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  1. High Note On A Down Day--plus a Horror Movie!

    by , March 9th, 2009 at 09:38 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Thanks to the amazing Kristina Ulveling, AKA, CremePuff, who just alerted us FaceBookers that FINA has posted its 2008 Top 10 Masters Tabulations, I discovered that:

    A) Kristina did extremely well here, including some No. 1 in the World performances


    Kristina Ulveling, multiple world champion, resting in between "heats"


    B) Leslie also did extremely well, though not quite as well as the Puffster, but still really good


    The magnificent Leslie; if you squint and hope enough, you can almost convince yourself that is you reflected in her designer sunglasses. Almost!



    C) Soy Jimby also managed to make the Top 10 in the World in 4 separate events, including for the first time in recent memory, one involving non-freestyle.

    This sort of thing does not happen to me every day, so I am taking the liberty of posting my name in the actual tabulations for your perusal and admiration:



    Your vloggist places 6th in the World in the marquee event, the 100 meter freestyle





    He continues ascending the world hierarchy, making it to 5th in the World in the 200 free...then, alas, plateaus with a second 5th in the World in the 400 free...





    And finally, I managed to squeak in--10th place on the Planet known as Earth to you Earthlings--in the 400 IM. For what it's worth, this race was the first time in 3 or 4 years--and I am including practice here, not just meets--that I swam a continuous 100 butterfly...





    After a month of soy ingestion, Jim's resemblance to Ghandi-playing actor, Ben Kingsley, becomes impossible to ignore. Jim, too, tries to use a combination of non violent protest to beat his competitors in the pool.

    How soon will his soy ingestion finally get him the swimming world recognition as Outstanding Shim* Swimmer in the 55-59 age group, not including Laura Vall?

    Only time will tell. But here is a Thornton Brothers film that continues to make my case as one of the world's outstanding old Shims:

    (* Tom Patterson, AKA, tjrpatt, has very kindly explained to me in a previous comment that "Shim" is now the politically correct noun for us She-Males. I am so new to the community that I don't even know when I am accidentally insulting us! Sorry, guyals!)

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGnKTFhNErM"]YouTube - Soymare on Elm Street[/ame]
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  2. Appalachia Risin' and Mermaid Done it!

    by , March 10th, 2009 at 10:51 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    You probably did done yersefs some readin' bout analog boob tubes here'n the hollers and how folks in these here parts cain't get no recepshun now the gubbmint done gone messed with the airwaves and all that?

    Well, I ain't got no idea how she managed to git 'er done, but one of the loveliest little critters here in the cabbage patch o' AMAM finally done put us'n up to the Google and modern times.

    Some youns may 'a heared of our little Mermaid, one time MIss Teen PA, but hailin' back then from the central part of the state where inbreedin's not quite so intense.

    Let me post a couple photos here for your viewin' pleasure, courtesy of one fella out o' New York, who hired some other models who resemble our Mermaid quite a bit, though she is much too shy to appear here in person.



    Land o' Goshin'! I done raced myself plumb outa my britches!



    What the hell is that, Harlan? That don't look like no trout I e'er done saw!



    Now don't you go an tell Daisy Mae why I'm a fishin' this crick all the time, Jr.


    Unlike most of us in these here parts, who had the advantage of learnin' to swim in any neighborhood Amish mud hole or pig latrine, our little Mermaid is whatcha call an adult-onset swimmer. Hell, me and Billy boy, my coach, done taught her how to do a flip turn not more'n three years ago. At first, we just done it for sport, you know, cause she looked so cute sneezin' and snorflin' and such when her nose holes got all flooded up.But damn if the sweet young thing didn't take to the water like some kind of late-learnin' CremePuff or Fortress-style masters champ type prize-winnin' 4H quality swimmer. I suppose, comin' from the fancy pants East part of our state, York, the home of them peppermint patties and air conditioner units and all, where the girls get raised all sophisticated and lazy and like that, it just makes sense she's not the world's hardest workin' swimmer. I mean she does practice. A little here and there. In spurts and all. But damn that girl could be good iffn' she put her mind to it.

    But then again, who needs a mind bein' put to it when you got yourself a siren call.

    Leastways, that's what I'm a thinkin' to my dumb self when I get, like some kind of fireball bolt out of the dadgum blue yonder, word that Mermaid figgered out the Google and took our swimmin' region to whole wide webby world.

    Check us out! We aint no second best no more to them irradiated billies down in Tennessee, buggin' the TVA about their nucular plants no more!

    We be the proudest bunch of inbred mountain folks in the union these days, mercy me, thanks to that fancy little Mermaid and her tech-know-logical savvy.

    Check us out then drop her a kindly word of praise and thanksgiving for bringing the attention of the whole goshdiggitydarn US of ****in' A to our backwater chain o' mud holes at long, long last! Praise be!

    http://www.alleghenymountainmasters.org/

    (Note: after checkin' out the spankin' new Allegheny Mountain Masters official USMS site, you can send Mermaid a kindly word by clicking here:

    kathfarnan@msn.com

    I honestly wish you would, cause she worked real hard without no money, and as a selfish person myself, I gotta say the folks who give back gotta be encouraged for their good works, cause the rest of us don't want that well runnin' high and dry.)

    --Jim Bob, your landlocked seafood lover who's bout to have his house taken over by the Internal Revenuers and will be in necessity of all the kindness of strangers he can squeeze outa 'em his ownsef.

    Updated March 10th, 2009 at 10:59 PM by jim thornton

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  3. It's not over til the fat lady sings

    by , March 10th, 2009 at 11:27 PM (Chicken's Nuggets)
    This is more of a cry for help than a blog.

    I'm doing a lot of long pool and OW swimming at the moment. A fair amount of my swims are solo, and I never really know what's going to be swirling through what's left of my grey matter during these sessions.

    Usually there's nothing at all going on upstairs, but occasionally I'm tormented by a song that's completely annoying. I recently aborted an open water training session much sooner than I should have, and I honestly believe Jefferson Starship was to blame (NOT me!).

    I'm sure I'm not alone.

    What are the worst songs you can have stuck in your head during a swim??

    Here's a sample of some of the more painful songs I've endured during long OW swims:

    1. "We Built this City" by Jefferson Starship;
    2. "We're all Alone" by Boz Scaggs;
    3. "Lonely No More" by Rob Thomas;
    4. "Island Girl" by Elton John;
    5. "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10CC;
    6. "Lumberjack" by Monty Python;
    7. "We all know frogs go pop in the microwave" author unknown, but the party who suggested this song before a swim knows who she is...Kim Weeks....;
    8. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield;
    9. "I've done Everything for You" again..Rick Springfield;
    10. "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners;
    11. "Jaws Theme" by John Williams.

    I'll end on that one, but there are many more.

    Suggestions as to GOOD music to think of while swimming would be appreciated!

    Chicken signing off...

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvCI-gNK_y4"]YouTube - Jaws theme!![/ame]

    Updated March 10th, 2009 at 11:44 PM by Chicken of the Sea

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  4. Synaptical Cracklings

    by , March 12th, 2009 at 09:37 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Three continuous days of trying to make sense of three-year old receipts in preparation for IRS Ragnarok has left my brain feeling like it's being pummeled by heat lightning and bees.

    The best advice so far has been found in a homework assignment that my friend Bill's son, Liam, boy genius, completed recently.



    Liam simulating his look of reflection during the class in which the idiom assignment was handed out by Miss Crabnik, or whatever her name is.



    Miss Crabnik's assignment completed by Liam quickly and with an enviable combination of succinctness and accuracy.



    Oh, how easy life is when one has the freedom to open one's piehole, and the happy world economy tugs its small bits of flotsam like me in a balmy current!

    Shall we ever see the likes of such days again?

    On this note, a very, very quick update of February 21st, 2009's "Cliffhangers" vlog entry. To job your memories, this was a list of depressing questions I was asking myself back then, that is to say, before things got much, much worse:


    1. Will he lose what little net "worth" he has left to the IRS? LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED
    2. Will he get over his cold? YES, BUT ANOTHER IS INEVITABLE
    3. Will his estrogen levels rise in a clinically significant way, LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED and will he then sell video access to his moobs on the Internet to a wealthy subset of very peculiar fetishists? UNLIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED
    4. Will he act on an impulse, increasingly boisterous within his serotonin-depleted brain, that urges him to substitute one stubborn vice for an old relinquished one? SO FAR NO BACKSLIDING BUT WHO CAN HOLD OUT FOREVER
    5. Will he lose his job? SIGNS POINT TO YES
    6. Will he get the go ahead to write about masters swimming LIKELY BUT NOT YET DETERMINED and perchance get to attend Y Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale NO and try to talk the B70 Corporation into lending him a suit? NO
    7. Will he be forced to sell his ancestral stomping grounds and boyhood home for worthless pennies on the even more worthless dollar? NOT YET DETERMINED BUT CONSIDERING PLACING A CRAIG'S LIST AD FOR LODGERS
    8. Will he grow a spine or continue to lose bone density here until the metamorphosis into an invertebrate is done? NO SPINE YET PER SE, BUT SLIGHT VESTIGIAL TAIL GROWTH APPARENT
    9. Will he figure out how to get Windows Movie Maker to work again on his computer so he can do piss poor video edting, which would at least allow him to vlog again? NO
    10. Will his brother John ever download the most recent batch of lugubrious footage he sent him and turn it into something amusing? YES
    11. Will he spell cliffhanger with two f's, i.e., the conventional way, or with one f, in deference to the soy-filled energy bars that are helping him to grow a pair of hirsute titulars? NOT YET DETERMINED
    12. Will readership of the vlog continue its downwards trend as his fellow Americans, bloated with their own grief, tire of reading about his? YES
    13. Will he swim tomorrow's 1650 at CMU despite his head already swimming within its suffocating skullcap? YES; AS ONE GREAT MAN ONCE PUT IT: IT IS FINISHED.
    14. Will he appear on Court TV after doing something, or some many things, decidedly ill-advised? NOT YET DETERMINED
    15. Will he ever again smile and swagger and speak without a palsied twitching of the voice box? YES, BUT ONLY BY ACTING
    16. Will he end up in the one place he has always dreaded most, the Snake Pit, being administered to by nurse R? NOT YET DETERMINED
    17. Will he go to his grave waylaid still in the one dimensionality of the first person? NOT YET DETERMINED
    18. Will he keep the card house standing? NOT YET DETERMINED
    19. Will he enjoy the “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate”--or will he find this cold comfort at best? NO
    20. Will he hang or drown or go the way of most? NOT YET DETERMINED
    21. Will he get a PR again? NOT YET DETERMINED
    22. Will he have his way with a CreamPuff like vision?IT'S UP TO HER, BUT THE FACT THAT SHE DOESN'T THINK WE ARE COUSINS LOOKS PROMISING
    23. Will he gain or lose his will? AGAIN, IT'S UP TO HER AND A COMMITTEE OF HER KINFOLK AND COUNTRY ELDER HILL PEOPLE, IN OTHER WORDS, NOT LIKELY

    Updated April 16th, 2009 at 10:35 AM by jim thornton

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  5. My Analysis of Leslie's Analysis

    by , March 17th, 2009 at 02:42 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I urge you to quickly read Leslie The Fortress Livingston's excellent if somewhat convoluted and heavily codiciled analysis of her swimming times, vis a vis different racing suits (especially the HyNeck Pro and B70).

