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  1. PANE and MLE, Others to form alliance; Thorpe as spokesman?

    by , July 19th, 2010 at 04:24 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    They [noodlers] do seem to have a bitter hatred for actual swimmers.... perhaps that's grown out of the fact that some of them just can't do anything more athletic than that? (Not to say its not athletic, but I would venture to guess swimming is harder)

    --Post by
    [ame=""][B]bzaks1424[/"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    That's for sure, especially in my case! Those noodlers made my life a living hell! And, I truly believe that a big part of it was exactly what you stated. I think they resent the fact that I'm younger, more athletic,
    can actually swim,and, worse yet, can swim butterfly. I really think I was the victim of their insecurities, jealousy, and resentment. Even still, swimming DOES make me happier! There is no way I'm letting the noodlers get me down!

    --Post by
    [ame=""][B]ElaineK[/"]U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]

    on Does Swimming Make You Happier thread:
    [ame=""]Does swimming make you happier? - U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums[/ame]


    I think my fellow posters and closet sufferers of noodle prejudice or noodlism need to reserve judgment.

    I will stipulate that PANE, or the Professional Association of Noodle Exercisers, is
    not taken all that seriously in the sporting world, and indeed its bid to become an exhibition sport at the London Games remains a long shot at best.

    However, the sport's reputation may be changing.

    I have it from highly reliable sources that Heather Turnipseed, executive director for PANE and wife of Michael Turnipseed, PANE's CEO-for-Life, are now involved in serious negotiations with MLE (Major League Eating), IFCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating), and AICE (
    Association of Independent Competitive EatersHome of Picnic Style Rules) to form a strategic alliance/new sports league featuring a fusion of the two fastest growing fitness activities in the US today: noodle aquacize and high-speed hot dog ingestion.

    Executing a flawless backstroke up-the-lazy-river lollagag. It looks easy, but I can assure you it's anything but!

    You try wolfing down dozens of dogs while a hostile crowd yells, Choke! Choke!

    Your humble narrator, it should be pointed out, probably deserves at least a little credit for this new sports league if, indeed, it does get off the ground, promising to give legions of obese aging American's a new venue for athletic competition.

    The rough sketch by Jim Thornton which is on the cusp of launching a whole new Wide World of Sporting Ecstasy and Agony.

    Insiders tell me that PANE and the Hormel Corporation have jointly developed a gigantic, swim noodle/hotdog for use in a new highly telegenic biathlon.

    The giant hot dog, or Frankenfurter, has aspects of both the conventional dog and the recreational noodle. It is made of Styrofoam and pig snouts ground into a fine slurry, then congealed with sawdust collected from the abattoir flooring in a process dating back at least as far as Upton Sinclair's
    The Jungle.

    It's been a while since I read this book, but I am pretty sure this cover art depicts some kind of Slavic fellow wrestling a cow that he thinks is trying to cheat him.

    Competitors in the new duathlon will first execute a series of complex noodle aerobics maneuvers in the pool before quickly moving--either by ladder or hydraulic hoist--to dining tables set up on the pool's perimeter. The first to polish off his or her noodle will be declared the winner, provided, of course, that drug testing reveals no PEDs such as abnormal ghrelin levels and/or leptin suppressants.

    Besides large purses for victory courtesy of Avandia, Alli, and Olive Garden, the new league is likely to attract huge attention if superstar Ian Thorpe decides, as expected, to go pro next year.

    The Thorpedo in swimming shape then, and Noodle Eating shape now.

    Clearly, the biggest worry that league supporters now have is that Competitive Noodling will become so popular with world-class lallygagging face stuffers that the average person who now participates just for fun might become too intimidated to continue.

    To remedy this, United States Masters Swimming is considering adding a Noodle Eating division and using some of its more popular spokespersons to give clinics around the country.

    Nothing, of course, is certain in this unpredictable world of ours. But stay tuned. The following duo could soon be coming to a Noodle Swmorgasbord near you!

  2. Self Portrait as Flayed Man

    by , June 28th, 2010 at 05:57 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)

    For those you of a religious bent who are interested in exploring more deeply the long entrenched history of anti-body hair sentiment by God himself, I highly recommend you check out my gentile twin brother's attempted midrash, or n., pl., Midrashim (mĭd-r'shĭm, mĭd'r-shēm'), on the subject.

    A midrash is, of course, any of a group of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures compiled between A.D. 400 and 1200 and based on exegesis, parable, and haggadic legend.

    In John's midrash (pictorial excerpt to whet your appetite for more,), he ironically used the two of us as stand-ins for Esau and Jacob. I am not sure why, but he made me Esau even though 1) John is actually the firstborn, not Jim, and 2) my relatively much more common immersions into vats of chlorine have actually left me significatnly less hairy (and thus presumably more favored by God) than John, though I must say, if I were God, I would favor him, too, regardless of our relative states of hairiness.

