got home. This short video (please excuse the poor focus) gives a sense of his return to his former self. Perhaps it is the effect of his drugs, but since this was taken yesterday, he has become, in anything, more robust than I have seen him in years.

    Jack, my younger son, said when Lefty was in his most extreme extremis, "He's a resilient pug. He'll be okay."

    Jack was right, and I suspect this resilience applies to more than just pugs. We are all, in our fashion, resilient if mortal creatures. None of us can escape our fates forever, but until that day comes, perhaps the lesson of Lefty is that we won't give up the ghost easily, no matter how much we may sometimes feel inclined to do so.

    Welcome back, Lefty! Welcome back everyone who has sidled up to the brink! Let us all resolve to live our lives as best we can without needless worry!

    Just stay away from the temptation of guinea pig poop in whatever form this might take.

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct28vaVKbcs"]‪Lefty the next morning! Lefty's back!‬‏ - YouTube[/nomedia]
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  2. friday and Saturday Swims

    by , July 24th, 2011 at 01:40 AM (Swimming, Life, and Other Stuff!)
    Friday Solo @ Carmel Aquatic Center in scy:
    **500 Freestyle swim
    **10 X 50 Free Drill/Swim (1-arm / fist / finger drag / catch-up)
    **Broken 1650 (11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) rest :20 through 7 and :10 for the rest.
    **10 X 50 Kick @ 1:00
    **100 IM easy and out.
    Carmel is getting drained and cleaned so this was my last swim there till August 8th. I hate losing a pool!
    [B][U]Saturday [U][B]w/buddies at the Monon Center:
    **200 Swim / 200 Kick / 200 Pull / 200 Swim
    **300 Swim / 300 Kick / 300 Pull
    **4 X 200 Pull @ 3;30
    **3 X 150 Free Pull @ 2:15
    **2 X 100 free @ 1:40
    **1 X 50 Pull
    **10 X 50 Kick @ 1:00 mixed
    **8 X 25 iMO @ :40
    ** 4 X 100 IM

    4,300 scy

    I just returned home from the new Tom Hanks movie; It was a "slice of life" tale of an 'out of work" man who ends up with more than just a new job and education!
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  3. Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove

    by , July 24th, 2011 at 01:41 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Yesterday, Bill White and Mark Scholl, their cups overrunning with sweat and hubris, arrived at the Y tennis courts at the generally agreed upon time of 8 a.m. for what I had hoped would be a Super Men's Best of 11 Set Championship match against the indomitable Irishman, John Delaney, and myself, a superb but psychologically frail athletic specimen.

    John and I arrived fashionably late at 8:45, which I am certain Bill and Mark believed was a strategic decision to tire them out via exposure to the pitiless Heat Dome that is currently slow-cooking us here in the Middle Atlantic States.

    Actually, though it may have served this function, both John and I had arisen early to the pitter patter of rain drops and figured we should give it time for the courts to dry out. Mark and Bill, who live across the Ohio River, had experienced no such rain drops and didn't believe they existed.

    But enough preamble.

    The basic gist is that our nemeses were nicely warmed up, and they took the first two sets 6-3 and 6-1 respectively.

    John and I both felt thoroughly beaten down. There is something about a drubbing that tires you out more than the actual activity itself. It is, I think, akin to the learned helplessness of domestic abuse victims.

    But then something amazing happened in the third set.

    The tide turned. We won 6-3. And in the fourth set we won 6-1--the score equivalent of a palindrome.

    Though I argued the fifth set would not decide anything--we were, after all, playing the best of 11--no one else seemed to want to play that long. I suggested that if the match was still going at 5 p.m., we could call it, but again, no one but me intended to suffer the brain damage such would certainly wreak on the wetware of our fast desiccating neurons.

    So the 5th set was to be the deciding one.

    It proved remarkably competitive, with the lead see-sawing back and forth and forth and back. At 7-7 in games, John suggested we play a tie breaker, but Bill, Mark, and I didn't really want to do so. The compromise: two more games. Either a winner would emerge or we would tie.

    But that would be that.

    I managed to win my serve. Score: 8-7. The worst we could do was a tie.

    But then we won Mark's serve, and the match was ours!

    Bill and I immediately headed for the Y's hot tub, which may seem counter-intuitive given the fact that we were already boiling hot and drenched in sweat. But we have discovered a dip in the Jacuzzi post-tennis allows us to do something throughout the remainder of the day that would otherwise be impossible.

    Walk.

    Ten minutes of swirling therapy on the dogs later, we went up to the pool to take a dip and cool off.

    Bill, who wears these horrible discount tennis shoes that rather than cushioning the beating his feet take on asphalt courts only accentuates this, needed to limp to the pool in thonged sandals.

    Before jumping into the deep end, he took these off and placed them on his hands and used them as swimming paddles.

    This is the inspiration for today's vlog: a revolutionary new Aqua Shoe Glove that, with just the slightest tinkering by scientists, would provide active triathlete types the perfect solution to beach run-swimming.

    To wit, how often have you wanted to go for a nice long jog along the beach, then swim back only to be stymied by this question:

    What do I do with my shoes?

    This new approach will allow you to run as long as you want in cushioning footwear, then either take said footwear off your feet and place them on your hands (as paddles) or leave them on your feet but convert them to
    adjustible length swim fins via the retractable flipper.

    If any of my vlog readers have connections to industry and would like to pursue this incredible idea further, I hereby publicly assign to you 1 percent of all moneys collected after the first 2.5 million dollars, this as an incentive to you to pick up the ball and carry it for me.

    Thanks!

    By the way, I could have definitely used the Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove later that afternoon when the lovely Heidi Kafka of Chicago, Illinois, convinced me to take her to North Park, a favorite swim stomping ground of her youth in our neck of the woods, and the two of us swam 3200 meters in the 85 degree human bullion, me riddled with nonstop toe, arch, foot, and calf cramps.



    A typical thonged sandal modeled by a professional foot model whose prominent blue veins are deliberately suggestive.



    The same thonged sandal converted by the ingenuity of Mr. Bill White, chemical engineer, to a swim paddle.



    A sketch currently en route to the US Patent office for the Revolutionary Aqua Shoe Glove that is likely to change forever how active humans move at beaches. Please contact author for how you can earn 1 percent of anything over the first $2.5 million in revenue that I receive.
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  4. 100-meter pool

    Last night I had another fun pool tourism outing—this time up to Crotona Park pool in the Bronx. This is another of NYC’s sprawling WPA-era pools. It dates from 1936, and measures a whopping 330’ x 120’, with varying depth of up to 4 feet. It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but it was worth the trip. I met friends Hannah and Kathleen up there, and we had the whole pool to ourselves for the evening lap swim, from 7-8:30. There were more lifeguards than swimmers!



    Hannah has an amazing streak going—she made a New Year’s resolution in January of 2010 to do at least 2 lengths of butterfly at every swim workout, and has kept it ever since. Things get a bit harder in the summer, with lcm lengths instead of scy ones, but she’s proved up to the challenge. Last night’s super-duper-long-course pool seemed daunting, though, so she proposed starting off with the fly to get it out of the way. Here’s what we did:

    400 s-d-lcm broken IM (chat / breathing break at walls)
    400 broken rev. IM (ditto)

    One interesting feature of the Crotona pool are the two pyramid-shaped structures situated in the middle. Our next few sets took advantage of this:

    200 figure-eight swim around the pyramids

    2 x 100 close-eyed FR swim [This was to see if we went straight—with such a long pool and nobody besides ourselves to run into (yes, we did), it seemed like a good opportunity. I opened mine to check halfway through the first length—perfect! Filled with overconfidence, I then proceeded to veer off 45 degrees on the next 50---I grazed a pyramad after almost clearing the far side of it. The return trip was better.]

    2 x 100 sprint set (easy from walls to pyramids, sprint between pyramids)

    200 warmdown

    (That workout looks short, but there was a lot of chatting between swims, plus a fair amount of admiring the moon and the surroundings, so it took us about an hour.)

    This morning I did an uneventful workout at Riverbank pool.

    Tomorrow I’m swimming a series of races (3-mile, 1.5-mile, 0.5-mile) in Lake Quassapaug in Connecticut. This will be my first time there—I’ve always heard fun things about these swims, and am looking forward to going.

    Happy holiday weekend everyone!
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  5. More pool tourism

    To mark the end of summer we had a final outing of the pool tourism club—this time to the Red Hook pool in Brooklyn. It’s another of the 10 NYC public pools originally opened in 1936, and has similar dimensions to the 100 pool I swam in on Thursday—this one is 330’ x 130’, with a maximum depth of 4’. It also features those odd pyramids sprouting up in the middle of the pool. After our swim today, I noticed a 1950s-era picture of the pool in the lobby that showed these as circular ledges that bathers could sit or stand on, and jump or dive from—I think they were topped with pyramids sometime since then for safety’s sake.

    Getting to the Red Hook pool isn’t straightforward—there are no subway stops right near there—but it has become easier since an IKEA store opened on the Red Hook waterfront several years ago. Today I was able to take a Water Taxi ferry from lower Manhattan to the IKEA store, then walk several blocks to the pool from there. On the way I saw a sign for a cow crossing—not something you see every day here in the city.