    You can read her analysis here, http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=2131 but if you don't want to do this, in a nutshell, she concludes that the B70 helps a little, but not all that much, and primarily for distance swims, which she doesn't do any of (unless by distance she means the 100 IM, which in my mind stretches the meaning of the word "distance" to the very elastic limits, much as I believe Leslie has similarly stretched her "analysis" into a realm where only 15-dimensional Gaussian-style ubermath, also used in the hedge fund industry, can justify it.)

    I wrote the following as a comment on Leslie's blog, but it ended up being so long, and it's also been a while since I posted a vlog of my own, so I am putting it here instead:

    Leslie, here is my analysis of your analysis, but broken down in another way. I am going to go through each of these things and put your best time without a B70 and your best time with a B70, and leave all other variables aside.

    Backstroke Events
    :

    50 Back SCY:


    29.34 (H-Pro, Nats)(T)

    28.5 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .84

    100 Back SCY:


    1:04.7 (H-Pro)(T)

    1:02.8 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 1.9

    50 Back SCM:


    33.2 (R-Pro)(T)
    31.7 (B70)*

    B70 Assist, 1.5 seconds

    100 Back, SCM:


    1:13.9 (R-Pro)(T)
    1:11.7 (B70)*

    B70 Assist with caveats noted above, 2.2 seconds

    50 Back, LCM:


    33.48 (R-Pro)(T)
    33.40 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .08 second

    100 Back, LCM:


    1:14.1 (R-Pro)(T)
    1:13.4 (B70)

    B70 Assist: .7 second

    Fly Events:

    50 fly, SCY:


    27.6 (H-Pro)(T)

    27.2 (B70)(T)


    B70 assist: .4 second

    100 fly SCY:


    1:04.2 (H-Pro)(T)
    1:01.3 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 2.9

    50 fly SCM:


    31.48 (R-Pro)
    29.99 (B70)(some T)

    B70 Assist: 1.49 second

    50 fly, LCM:


    31.61 (R-Pro)(T)
    31.13 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: .58

    50 free, SCY:


    25.99 (H-Pro)(T)
    24.97 (B70)(T)

    B70 Assist: 1.02

    50 free, SCM:


    28.7 (R-Pro)(T)
    28.5 (B70)

    B70 Assist: .2


    50 free, LCM:


    29.2 (R-Pro)(T)
    29.3 (B70)

    B70 Assist: -.1

    100 IM, SCY:

    1:06.8 (H-Pro)
    1:04.1 (B70)*

    B70 Assist: 2.7

    You can slice and dice data in multiple ways, add all sorts of variables and explanations and fudge factors, but the bottom line as far as I can see is that with only one exception, the 50 LCM freestyle, you went significantly faster in every single race wearing a B70. All your second fastest times as a master (with the exception again of the 50 LCM free), you swam either in a B70 or in the fastest available pre-B70 generation racing suit, that is, the H-Pro.

    In no event did you get your get your fastest or even second fastest time without wearing one of these suits. Since the H-Pro is already considered a very fast suit, the fact that there were such consistent and at times huge time drops (four time drops between 1-2 seconds; two time drops between 2-3 seconds, all in events of a total distance of 50-100) makes me more convinced than ever that the B70 represents a huge advantage over the very best previous generation suit.

    Furthermore, if you average the time changes for the 50s [.84, 1.5, .08, .4, 1.49, .58, 1.02, .2, -.1] you have an average drop over 50 yards and meters of .67 seconds from your fastest B70 performances compared with your fastest H-Pro swims. You swam fewer 100s, but the average drop was even greater here--[1.9, 2.2, .7, 2.9, 2.7] for an average of 2.08 seconds.

    Such time drops might not mean much for the average lap swimmer. But for a swimmer already near the very top of the national hierarchy in her age group, 2/3rds of a second in 50s and over 2 seconds in a 100 is huge. Again, this is not comparing a poly suit to the B70. It's comparing the talk of the Sydney Olympics suit with the talk of the post-Beijing Olympics suit (at least in masters swimming circles.

    Sorry, Leslie. I wish I could have coroborated your analysis. But my analysis of your analysis, albeit one that uses Occam's Razor to cut away fudge factors I am sure you would love to keep, reaches a diametrically opposite conclusion!
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  6. Limbo Update (plus I-told-you-so to Leslie)

    by , March 21st, 2009 at 10:27 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As habitual vlog readers/viewers/olefactory sensors may recall, the past several weeks have been characterized by various tribulations and unsettlements in the life of your correspondent. In fact, dealing with these is one of the chief reasons I have been MIA from my vlogging obligations of late.

    Though none of the individual areas of concern have what could be described as definitive resolutions yet, there has been some slight movement towards same.

    Let me plink off a few of these developments now, and for those who would like to see them at least tangentially related to my swimming, permit me to add that as the stress levels become even slightly less crushing, I am finding a few more corpuscles of blood are able to escape the hypertensive constriction my circumstances have been placing upon my cardiovasculature. And with this ever so slight easing, there is more oxygen and nutrients available to my alleged (and, as you shall soon see) increasingly neutered musculature, and thus allows me to swim a wee bit better in practice lately.

    Hormonal Limbo: Part 1.

    As part of my investigations into soy protein and its attendant phytoestrogens, you may recall that I had my blood tested for testosterone (both the total level and the so-called "free" or more biologically available amount) as well as my estrogen (both estradiol and estrone, the distinction between which I do not fully understand.) Both genders have both of these sex hormones, of course, it's just that normal men tend to have higher t and lower e, and normal women tend to have the opposite pattern.

    Normal is expressed in a lab's "reference range"--the upper and lower limits that hopefully bracket your own readings. Here are my "Before Soy Milk Guzzling" readings:



    This may be hard to read, but suffice it to say that both my testosterone and estrogen fell within normal limits.

    IRS Limbo: Part 1.

    For the next month, I worked on writing my article, trying to make sense of bewildering (and often contradictory) study findings on the health benefits (and putative harms) of soy protein and phytoestrogens on bodily systems. These range from cognition to erections (the latter measured in rats force fed daidzein in puberty; this is, sadly, a remarkably close animal model for my own teenage years only instead of daidzein, you need to substitute prep school swill.)

    In the middle of my journalistic labors, I got a notice from the IRS that they were auditing my 2006 tax return, with an eye on 2007, as well. I don't want to go into the clammy fevers and prison terrors this seemingly innocent request by my own government precipitated within my manly breast. But suffice it to day, it was... horrible.



    A postcard sent to me by the wonderful Amanda Hunt, AKA, Chicken of the Sea, a fellow USMS vlogger who hails from Australia, and thus most likely comes from prison stock herself. This, at least, is what I imagine to be the source of her epistolary kindness and empathy.

    Hormonal Limbo: Part 2.

    At the end of the month, I returned for the follow up hormone tests.

    For those of you who somehow managed to miss the blood extraction process by which a local nurse secured the test sample, I invite you to watch--or indeed, rewatch--the film at the bottom of this earlier vlog: http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=1973

    The fact that I fainted during the hypodermic needling, which the lab technician assured me was manly, had me convinced at the time that my initial normal results--man-like T, man-like E--would not have changed after one short month of relatively moderate soy protein ingestion (20-30 grams a day, or about as much as you would find in 4-6 cups of soy milk.)

    The results, alas, were to prove nothing short of....flabbergasting



    Again, this may be a little hard to read, so let me summarize. Rather than increasing my estrogen levels, as I hypothesized all this soy might, my E plummeted to the absolute bottom of the normal limits for males. In one fell swoop, my dream of swimming as a woman in future USMS competitions, where presumably I could rise one or two places in the TOP 10 listings in the penis-free division, well, these dreams were completely cut off at the roots, leaving all former sense of hope stump-like.

    Despite initial disappointment, a wee bit of macho pride, I must concede, eventually began to burgeon up.

    I've always felt that maybe I am a wee bit of a girly man. Now I had proof, however, that I was as far from girly manhood as one can chemically be and still maintain tenuous contact with the elastic cusp of normalcy.

    It was at this moment of chagrin (can't race women) and pride (I am no pussy!) that it occurred to me I should check out my other hormone level result post-soy hyper indulgence. At first I couldn't find this and assumed the doctor had foregone testing my T the second time around because I had only expressed interest in my E.

    But then I found it.

    I wish I had not.

    My testosterone levels had also plummeted. But unlike my E, which was still technically normal, both my "free" and total testosterone were so whoppingly below the bottom definition of manhood that I am not sure I qualify as a mammal anymore. Or
    a crustacean.

    I am, in other words, a gender freak: not a man without gender, nor a woman, but a neuter, as comfortable guarding a harem for a sultan as I would be guarding a harem for, well, a woman with a harem, be these male or female concubines.

    I am an "it" with no juice. Perhaps this is why CreamPuff left Facebook so abruptly and no longer seems to come for visits to the Vlog. She must have sensed something. Poor concupiscient tart! She must be devastated.

    As would I be, that is, if I had any hormones whatsoever to encourage me to give a whup.

    And that is when it occurred to me: I am quite possible the fastest Neuter in USMS history. You will not see my records in the Men's listings. Nor will you see them in the Women's, where Leslie (here is the I-told-you-so moment) and her supposedly minor assist of a B70 suit just got a PR today in the 100 SCM fly.

    You will not, in fact, see my No. 1 times IN ALL USMS RECOGNIZED EVENTS, for the simple reason that we hormonal cypher-mutants have not been given our human rights yet. But in our hearts, I think we will all agree that in future years, the following will be said of Jim Thornton, swimmer circa 2009:

    "Rarely has there been a swimmer so dominant in its category as Jim Thornton was when it swam in the 55-59 age group. It was truly an outstanding athlete. We will not see its likes soon again...Magnificent!"

    Updated March 21st, 2009 at 10:36 PM by jim thornton

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  7. Shocking North Korean Swim Surgery

    by , March 24th, 2009 at 06:48 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Part of me finds this truly revolting. Nevertheless, check the photo at the end. I can't say I've ruled the procedure out entirely, especially once the B70 becomes illegal.

    ____________________________________

    Controversial North Korean surgery roils waters of international competitive swimming

    By JAKE D. RAINS

    PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (Reuters Health) - In a study likely to create a tsunami in the already roiled waters of international competitive swimming, doctors in this secretive but sports-obsessed nation have reported a breakthrough in what they call "Spatulization Surgery" for swimming enhancement.

    The procedure, which was performed last summer on all 15 senior members of the elite North Korean National Swimming Team, takes an average of nine hours to complete and requires at least two weeks of postoperative recovery in a hospital setting. This is followed by eight months of intensive rehabilitation designed to allow the swimmers to adjust to the significant changes in their limbs. The researchers behind the procedure describes the improvements as nothing short of "miraculous optimizations for swimming performance."

    But witnesses from FINA, invited to monitor last week's national swimming and diving championships, had a different description. "These 'swimmers'," said one FINA representative who asked not to be identified by name, "no longer look human. They've been mutilated."