    To find the complete midrash, with its surprising insights into antiquated Biblical nonsense still taken very seriously by those who have never actually read this part of the Bible, please check out this link:
  3. On Philosophy and Amateur Brain Experimentation

    by , June 16th, 2010 at 01:27 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The other day, my fellow depressive Bill and I were discussing the convolutions of my most recent sickness unto death. Perhaps discussion is the wrong word. For this portion of the conversation, I was Ille and Bill was Hic (or is it vice versa? I was the talker; he the listener.)

    Let us call this latest condition of mine X. Bill said nothing as I enumerated all the variables I could possibly think of that might be causing, or at least exacerbating, X. Let us call these variables M, F, L, R, C, and 997-aFL (s4) subtype Pi.

    {Note: at this point, bird-of-a-feather neurotics who have a faint sense of deja vu might want to re-read my October 20th, 2009 vlog entry, "Anatomy of a Nutty":}

    During the current "discussion," Ille and Hic were sitting in the clouds at Woodland Swimming pool, a horsefly occasionally buzzing around preparing to deliver one of its disproportionately nasty bites.

    Oh, where have you gone, bags of Horse Urine we once draped around our pool to trap these fiends?

    In any event, against this background of humidity and the threat of a painful blood-sucking bite that could take place at any moment, Bill appeared to stay awake throughout my self-diagnostic analysis. When I moved on next to the treatment possibility ruminations phase, he just as patiently as before listened to the spectrum of potential remedies I had managed to conceive for myself, most of which will involve either a doctor's prescription pad, or a willful ignoring of the prescribed courses I have already been consigned to follow.

    When I had finally exhausted myself of all "man of action" self-delusion, all "rage rage against the dying of the light" impotent questing for a cure, Bill smiled in the bemused fashion of those who have traveled similar low roads and long ago made peace with the incorruption and ineradicability of their own weltshmerz!

    I sighed, all talk having leaked out of me, and Bill became Ille and I Hic, which is where we should have been, of course, all the while.

    He said, "Don't look left, don't look right. Just look straight ahead and move forward through the horror that is life for people like us. All else is distraction and a waste of time."

    At this precise moment, as it was dawning on me that I had never in my life met quite such a philosopher, the horsefly landed on Bill's lovely wife Colleen's head and its mandibles cracked open. Bill smacked the brutal bastard hard enough to stun them both.

    I found the fly on the concrete unkinking its little legs and stretching its gossamer wings, gathering its forces, as it were, to attack once more. Before it could do so, however, I was able to lift a plastic Adirondack pool chair and position its front left leg over the insect's body, and crush it to perdition.

    The fate of us all, eventually!

    Unblinkingly and without naps, cocking my head neither left nor right, allowing my orbs no swivel room either in any direction other than straight ahead, I resolved to take his advice as best I could.

    The gift of hopelessness for the neurotically hopeful is, alas, something we in the latter camp cannot enjoy continually. Instead, we take it out now and then and say to ourselves, "Ah what a fine, fine present this is! I should play with it more often."

    But then our essentially flawed natures overcome us once again, if not quite so deeply as before. And we begin to experiment with things from left and right fields, respectively--though not with as much soul-shattering confidence as once we were able to muster.

    And so it has been over the past several days that I have concocted strategies to test out variables M, F, L, R, C, and 997-aFL (s4) subtype Pi.

    The first of such tests is the slashing of a certain daily dosing of a certain nightly palliative, one famous for not brooking rejection gracefully.

    Yesterday, having turned my back on Substance P, I could hear the sound of electric bug zappers inside my brain everytime I moved my eyes too quickly. This bzzzzzz, perhaps ironically, was most pronounced when looking suddenly to the left or right--exactly as Ille had forewarned!

    Another odd quirk: an embarrassing load of sentimentality that proved very close to uncontrollable. Imagine that feeling non-sociopaths get at the end of tear-jerker movies like Home Alone or The Death of Little Nell or Ron Burgundy: Anchorman, where the eyes flood with tears even though you know you are being manipulated, and you pray the theater lights remain dark long enough to compose yourself so that your wife or girl friend or golden-hearted escort service referral does not think you are a pussy!

    It was thus for me with everything I encountered yesterday: weepiness triggered by junk mail, a perfectly ripe avacado, intimations of mortality, the death of horseflies.

    Today, the electric brain is quieter now, the ducts desiccated.

    Tampering with variable 997-aFL (s4) subtype Pi, alas, has done little to improve the sickness unto death; just as Bill predicted!

    I shall take his gift out of storage again, and look at it a little longer this time, before allowing myself to succumb to another sideways search for hope.

    Tinkering with variables M, F, L, R, and C, I'm sure, will prove no more helpful than experiments with 997-aFL (s4) subtype Pi. I doubt I will spend much time concerned with them, and I wish I could spend no time on them at all.

    But I can't. It's not my nature. For some, the beauty of hopelessness can take years to reveal itself.
  4. Gu, Finger: My Two Gifts

    by , June 11th, 2010 at 05:16 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The grasshopper blogging advice proffered in my previous entry got me to thinking about the nature of selfish altruism.