    The good thing about Red Hook is that there are designated lap swim lanes set up all day long. At most city pools you have to hit the morning or evening lap swim hours if you want to actually swim. At Red Hook the lanes are set up the short way, so each length is about 40 meters long, rather than 100m. There are no lane lines, so swimmers tend to regard the black lines on the bottom as lane dividers, and circle swim between rather than around them. My group of 4 shared a lane with a couple of other polite swimmers for most of our session. Here’s what we did:

    400 mcm (medium-course-meters) warmup

    80 dolphin dives
    80 breaststroke

    80 one-armed fly, alternating arms
    40 fly
    40 one-armed fly, alternating arms
    40 FR with dolphin kick
    40 BK with dolphin kick
    40 corkscrew with dolphin kick

    40 breaststroke, alternating 3 strokes w/ dolphin kicks 3 w/BR kick
    40 twirly breaststroke
    80 BK/BR

    320 FR catch’em swim (swim until first swimmer catches last)

    (I’m probably leaving out about 4 x 40 other drills/play I can’t remember)

    320 warmdown
    80 dolphin dives

    Then we got out, visited the sprinkler area (those were cold—no wonder no kids were playing in them!), then got dressed and headed over to the food trucks.

    As wonderful as the pool was, the food trucks were actually what drew me to today’s outing—my friends had been exclaiming over the pupusas they ate out here since last summer. We found the right truck, and I ordered a couple. Pupusas are filled cornbread treat, and ours were served with a red cabbage slaw. I went for the plantain-cheese and the chicken varieties, and both were wonderful. A strawberry shake completed the food-truck feast. If triathlons were composed of swimming, eating, and napping, that would be my sport.

    It was a beautiful day and a fun outing with friends. I was glad to get in a final outdoor pool swim to celebrate the end of a nice summer.

    My last two outings have allowed me to add a couple more pools to my NYC list--here's the updated version (and thanks to pwb for the idea!):

    New York City pools I’ve swum at (asterisked = outdoor pool):

    Manhattan
    1. West Side Y (25 yd), W. 63rd between Bway and Central Park West
    2. West Side Y warm-water pool (20 yd?)
    3. Riverbank State Park indoor pool (50M), W. 138th Street on the Hudson
    *4. Riverbank State Park outdoor pool (25yds)
    5. Asphalt Green competition pool (50M), E. 91st and York
    6. Asphalt Green warm-water therapy pool (15m?)
    *7. Asphalt Green outdoor pool (25yd, now gone)
    8. John Jay College Pool (25y) 59th and 10th
    9. Baruch College Pool (25m) 24th and Lex
    10. City College pool (25y) W 145th and Convent Ave.
    11. Columbia University (25y) 116th and Bway
    12. NYU Palladium pool (25y x 25m) 140 E. 14th St.
    13. Vanderbilt YMCA (25y) 224 E. 47th
    14. Chelsea Rec Center (25y) W 25th between 9th and 10th
    15. New York Athletic Club (25y) Central Park South @ 7th Ave.
    *16. John Jay Park Pool (48y) E. 77th and York
    *17. Hamilton Fish park pool (50m) Pitt and Houston Streets
    18. Reebok Club pool (25y) 67th and Columbus
    19. Chelsea Piers (25y), W. 19th Street on the Hudson
    20. JJC pool (25y), 76th and Amsterdam
    21. Manhattan Plaza (25y), 43rd and 10th

    Brooklyn
    1. LIU—Brooklyn (25y) Flatbush and DeKalb
    2. St. Francis College pool (25y) Brooklyn Heights
    *3. Red Hook Pool (40m)

    Bronx
    1. Lehman College pool (50m)
    *2. Van Cortlandt Park pool (50m)
    *3. Corona Park Pool (100m)

    Queens
    1. Flushing Meadows Corona Park pool (50m)

    Staten Island
    1. Wagner College pool (25y?)
    *2. Lyons pool (50m)

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  6. Victory Most Glorious!!!!

    by , September 10th, 2011 at 06:36 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
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  7. WETSUITS....

    The days are getting shorter, and the water is getting cooler. OW swimmers look upon this predictable change with mixed emotions.... the 2011 season is ending, but it is also an opportunity to prepare for 2012. There will be a short "optimal" window to get those long qualifying swims knocked off.... one less thing to have to squeeze into the early spring.

    Some CIBBOWS swimmers will go for weekend swims all winter long, braving water temperatures into the low 30's. Yes the swims will be brief; measured in minutes, not hours, and warming time will exceed swim time by a large margin. Others, will fade from the OW for the comfort of a familiar pool. I will be primarily a member of the latter group, but my respect and admiration belong to the former. I would join them more often if only I lived closer to NYC.

    It would be great to see a larger group commit to year round OW swimming in Brooklyn... even in rubber. I donned a wetsuit a couple of days ago... one that I have owned for a while but had never worn. What was the inspiration to suddenly don rubber? I was supporting some friends on a swim in Lake Memphremagog. I was aboard a pontoon boat, it was quite windy and getting cold... the temp dropped to the low 40's. Right out of the gate, a couple of waves soaked all the extra clothing I brought with me... by 2 AM, I was freezing, and the wetsuit seemed like the best option to keep me warm. It did, but additionally, it kept my arms and legs quite compressed, adding spring to my steps. I also noticed that the suit had textured forearms, no doubt to give a swimmer added purchase to every catch. All in all I would have to say it is a great design, promising added buoyancy, warmth, compression, a low coefficient of friction, and increased grip in the forearms. No one dares to claim that such equipment doesn't offer a huge advantage to its wearer, but there are many who expect wetsuited swims to carry the same weight as those done in traditional swim attire, sorry, they don't. So... how does this wetsuit swim? I don't know... I never got in the water.

    The charge of "elitism" isn't quite accurate, its just calling it what it is... which is different than a swim done traditionally. In his essay http://www.icontact-archive.com/9BwG...HympOPZ9dU?w=2 , Scott Zoring makes the case that activities done while wearing a wetsuit shouldn't be called "swimming". Though I may not agree with the terms he has chosen, I do believe that there should be a distinction between traditional and assisted or aided swimming. Once again, it has nothing to do with elitism or excluding wetsuited persons from participation, but rather just creating clear categories so that we may choose who and what to follow based on our own interests and preferences.

    Other sports have very specific terminology to describe the "style" by which one participates... take rock climbing: Free Climbing, Aid Climbing, Sport Climbing: are all different techniques. Generally speaking, it would be frowned upon if someone claimed to have climbed a route "Free" unless they had followed the rules of "Free Climbing", not to mention that it would be misleading to others who attempt the route with false information.

    Thats all I'm going to say about it. Please check out:
    http://www.freshwaterswimmer.com/ and http://loneswimmer.com/2011/09/09/ch...suits-at-dawn/

    for more on the subject.
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  8. Whetter

    by , October 4th, 2011 at 10:23 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As in appetite whetting.

    I've been a taciturn vlogger of late, the consequence, in large part, of having to finish some articles to pay my indentured servant's burdens to the overloads who own me.

    One such article is for AARP: The Magazine, a periodical I fear I am way too old to be writing for.

    Gerontologists divide the Golden Years into four rough quadrants:

    Young Old
    Middle Old
    Old Old
    Walking Dead of Maui Taui

    The latter, of course, is more a state of mind than a chronological condition.

    Most people don't recognize it, but I can assure you, we who fall into this category recognize each other.

    Largely by smell.

    But enough shilly shallying. The topic of the article I just finished the first draft of is tendinosis, the affliction that characterizes many of the most common chronic sports injuries, from Swimmer's Shoulder and Tennis Elbow, to Runner's Knee and Achilles Heel.

    As a frequent sufferer of SS and TE, I made a trek to see an excellent doctor at UPMC's Rehabilitation Institute, a fellow with his MD in physiatry (or physical medicine) and his Ph.D. in anatomy.

    Eventually, when my article appears, I will include a link to it so that those of you who are not yet Young, Middle, or Old Old, or Walking Dead of Maui Taui, can access it without an AARP card.

    But for now, and as indicated earlier, as a way of whetting your appetite, let me just publish four ultrasound images of my right elbow, right shoulder (Supraspinatus tendon, i.e., the rotator cuff most likely to wear and tear from swimming), my left shoulder, and finally my twin brother John's notion of what really causes Swimmer's Shoulder.

    In an upcoming vlog, I shall wax at length as to why these images are, in fact, so fascinatingly paradoxical.

    And on this note, I ask you all to now begin whetting yourselves.

    Thank you.



    My right elbow, which throbs riotously on my many mis-hit one-handed backhands as well as my second (usually slice) serves. The doctor-anatomist assured me he could see no evidence of structural damage.



    My right shoulder. I am right handed, do much more with this arm than the other one, including playing tennis and--in the old days--breaking my falls when, as a frequent inebriate, I followed the drunkard's path.

    This shoulder does show signs of a small, partial tear in the supraspinitus, though the good doctor was quick to add that such a condition is more rule than exception in active fellows my age (59 as on Sept. 24; FINA 60 on Jan. 1).