    Unable to maneuver on land, the 15 swimmers have each been equipped with a customized electric mobility scooter manufactured by the American-based Rascal Company. Such devices are most commonly associated with the geriatric population, not world-class athletes in the prime of life.

    Regardless of the considerable terrestrial handicaps the swimmers now face, no one denies the surgically altered North Koreans are remarkably quick and graceful in the water--easily slicing as much as 3-4 percent off world record times established at last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

    Because of various FINA technical rules and standards, the times set this week at the Pyongyang National Natatorium do not officially count, leaving the current world records in tact, at least for now. Few swimming analysts, however, doubt that massive changes are coming to the sport this summer, when "spatulized" North Koreans are almost certain to dominate at the World Championships, in the process establishing new standards in the sport once considered unimaginable.
    _____________________________________
    "If we make this procedure illegal, what's next? Outlawing
    shoulder surgery? Lasik? 'Spatulization' is a can of worms wrapped up in a Pandora's Box."
    --anonymous spokesman from the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)
    _____________________________________

    "Our performances at nationals only hint of what's to come," says Kwion Namgoong, head coach for the North Korean team, through an interpreter. "You must consider that our swimmers are just getting used to their new, how you say, attributes. By summer, the times we've seen this week will look like lazy warm-up speed."

    FINA officials, already facing controversy and furor over how to regulate the latest generation of high tech speed suits, acknowledge they aren't sure what can be done, if anything, to halt the new surgery.

    Unlike drugs such as anabolic steroids and blood-doping medications, or even the neoprene wet favored by swim-impaired triathletes, suits that allow swimmers to float unsportingly high in the water, there are no precedents for banning surgery in sport.

    "If we do find a way to outlaw this," says one obviously flummoxed FINA observer, "then it will open the floodgates to all kinds of lawsuits. Spatulization digusts me, and I doubt you will be able to sell the procedure to swimmers who have a free choice in the matter. But if we make this illegal, what's next? Shoulder surgery? Lasik? It's a can of worms wrapped up in a Pandora's Box."

    Accident leads to smashing success

    The procedure was first discovered serendipitously during the bitterly cold winter of 2004. Dockko Tung, 27, a freight hauler and recreational swimmer, was severely injured while unloading his truck. Pallets containing multiple 100 lb. bags of rice fell on his hands and feet, pinning these to an ice-covered stretch of highway.

    The combination of ice and pressure, ironically, may have spared him amputation by keeping the squashed tissues in a kind of cryogenic "suspended animation" state till emergency crews were able to locate and extricate him four hours later.

    But when ER surgeons were finally able to operate, however, the best they could do was to set the dozens of broken bones and reattach permanently stretched ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues in both his hands and feet.

    Afterwards, Tung was left with enormous, flattened extremities. As one of his surgeons described it to the local government-sponsored newspaper, "These looked like the hands and feet of a cartoon character run over by steam roller." The same doctor later described his patient's hands and feet as resembling spatulas, adding that the accident had, in essence, "spatulized" him.

    The term stuck.

    After the operation, Tung was unable to walk or even stand for more than a minute at a time, and he turned to the pool for exercise. To the astonishment of the lifeguards at his community center facility, the "deformed and ostracized" 27-year-old was soon swimming nearly world-class times, thanks to hands that functioned as de facto swim paddles and feet that served as oversized fins.

    It did not take long before word of his abilities reached the North Korean Sports Authority, which promptly assigned a team of researchers to pioneer the same surgery for the national swim team.

    As a result of his contributions to North Korean "guygen"--a neologism for "world glory," Tung soon became a national hero and frequent swim invitee at the palacial home of Kim Jong Il. At a state dinner for visiting dignitaries, Jong Il, who prefers to be addressed as "Dear Leader," was reportedly so eager to show off Dockko Tung's prowess that he placed the young man in an Endless Pool (http://www.endlesspools.com/indexi.html) that had been set up next to the formal dining table.

    For the "amusement" of the guests, Tung was left to swim nonstop for 17 hours. In his hospital bed later, where Tung was being treated for water in the lungs, he maintained he had gladly and voluntarily participated in the lengthy exhibition swim.

    It is not known whether all 15 spatulized national team members willingly volunteered for the procedure or were pressured into it. Regardless, the next generation of North Korean swimmers is likely already moving into the pipeline. Reports suggest that at least 1,700 North Korean junior swimmers, some as young as 6 and 1/2, have been given psychiatric medications before being presented with a surgical consent forms. To date, all have signed.

    Whether the procedure will catch on in nations with less repressive political regimes remains to be seen. Americans, for their part, pride themselves on individual liberties and seem unlikely to bow to governmental pressures.

    On the other hand, U.S. culture has a long philosophical tradition of doing "anything to win." It remains to be seen if US swimmers, the world's best as recently as last month, will surrender their domination or instead answer the North Korean challenge with a gungho adoption of even more draconian surgeries. "I'm confident that our doctors," said one former world record holder from the University of Texas, "can beat the North Koreans in the pool and on the operating room table."

    He paused just a beat before breaking out in a chant, "USA! USA! USA!"

    As for the first of the pioneering race of aquatic athletes, a reporter watched all 15 largely expressionless North Korean swimmers drive their Rascals to the edge of the pool and slide into the water.

    It was the morning after the meet's conclusion, and already these swimmers were back getting ready for their next competition.

    On land, this reporter found their emotions almost impossible to read. Nevertheless, in the water, an almost otter-like sense of liberation emerged on their faces, as these strange new specimens sped back and forth nonstop for hours in the confines of their training tank.
    __________________________________


    I asked a surgeon friend at UPMC Sports Medicine Center in Pittburgh about spatulization, and he told me he and his colleagues have actually known about this for the past six months. They plan to offer swimmers in the US a new variation on the procedure that they've recently pioneered. The surgery itself is very similar to the North Korean procedure, but during the follow up period, the Pittsburgh group plans to use a proprietary instrument, much like the surgical version of a meat tenderizing mallet, to prevent scar tissue from forming too quickly and shrinking the spatulized limbs. This picture is a computer simulation of what Dr. F. says I will look like by the summer of 2010, provided I schedule my own surgery no later than August, 2009.

    You will note I am not wearing a B-70 or any other form of speed suit in this picture, nor have I shaved, lost weight, or lubed my skin with slippery unguents.

    Dr. F. assures me no such tactics will be necessary.

    Updated May 28th, 2009 at 01:44 PM by jim thornton

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  8. Annotated Ruling Letter from Kathy Casey

    by , March 26th, 2009 at 06:30 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    i just received the following via email, and I suspect many of you have, as well.

    I must say that I find the snifter of suit catastrophe in the air absolutely delicious!

    I am going to post Kathy Casey's excellent letter of clarification of what is known and unknown at this point in time, while adding a few comments, questions, observations, and suggestions of my own. Mine will be in red; Kathy's in original black.


    NOTICE TO ALL U. S. MASTERS SWIMMING MEMBERS

    Hi, back atcha! I must say, I have been noticing you, too!

    In light of new swimsuit testing and approval being conducted by FINA according to its recent "Dubai Charter", the following is U.S. Masters Swimming's official interpretation of Swimwear rule 102.14:

    Sorry to be nitpicky here, but how did the international governing body for competitive swimming end up making key decisions in a desert nation?

    #1. NEW U.S.M.S. SWIMWEAR INTERPRETATION

    FINA approval or rejection of new swimwear introduced after September 30, 2007, will be accepted by U.S. Masters Swimming for U.S.M.S. sanctioned and recognized competition.

    What exactly happened on September 30th, 2007 that made this such a pivotal point in time? Is this when some new suit debuted?

    I Googled the date and managed to find the following political cartoon, but I am not sure what, if anything, this has to do with swimming costumes:



    The following interpretation regarding the use of two suits during competition is effective immediately. This interpretation conforms to the recent interpretations issued by FINA (03/15/09) and USA Swimming (03/18/09).



    #2. NEW U.S.M.S. SWIMWEAR INTERPRETATION



    For purposes of Article 102.14 of U.S. Masters Swimming Rules of Competition, Swimwear, the use of more than one suit at a time during any U.S.M.S. sanctioned or recognized competition is prohibited.

    This Article 102.14 of which you so confidently speak--how do we know it actually exists? Are you absolutely sure you don't mean Codicil 102.14 of Article Subsection 27-A paragraph 4 xiv?
    How do you intend to prove this to a "B70-Conspiracy-Theory-Friendly" audience of vigilantes? Will the proof be offered in an American court under our, shall we say, highly malleable rules of law? Or do you intend to have it tried in Dubai under some sort of Wahhabi Doctrine, punishable by hand removal?



    QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:



    1. Question: Can I wear a regular racing suit that is not a body suit?

    Answer: Yes, suits introduced prior to September 30, 2007, are legal for U.S.M.S. competition.

    Must I wear a suit at all? And if I must, must CreamPuff? In the case of an affirmative in the latter case, give me 117 good reasons why.

    2. Question: Can I wear my LZR at nationals in May?

    Answer: At this point questions about suits (those introduced after
    September 30, 2007) for nationals cannot be answered because the new list of
    FINA-approved suits has not been published nor is there a set date for
    publication of that list by FINA. Until FINA publishes the new list of
    approved suits, the current status of approved or rejected suits is in
    effect; therefore, your LZR is currently approved for competition until the
    new FINA list is published. However, should U.S.M.S. officially receive
    information that any of currently marketed suits introduced after September
    30, 2007, have been rejected by FINA, those suits will no longer be
    considered legal.

    You menton "your LSR" as in, I presume, "my LSR." Where is it? What have you done with my LSR? To the best of my knowledge, I have never received my LSR from USMS. Was this a membership premium that I somehow failed to receive? If so, please send immediately, because I plan to use it in all non-Dubai covered competitions.


    3. Question: Why can't questions about suits for nationals be answered now?

    Answer: According to the Dubai Charter (published by FINA 03/15/09),
    manufacturers must resubmit their suits for approval by March 31, 2009. The
    suits will be retested under a new system for buoyancy (no more than 1
    Newton), material (no thicker than 1 mm), and construction (no trapping of
    air), just to mention a few criteria. At the point of publication by FINA
    of newly approved suits, the questions about legal suits for nationals can
    be answered.

    Or, to put it less politely, because we don't want to.

    Na na na na naaaa na!

    FINA, after letting many of you twist in the wind with regards to the IGLA world records situation, wants a new issue to cause those whom it "represents" to suffer over for a while.

    Suffering builds character. This is an implicit part of FINA's mission.


    4. Question: How will this impact Masters competitors?

    Unofficial Answer: It's going to ruin them.

    Official Answer: That LZR, TYR, or Blueseventy suit you bought after September 30,
    2007, is legal at this moment, but it could be illegal after the new
    FINA-approved swimsuit list is published. Regardless of the new list, that
    old Fastskin that you have will be legal since it was introduced prior to
    September 30, 2007.



    5. Question: My coach is forcing me to swim the 1650 Free as a training
    swim. Can I wear a drag suit over my jammers?

