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Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton

Leslie's Core: In Praise Of

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After the Greensboro meet, during which I managed to beat everyone in attendance in the 200 freestyle who was also at least 59 years old, I decided that it was time for me to take the next step.

That next step is to become more like Leslie.

I think I can say with 100 percent accuracy that our little Leslie, AKA, Leslie "The Fortress" Livingston, is not only a World Class Masters Swimmer but also the Patron Saint of Masters Swimmers Everywhere as well as Mither Nonpareil to a Quartet of Unbelievably Talented Athletic Youngsters: Zach, Ali, Gillian, and her favorite of all, Jimmy, the man child.

One of the keys to Leslie's swimming success, I believe, was her decision to embrace and excel at something most of us post-40 Masters never learned during our swimming youths: the SDK.

I was trying to recall the exact circumstances that caused Leslie to pursue excellence in this new "second fastest of all strokes"--and to put it into the pitiless vanquishment of her 50 and over female (and, honestly, male) competitors. (I can't begin to tell you how many chauvinistic men of a certain age were muttering in the Greensboro locker room that the 50 fly and 50 back have been forever ruined for them by Leslie's untouchable World Records! Besides me, there must have been at least one more embittered old jerk doing this.)

Leslie has told me more than once the inspirational story of how she came to devote herself to SDKs and the core strengthening this requires.

Alas, my memory is not what it used to be, and what it used to be wasn't all that great.

For the life of me, I just couldn't remember what this story was. So this morning I Googled "why Leslie decided in middle age to become the best 5' 3" to 5' 4" female SDKer in the world" (or words to that effect) and the following image popped up on my screen, bringing the whole episode back with such detail it was as if it had all just happened yesterday!



For those of you who may not know, Leslie was a stand-out distance swimmer at Dartmouth University, where she specialized in the 400 IM and 200 Butterfly.

She attended Dartmouth on a full scholarship because her great great great great great grandfather on her mother's side was a cousin to Jim Thorpe's great great great great uncle by marriage. As most of you know, Dartmouth was originally founded for Native Americans, who to this day are given preferential treatment in admissions process.

Not that this in any way made up for the savage racial taunts Leslie experienced from her Pale Face classmates. Indeed, for much of her freshman year, Leslie's only friend was her roommate and fellow part-Ojibway, Elizabeth Warren.



How mercilessly were Les and Liz teased for their high Indian cheekbones and somewhat shrill war cries! In one particularly cruel episode, Harvard boy, Mitford Romney (known to the Sioux and Ojibways at Dartmouth as Two Faced White Weasel Born of Multiple Mothers) lead a gang of privileged white country clubbers to the girls' dorm. As the frat boys held the comely squaws down, Two Faced White Weasel Born of Multiple Mothers pulled out an authentic tomahawk purchased for the occasion at a New Hampshire Stuckey's, held it high above his head, and yelled, "Now I'm a'gonna cut your Sacagawea's off!"

The next thing Leslie remembers was waking up at age 46, with four kids (the oldest of which she hadn't yet met), a bit of mid-life dysthymia, and a desire to get back into swimming shape. She started swimming at a pool near her house in suburban Washington, DC, where she had been practicing law, wifing, and living a completely unmemorable life for decades.

The coach suggested she might want to learn SDKs, and Leslie thought it was a good suggestion.

So she practiced, did exercises to strengthen her core muscles, and over the next four or five years became incredibly good at SDKs!

It's an amazing story, and I am sure that many of you will find it as inspiring as I have.

All of which is leading up to a set I accidentally stumbled upon while swimming a solo practice at the Sewickley YMCA pool last Thursday:

Easy 1000 warm up

Continuous 50s kick for as long as it takes, performed with a kick board but without fins in the following order--

First 50, all flutter kick.

Second 50, 1 dolphin kick off each wall, followed by the rest of each length flutter kick.

Third 50, 2 dolphin kicks per wall, followed by flutter.

Fourth 50, 3 dolphin kicks per wall and so forth....adding a single dolphin kick per length..

Until you kick the whole length only doing dolphin kicks.

In my case, I finally made it with 30 dolphin kicks per length, which brought this kick set to 1500 yards.

I finished up with some actual submerged dolphin kicks, swimming 25 yards length underwater (took me 28 kicks to do this.)

Then the normal cool down procedures.

I was pretty sure my back would be killing me the next day, but it didn't. DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, kicked in two days later, but not in my back but rather my abs, which became very sore indeed. When I mentioned this to Bill, he said that the pain indicated I was probably doing the SDKs correctly.

Clearly, I'm far from ready to Venus de Milo my own abdominal regions the way Google has opted to do for World Record holder, Leslie. Nor am I prepared to put on a war bonnet and declare, via blood curdling whoops, my intention to raid the 60-64 Age Group.

My own great great grandparents were not related to a famous red Indian like Jim Thorpe but rather, I am fairly certain, derived from anonymous pastey-faced European mongrels, themselves beget during one of those frequent collective-horde "love fests" that is a chief reason evolutionary biology has driven human sperm counts to such Zarathustrian numbers!

Still, I do plan to continue my SDK practicing whenever I find myself solo in a lap lane! Unlike Leslie, I have never had much of a Sacagewea to count on. But as her own experience has so nicely shown us, it's never too late to grow one.

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  1. jim thornton's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sojerz
    Depends on conditions:

    1. With fins or without??
    2. If I bring my lunch, about 125 tiny little SDKs so as not get my PBJ wet while it's sitting on the board.
    3. On top of the water with a fins and board (sans lunch) about 2 or 3 very big-ass kicks, some glide and I'm at the wall.
    4. Undewater sans board, lots of very fast kicks with fins to get to the wall before the air runs out.
    5. Will count them and let you know.

    It's a good question - I'm guessing the range is pretty big, depending on how one is dolphin kicking, bigger kicks as when swimming fly or smaller faster ones when kicking with a board.
    I think for the sake of a poll, I will make it without fins and with a kickboard, in a 25 yard pool, and total kicks for a 50.
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