    My left shoulder, with RC so perfectly in tact the doctor described it as "pristine"--the kind of supraspinitus tendon most commonly seen in Tarzan-like specimens in their teenage years.



    Finally, my twin brother John's concept of what kind of abuse would have to happen to my left shoulder to convert it into the sad shape of my right one. John is not a doctor. I'm not one either, not exactly. But I have seen plenty of oddities in my decades of fake clinical practice and know-it-all blowhardery based on five minutes of Googling Medline.

    I have never seen a tiny digging fat man shoveling away at a pristine supraspinitus.

    But I cannot rule out the possibility.

    *
    Oh, I almost forgot.

    Here's the paradox I invite you all to ponder.

    It's my left shoulder that hurts when I swim.

    The right one feels fine.

    Updated October 4th, 2011 at 10:31 PM by jim thornton

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  9. TT Outrage: the Prologue

    by , November 5th, 2011 at 11:08 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Prologue: 1962

    A highly competitive 10-year-old mathlete (in the days before mathletes technically existed) named Jimmy Thornton sits at his wooden desk, distracting himself from anxiety by reading the words carved into the wood by previous generations of students. One strikes his fancy.


    Foetus.

    Hmm, thinks young Jim, didn’t Stephen Daedalus find a similar word etched into his desk in Dublin? But no sooner has Jim begun to calm himself with literary references than the gravel throat of Mr. Glarow, 5th Grade math teacher, intrudes, reanimating all his prepubescent hormones of anxiety and dread.


    “Your performance on this test, class, was as usual abominable,” Glarow says.

    A salt-and-pepper crowned and tweed-coated Pittsburgher in his mid-50s, Charles “Chuck” Glarow is a distinguished looking fellow with more than a passing resemblance to William Hopper’s character, Paul Drake, the private investigator for Raymond Burr’s lawyer, Perry Mason, namesake of the original B&W TV version of the legal drama.


    Jim thinks to himself that no matter how much authority Mr. Glarow
    looks to possess, he is simply incorrect about at least one of his student’s mathematical performance on this particular test, which was not really a test at all, but rather a species of child’s play for Jim, just as all the other so-called tests this year have proved to be child’s play, leading to a cumulative 100 percent perfect average since the first day of class back in September.

    The melancholy groans of his fellow students only make that tiny portion of Jim’s brain that is properly described as sociopathic smile. Clearly, they are examining their grades on something that for them has proven, in fact,
    more than a test: a trial or tribulation, perhaps, or maybe a sentencing--and are now finding that their formerly average F’s—50 percent, say, or maybe 45 percent marks—have plummeted even closer to Absolute Zero.

    Young Jim’s anxiety dims as he finds himself thinking about the genius of the Kelvin scale.
    Oh, what a foil for my own perfect score these dullards’ best work will serve!

    And then the unthinkable happens. Mr. Glarow, who despite his rugged good looks, who despite the endless stories he tells about hunting bears in the mountains of West Virginia every weekend during bear season, who despite these and many other claims to manliness, still lives at home with Mother,
    this Mr. Glarow, this oddity and enigma of a private school fifth grade mathematical instructor with an arsenal of weapons at home and, presumably, an endless supply of freshly laundered underwear cleaned by Mother, hands an exam paper over to young Jim—a lad who does not punch other kids, who does not speak out during class, who does not outwardly do anything whatsoever that might be construed as “bad” (although on the inside, it is a different matter, oh, a very, very different abattoir of a matter, young Jimmy will not deny this!)—and in this moment of handing over the examination paper our earnest outwardly beatific knowledge-loving catenary-curve-graphing mathlete begins ever so quickly to dissociate.

    At the top of the paper, in giant numerals as red as arterial blood, a scarlet number, so to speak: 90%.
    Dazed to the point of vertigo, Jim forces himself to focus. His sharp eyes, their pupils constricted to mean needle pricks by humiliation, scans down the pitiless manuscript, searching for errors. Finally, he finds the problem that he has somehow, against all odds, “missed.”

    Ever so quickly, like a human ENIAC, he does the recalculations ten times in a row, lickety, at it were, split. Ten times he gets the same answer: the answer is 5. Jim looks at his answer on the paper. The answer here, too, is 5.


    The right answer, Jim knows, is 5; the answer he put down is 5; there is absolutely no wriggle room here, no reason in all the known, parallel, and largely speculated upon universes, be these 3D or 2D--no, none, zero reason to mark this problem wrong.


    Jim’s senses clear. His eyes dilate. Mr. Glarow, the tormenting, mistake-prone, stylishly dressed, bear killing Mama’s boy ignoramus, is going over the test, problem by problem, asking the herd of braying dullards to explain what they did in getting their comically boneheaded wrong answers.

    Soon, Jim knows, he shall reach problem No. 7: the problem whose answer is 5, whose solution Jim has clearly written as 5, whose method of solution, the “work” portion of the “show your work mandate” required for full credit Jim has shown in all its jejune ridiculous completeness…


    “All right, then, class,” says Mr. Glarow at last. “What is the correct answer to Problem No. 7?”

    Jim’s hand is instantly aloft, waving—but not obnoxiously, not one of
    those wavings accompanied by sounds of mmmm ahh mmmeee mmmeee, like a hungry dog anticipating the dog food bowl’s deposit by its jowls, not one of those waves at all, but rather a respectful wave, a salute almost, a collegial wave of the sort that one reasonable human being might use to gently gain the attention of another human being, the second human being having made a monstrous mistake, but the first human taking great pains to just alert him of the error without characterizing the nature of it, as monstrous and imbecilic and offensive to the gods as surely this particular-character-defect of a mistake this whopper is, i.e., the one made by Chuck Glarow, dashing in his tweed coat and umbilicus ascot, the private school teacher and injustice administrator nonpareil—to this self-same character Jim says, “Mr. Glarow, sir! You seem to have made a small error here on my test sheet. For as you can clearly see, I put a 5 as the answer for No. 7 and you inadvertently marked it wrong. See: a 5!”

    And just like that, Mr. Bear-Killer Glarow descends furiously upon the sparrow of a boy, and picks up Jimmy by his blond hair, literally drags him from the desk where Foetus is carved, jerks him into the air, yelling, “That is not a 5! That is an S!,” which, in fact, doesn’t sound at all like an S, so heavy is the air now humid with raging spittle everywhere, as if the Blessed Mother’s Son has suffered a stroke and can only twist his voice box into screaming, “That ish an Eshhh! An Eshhh!”

    And flinging Jim around the classroom like a flimsy fabric remnant, all in one motion, the innocent and infallible mathlete’s pupils constricted again to the tiniest apertures imaginable, as if his eyes are conspire to allow him no more than the merest impression of his misbegotten unjust fate, Mr. Glarow seizes with his free hand a piece of chalk, screeching a gigantic S that snake-curls its way across the far reaches of the blackboard, the class all the while agog, and no sooner has the S taken shape then the teacher cracks his student’s head upon the pitiless slate at the top of the S, and shoves the boy’s hair against the chalk, and in one curvilinear motion erases the whole obscene letter, yelling, “Essshhhh! Esssshhhhh! I’ll show you what happenshhh to thoshhe in my classhhh who answer math problemshhh with an Esshhh inshhhstead of a Five!”


    And he throws Jim under his desk, seals any possibility of escape by sitting his 190 lb. bulk on the desk chair and scoots halfway into the hollow space, as all the while the classroom of dullards—finally awakened to the one subject they love now and will always love—wake up and snigger at the sheer delightful cruelty of it all!

    But Jim, staring out at his peers from the small open slatted space beneath the desk’s front, sees that for all the joy his comeuppance has brought them, it has unnerved them, too; for how can even the stupidest among them now fail to see that nobody, nobody! escapes forever the power of mean-spirited authority when it decides to slither out and take exercise in the way it invariabl prefers to take exercise. Even Glarow himself, Jim is suddenly certain, whose mother’s hold has never loosened around his lunatic neck.

    At this moment, Jim turns his neck to see if kicks—surely easily deliverable, sight unseen, within the desk’s little prison chamber—will soon enough start raining down upon his kidneys. But Mr. Glarow’s legs, he sees, are wilted, their fury spent, his simian, tweed-sheathed arms slumped over in the evacuated space between his legs.

    It is there, between in the spaces between the teacher’s black-haired fingers, Jim sees the tufts of his own blond hair alternate like torn trophies.


    Note: I invite you to check back soon to see how uncannily this vignette relates to USMS.
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  10. Outrage No Mas

    by , November 21st, 2011 at 01:53 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Enough dragging things out.

    I want and need to move on, so I shall try to finish this Triptych of Outrage as quickly as possible. So here’s what happened:

    1. After the Clarion University snafu/cluster**** last spring, I was determined to never again make the mistake of counting on a local meet to be sanctioned, recognized, or whatever else is required to have times count for Top Ten consideration.

    2. Last summer, knowing I had no chance of affording to travel to Auburn, knowing furthermore that I’d be taking my son to college the same weekend as the annual U. MD meet where I usually swim my one USMS LCM meet per summer, I opted to go instead to another annual meet up in Cleveland.