    Answer: No. Although wearing an extra drag suit may not be perceived as
    having an advantage, the interpretation is that only one swimsuit is
    permitted.

    Ordinarily, one would think that coaches would not be allowed to force you to do anything. However, upon closer reading of the FINA rulings from Dubai, we have found that slavery is, indeed, legal in that part of the world. We encourage you to do what he or she forces you to do, and gladly, or get used to the sting of bullwhips crackin'!

    Try to see the humor here. It is, you must agree, a a rather risible twist on the meaning of "master", eh? And all the time you thought you were the "Massa"!



    6. Question: Does "one suit for competition" mean I can only wear one suit
    for the whole meet?

    Answer: No. You can change suits during the meet, (True or false? you need a note from your doctor documenting an existing yeast or other form of fungal infection, AKA, "crotch rot," aggavated by hours spent in damp clothing?) but you can only wear one
    suit at a time. This restriction applies only to the actual races
    (competition). Where do I sign up as volunteer "Citizen Swimmer Inspector"? Is it true that guys like me will be issued special cards that allow all hours access to the Women's Changing rooms, plus indemnity against any "nuisance" harassment suits filed during the discharge of our inspection duties? You can wear more than one suit during warm-up and
    warm-down. This restriction applies to all types, makes, and models of swim
    suits, but it is not intended to apply to athletic supporters or modesty
    type wear (a single pair of "briefs" or "bikini bottoms or top" or a sports
    bra worn to ensure modesty and privacy).

    I don't get it. Do I have to wear a bra? What about my home-made bubble wrap "modesty" vest cum codpiece? Surely this is still legal?

    Feel free to contact me with any questions.

    Thanks, Kathy. If I can think of more, I will not hesitate to post them!

    Kathy Casey, Chair,

    U.S. Masters Swimming Rules Committee

    rules@usms.org
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  9. 200 freesyle NCAA winner mathematically deconstructed

    by , March 28th, 2009 at 11:05 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    1 Fraser, Shaune FLOR 200 free time of 1:31.70



    Junior Shaune Fraser (George Town, Cayman Islands) swam a career-best mark and UF record in the 200-yard freestyle (1:31.70) to capture the first individual national championship title of his career.


    first 50, dive assisted: (21.57)

    second 50 (23.67)

    third 50 (23.25)

    fourth 50 (23.21)

    If you give the guy 1.5-2 seconds for the start, which may or may not be reasonable, a case could be made for this fellow negative splitting his #1 winning 200 free.

    It would be nice to know what his all out 50 time is, but the closest I could find to this was his split in the 400 medley relay the day before, where he swam the freestyle leg:

    first 50 (19.87) both dive aided and relay start aided
    second 50 22.32 (42.19)

    He also lead off the 400 free relay and got these splits:

    1st 50 20.40
    second 50 22.01 (42.41)

    I am going to go out on a limb here and guesstimate that his fastest 50 is right around the high 19s.

    To simplify the math, let us say 19.87

    Thus his first 50 in the 200 free (21.57) was about 1.7 seconds slower than his fastest all out 50.

    We could quibble a bit about this. The range is probably anywhere from 1 to 2 seconds slower.

    His second 50 in the 200 free (23.67) was 3.8 seconds slower than his fastest.

    His third 50 was about 3.2 seconds slower.

    And his fourth and final 50 was about the same, maybe 3.1 seconds slower.

    ----------------

    Now, for purposes of projection, let us apply the same basic math to me. My fastest time as a masters swimmer, 6-7 years ago, was 1:55.11, or 1.26 times greater duration than his Shaune's 1:31.7.

    Let us call the 1.26 figure the S-J Coefficient, for the "Shuane to Jim Coefficient" or, more simply, SJ.

    My fastest 50 this year is 24.53. Let me take Shuane's "slowdown" compared to his own fastest 50 vs. what he took out his 200 in, 1.7 seconds, and multiply this by SJ and we get 2.14 seconds. Add this back to my own fastest 50, and this would suggest that if I swim a congruent race to Shuane's, I will need to go out in 26.67 seconds.

    Now we move to the second 50, which in Shuane's case was 3.8 seconds slower than his best. Apply the SJ (3.8 x 1.26) and we get 4.79 and add this to my fastest 50, and we see that I will need to swim my second 50 at 29.32.

    Following the same basic mathematical logic, I will need to swim my 3rd 50 at 28.56, and my final 50 at 28.44.

    So, I will need to go out the first 100 in 55.99
    and come back the second 100 in 57.00...

    For a new personal all time best 200 free style swim of 1:52.99.
    ___________________

    Observations:


    1. There is something dreadfully wrong with any math that suggests I could come close to swimming a 1:52.+ unless...
    2. The B70 and/or LZR advantage is really going to help me by providing at least 1 second per 50 and probably a little more or....
    3. I need to factor in a wee bit more Finnish formula age grading wiggle room in the S-J Coefficient...
    4. I am thinking that If I simply add 1 second per 50 here, what might be termed {S-J Coefficient}~Finnish Formula Wigglized, or SJ~FFW, or perhaps even more simply, SJ v.2, then we would have the following splits:

    27.67
    30.32 (first 100 57.99)
    29.56
    29.44 (second 100 59.00
    _____
    1:56.99

    I would be absolutely delighted with this time, but it still leaves an awful lot of dependence riding on the likely soon to be incarcerated swimmer's helper, the B70 flotation device.

    Well, let us see how the math proves to be. I have a Y regional meet next weekend, but the 200 free is on the same day that I swim the 1000, a relay, the 50 fly, the 100 fly, and then one event rest before the 200 free. No B70 either.

    But perhaps Colony Zones will prove a different story. Time will tell.

    _____________________

    Final Note on Above Deconstruction through Precise Application of Math:


    1. It is not an accident that I used red ink to designate Shaune Fraser's excellent 200, and blue ink to designate my less excellent and, in fact, not yet even swum 200. These hues represent the color of our respective bloodstream's after approximately 10 yards into our respective races.



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  10. Is that your Gu or are you just pleased to see me?

    by , March 30th, 2009 at 11:48 PM (Chicken's Nuggets)
    It's done!! It's done!!
    The monkey's off my back.
    The 4 hour in 61 degrees or less qualifying swim for the Manhattan race is finally done!!

    I arrived at Windy Point (Lake Travis, Austin) at 8am Sunday March 22nd. Air temp 64, water temp 60. Windy and choppy (it doesn't look so in this photo). Terrified. The longest I'd been was 1 hour at 60 degrees.

    After an extended period of procrastination, personal lubrication (vaseline), and psychosomatic illness, I took the plunge. By this time it was 8.18am.



    I swam a couple of sad, self pitying laps of Windy point for about 40 minutes.

    Feeling miserable and cold, I asked my friend and observer LeighAnn for some hot soup. Out came Stanley, my thermos and second-best friend.



    Life suddenly got a whole lot better.

    Buoyed by my newfound warmth, I headed round to Hippie Hollow to swim with some guys I'd only met via email, but who were nice enough to include me in their morning OW swim. LeighAnn drove the car and paid the hefty $10 parking fee. I swam there in about 25 minutes at an EZ pace to find my new friends already in the water.

    Having checked out Hippie Hollow as a potential swimmin' hole the day before, I knew what to expect.



    Not a problem. I had a very liberal upbringing down-under.

    We swam laps of Hippie Hollow for about an hour and a half, blessed with a constant stream of entertainment provided by nudists engaged in a myriad of activities on the rocky shore. Stanley came to my rescue about every half hour, and although I felt a little uncomfortable, I never got to the point of shivering.

    My new swim buddies, Robert Alford and Tom Fornoff finished their swim, and I realised to my delight that by the time I swam back to Windy Point I'd be more than 3/4 of the way through my swim!! Yippee!!

    By this time the wind had picked up to gusts of 30mph and there were white horses everywhere. Tough conditions, but I think they distracted me from the cold and boredom of swimming alone.

    I took my time returning to Windy Point and there was only about 30-40 minutes remaining when I arrived. One more shot of Stanley and a couple more laps and I was there!!

    My last 10 minutes were occupied by swimming a bit of breaststroke, stretching and watching a catamaran capsize.

    12.18 precisely (not that I was watching the clock..) and I was outa there!!!

    Very happy, very relieved, very grateful to all that helped, and feeling a lot better than expected, I went back to my friend's house, showered, dressed, had some food and a Stella. Bliss.

    During the swim I think I had 2 quart sized Stanleys of chicken broth, some gatorade (can't remember how much), 6 Gu's and an Ensure with a chaser of lake water.

    My only complaints during the swim were a sore lower back (probably from sighting over the waves) and squashed ears because I wore 2 caps (legal!!). I also saw several Texan sized Bass and unfortunately, from below, a middle aged man hiking in nothing but a pair of shoes and a daypack. Quite a point of interest.



    THANK YOU to all my friends in Austin, Texas, for helping me do something I didn't think was possible. My friend LeighAnn Doherty and family, Lynne Smith, David Blanke and my new Hippie Hollows Robert and Tom.

    Can't wait to go back
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  11. Pain, Ruminations Thereon

    by , April 2nd, 2009 at 09:49 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)


    To my fellow stalkers of CreamPuff, the following will come as no surprise from the forum threads:

    Posted by CreamPuff: So the 1000 was passable with a 10:32. Negative splitted with a 5:17 and 5:15 the 2nd 500. Swam my usual with zero kick of any kind. Had a lovely race with the boys and came in 2nd overall (I think I was around 3rd for most of the race). Lost 1st by 0.5 seconds. Was told I looked very smooth.

    500 was the 2nd day with with el boys. Contrary to Glider's nice comment, the 500 was dreadful. Since seeing my 200 FR at 1:57 with zero kick two weeks ago, I've since been working on swimming with a 6 beat kick @ practices; however, it's only been 2 weeks. Coach and I agreed to not try kicking on the 1000 (too difficult at this point), but we agreed that I'd SDK and kick off every turn for the 500. Although I did make that goal, I was too tired to do the actual swim part and I added 3 seconds to my time of 5:11 - LOL! So, I'm going to stick with my kick and see if it can improve in a season or two or three or four. . . I think I got 5th overall on the 500 although it felt like last place after the 1000.


    Not sure whether the adjective "passable" was false modesty or if CP, AKA, Kristina Ulveling can actually be blase about such times. I made inquiries:

    From Jim Thornton: 1 Ulveling, Kristina 36 Swim Atlanta-GA 5:12.00 5:14.48

    1 Ulveling, Kristina 36 Swim Atlanta-GA 10:34.00 10:32.73

    If you doubled you 500, you would have swim 10:28.86.

    Just amazing swims.

    It seems to me that the SDKs on the 500 probably hurt you more than helped you.

    Possibly, with practice, this will switch around, but I gotta say that SDKs really use up a lot of oxygen and energy and keep you under water a lot longer than you would otherwise stay.

    For a distance swim, I don't know if the extra speed is worth it.

    Anyhow, extremely impressive swims, despite the self-described "passable" rating.

    My question for you is simple: how much does it hurt? When you are swimming the 1000, are you in pain? Do you find yourself saying, "When will this end?"

    Or does it feel relatively good and smooth throughout?