    3. This is in a very nice pool and used to be run by Jack Groselle and O*H*I*O masters. The one time I had swum it before, all my times counted.

    4. The drawback, in the past, had been that it was a 1-day meet, which makes it hard to try for the free style quinella (50, 100, 200, 400, and 800).

    5. But this year, to my delight, I found the meet was being turned into a 2-day meet, name changed to the SynergyFest Inaugural Swim Meet. It was officially sanctioned by the Lake Erie LMSC. Sanction number 18-072923111-LCM.

    6. So I signed up, booked the absolutely cheapest hotel room I could find within driving distance, and signed up for the 5 offered freestyles (I will paste in my results at the bottom of this.)

    7. The meet, unfortunately, was not terribly well attended, probably because they also scheduled a 2-mile open water swim in Lake Erie at the same time as the pool swim, forcing devotees of both to pick one or the other.

    8. According to the meet’s predicted timeline (and I may be a few minutes off here, plus or minus), warm ups started at 9 a.m., the first event of the day would start at 10 a.m., and all the day’s events would be done by approximately 6 p.m.

    9. Unfortunately, the actual timeline was more like this: warm ups 9 a.m., first even 10 a.m., meet over 10:45 a.m. It was absurd! The starter tried to drag things out a little bit, but with only one or two heats for most of the events, the amount of rest between swims was minimal.

    10. On the second day (and again, please forgive me if the details here are a little off), I swam the 800, had about 40 minutes of rest, swam the 50, got out of the water, and was told the 200 would be starting in approximately 4 minutes! I saw on the event sheet that there was going to be a 200 backstroke/OPEN later on, and this would provide me with about 15-20 minutes rest before what is usually my best event. So I asked the meet judge if it would be okay to swim my 200 free then instead. I explained that I was really hoping to make a Top 10 time, and I thought having more than 4 minutes rest after my 50 (and earlier 800) would optimize my chances.

    11. The judge okayed it. Again, I told him I was really trying to make a top 10 time, and I asked him if switching to the 200 OPEN would screw this up. He said no.

    12. So I swam the 200, did reasonably well for me, and drove back to Pittsburgh, confident that this time, at least, I had given myself a fighting chance of picking up a few Top 10 times that would absolutely, 100 percent, no-snafu possibilities anywhere on the horizon, count—provided, that is, my times were good enough to count.

    13. I will now paste in my meet results and the Top Ten results that were just certified a few weeks ago.

    14. Please glance at these and then return for a final word or two about what happened.






    The keen observer will note that my name doesn’t appear in the 200 in the TT list even though my time of 2:18.10 would have just squeaked me ahead of the legendary Larry Wood.

    The keen observer will also notice that my name does appear in the 400, though this is very unlikely to last.

    Why?

    Here’s why.

    When a forum poster pointed out that the preliminary LCM listings were up, I immediately checked to see if I had made any TT times. The area of the website read as follows:

    2011 USMS Top Ten LCM for Men 55-59
    This is a preliminary top ten listing for proofreading purposes only. Report any errors to Mary Beth Windrath.

    Noting that my 200 wasn’t listed, I immediately emailed Mary Beth, who is an unflappably kind person with what seems like a thankless job—collating TT times and making sure they all comply with rules that people like me, evidently, have never heard of.

    When I wrote Mary Beth, I was as confident of 100 percent vindication as I was when I told Mr. Glarow that I had, in fact, written down the correct answer of 5 on my math test, only to learn that he thought I had written an S.

    Here is our email exchange:

    Hi, Mary Beth,

    Can you check the LCM 200 free in men 55-59? I swam a 2:18.10 something at the Synergy meet in Cleveland (which is where my other TT times came from in the 100, 400, and 800), but for some reason, the 200 was left out of the preliminary list.

    Thanks for taking a look. From Event Rankings:

    6 Thornton, James 59 2:18.10 1776 SynergyFest
    Inaugural Swim Meet

    Hi Jim,

    Event 15 was 200 Open, which is not a valid event for Top Ten, so none of the times from that event can count. That's why you don't see it. Only distances and strokes listed in article 102.5 are considered for top ten and records.

    Sorry about that!
    Mary Beth

    Are you kidding me?

    It was freestyle! They never said anything about this not counting at the meet.

    There were a total of about 35 people at the whole meet, so the events had approximately 5 minutes between them. I asked the guy if I could switch from the 200 free to swimming it in the 200 Open so I could get 15 minutes rest after something else I had just swum.

    He said that was fine, never mentioned anything about it not counting. I only went there to try to get some TT times.

    This is a case of where the USMS rules are just, in my opinion, utterly mean-spirited to swimmers who don't have the money to travel to big meets.

    What is the rationale for this?

    PS Sorry for seeming peeved, but I would have been 3rd in the 1000 SCY free, too, last year, but the meet got invalidated because of weird bureaucratic minutiae. I just feel the slogan, "We do it all for the swimmer," which I heard endlessly at the one convention I attended, is a total misrepresentation.

    Jim

    Hi Jim,

    You're not going to like what else I have to tell you, but I wanted to give you a heads up. The 400 Open was also listed as an event in that meet and the swimmers show up in the preliminary top ten, but will be removed for the final top ten. If it's any consolation, the times still are showing up in the event rankings.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

    Mary Beth

    Thanks, Mary Beth. You have been very kind about this, and I realize that with situations like this, you have a thankless job. I might write a vlog about this, but I will make sure to state clearly that you were extremely decent about it.

    I just think it's an absolutely ridiculous rule and that they should come up with some other way to designate non counting swims--a 400 Fun Swim, for instance, where it's clear to the participants that the race won't count for anything.

    My problem is I live in Pittsburgh, there are virtually no USMS meets nearby, so if I ever want to try to make the top ten, I have to drive to Cleveland or DC. This summer, I drove to Cleveland for the two day Synergy meet, which was clearly sanctioned, etc. So few people attended that there was often only one or two heats of each event. I think I swam the 50, then had 5 minutes before the 200, which I really wanted to try to make the Top 10 in. I asked the meet director if I could switch and have it still count, and he said yes.

    I think there was a similar rational for the 400 Open vs. the 400 Free--no rest between events. And by no rest, I really do mean minimal rest. With only 35 people at the whole two day meet, it ran awfully fast. Warm ups were at 9:00, and the timeline said each day would end by 6 p.m. But both days the events were over by around 10:30.

    All this comes on top of last spring's meet at Clarion, where the pool was measured, there were two certified officials, there was a USMS observer, etc. But someone failed to turn the paperwork in, so my personal all-time top finish in the TT didn't count either.

    I just feel the rules are stacked in the favor of regions that have tons of USMS meets and/or swimmers wealthy enough to travel, pay for hotels, etc.

    I shouldn't be so petty, but there you have it.

    Jim

    Hi Jim,

    Small meets are always tough for everyone to get enough rest, especially if they really want to do well. For this particular meet, we've since notified the official folks about alternative ways to word the meet information, so that times would be valid for top ten. Let's hope that in the future they change the way it was handled. Unfortunately, sometimes we only really learn things the hard way.

    If you have suggestions on how to get the word out about "open" or "Choice"
    events not being valid for top ten, please pass them on. Or perhaps you have a suggested rule change.

    Good luck at future meets.
    Mary Beth

    Okay, I am more or less spent. I only ask that someone familiar with the rules explain why “Open” events can’t count at least for freestyle. Obviously, you can’t expect a time to count if you are using fins or a pull buoy or an underwater torpedo sled. But are there really meets anywhere that allow such items? Assuming you aren’t using some illegal device, is there anything else that can invalidate freestyle (for example, does the 15 m underwater SDK limit apply to freestyle?)

    I propose that in the future, the word OPEN (which many of us grew up thinking simply meant that the event was “open” to any age group) be changed to UNOFFFICIAL. Otherwise, it’s just too confusing to the odd individual like me who does not enjoy curling up with a rule book.

    They say that “once stung, twice shy.”

    I have now been thrice stung.

    They also say, “a nerve struck too many times dies.”

    I greatly fear my USMS nerves are dead.
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  11. A Christmas Workout

    I’m still feeling under the weather and not able to swim any actual workouts, so I’ve resorted to writing imaginary ones instead. Following up on the Thanksgiving turduckens, here’s a 12 Days of Christmas workout, inspired by [ame="http://forums.usms.org/showpost.php?p=255996&postcount=41"]a comment [/ame]on the Thanksgiving workout forum thread. I posted this workout there, but decided to put it up in expanded version here as well.

    12 Days of Christmas Holdiday workout, done as 12 rounds on 1 day
    On the first day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    A 50 dolphin kick on my back

    On the second day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    2 x half-pool sprints [2 x (12.5 sprint / 12.5 easy)]
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the third day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    3 lengths back [75 BK]
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the fourth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    4 breaststroke pullouts [2 x 25, with 2 pullouts per length—surface for breath in between and exaggerate glides to see if you can make it to end of pool by the end of the 2nd pullout]
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the fifth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    5 streamline jumps! [in deep end of pool]
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the sixth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    6 fly stroke cycles [ie a 25 fly for some of us]
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the seventh day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    7 lengths of freestyle [175 FR]
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the eighth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    8 dolphin dives [or 50y of dolphin diving, at 4 per length]
    7 lengths of freestyle
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the ninth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    9 breaststroke kicks [25y BR kick]
    8 dolphin dives
    7 lengths of freestyle
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the tenth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    10 strokes of corkscrew [25y corkscrew]
    9 breaststroke kicks
    8 dolphin dives
    7 lengths of freestyle
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the eleventh day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    11 fathoms sculling [that’s 25y scull, if you can manage 1.5 fathom push-offs]
    10 strokes of corkscrew
    9 breaststroke kicks
    8 dolphin dives
    7 lengths of freestyle
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    On the twelfth day of Christmas, my swim coach gave to me
    12 lengths IM [300 IM]
    11 fathoms sculling
    10 strokes of corkscrew
    9 breaststroke kicks
    8 dolphin dives
    7 lengths of freestyle
    6 fly stroke cycles
    5 streamline jumps!
    4 breaststroke pullouts
    3 lengths back
    2 half-pool sprints
    And a 50 dolphin kick my back

    The workout totals 4350 yards, if you stick to the yardage suggested in the brackets. Plus 40 streamline jumps. Happy holidays!

    [My actual swimming today was more boring: 1300 yards easy, on my own at the Y. I’m still struggling with a cold and some asthma symptoms it triggered. I tried the “freeze a cold, starve a fever” approach over the weekend, and went out to Brighton to swim in the ocean. I managed to do my December loop, but failed in my bid to make my cold disappear. It was still worth it though, because my time in the ocean was at least a respite from the violent coughing spasms I’ve been having. I guess there’s something about immersing your face in water that stifles the impulse to cough--from an evolutionary standpoint I can see how that would be advantageous. For some reason it doesn’t seem to work as well in the pool--too bad!]
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  12. Merry Christmas from Me and Kurt Dickson's Family!

    by , December 25th, 2011 at 11:06 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
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  13. TT Blogs 2011

    by , January 1st, 2012 at 06:15 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The competition was, as always, extremely tough this year in USMS blogging. There were a number of familiar names in the Top Ten this year, and a few surprises, too.

    Congratulations to all those who made Top 10 based on the three statistical categories from which the record books are written:

    1. Total number of entries (the Clydesdale Cup, named after the sweaty little workhorse that pulls its weight steadily, ploddingly, and largely without whinnying lament)
    2. Total number of comments (the Pretty Pony Puff Princess Award because this is, let's face it, a popularity contest/gauge of the blogger's appeals to swimming cliques)
    3. And finally, Comments to Entries Ratio (the Thoroughbred Championship Prize, i.e., the only one of these Top Ten blogging categories that really means anything--an excellent proxy for literary excellence combined with swimming magnificence and genuinely deserved adulation. Interestingly, this is also the only category that the USMS leadership is seriously considering awarding the winner with All American Prime status, the "Prime" meaning that it is just a notch above ordinary All American status.

    I am sure everyone is very nervous, so I won't drag things out any longer. Let me now open the envelopes in sequence.

    Total number of entries


    Congratulations to our perennial Clydesdale Cup winner, Leslie "the Fortress" Livingston! You go, girl! Did anyone else think they had a chance? Neighhhh!

    Total number of comments


    Oh. My. God. ! The Fortress does it again, easily capturing the Pretty Pony Puff Princess Award with nearly 13,000 comments! If you could bottle this kind of well-deserved popularity, you couldn't keep it on the store shelves!

    Comments to Entries Ratio


    I can't believe it! Honestly, this is embarrassing! Had I any idea that I was even in contention for the top award in swim vlogging in any medium across the world and in any language, I would never have covered these blogging awards in my, well, er, I guess I have no choice but to call it what it is, my top-Thoroughbred-Championship-Prize-winning-All-American-Prime-Potentially-Earning blog! Thank you all SO MUCH for this!

    It's going to take some getting used to this idea that I am a National Treasure. Please, give me a little time.
    The cat of deserved fame may have my tongue for a little while!

    Meanwhile, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves this incredibly good news about me--a brilliant end to 2011, and even more brilliant start to 2012--in the infinite commentary space below.

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  14. Mixed Speed Play, Thursday, Jan. 12

    by , January 12th, 2012 at 05:08 PM (The FAF AFAP Digest)
    Swim/SCY/Solo:

    Warm up/Transition:

    600 various
    6 x 50 fly drills
    6 x 25 shooters w/fins @ :35
    6 x 50 free w/paddles @ :50
    50 EZ

    Speed/Power Sets:

    6 x 25: power kick to 15 meter on belly + over kick free, no breath, to wall @ 1:00
    50 EZ

    6 x 25: 15 m "floating" shooter @ 1:00-1:15
    -- float at 15 meter mark, explode into fast shooter to wall, cruise back to 15 m mark
    100 EZ

    6 x (25 "barge" kick w/fins + 50 EZ)
    -- "barge" kick = hold kick board horizontally with hands and keep underwater and kick
    50 EZ

    6 x 25 free w/parachute & paddles @ 1:15
    50 EZ

    4 x 25 back shooter w/parachute & fins @ 1:25
    -- parachute broke on #5 . tried to tie it, but it wouldn't hold
    50 EZ

    6 x (25 AFAP free w/fins + 75 EZ) @ 3:00
    -- went low to mid 10s
    -- might have done 7, lost track as I was wondering if the noodler in my lane was ever going to leave so I could do fast 50s
    50 EZ

    2 x (50 AFAP fly w/fins + 150 EZ)
    -- went 23 lows
    50 EZ

    Total: 3800

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Did a longish speed workout today. Had a good chunk of time and took plenty of rest. The mix of different things made it very fun!

    Read a couple interesting USAS links by email:

    The Secret to a Good Kick, which has a video comparing flutter kicks:
    http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewNewsA...=4065&mid=8975.

    Best Barbell Exercise:
    http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewNewsA...=4071&mid=8712

    I also read this snippet about working on your SDK. So true!

    "We are frequently asked for dolphin kick training tips and ideas to improve under waters. We have found that the keys to a strong dolphin kick are core and leg strength, ankle flexibility, and executing quick, snappy kicks that finish all the way through the toes. Based on these keys, we recommend using both vertical kicking and a monofin to improve dolphin kicking.
    Doing sets with a monofin will not only build strength in the appropriate core and leg muscles needed for dolphin kick, but it will also improve ankle flexibility. The key with using a monofin is to start slow and build up to larger sets as the swimmer becomes stronger.

    Sample Monofin Set:
    8 x 25 @ 1:30 all out kick for time"
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  15. Hour Swim

    Did the hour swim tonight: 3150 yds. Felt way, way better than last year. Apart from a couple of foot cramps, I completed the event pain-free, which is a first for me. I put in a lot of prep for this event, including a 2500 last week, and I felt like it really paid off. Now it's time to .
  16. One Man's Garbage...

    by , February 8th, 2012 at 06:34 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    ...yards are another man's source of high-quality exhaustion.

    I am curious if my readers out there in water worlds throughout the dripping universe have any opinions on this topic.


    What, exactly, constitutes "garbage yards" from your perspective, assuming, that is, you believe these actually exist.


    Some, I suspect, subscribe to an opposite point of view, i.e.,
    any yard is a good yard, especially when traversed under one's own power without assistive technology like this, this, and this:



    Taking SDKs to a whole new level!




    Bladefish! The choice of eunuchs and guys who really don't want to share a lane!




    After his excellent work in
    Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens was almost cast for the part of Chief Brody in Jaws.

    There are several reasons why I am asking about these so-called garbage yards.


    First, I am pretty sure that if these do indeed exist, they are pretty much
    all I swim these days.

    Second, if I
    am a chronic garbage man these days, and I suspect I am, does such an approach confer any benefit whatsoever to swimming performance other, that is, than to maybe allow one to get a tiny bit better at swimming garbage yards? Are there any competitions for these?

    Third, why do these garbage yards hurt so much? In yesteryear, swimming these same distances at these same speeds were the stuff of child's play! I could plod along, lap after desultory lap, contenting myself to try to coax one of my brain's hemispheres into sleeping, dolphin-style, then switch to the other: a form of swim-napping, if you will.


    But now, I am too tired by the not-terribly-difficult swimming sets I have designed for myself on off days, and my coach Bill designs for us all on actual swimming practice days, to even consider napping while trying to finish them.


    What has happened to me?


    Has anything remotely like this happened to you?


    Two theories, maybe three:


    1. Something is profoundly wrong with me. I've suddenly gotten old, for instance, the decrepitude I have felt stalking me for decades has at last caught up and thrown me off balance, like one of those high speed chases between a lion (decrepitude) and a sick baby wildebeest (me: decrepitude's prey)--just a slight paw brush by the lion is enough to knock me off balance, and then I am surrounded by red faced felines licking their chops as the light on the savannah goes black...