    I tend to suffer during distance events, and I don't know if this is the right approach...


    The truth is, I am almost always in a great deal of discomfort when I swim distance events in such a way as to get a decent time. I wish it weren't so, but it seems to be unavoidable: unless there is pain, I rarely get a very good time.

    from CreamPuff: Jim, the 1000 and 1650 are of minimal discomfort for me. I've been told I have too much left at the end at these races. In retrospect, I did not work that 1000 enough. But there's always next time!!! I am CreamPuff, remember? If I were truly tough I'd be called HammerTime. But be consoled in that the 200 and 500 do burn - and now I cry if I actually add in kick. Great points on the walls and SDK Jim - I agree with you and I think it will take some time to find out what works for me. I only took 1 good SDK and then went into flutter kick past the flags for each turn. Rather painful 20x particularly when you usually do it 0 times in a race.

    In speaking with one of the top 14&Us in the nation this weekend (she goes 10:00 in the 1000), she was saying that it really hurts and is "pretty much an all out sprint." I'm definitely chewing on that thought. . . I may have to try A LOT harder next time. So good news - you are right on par with the 14&U girls!!! I wish I was. Sheesh.


    Whether or not trying A LOT harder next time will help Kristina's time remains to be seen. I don't mean this in a snide way. I just don't know when gluttony for too much pain becomes self-defeating and ends up hurting performance.

    Have you ever noticed how the truly great swimmers of the world, Phelps, Coughlan, Janet Evans, etc. etc. ad nauseam, never look particularly tired after setting their latest world record? It's like they can bound out of the water like newly hatched grasshoppers testing out their elastic legs.

    I mean, it's a cliche, I know, but the best swimmers do look effortless. And I know that it probably doesn't feel effortless on their part. But when was the last time that we saw an Olympic great, or a CreamPuff, for that matter, be so spent at the end of a race that they have trouble beaching themselves on the pool deck, and once having done so (perhaps with the assistance of a ladder, or in a worse case, a couple life guards, or in the worst case, a hoist and coroner) proceded to lose their stomach contents.

    Though my best times have almost always involved a great deal of pain, so, alas, have many of my worst times--where I have died so prematurely that finishing, say, the 1650 becomes highly problematic by the 250 yard mark. Or when my arms turned to tungsten on the last 50 of a 200 and I feared sinking to the bottom where a not up-to-code suction drain would make fast work of the gelatin leaking out of my every exhausted orifice.

    It's one thing to suffer for glory's rewards. It's another to suffer only to get a horrible, horrible time because you suffered too much and couldn't finish strong, or, perhaps, at all.

    The one final muddle factor here: once in a blue moon, I will get very near to a personal best and it all just feels wonderful, almost like CreamPuff's description of
    minimal discomfort. What the hell is going on with this? And why isn't it the norm, not some weirdly bizarre exception that sometimes in retrospect I begin to doubt even happened at all?

    Okay. So here is my question, one that I think hits any swimmer hoping to swim his or her best at a given event, particularly if such even is 200 or longer:
    pain, how much (if any) should you tolerate, and at what point in the race can you afford to allow it to overtake you?

    I mean, I know it's a mistake to do a drop dead, all out sprint on the first 100 of an hour swim.

    And it's also a mistake to lallygag in luxurious stretching ease till 59 minutes and 45 seconds of said hour swim have expired, then really pick it up.

    But somewhere between these extremes, there has got to be a rule of reasonable thumb.

    I need this rule by tomorrow.

    I am swimming this weekend, beginning with a 1000 first thing Saturday morning, and I don't feel like I am in any kind of distance shape at all.

    I would like to do "passable" times in the true (as opposed to CreamPuffic) sense of the word. I would like to avoid the experience embodied by the picture gallery below.

    If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate them before I leave tomorrow for my rendezvous with pain--the old familiar aquatic equivalents of the saw, inquistion chair, and Spanish donkey, respectively.






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  12. Jim: A Newly Minted Marxist Welfare Queen Comin' Atcha

    by , April 10th, 2009 at 11:33 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Let me dispatch with the swimming portion of this very belated vlog post haste:

    Results from our local Y regional meet by yours truly were terrible to mediocre.

    1000 free
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 11:50.12
    32.25 35.04 35.67 35.76 36.69 36.20 36.12 35.74
    36.36 36.39 36.20 36.05 36.38 36.09 35.83 36.05
    35.67 35.26 34.78 31.59

    200 free relay
    2 Sewickley A 174 SEWY 1:36.89
    Thornton,Jim 56 Cox,Mark 40
    Haney,Mark 40 White,Bill 38
    25.26 23.29 24.98 23.36

    50 fly
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 28.12

    100 fly
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 1:01.47

    200 free
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 1:59.28
    27.38 29.50 31.34 31.06
    29.05 32.42

    next day...

    500 free
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 5:28.42
    29.37 31.44 32.87 33.67 34.24 34.42 34.07 34.28
    33.04 31.02

    200 medley relay--went fly
    1 Sewickley A 174 SEWY 1:49.15
    Cox,Mark 40 White,Bill 38
    Thornton,Jim 56 Haney,Mark 40
    28.34 28.75 27.02 25.04

    100 free
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 53.39

    50 free
    1 Jim Thornton 56 SEWY 24.80

    I would add excuses, but the truth is the times were bad enough that it's not worth the waste of breath to come up with reasons why they were so terrible. Bill, my friend and coach, told me he thinks it's just been a hard couple months, and I am currently lacking the psychological fortitude to push myself--in practice or in meets--into the state of pain necessary to do well. This was absolutely the case in the 1000, which seemed to set the tone of the disastrous first day. I just didn't have the energy to tolerate suffering. I wimped out.

    Non swimming part of this, summarized:

    1. Our health insurance went up to $1711.50 a month for a plan that requires each member of the family to spend $1400 a year before complete coverage kicks in. For a variety of complicated reasons, we cannot alter any of the terms of the policy. It is a take it or leave it situation. If we leave it, my wife and I have been taking statin drugs and antidepressants and will not be able to obtain individual policies that are not even more exorbitant than the extortionary policy we already have. As close to unaffordable as it is this year, it seems certain that even modest increases in the years to come (as if the bastards are ever likely to be modest) ensure we will not be able to pay, most likely within two or three years.
    2. We got audited by the IRS three weeks ago, and a large part of this was because our acountant set up a plan by which I could pay my wife a salary and give her and her family health insurance as a benefit. By doing this, I could deduct as a business expense not just the premiums but the out of pocket expenses, too. The IRS is challenging this.
    3. If you are self employed and middle class, chances are your largest tax is not income tax but social security. We pay a bit over 15 percent off the top, i.e., before IRA deductions, etc. Those who work for companies pay half, and their employer kicks in the other half. If you work for a decent company, you can also qualify often for group health coverage, which means there is no medical underwriting (AKA cherry picking) involved. A friend who smokes five packs of cigarettes a day and is obese gets health coverage at a tiny fraction of what we pay. He also pays 7.5 percent social security tax and will get much, much higher social security benefits when he retires (assuming he lives that long.)
    4. I later discoverd that Highmark Blue Cross offers a low income insurance policy for families of four earing less than $44,000 a year, adjusted gross income. I can do this! I would save $1300 a month in premiums. It covers four office vists a year, and major in patient and out patient procedures. No prescriptions. So I would either have to switch to all generics, which is fine by me, or--if there is a case where a prescribed drug is not yet available generically--make a trip to Canada or Mexico and try to sneak my supply back.
    5. Did I mention that my accountant told me that one of President Bush's last acts in office was to instruct the IRS not to go after hedge fund managers for audits, because their machinations were much too complex for the average agent to fathom. Instead, target the little guy who works for himself and tries to deduct his home office and his family's health care. Schedule C's, Bush supposedly said, are easy targets beause the are almost impossible to do correctly. Even the dullest IRS agent can find money to pluck here. And the people who get plucked don't have the money to hire top representation that will cost the IRS time.
    6. So, let me get this straight:


    • The Limbaugh Legions praise entrepreneurs, small busines types, Joe the Plumbers, etc.
    • The Wall Street types are given license to steel them blind.
    • US Big Pharma is granted the legal right to join New Zealand as the only two countries in the industrialized world to shameless tout ad on TV direct to consumers for drugs, creating demand for antidepressants, cholesterol lowering drugs, penis inflaters, hay fever and allergy meds, and so forth, all for chronic conditions that often require life time treatment, trumping up demand
    • US Big Health Insurance is granted the legal right to cherry pick through "medical underwriting" any individual who has ever taken any of the above drugs and deny him or her coverage or charge exorbitant rights
    • Big Pharma, furthermore, lobbies to block the reimportation of their drugs from Canada and pretty much any other country in the world, where the exact same thing costs anywhere from 50 percent to 8 times less. The rational: the FDA cannot assure the safety of reimported drugs, even ones in factory sealed bottles. Since the placebo halo effect probably accounts for a good chuck on pharmaceutical efficacy anyhow, those of us willing to take our chances are criminalized if we try to take such importaion into our own hands. Honestly, I wonder why the cartels even bother with cocaine. The big bucks would be peddling affordable Viagra and Lipitor to hedge funders.
    • If you work for a big company, you can qualify for cheap health insurance, but this for all too many people just becomes yet another way to keep you as a virtual indentured servant, putting up with abusive managers demanding you do unethical things to up the profit margins, work nonstop, ignore your family, etc.--all because they know a lot of people have become so stressed out and fat and unhealthy becauseof their jobs they CAN'T quit because they won't be insurable.
    • What, I ask you, is not a PONZI scheme in our modern land of liberty? Every different direction you look just turns your backside to another anal rapist.
    • And on this summary note, then, I proudly announce that I, Jim Thornton, generally affable swimming vlogger, have had enouh of being a sucker. I know I will always be one, that I cannot change my stripes. But by no longer railing against my fate, I have decided to quit the absurdity of financial ambition, of ambition of any sort, in fact, and rather just take whatever I can parasitically siphon off the sinking ship. Low income state sponsored health insurnace! Check! Sell my house and quit paying property tax to the school system tht so nicely educated my kids! Check! Live off pharmaceutical free samples and occasional road trips to Canada and quasi criminal acivities! Check! Use one of my four doctor visits a year to find a quack who will give me a PTSD disability diagnosis and qualify for assistance, food stamps, heat credits, etc. Check! Send away to that guy who dresses up in a suit with numbers all over it for more information on free goverment programs! Check!

    To wit, I would like to introduce myself to all of you who have enjoyed, or not enjoyed, my (of late) erratically posted vlog! I am no longer just your friendly inhaler.

    Think of me now as your new dependent! Whether you like it or not (and I must say, those who absolutely DON'T LIKE IT are the ones that will give me the most satisfation of all! I think I like being your newly minted Marxist Welfare Queen dependent best of all. In fact, I am sure of it.

    I think I am finally going to start seeing some improvements in my swimming times.

    Updated April 16th, 2009 at 12:22 PM by jim thornton

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  13. Book 1: The Old Man and the B.....70, that is

    by , April 28th, 2009 at 10:57 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    And so now begins the epic trilogy of an old man, a possibly illegal swimming costume, a quest for immortality, and so very, very much more.