    If not age, it could be something else, like a sickness of some sort, me being no stranger to any of these:


    illness

    noun

    the
    state of feeling sick or of having a disease

    disease

    noun

    an
    illness that affects people or animals, especially one that is caused by an infection

    sickness

    noun

    a
    condition in which you have an illness

    infection

    noun

    a
    disease or other medical condition that is caused by bacteria or by a virus or a parasite

    disorder

    noun

    an
    illness or medical condition

    complaint

    noun

    an
    illness or other medical problem

    condition

    noun

    an
    illness or health problem that lasts a long time and affects the way you live

    ailment

    noun

    an
    illness, usually not a serious one

    epidemic

    noun

    a
    situation in which a disease spreads very quickly and infects many people

    contagion

    noun

    a
    disease that can be spread from one person to another through touch or through the air



    2. I am simply tired out by training reasonably hard at a time when assorted other demands on my physiology, like tax preparation and deadline obligations, are also sucking the life out of me. Could I, in fact, be overtraining?


    Last year in mid-January, I suffered a detached retina, which forced me out of the water for two weeks.




    When I got the go ahead to swim again, I did my best to catch up on my Go the Distance goal in February:





    To diehards, this 50 miles might seem paltry, but it's actually a rather significant amount for me.


    That spring, I did my best times in the 500 and 1000 in years, though the swims (as regularly readers might recall) did not count for Top 10 consideration because the meet wasn't recognized.


    I did these times without a body suit, too, which in some regards made them seem all the better to me since the cheatin' suits always did provide my blubberous flapping body a bit of a lift.


    Flash forward to this season. No detached retinas in January, so this is what I swam in the same time period where I managed only 19 miles last year:




    Over 22 miles more, in other words, which
    should technically put me into better shape than I was in at the same time period last year.

    So far this February, I have been swimming every day and hope to continue doing so throughout the entire month of February, perchance to exceed last year's total. Here is the data so far:




    I have missed a total of 7 days in 2012 so far and averaged just a wee bit over 1.5 swimming miles per day.


    A few other bits of data.


    I got fat. 185 this year vs. 179 last year at the same time.

    Also, my Amish Mudhole swimming times are a bit slower at this time this year comparable to what I did last year.


    Consider the 2011 vs 2012 mid season times:



    • 50 free 25.15 then vs. 25.65 now
    • 100 free 55.27 then vs. 55.09 now
    • 200 free 1:59.81 then vs. 2:01.60 now
    • 500 free 5:33.84 then vs. 5:42.21 now
    • 1650 free 20:03.90 then vs. ?


    Well, it is time for practice, so I must be signing off to go put in my daily garbage yards.


    I am signed up for the 1650 at the end of the month.


    Then there is the Albatross meet in March, and I will see how this year's times compare to last year's. This will be the first time I can swim in the next age group up, so I am hoping to do good.


    Then there are the various championships coming up in the later spring.


    I don't know if swimming as much as I have been will prove helpful or not.


    Maybe it was the enforced two weeks off because of the retina last year that was the real reason for good times them?


    Time will tell. But meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on my situation here, please feel free to give me the benefit of them!
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  17. Monday, 02/13/12

    by , February 13th, 2012 at 04:29 PM (Chowmi's Blog)
    SCM, Baylor Fitness Center
    noon workout
    Billy G. coached

    Warm up:
    200 swim
    200 kick
    200 pull
    ==>Not really paying attention and just stopped for no reason. Probably did about 400 total.

    6 x 50 kick on 1:00
    Kick on back; no fins; went strong, range 46 to 49.

    Main set:

    6 x 50 on :50
    100 easy
    3 x 100 on 1:30
    I swam this set and went 2nd. Held 35+ and 1:12/1:13

    4 x 50 on :45
    100 easy
    2 x 100 on 1:25
    I kicked this set with Speeedo B&O fins.

    2 x 50 on :40
    100 easy
    100 fast
    I jumped back up to 2nd and went :35 and 1:05 on the last one. That is my best ever 100 practice time from a push, but I think I will have a lane leader time (1:06 best) and not leading the lane best (1:05 best today). It makes a huge difference even with just one person in front.

    3 x 200's pull
    ==>No. Sat around and talked to Bobby about my training. Then did a bunch of tummy kicks with my snorkel.

    2 x Dives.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    Today was a pretty good day. I was in the mood to see what I could do on something longer. And I stuck to my guns and did a lot of kicking instead of swimming everything. The nice thing now is that I can pretty comfortably hold the swim intervals with my Speedo fins.
    Categories
    Uncategorized
  18. Of Immortality and TAMFAM

    by , February 24th, 2012 at 03:26 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind;
    In the primal sympathy
    Which having been must ever be;
    In the soothing thoughts that spring
    Out of human suffering;
    In the faith that looks through death,
    In years that bring the philosophic mind.


    When Wordworth wrote his famous Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, I assumed that he, having reached the years that bring the philosophic mind, would have looked something like this:



    It turns out that he was actually 37 at the time of penning the Intimations poesy, only a few years older than this earlier picture of him:



    I bring this up because I find myself a tweenager these days, one foot in the last days of what I have long considered the cut-off for middle age, i.e., ones 50s; and one foot in, thanks to FINA, the beginning of what I have just as long considered the beginning of old age, i.e., ones 60s.

    Regardless of whether I am 59, as the calendar says, or 60, as FINA is allowing me to be, I am chagrined to report that the attainment of "the philosophic mind" continues to elude me.

    This is particularly true when it comes to swimming, a sport measured in increments of one hundredths of a second, where the sinking into decrepitude is pitiless and inexorable.

    Here is what I actually look like these days in a recently taken cell phone picture with my death robes on:



    Here, however, is how I would describe myself to a police artist were I, by some weird magic, to become a victim of my criminal self:



    (I am the one too weak too stand; if there is anything good to come from this self-image, it's that the police artist has chosen not to show my own sagging parts, a decency he opted not to bestow upon my female attendant on the right.)

    In an effort to try to find some pittance of the philosophic mind before it is too late, before, that is, my long-time companion, Alzheimer's Jr., morphs into its own more pernicious senior self, let me set down herein a few random ruminations on what has provoked my sudden sense of growing old...



    1. Let us face it, I am growing old.
    2. For some reason that I can't quite fathom, I am starting to fatten up. Last summer, it was relatively easy to stay sub-180 after swimming practice and a steam bath, a time when dehydration is maximal. In fact, I think I flirted on occasion with the mid 170s then! But this winter, with only a few minor dietary changes, I am lucky to end practice weighing out at a portly dehydrated 183! These dietary changes include, but are not limited to, a decision to use Half n Half on my breakfast cereal; get 80 percent of my daily calories at night while watching TV in bed; and closing down our restaurant, which has changed the hours each day I spend standing from somewhat substantial to practically non-existent. Again, I do not know why I am suddenly getting fat, and I am not sure that weight is a suitable topic anyhow for a "philosophic mind." Enough about this.
    3. After more or less accepting the illegalizing of the yesteryear's cheater suits, I suddenly find myself missing them. The reason, I suspect, is that the normal year-by-year swimming time erosions, which in the past have proceeded at a psychologically manageable pace, have accelerated, again, for reasons I am not sure I grasp, fathood and old age notwithstanding. Thus one takes an unpleasant enough process to begin with--slowing down--and adds a quantum leaping agent to the mix--the removal of the body suit for hairy old men like me--and the result is a sense of plummeting that may or may not be justified, all things taken into account, but nonetheless is proving troubling for this particular geriatric tweenager.
    4. I will say that many extremely kind fellow travelers, from Jim Clemmons to Rich Abrahams to Ande Rasmussen (who is actually much too young still to be called a fellow traveler in any sense of geriatric comradeship; ditto for Rich and Jim, who preserve a youthful spirit that lesser men like me lack) have offered no shortage of advice and counsel.
    5. On Sunday, I will be swimming the 1650. Perhaps, if I do not perform too horrifically, this will remove temporarily any further imminent need of cultivating a philosophic mind. Realistically, however, I suspect this will bring me face to face with the Reaper's halitosis, which I imagine smells like daffodils and rotten meat.
    6. Back soon to resume my pursuit, be this a denial of death or an acceptance of its inevitability. The one thing I am determined to do, however, is not die of my own bad strategy--i.e., going out too fast in the 1650 and suffering like a strung up hog incapable of finishing the race he started.

    TAMFAM
    On an entirely different note, I invite my readers to try out a new fitness metric I blundered upon last night. I was in bed, eating Cookie Dough Ice Cream and watching The Office, resting up, as it were, for today's pursuit of a philosophic mind, when I decided to use my Azumio phone app to measure my quasi-rested heart rate. It was 42, decent enough for the night time.

    It then occurred to me to check out my BMI, or body mass index, which you can do yourself right here:

    http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

    Based on last night's weight, mine ended up being 24.7.

    I decided next to divide my BMI by my Resting Heart Rate, coming up with a 58.8 percent reading.

    What, I asked myself, if I could lose 5 lb. and lower my RHH down to, say, 38?

    Improvements on both indices would increase my percent reading to
    63.1 percent. It was at this point I had a eureka moment: had I inadvertently blundered upon a new ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS FITNESS APPROXIMATION METRIC? I decided to appendage my name to it, and acronym-ize the whole mouthful.

    And with this was TAMFAM born!

    How soon can we conspire to sneak the concept into the exercise physiological literature, cited by tenure-seeking post docs the world over?

    I ask that my readers help me to popularize the concept by simply:

    1. Recording your resting heart rate tomorrow morning before you get out of bed or do anything strenuous, wink, nudge, wink
    2. Calculate your BMI by clicking on this link and entering your height and weight where indicated: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
    3. Finally, use a calculator to divide your BMI (numerator) by your resting heart rate (denomimator) and leave your resulting TAMFAM in the comments section of this vlog, along with as much discourse as you would like to include speculating what TAMFAM might mean and why, indeed, it might not be so AM after all. (No need to leave ridicule and naysaying; I freely acknowledge that, as of this point in time, my new fitness metric is, indeed, ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS.)

    I shall repost again sometime after the 1650 is over. If the subject is more on TAMFAM, you shall know that it has gone better, or at least as well, as could be expected.

    If, on the other hand, I am back to a search for my "philosophic mind," perhaps quoting freely from the oeuvre of Kierkegaard along with select passages from Sartre's
    Nausea, well then, my dear friends, ye shall know that Nature has taken its predictable course, and that the Second Law of Thermodynamics remains operable still, my own pitiable example impotent to shake it from its foundations.



    Until his time in the 1650 proves him sadly delusional, our aging Jim continues to force himself to hope against hope for the coming of Spring.




    Categories
    Uncategorized
  19. Monday, Feb. 27

    by , February 27th, 2012 at 04:19 PM (The FAF AFAP Digest)
    Swim/SCY/Solo:

    Warm up:

    600 various

    8 x 50 fly drills
    odds = caterpillar @ 1:10
    evens = single arm @ 1:00

    Main Sets:
    -- used fins

    5 x through
    50 back + 50 back kick @ 1:45
    50 breast @ 1:00
    50 EZ

    6 x 25 burst + cruise @ 1:00
    50 EZ

    Rich A. set from workout #2 on the HIT forum:
    [ame="http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=20266"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    24 x 25
    odds = easy speed @ :30
    evens = easy
    -- did the odds 4 of each stroke in reverse IM order
    -- free, 12s, breast, high 14s, back, high 11s, fly, 12 highs
    -- really liked this set; it's a great set for a recovery week or when resting for a meet
    50 EZ

    2 x (25 AFAP back shooter + 75 EZ) @ 3:00
    -- went high 8s

    8 x 25 @ :45
    odds = front scull
    evens = long breast pullout
    50 EZ

    Total: 3100

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Felt a little draggy at first after the weekend off. But better as I went along. Going to cut the amount of fast swimming quite a bit during this recovery week. Still think I might be coming down with something. Really hope not!
    Categories
    Swim Workouts
  20. Garbagio Lessons

    by , March 7th, 2012 at 02:39 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Preamble: Sorry for how long this is. I wanted to jot down a few thoughts I have had on this season so far, and it has gotten a bit extended, verbiage wise, even for me. To leaven the mood, I will put a few pictures in here and there of me playing with Ciara's pony tail.



    Ciara's wonderful father and my father figure/swimming coach, Bill White, perches like a better angel atop my right shoulder.
    *

    We last left our cliff hanger on the eve of my 1650 swim at Carnegie Mellon University, Feb. 26th, 2011.

    At the time, if memory serves, I suggested that if I swam reasonably well, there would be no need for me to quote extensively from Sartre's Nausea. I am happy to report that this has, indeed, proven the case, and there is no reason whatsoever to ruminate for so much as a split second on :


    • "Ma pensée, c'est moi: voilà pourquoi je ne peux pas m'arrêter. J'existe parce que je pense … et je ne peux pas m'empêcher de penser"
    • "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance"
    • "I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it's quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don't do it. I know I'll never jump again."

    These, and many more existential bon mots just as depressing have absolutely no relevance to today's vlog!



    Ciara and I attempt a mind meld of the sort popularized by those bluish people on Avatar.

    Instead, I would like to take the opportunity to offer something ever so rare in my episodic entries to date: potentially actionable swimming advice that might help my fellow middle distance freestylers approaching their Twilight years (in the non-vampire old-fashioned sense of the term.)

    Data
    One reason for the delay in posting my results is that I keep hoping for the Hyteck Meet Manager results to actually make their way a) onto the Internet, and b) into the "event rankings" section of USMS as was promised by my LMSC. But as is the case with many such promises, this hasn't happened yet, and I am slowly bracing myself for the thought that yet another of my swims in recent years won't count for possible TT consideration.

    So instead, here is the hand-written sheet from my CMU backup timer, who posted the splits from the electronic scoreboard:



    Historical Context

    JIM THORNTON 59 1650 Free 19:38.20

    JIM THORNTON 58 1650 Free 20:03.90

    JIM THORNTON 57 1650Free 19:34.18

    JIM THORNTON 56 1650Free 19:54.24

    JIM THORNTON 55 1650Free 19:47.91

    JIM THORNTON 54 1650Free didn't swim it
    JIM THORNTON 53 1650Free didn't swim it

    JIM THORNTON 52 1650Free 20:41.65

    JIM THORNTON 51 1650Free 18:59.22

    JIM THORNTON 50 1650Free 18:53.69

    JIM THORNTON 49 1650Free 19:27.75

    JIM THORNTON 48 1650Free 20:34.05

    JIM THORNTON 47 1650Free 21:10.00

    JIM THORNTON 46 1650Free didn't swim it
    JIM THORNTON 45 1650Free didn't swim it

    JIM THORNTON 44 1650Free 21:40.54

    JIM THORNTON 43 to 0 1650Free didn't swim it (though my mother might beg to differ--how many laps in a shared placenta is a 1650?)

    As you can see, my times have bounced around a bit over the past 15 years. My lifetime best performance was at age 50, a time when my coach Bill White helped me get into the best distance swimming shape of my life. I remember that year we did the following practice:

    10 x 100 on 1:25 warm up
    2 min rest

    10 x 200 on 2:30

    2 min rest
    10 x 200 on 2:30

    cool down


    To this day, making this practice remains by far my proudest moment as a practice swimmer!

    You will also notice that before age 49, I never broke 20 minutes. I was not swimming particularly hard at this point in my masters career, the body suits had not come out, and these times were all done at practice, not a meet.

    Two other conspicuous 20 min+ outliers include the 20:41 done at age 52, which can be explained by broken ribs; and the 20:03 at age 58 (last year), which was the first year the body suits were banned, plus I had suffered a detached retina that January, which put me out of the water for nearly three weeks.



    I have always thought I look good with that flouncy pony tail out the ball cap look! Now I can prove it!

    Analysis of Recent "Comparables"

    For an apples-to-apples comparison, let us look at my recent swim at 59 (19:38.20) and my swim at 57 two years earlier (19:34.18).

    On the surface, it appears that I have slowed down by 4.02 seconds over the past two years. My pace per 100 has deteriorated from 1:11.41 to 1:11.16, or a quarter of a second per hundred in two years. On an annual basis, it would seem that I am slowing down by approximately one eighth of a second per hundred.

    There are, however, several fudge factors that make this "apples-to-apples" comparison more of a "Granny Smith vs. Red Delicious" situation.

    First, suit differences.

    At 57, I swam the 1650 in my "floatie" body suit, the B70. At 59, I swam shaved an in a LSR elite jammer given to me a couple years ago. Did the suit change make a huge difference in my times?

    It definitely did in some events. At 57, for instance, I swam my lifetime best 200 SCY freestyle in the B70, breaking in the 1:54's for the first and only time in my life. Since then, my fastest 200s have been high 1:57s. My 50s and 100s have also shown clear deterioration thanks to the suit change.

    But for some reason, distance events of 500 and over don't seem to have shown as much of change. It seems like they should--with the B70 on, I took 1-2 less strokes per length swimming exactly the same way as always; moreover, I regularly gained at least a couple feet further on pushoffs and dives.

    You would think such things would prove especially additive over longer distances, but so far that hasn't been the case. Perhaps the inability of body heat to escape the body suit as easily might muddle its impact on my own distance performances.

    Conclusion: replacement of the B70 with a jammer probably hurt my time, but I cannot absolutely prove this.



    In this corner, Red
    vs.


    In this corner, Granny

    Even apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult to make sense of in the post-Body Suit Era!
    Second, accumulated yardage leading
    up to the 1650.


    This year's 1650 was preceded by 423.44 miles in all of 2011; 41.79 miles in January, '12; and 60.60 miles in February, '12.

    The B70 1650 two years earlier was preceded by 330.53 miles in all of 2009; 38.76 miles in January, '10; and 28.62 miles in February, '10.


    Conclusion: swimming significantly greater distance probably helped my performance, though the suit change variable makes this also difficult to prove.



    Is a Jim Clemmons-style mustache the key to time drops in swimming?

    Third, a more
    intelligent pacing
    strategy for me.

    Before this year's swim, I solicited advice from Ande.

    Some selected excerpts from my questions and his always great counsel:
    _________________________________________
    Originally Posted by jim thornton
    Ande, did you post something on swimming the 1650?