    In today's preamble to the first 77-chapter volume of my planned trilogy, I will attempt to do a little scene setting and foreshadowing of themes that will, over the course of centuries, develop slowly but with the inexorability of truth itself.

    Foreward: Who Are These People and Why Should I Care?

    On Friday, April 24th, a somewhat frail man by the name of James Thornton left the Pittsburgh metropolitan area with a single destination in mind: Destiny.

    James did not travel alone. His personal driver was the ever so comely adult-onset swimming sensation, Mermaid. He was also accompanied by the spirit of a heroic lawyer from Hood River, Oregon, by the name of Bill Sumerfield, Esquire, friend to honest men everywhere and champion of the even more numerous ranks of crooked fellows who need his help.

    As Mermaid fiddled with her Sirius radio system hoping to find yet another 80s station to slake her thirst for the songs of her infancy, James thought back to his own teenage years when Tommy Dorsey and Ludwig Von Beethoven drove the hit parade on his family Victrola.

    And so, onwards along the PA Turnpike to Breezewood, then south through a succession of increasingly crowded freeways towards Tyson's Corner, at first flying well beyond the speed limit, eventually slowing to a snails pace, the Mermaid ramrodded her pleasantly dreamy elder ward to the Compound in Vienna, Virginia, a Compound that is home to yet another character in our trilogy, the lovely Fortress herself, whose ownership of said Compound with her incredibly generous husband Scott has been diluted ever so slightly by several years of squatting by James, which has given him legal title to the guest house, though he (James) probably needs to talk to Bill Sumerfield about this in more detail and maybe get another favor from this legendary friend of the crooked (Bill, I can arrange some kickbacks, trust me, the deal I am thinking about here is really, really sweet.)

    Then James woke up.

    At this point, let me quickly provide some pictures of our story's early protagonists:



    Mermaid and the Fortress: Magnificent Lasses the Both of Them, and what indefatigable providers of succour to an Old Man! Does there exist in all of Christendom a quartet of bluer eyes containing nearly so much kindness? I say, look at their eyes, man! Up! Up!



    The Spirit of Bill Sumerfield, Esquire, debating the finer points of B70 legality and a squatter's real estate rights in a Virginia Commonwealth Court of Law. "My client and his suit," he appears to be pleading to an obvious sympathetic and converted to liberalism former hanging judge, "are every bit as legal as my client, Jim Thornton's, claim is to part ownership of the Livingston family home, Your Honor!"




    And finally, James Thornton himself, albeit inhabited still by the wraithe-like specter of Mr. Sumerfield, the two of whom appear in their utter post-400 I.M. Zones Record Establishing Performance exhaustion (this is, I'll admit, a teasing dip into what professional writers call foreshadowing--wherein the ending itself [in this case, unmitigated triumph of every stripe] is never in question. The drama emerges, instead, as a result of the reader's overwhelming itch of curiosity about how such an unlikely protagonist could possibly defy his "three score minus 3 1/2 year" ancience to prove himself.) ] to be possibly coughing up a hairball.

    I seem to have lost control of the previous sentence. Never mind! I shall soldier on like Dickens dim-witted twin, knowing as my smarter brother understood that stories emerge best when serialized over the course of eons and remunerated at a a satisfactory if not exactly handsome per-word rate...

    Chapter 1: Comes A Zonesman.

    In the events I planned to swim at this year's Zones, here were my best times in recent years and my age at which I performed them. For those of you who may have missed earlier mentions of my age, I am three score minus 3 1/2 years old, or 56 and 1/2, and will be FINA 57 for Long Course purposes this summer even though I do not officially become three score minus three until Sept. 24th of 2009, a date that present-minded vlog readers might want to jot down somewhere.

    Anyhow, here are my old bests of late:


    • 50 free 24.53 set at age 56 at the Sprint Classic last fall



    • 100 free 52.90 set at age 55 at Colonies Zones last spring, establishin the new Zones record for my age group and becoming a Zonesman



    • 200 free 1:57.44 at age 56, again at the Sprint Classic last fall



    • 500 free 5:24.57 at age 55, set last spring at Clarion University and out local Y championships here in the Pittsburgh area



    • 50 fly 27.67 at age 56, set this past season at some hard to remember mid season Y meet, albeit after not swimming butterfly for three years to prevent shoulder pain



    • 400 IM 5:11.59, at age 56, ditto for hard to remember Y midseason meet, again, after having not swum the IM for years because of shoulder pain.


    All the above swims were done either in a Fastskin 1 knee skin or one of those Tyr heavily discounted $56 suits that work pretty well as long as the Teflon-like coating remains in tact, that is to say, a few meets.

    -----------------------------------------------
    Here are the times Bill and I ended doing at this year's Colony Zones while wearing the borrowed suit. I say Bill and I because it was not only the suit that helped me, but the spirit of Bill inhabiting the suit.

    Note: those hoping for endless analysis and dissection of the minutiae here shan't be disappointed! I plan to sautee the numbers every which way from here to CremePuff in vlogs stretching out over the remainder of my life.

    But to very quickly sum up, the suit absolutely helped, but I did not do the miracle times I was secretly hoping for; Michael Phelps has absolutely no cause to look over his shoulder at the likes of me, but I can't say the same for, say, Ryan Lochtke style lesser swimming greats who remain closer to my league as evidenced perhaps by my inability to spell their names.

    Anyhow, it's possible the suit did indeed promote absolutely miraculous improvements over a ruined Jim, but because my times seem to conceal from me the degree of this ruination, I might just assume I am pretty much as good as I was last year and thus modest improvements mean the suit contribute modestly.

    I fully acknowledge the possibility, indeed the likelihood, that without the suit, my "true" times would have proven so abysmal that I would have checked myself into an assisted living facility.

    Who knows?

    Anyhow, for now, here are the times I swam this year along with any improvements over the previous best times of the recent era:


    • 24.17 50 free (.36 improvement; I missed Zones record by .03)



    • 52.86 100 (set new Zones record, breaking my own record from last year by .03)



    • 1:56.07 200 (1.38 seconds improvement over earlier season time; this one set new Zones record and was my lowest 200 time in 5-6 years)



    • 5:24.84 500 (set new Zones record, breaking my own Zones record by 2-3 seconds, though it was also .27 second slower than last year's Clarion time)



    • 27.00 50 fly (best time for me since I did a 26.86 at age 50 six years ago)



    • 4:57.85 400 IM (set new Zones record, my all-time best time)

    Endless analysis to come. Tomorrow, the first of 34 short videos, most lasting no longer than 2 1/2 hours, will begin.

    I hope you can sleep tonight! I know I am much too excited myself to find my way to the Land 'o Nod!

    Updated April 29th, 2009 at 11:22 AM by jim thornton

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  14. Aaaaalisonnnnnnn!

    by , May 5th, 2009 at 09:24 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The meaning of the name Alison is 'Noble kind; of the noble sort'.

    The rankings for 2007 for different spellings of Alison.

    Alison------288
    Allison------46
    Allyson-------267
    Alyson-------524
    Alicyn------unranked
    Alycin--------unranked

    Colony Zones was well represented by a mix-and-match assortment of lovely aaa liss son's (phonetic spelling given to prevent ire from the noble kind.)

    The women depictied in my filmic homage are, I am fairly sure:

    Aliswim [ame="http://forums.usms.org/member.php?u=1259"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    Swimmy [ame="http://forums.usms.org/member.php?u=736"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    Swimshark [ame="http://forums.usms.org/member.php?u=2091"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    And possibly Swimalison [ame="http://forums.usms.org/member.php?u=9172"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    But I thought she said Swimali, but I can't find a link for Swimali, so maybe I misheard.

    Alison Lyrics

    (written by: Elvis Costello)

    Oh, it's so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl
    And with the way you look, I understand that you were not impressed
    But I heard you let that little friend of mine
    Take off your party dress
    I'm not gonna get too sentimental
    Like those other sticky valentines
    'Cause I don't know if you are loving some body
    I only know it isn't mine

    Allison, I know this world is killing you
    Oh, Allison, my aim is true

    Well, I see you've got a husband now
    Did he leave your pretty fingers lying in the wedding cake?
    You used to hold him right in your hand
    Ah, but he took all that he could take
    Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
    When I hear the silly things that you say
    I think somebody better put out the big light
    'Cause I can't stand to see you this way

    Allison, I know this world is killing you
    Oh, Allison, my aim is true
    My aim is true
    My aim is true
    (REPEAT AND FADE)


    ________________________

    I am continuing to nurse myself back to health from Swine Flu Lite, mostly because I can find no one who will remotely consider nursing me anywhere whatsoever.

    God knows if I was capable of nursing, I would share my ample bosom with a sick boy like me in a heart beat, but--oh, well. Perhaps that is why God made men more naturally generous than women, knowing that if they shared our penchant for kindness, their gender would soon be dessicated to death by the world's sickly demands.

    The exception, of course, to the niggardly doling out of generosity to females will be very evident in tonight's short, palette-cleansing diversion from competitive highlites at the recent Colonies Zones Masters Championships, a meet about which I know the greater swimming community continues to buzz with the astonishing performances of various Zonesmen in general and one Zonesman in particular.

    Life is not all swimming. For the mentally balanced adult individual, a good 2 or 3 percent of life takes place outside a chlorinated environment. It is in this spirit of a break from the water that I present tonight's vlog:
    Four Allisons and Jim's Funeral.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u04-Nmug1M"]YouTube - Four Allison's and Jim's Funeral[/ame]
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  15. Help for Swimmer's Thumb!

    by , May 16th, 2009 at 12:20 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Today's belated vlog offers great hope and comfort to the estimated 97 percent of my fellow masters swimmers who suffer greatly, as I do, from the condition known as Swimmer's Thumb.

    In the video below, you will learn all you ever cared to know--and more--about the treatment of this condition.

    But first, a quick catching-up of my recent swimming and--brace yourselves--weight-lifiting activities. After being sidelined for 8 days with swine flu lite and Swimmers Thumb, I returned to the pool and gymnasium with a vengeance, determined to lose weight and pack on muscle.

    I am delighted to tell you that one of these goals is already paying off, at the illusory detriment to the other. To wit: I have gained 5 additional lb. ......
    of solid muscle!

    Here are my activities since getting off the sick bed and thumb ottoman (the numbers refer to yards; the word "weights" refers to Nautilus sessions; and tennis refers to a sport by which a yellow ball is smacked around with sticks with wickety heads attached to their ends):


    1. 3150
    2. 500 & weights
    3. 3200
    4. weights
    5. tennis
    6. 4500
    7. weights
    8. 3800
    9. weights
    10. 5000

    -------------------------

    And now, as promised, Help for Swimmer's Thumb!

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYhmTf3250"]YouTube - Untitled[/ame]
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  16. B70, We Hardly Knew Ye

    by , May 20th, 2009 at 03:48 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I was a little bit reticent to post this film before, given the chance that the B70 loaner might be used again.

    Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that I actually took the advice proffered here by Michelina "Bad Grrrrllllzzzzzz of Swimming" co-president (along with Imspoiled), two of the kindest princesses of the water you will ever want to meet.