    I'd like to do a good time this year, but I am wary of going out too fast and becoming cooked. Once I cross over to that "cooked" stage, it's agonizing to keep on going. But if I go too slow to avoid premature baking, it's hard to make it up on the other end. Any advice?
    Swim by feel, assuming you will probably feel too good at the beginning and thus should consciously slow down?
    _________________________________________
    Hey Jim,

    Great to hear from you. So you want to have a great 1650 & you want to split it correctly, swim it "just right" instead of being over cooked by going too hard up front or under cooked by going too easy.

    "just right" is the trick and it's tricky.
    Your 1st 100 needs to feel EASY.
    You need to cruise it, going too hard on your first few 50's is usually way worse than going too easy.

    BE VERY WELL CONDITIONED.

    Do a great job warming up before your race.

    Know your pace.

    Do some longer swims in practice, some faster than your 1650 pace, some at & some below. Know what that effort feels like.

    Ideally you want to hold the same exact pace the whole way, but diving in and excitement, makes some people rabbit the first few 50's.

    You can only do what you can do. Swimming above pace up front is very likely to be detrimental. Settle into a sustainable pace and hold it.

    Your pace an differ based on water temp. The warmer the pool is the worse your pace might be.

    the best thing to prepare for the 1650 is consistent hard longer training and some speed work.
    _________________________________________
    Originally Posted by jim thornton

    Ande, thanks so much for a very detailed and helpful reply.

    I was starting to feel pretty confident, but last night we had a practice which started off with 8 x 100 on 1:25 warm up, then some 50s kick, then 2 x 500 on 6:15.
    To break 20 on the 1650, I know I have to average around 6:00 per 500. But on the first 500 in practice, I did a 6:01, and the second one I just squeaked in at 6:14.

    It was demoralizing.

    But I usually try to negative split distance stuff, and I probably swam that first 500 faster than was comfortable. Plus the water was hot, I'd swum a meet the day before, and I was pretty tuckered out from swimming every day, without stop, since Jan. 28th.
    So...who knows?

    I am definitely going to take it out easy because by the end of last night's second 500, I was definitely not feeling ready to do another 650!

    Today, I just went in and swam a slow 1650; I will probably take it easy at Wed. and Fri. practices, and just stretch out on the days in between.

    I will take your post with me and try to ingrain your advice.

    Thanks again!


    _________________________________________
    Hey Jim,

    You're welcome for my reply, happy to

    don't let your performance in a particular practice crush your spirit
    just keep showing up & do the best you can
    how many times a week are you training?
    how far per practice?
    if possible, before you taper, attempt to increase your
    x/wk, yds per practice, & pace.
    do it by just being determined to swim faster in practice.

    so you want to break 20:00 on your 1650
    20 x 60 = 1200
    1200 / 33 = 36.363
    so you need to ave 36.36 per 50
    that should be easy and very doable for you

    ingrain my advice & come up with a
    training plan and a
    race plan

    holding 1:12's should be very easy for you
    I bet you can hold under 1:10's
    _________________________________________

    Right before my B70 1650 at age 57, I solicited the advice of an on deck coach, who told me to go out smooth but strong on the first 500, then pick up each 500 thereafter.

    Here are my splits from that race: 1 1-5 Thornton, Jim 57 TPIT-AM 19:50.00 19:34.18
    30.96 1:05.54 (34.58) 1:40.03 (34.49) 2:14.52 (34.49)
    2:49.55 (35.03) 3:24.78 (35.23) 3:59.96 (35.18) 4:34.94 (34.98)
    5:10.07 (35.13) 5:45.07 (35.00) 6:20.07 (35.00) 6:55.36 (35.29)
    7:30.52 (35.16) 8:06.58 (36.06) 8:42.46 (35.88) 9:18.37 (35.91)
    9:54.37 (36.00) 10:30.72 (36.35) 11:07.09 (36.37) 11:43.09 (36.00)
    12:20.04 (36.95) 12:57.12 (37.08) 13:33.82 (36.70) 14:10.80 (36.98)
    14:47.27 (36.47) 15:24.20 (36.93) 16:00.74 (36.54) 16:37.19 (36.45)
    17:13.84 (36.65) 17:50.36 (36.52) 18:26.61 (36.25) 19:02.29 (35.68)
    19:34.18 (31.89)

    I started out following the coach's advice, and I did feel strong and smooth--for a while. My first 500 was a 5:45.07. By the 1000 mark, I was starting to hurt, realizing too late that what feels good early on is not necessarily as easy as you think. My 1000 split was 11:43.09. The final 500 of the race was 6:00.36.

    Compare this "start strong and decay" approach with the strategy I adopted, thanks to Ande's advice, this year. The second strategy is perhaps better described as "baby and coddle yourself beyond belief, and pick it up as you start to feel more comfortable."

    I took the first 500 out in 6:10.38, more than 25 seconds slower than the previous race. The guy on my left and the guy on my right quickly disappeared into the gloaming in front of me, but I reminded myself of Ande's wisdom to ignore the rabbits and realize going out too fast is usually a much bigger mistake than going out too slow.

    At the 1000 mark, I was at 12:10.91, now 27 seconds slower than my time in 2010. To an outside observer, it no doubt looked like I was setting myself up for total disaster. Note: to break 20 minutes, you have hold just a smidge over a 1:12 pace, and I was far from doing this.

    But somewhere around this point, I caught up with both rabbits. I felt good, I felt strong--precisely the opposite of how I had felt two years earlier after going out much more quickly.

    My final 500 was a 5:40.27, which was (at that point of the year) my fastest 500 of the season.

    My final 200 was 2:10.11; my final 100 1:02.91; and my final 50 a 30.01.

    Granted, overall I was still 4 seconds slower than when I swam it the "hurty" way, but when I got out of the pool at the conclusion of this year's race, I didn't feel the need to glance around to make sure the facility had an AED on hand. I felt pretty good, actually--and extremely happy that I had broken 20 minutes.

    Conclusion: each swimmer must know his or her body and design a race strategy that works best for the energy systems and musculature therein. My friend and coach Bill has been a long time advocate of the "go out fast and try to hang on" approach.

    For me, however, I have found that husbanding my energies, especially in longer races, seems to be the way to go. Not only does it hurt less, but I have come to believe that I just do better this way. Don't get me wrong: I am a big believer in pain and suffering. But I am not a believer of stupid pain and suffering, the kind that comes from misplaced Calvinism. If I tip over into what we used to call the lactic acid bath too soon in a distance race, I just tie up and can't finish strong.

    What I am trying to do now is to figure out exactly where the line is (and the line shifts over the course of a race), swim as close as possible to this line without crossing it, and at the end, when I know I can cross the line and still finish the race, only then do I give it my all.

    Final note:
    Strategic Application
    to Other Events


    This past weekend, there was the last regular season AMYMSA meet before our championships. This meet, held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, was again supposed to count for USMS purposes. The first event was the 500, and given that I did my season's best time in this event at the end of the 1650, I was hoping to match last year's best mid-season time of 5:33.

    I used the same basic strategy of the 1650, but because the distance is so much shorter, I didn't coddle myself quite so much at the beginning, I did, however, remind myself to keep things smooth and under control.

    Here are my splits:

    AGE GROUP: 55-59
    1 JIM THORNTON 59 M SEWY 5:28.81

    30.82
    33.36
    33.53
    33.63
    33.39
    33.58
    33.07
    32.88
    33.41
    31.14

    Later, I did a pathetic 50 freestyle, thrashing impotently like a maniac. My time here, 25.69, was so dispiriting that I figured I would never be able to do a decent 100 again and should concentrate from now on only on 200s and longer.

    The last event of the 3 and a half hour mudhole meet was the 100, and Bill told me he thought I should scratch because my time would likely be demoralizing. I didn't want to do this because the Albatross SCM meet is coming up soon, and I signed up for a bunch of events and wanted to gauge how my current conditioning would allow me to perform in multiple freestyle races in close proximity.

    Bill said that he thought I would be lucky to swim in the 56s, and that I should brace myself for doing a 57 in the 100.

    So I decided to just swim the 100, not worry about my time, and try the "out easy" strategy here, too.

    Here's how I typically judge the best possible time you can do for a 100:

    take your 50 time (25.69) and add 1 second to it (26.69)to determine how fast you should take out your first 50 in the 100. Then take this time (26.69) and add 1.5 seconds to it to get the time you can do on the second 50, which doesn't include a dive (28.19).

    Thus my fastest theoretical 100 would be 26.69 plus 28.19 = 54.88.

    Here are my actual splits from the 100 on Sunday:

    AGE GROUP: 55-59
    1 JIM THORNTON 59 M SEWY 55.11

    27.00
    28.11


    What makes this even more unusual from my perspective is that I misjudged the flip turn at the 50 mark, and had one of those foot-only push offs that gives you virtually no momentum off the wall. If I had had a decent push off, it's possible I could have had my first negative split 100 ever!

    The strategy, it would appear, even works on 100s!

    I will have to try it out on the 50 next!

    Note to self: No matter how much it itches, do not forget to shave!

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