    But just the suggestion that I might have taken her advice might have caused some dismay on the part of BillS, the most generous USMS member of all time and my personal nominee for this year's Arthur Ransom Award.

    In any event, if the suit were still legal, and if you owned your own, and if you are as cute as little Michilena herself, then you might want to have considered taking her advice (though most likely quickly rejecting it thereafter):


    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8guu6zuxuWs"]YouTube - One of the Bad Grrrlzz Promotes a Bad Pra[/ame]
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  17. 20 days of exercise sobriety

    by , May 25th, 2009 at 11:44 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Since semi-recovering from Swine Flu Lite on May 5th, I have launched on what has arguably been my longest unbroken streak of exercising in my life.

    This has consisted of:


    • swimming (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) 39,450 yards
    • Nautilus weight lifting (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with occasional exceptions for tennis)
    • Tennis (some Tuesdays, one Thursday, and every Sunday)
    • Stretch cord rotator cuff exercises (most nights)


    How have these past 3 weeks of unbroken daily exercise affected me? Physically speaking, I feel that I am slowly getting into better swimming shape, not good enough, mind you, to compensate for the recent loss of the B70 body boat, AKA, the HMS Good Times, may she rest in peace! But perhaps enough to slightly undercut the accelerating rate of decrepitude that might otherwise be greeting me with each passing week.

    I have found that the weight lifting and stretch cords have seemed to reduce shoulder pain, which was pretty uncomfortable upon first returning to the pool after my 8-10 day sickness layoff.

    Possibly, the weights and stretch cords are also offering some inoculation against shoulder and elbow pain from tennis (and water volley ball, which I played for the first time today after our noon-time Memorial Day Swim Practice that only Bill and I actually showed up for.)

    Other impacts, which may or may not be imaginary:


    • I definitely feel the need for more sleep, and if this keeps up, may have to double my use of amphetamine like drugs in order to coax any hours of non-exercise consciousness out of my typical day
    • There's a sense that my immune system is getting a little cranky without regular breaks in the daily exercise schedule. I have begun coughing lately, and feel the first faint pricklings of neuralgia here and there where neuralgia has long been in abeyance
    • My mood is perked up by the exercise, only to settle back into its ruts a couple hours later.


    Which brings me to the following questions, which I will throw out in the hopes that one or more of my fellow travelers might provide answers or at least a sense that I do, indeed, have fellow travelers on this road upon which I tread:


    • Am I the only person out here who thinks that the natural human lifespan is overly generous?
    • How many summer openings of the summer swim club pool, how many Christmas carols, how many fireworks displays, how many gourmet engorgements, how many libidinous blowouts, how many professions of religious rapture, how many celebrations of vicarious or personal sporting victories, how many bonus checks, and the like are necessary to live through before life begins to seem, even in its alleged high points, a grindingly monotonous proposition?
    • With what insult begins a lifeview riddled with mistrust of ones fellow apes and their schemings and larceny and generally lousy ways? At what point do dreams of glory transmogrify into lust for revenge, and at what point does even this turn to powder in a dry and bitter mouth like sugarless gum masticated for days on end?
    • I suspect our neuroscientists' current best understanding of the mind is as primitive in its way as Edward Jenner's observations about milkmaids and cowpox and the nature of immunology were in 1796 -- on the right track, perhaps, but not terribly far along. This said, and with pre-acknowledgment that the dopaminergic reward system is most likely not much more than a metaphor at this point, the question is this: can we become exhausted to the effects of the chemical broth that goads us onwards and pats us on the head when we succeed? Is this something that must, by its very nature, lose its hold upon us with enough repetition, just as the once delicious candy corn of youth becomes an emetic in old age? Or is the brain constructed is such a way that it is never immune to joy juice, if such can be naturally coaxed into lubricating our synapses in the right regions? So that the problem is not so much that nothing, after a time, can bring verve back into life--but that we have given up the search for what it is that can naturally generate this verve? And are there just too many moral impediments and causes for exhaustion blocking our way?


    I throw these questions out to my fellow swimmers and exercise nuts so that when your own doleful topics of rumination run out during your next bout with gravity and friction, you might have something fresh to consider.

    But even as I say this I know I am deluding myself! There is nothing new under the sun! Nothing! And these are the questions that we all ask ourselves, in perhaps slightly different ways, in words that begin in wails and end in demented grunts, all our days upon God's green earth!

    Tomorrow, if it rains, I will do Nautilus and play tennis on Thursday, unless it rains then, too.

    Students of Abraham Maslow: Is the pain of descent along his hierarchy of needs uniform? Or does it hurt more, for example, to fall from the next-to-bottom rung to the lowest one? Or perhaps the other way around--might falling from the top to the next-to-top rung be the most painful? Or is the most painful rung to fall from just the one you are, right now, losing your grip upon?
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  18. How to know if you're trying enough

    by , May 28th, 2009 at 12:08 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Chris, I think most people need a schedule for periodization to work well for them, because their inner "I'm broken down" threshold is set too low. A schedule also gives them an end in sight, which can be a powerful motivational factor.

    Fort, June 14 is soon! The end is in sight!

    --
    Mr. Qbrain in a comment on a recent Chris Stevenson blog
    On this, my 22nd consecutive day of daily hard exercise, I think I have begun to get some clues that might help my fellow swimmers decide if you are trying enough in practice--and not succumbing to that inner babyish voice that cries out, "Ease off! Pamper yourself! You have crossed the threshhold into the realm of being overly broken down!"

    At tonight's practice, I underwent not one, not two, but three separate specific and measurable characteristics that suggest I was trying enough.

    These are:


    1. Severe nausea of the sort where the stomach contents are storming the esophageal sphincter if not yet breaching same
    2. Cramps in the thighs and calves that made just finishing a final "sprint" 50 an epic adventure of the sort that Homer might have written a trilogy about
    3. And finally, the quote delivered to me, directly and with a look of "oh my god, I wish I'd paid more attention in that CPR class" anxiety, from a sophomore college swimming woman, "Are you okay?"

    I am not maintaining these three above characteristics, even in combination, are sufficient to prove beyond all doubt that I was trying in practice.

    I will, however, suggest they represent a sort of sine qua non triad the absence of which probably indicates you are not trying hard enough.

    Near vomiting, cramps throughout the entire span of the legs, and the concern of a coed who really thinks she is about to see her first corpse: these are necessary, if not absolutely sufficient, conditions for trying.

    I am not sure exactly could push one over the edge into absolute, definitive proof. After motorscootering home post-practice, I lay down on the couch to watch a few minutes of Countdown with Keith Oberman before lighting the grill and putting on my dinner of four Costco lamb chops.




    When I stood up from the couch, I suffered a blood rush from the head that all but blackened out my visual field entirely, if only momentarily, forcing me to remain standing based on no more than a lifetime of experience in what this requires.

    I could have fallen.


    I could have also actually vomited during practice, seized up with such cramps as to not be able to finish my sprint 50 at all, no matter how slow, and finally I could have expired right after answering the coed's concerned inquiry with a simple--heroic even--"No."

    Maybe this is what is sufficient to prove I tried hard enough in practice. I don't know. I guess when I get to that point where the question becomes moot, this vlog will have run its course.

    So, here are my last three practices, each one, in its way, emblematic of the new Costillian maxim I am trying to put into practice: i.e., intensity trumps volume. (Note: I do have a bit of volume here, too, usually at the beginning, but these lengthy warm ups tend to be done at a very leisurely and relaxing pace, which I find is increasingly necessary to cajole the creekiness out of my joints and alleged muscles...)

    Friday, May 24th, at Trees Pool (U. Pittsburgh)

    Pre warm up: 1,500

    Warm up 4 x 200 on 3:30 (2:30; 2:25: 2:25: 2:18)

    10 x 100 on 2:00 (ez, med, fast, repeat--from pushoffs)
    [fast ones for me were :59 1:01 :57]

    kick 200 rest; regroup

    Swim 8 x 50 on 1:15 (ez, fast, repeat-from pushoffs)
    [fast ones were :28, :28; :28’ :27]

    kick 200 rest; regroup

    12 x 50 karmic meditative --no breaths down, breathe ad libertam back, chant “peace” and “calm” throughout



    Total 4500; total arm-deadeningly hard yards for me: 500 yards

    ------------------------------------------------------
    Saturday, May 23rd at Sewickley YMCA

    lifted 53,000 lb.--see earlier vlog
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Sunday, May 24th at Sewickley YMCA

    3 hours, 15 minutes of doubles tennis; won 3 sets to one with hobbled partner Bill (suffering from gastrocnemius, also documented in previous vlog); a little water volleyball later
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Monday, Memorial Day, May 24th at Sewickley YMCA

    Bill White: present
    Jim Thornton: present
    Everybody else on our team: not present

    Pre Warm up: 1500 easy

    Warm up: swim kick pull on your own from 12:00-12:15

    Heart accelerating set: 8 x 100 on 1:30 (just a tad bit faster than you want to go)

    Main set (in homage to Jocelyn and with thanks to Jen at Pitt who invented this):

    5 sets of 8 x 50 on 1:15, EZ on the odds; fast on the evens; with regrouping between each set

    1.the fast ones are your 200 pace +2 seconds (for example: 32s if your 200 time is 2:00)

    2.the fast ones are your 200 pace +1 seconds (for example: 31s if your 200 time is 2:00)

    3.the fast ones are your 200 pace +0 seconds (for example: 30s if your 200 time is 2:00)

    4.the fact ones are your 200 pace -1 seconds (for example: 29s if your 200 time is 2:00)

    5.the fast ones are your 200 pace -2 seconds (for example: 28s if your 200 time is 2:00)

    recovery set: swim easy for 5 minutes

    Total 4600; total arm-deadeningly hard yards for me: 1000 yards

    ------------------------------------
    Tuesday, May 26th at Sewickley YMCA
    lifted 66,000 pounds in lieu of tennis singles because of rain
    ------------------------------------
    Wednesday, May 27th at Sewickley YMCA

    Pre warm up: 1200 easy

    16 x 50 on :55 moderate
    4 x 50 on 1:10 moderate
    5 x 100 on 1:30 odd ones fast (1;04, 1:04; 1:03)

    2:20 rest (swam slow 50 to recover)

    5 x 100 on 1:40 odd ones fast (1:02, 1:03; 1:02)

    2:40 rest (swam slow 50 to recover)

    4 x 100 on 1:50 odd ones fast (1:04, 1:05)

    [near vomiting and co-ed asks, “Are you okay?”]

    4 x 50 sprint odds

    [massive cramping on second sprint, almost unable to finish but force myself to waddle in, kicking with hip muscles alone]

    4 x 50 on :40 “cool down”--coach Bill’s idea of whimsy

    Total: 4100; total arm-deadeningly hard yards for me: 800 yards

    -----------------------------------------------
    Tomorrow, if the weather is okay, I will be playing tennis; weight lifting if it rains. Friday out to Pitt again, hopefully for the first long course swim of the season, though that's still up in the air how the pool will be set up.

    Today, as suggested earlier, was my 22nd consecutive day of exercise, and I am not sure how long I can keep these up without a break. But it's been kind of rewarding to think that I might be slouching ever so slowly back into okay shape.


    Updated May 28th, 2009 at 12:18 AM by jim thornton

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  19. Human, or at least my, limits reached?

    by , May 29th, 2009 at 12:06 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Yesterday, my 23rd consecutive day of punishing physical exercise, almost, but not quite, marked the end of the streak.

    It was a dispiritedly humid day of the late spring, early summer gloom variety, the likes of which seems to promote so much depression and weltshmerz in the psychiatrically frail types like myself. I spent the morning showing our recently vacated rental properties to a prospective tenant, came back to the house in a state of exhaustion that had seeped like the cadence of a Poe poem into the core of me.

    I lay myself upon the couch, turned on the TV in the hopes of finding some cheerful news about healthcare reform ("In a surprise move, Republican obstructionists today pulled pistols from their attache cases and fired bullets en masse into their temples.") Soon I had moved into a very deep sleep of the sort celebrated by Heinrich Heine in Morphine:

    Sleep is good: and Death is better, yet
    Surely never to have been born is best.
    --Aus Der Matratzengruft

    With a name like Heine, he's gotta be good.
    D
    uring the course of this nap, which was indeed restorative--who knows how many obstructionists cheerfully immolated themselves in my happy dreams?--a storm front moved through our area. I was awakened by thunder and hail, realized that the likelihood of my tennis match being canceled two hours hence was exceedingly high, then immediately nodded off for more sleep and more promise of GOP slaughter and blood bathery.

    I awoke again, so deep in sleep inertia I could barely move. I contemplated the rest of my day, for there was much remaining: it was, after all, only 4:20 p.m., a good eight hours before my bedtime. Perhaps, I thought, I could go to the Y and do some weight lifting to keep the exercise streak going.

    Or I could hit the On Demand button on my Comcast remote control and watch 14 consecutive episodes of True Blood.

    Then my tennis opponent called up and told me it hadn't rained at all where he lived, about 5 miles away. So I dragged my carcass down to the surprisingly dry high school courts--puddles at my house deep enough for sustaining koi or at the very least snakeheads--and played, remarkably well, for the next 2.5 hours, keeping the streak robustly alive.



    Did He who made the Newt make thee?


    I don't know why I played well, but it was altogether unexpected.



    Is it possible John and I are actually identical triplets?


    Anyhow, the streak as of now includes:


    1. 3150 yards
    2. 500 & weights
    3. 3200
    4. weights
    5. tennis
    6. 4500
    7. weights
    8. 3800
    9. weights
    10. 5000
    11. weights
    12. tennis
    13. 5300
    14. tennis
    15. 4900
    16. weights
    17. 4500
    18. weights
    19. tennis
    20. 4600
    21. weights
    22. 4100
    23. tennis


    I stayed up late last night, relishing my tennis triumph, slept late this morning, my throat raw with a sore throat that has materialized out of the night. Who knows what has brought this new round of sickness upon me? Perhaps in the sleep world, the self-imolated obstructionists all rose from the dead, their bullet wounds and copious amounts of blood still in place, but now plodding about hither and yon with a zombie-like determination to obstruct all hope for the solvency of the likes of me.

    Could this have caused a sore throat?

    I need to buy some kind of sleep firearms to take with me to the other side the next time I visit the land of nod. I need to protect myself there from the Omega Men that are out to get me.



    Zombie Youth Spawn: the future of Republicanism?


    Practice tonight at the University of Pittsburgh, perhaps with the pool set up for long course. Sickness: you will not keep me from my practice! You are nothing compared to the fiends I face in the other world.

    Nothing!
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  20. Germis (TM) for the Dermis

    by , June 2nd, 2009 at 01:14 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    First, a quick recap of the attempt to exercise every day without a break for a month. The numbers refer to yards in the pool; weight and tennis refer to Nautilus circuits and either doubles or singles or both, for a minimum of 2 hours (though it's usually 3 hours 15 minutes, and on Sunday it was 4 hours).

    Here are where we are so far. If it doesn't rain, and I play tennis today, I will have technically satisfied my self-imposed challenge, having made a continuous month without a break, the month being a non-leap year February's 28 days.

    1. 3150 sickish
    2. 500 weights
    3. 3200
    4. weights
    5. tennis
    6. 4500
    7. weights
    8. 3800
    9. weights
    10. 5000
    11. weights
    12. tennis
    13. 5300
    14. tennis
    15. 4900
    16. weights
    17. 4500
    18. weights
    19. tennis
    20. 4600
    21. weights
    22. 4100
    23. tennis
    24. 3850
    25. weights
    26. 525 tennis
    27. 4400
    28. tennis if it doesn't rain?

    I began this quest by accident. After Colony Zones, I came home, swam the Monday practice, but by Wednesday was too sick too move. I didn't return to any form of exercise whatsoever until the following Wed., May 6th (note the adjective "sickish" above.)

    Leslie had by then convinced me to try weight lifting, plus tennis season was upon us, and my self-disgust was so high after 9 days of being a lallygagging layabout slugabed that I decided to try to catch up by exercising everyday for a while. After 11 days, I recognized I was on a streak.

    I continued onwards, almost like when I quit drinking: each new day of sobriety (or, in this case, abstinence from slugabedding) only inspiring me to keep it up.

    All went well until last week. On Thursday, my throat was sore, my lungs filled with sputum, and my muscles achy. I'd arranged to play singles at the high school with my friend John Delaney at 4:30. At 3, I fell asleep on the couch. At 3:30, I woke briefly to the sound of thunder, realized tennis would be canceled, told myself I could weight lift instead, fell back asleep.

    John called me at 4:15, waking me again, and asking if we were still on for tennis. I told him it had rained and the courts were drenched. He told me it hadn't rained where he lived, five miles away, and the high school courts were bone dry.

    I met him at the courts and played for 3 hours 15 minutes, and actually played the best I had all year, despite sickness.

    The next day, I felt much, much worse, and was ready to skip practice, but the streak wouldn't permit it.

    I went and swam slow. But Bill got me to race him on the fast push-off 100 (he'd just done a 1:57 on the fast push-off 200). I did a 59; he did a 52.9.

    Then, on the fast push-off 50, he did butterfly, which forced me to try. He did a 27 flat. I did a high 26 for freestyle.

    Saturday, I woke up at noon, feeling awful. I forced myself to go do Nautilus, came home, went back to sleep, spent the rest of the day watching True Blood reruns and the French Open.

    Sunday, I played tennis for four hours, which was very fun, though my shoulder is a bit sore now. Yesterday, I swam our "distance" practice:

    600 warm up
    8 x 100 on 1:20
    6 x 50 kick
    4 x 500 descend
    200 warm down
    4400 total

    I am a wreck today, and it's threatening to rain, but I am absolutely committed to playing tennis or doing Nautilus to keep the streak alive.

    ________________________________



    Could this be my cure?


    Regular readers of this vlog may have noticed that I am sickly.

    Some have suggested hypochondria, the "some" here being pretty much everybody I have ever met since sliding out the abdominal C-section of my beloved mother in 1952.

    Finally, the reason for my regular bouts of illness have become clear. I refer your attention to a recent AP story, some of which I shall excerpt here for your edification:

    Scientists find bacterial zoo thrives in our skin

    May 28, 4:25 PM (ET)

    By LAURAN NEERGAARD

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Eeeww. There's a zoo full of critters living on your skin - a bacterial zoo, that is. Consider your underarm a rain forest. Healthy skin is home to a much wider variety of bacteria than scientists ever knew, says the first big census of our co-inhabitants. And that's not a bad thing, said genetics specialist Julia Segre of the National Institutes of Health, who led the research.

    Sure they make your sneakers stinky, "but they also keep your skin moist and make sure if you get a wound that (dangerous) bacteria don't enter your bloodstream," she said. "We take a lot for granted in terms of how much they contribute to our health."

    The skin research, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, is part of that project. Scientists decoded the genes of 112,000 bacteria in samples taken from a mere 20 spots on the skin of 10 people. Those numbers translated into roughly 1,000 strains, or species, of bacteria, Segre said, hundreds more than ever have been found on skin largely because the project used newer genetic techniques to locate them.

    Topography matters, a lot, the researchers reported. If a moist, hairy underarm is like a rain forest, the dry inside of the forearm is a desert. They harbor distinctly different bacteria suited to those distinctly different environments. In fact, the bacteria under two unrelated people's underarms are more similar than the bacteria that lives on one person's underarm and forearm.

    Mom's advice to wash behind your ears notwithstanding, that spot contained the least diverse bacteria - 19 species on average. The most diverse spot: the forearm, which averaged 44 species....

    ... Segre hopes knowing there are so many bacteria alters how people think about the relationship.

    "I'm a mother of two small children; I believe very strongly in sanitation, washing your hands," Segre said. But, "we have to understand that we live in harmony with bacteria and they are part of us as super-organisms ... and not just conceive of bacteria as bad and germs and smelly."

    ____________________________________

    You may suspect I am joking here, but I am not: swimming, I am convinced, is what is making me sick. (It's also making me healthy, and I don't plan to stop, but the sick-inducement part of it needs some sort of remedy. More on this in a moment.)

    Actually, it isn't swimming per se that makes me sick, but regular immersion in the chlorinated water. The delicate ecosystem of my germ-riddled skin is being thrown out of whack by the germ-killing powers of chlorine, allowing evil flora and fauna to attack me once the protective flora and fauna have been felled.

    For years, I have not "needed" to use soap or deodorant provided I swim every other day. To me, it seems impossible to believe that any dirt can survive on a body that thrashes about in water for 1.5 hours at a time. At this point, soap only dries out the skin and makes me itch. Good riddance.

    (Note: I have also avoided brushing my teeth for decades, fearing I might tamper with the delicate ecology of my mouth, but that's a different story and the topic of a future vlog.)

    But it looks like a complete lack of hygiene is not enough to keep me healthy. I need some way to re-infect myself with skin germs post-practice.

    You know those new types of yogurts that supposedly add "probiotics" to your digestive tract? Probiotics is a code word for health germs.

    I need a skin moisturizer containing all sorts of probiotics--a witch's brew of thriving bacteria evolved to live on my skin and protect me after practice. Perhaps I could trademark such a product myself:

    Germis (TM) --for whenever you are too clean for your own good: Germis for the Dermis!

    Alas, I will need seed money to pioneer Germis for the Dermis, which I imagine at this point will be a dirt-covered slathering salve filled with all manner of healthful E. coli and other strains we need to feel our best and smell our worst!

    Until then, I must come up with another solution.

    Along these lines, are there any filthy women out there that would be willing to give me a full body rub down apres workout to restore to my skin the pestilence I need to stay healthy?

    It's 1 o'clock--only three and a half hours to tennis...

    If there's one good thing about land sports in the summer, they do keep your skin nice and germ-riddled, provided, that is, you can resist the urge to shower afterward.

    Alas, if you can't resist such an urge, I urge you to slather yourself dun-colored with Germis for the Dermis (when it becomes available)--and until then, find a filthy member of the sex you are oriented towards and try to coax a germ exchange pronto.
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