    For most of my life as a sentient being, i.e., starting around 7 or 8 when I began to speak in normal English instead of the idioglossia or "twin speech" that me and my brother John ("udder Man") Thornton used to use to communicate, anyhow, ever since then, I have understood the wisdom of the following chestnut:

    It is better to give than to receive.

    Of course, it also immediately struck the 7-year-old man-child philosopher within me that if this was, in fact, true, then the ultimate gift one might bestow upon another human being was to agree to serve as the receiver. This, by definition, allows the other to be the giver, or better person.


    If it is better to give than to receive, than it is even better still to receive than to give.

    Armed with this more sophisticated understanding of morality, an understanding that I concede many adult moral philosophers have trouble grasping, I began then, and have continued ever since, practicing selfish altruism, my motto being "take, take, take, and take some more!"

    Who knows how many people over the decades I have allowed to spiritually enrich themselves at my expense? Who knows how much largess I have accepted so that others might appear greater than me in the eyes of God?

    Which brings us back to Water Rat's recent hope that I might provide him with blogging advice. As those who read Grasshopper Vlogging Advice will surely remember, I dispensed no shortage of helpful counsel with no expectation of remuneration of any kind!

    Indeed, in the Zero Sum Game of USMS blogs, where there are only so many readers to go around, and any new blog that attracts readership to itself will surely siphon away hits from the old established staples--almost like rival religious sects trying to attract tithers--my very advice, it could be argued, would be helping Water Rat at my own expense!

    This was, in other words, a clear example of me practicing the simple-minded form of altruism--the giving not receiving kind as opposed to more complex (and morally superior) receiving so the other can be giving kind.

    Simple-minded to the point of being jejune though such generosity proved to be, it also--and I am almost embarrassed to admit this--felt good!

    In an attempt to recreate this good feeling, I would like in today's vlog to give back directly to the Greater USMS Swimming Community.

    Gift No. 1

    The first gift is endorsement
    of a product that has been a godsend to me personally. If you suffer, or know anybody who might suffer, from exercise-induced hypoglycemia, try GU five minutes before practice.

    It almost always prevents those horrific symptoms that can result from exercising with insufficient blood sugar: shakiness and trembling, weird blinking lights in the visual field reminiscent of a migraineur's aura, and feelings of ravenous starvation that come on in a twinkling.

    I originally popped a packet of GU gel before practice:

    The orange and mixed berry flavors proved the easiest for me to stomach.

    My Sewickley teammate Ben Mayhew later told me that GU had come out with a new product that was easier to take:

    These are surprisingly edible, I must say. If you have kids, and they occasionally eat fruit snacks, the GU Chomp is very close in flavor.

    Anyhow, if you do occasionally have this problem of exercise-induced hypoglycemia, get some GU of either sort and keep it with you at the pool. No need to thank me. It is, after all, better to give than receive.

    Gift No. 2

    Admittedly, the number of the exercise-induced hypoglycemic masters swimmers out there is probably not overwhelming, and of this number, those who don't already know about GU are no doubt fewer still. Thus Gift No. 1 might not affect a huge population (although the population that is affected will be affected quite positively, I believe.)

    I would like to give something else that all USMS swimmers, fitness swimmers, and swimming blog readers across the globe might benefit from.

    What could this gift be, though? What would benefit such a wide array of swimmer types, genders, and gift-receiving-preference subtypes?

    At first, I thought it might be impossible to find something that everyone would like.

    But then yesterday, at breakfast, I was reading an article about Galileo.

    Galileo while evidently still in possession of all his fingers

    The article was actually less about Galileo in his entirety than it was about Galileo and one of his fingers.

    Some background:

    Fans of the least famous of mortal sins, simony, or the sales of religious relics including the mummified body parts of Saints, will recalls that Luther was so at odds with this practice that it drove him to establish Lutheranism.

    I actually had occasion to see St. Andrew's finger in a small church in Italy when I was 11.

    Later that same summer, I saw another St. Andrew's finger in yet another small Italian church.

    By the end of the summer, I had seen so many fingers that I became convinced St. Andrew suffered from polydactyism.

    I assure you, I am no polydactyle myself! Just an ordinary man with 10 ordinary manual and 1 subordinary urological digits!

    But enough meandering and shilly shallying discourse here. The main point that I am trying to circle around to is that the newspaper article on Galileo said that his finger is now in the possession of somebody or some institution or some country or something--I did not read the whole article.

    I stopped as soon as I realized that giving your finger to posterity is something that I actually could do, myself.

    Could do, and, in point of fact, should do.

    Galileo's actual finger in display case.

    I wish I could say that the recent economic downturn has not affected my fortunes too greatly, that a half century of practicing the complex form of altruism had allowed me to save up enough to afford such a dazzling display case, with its golden accouterments and whatnot!

    Alas, I have fallen upon hard times financially and otherwise.

    I am not sure how much longer I have, but I would formally like to announce in today's vlog my intention to give USMS my finger upon my passing.

    If someone would like to organize a fund raiser to purchase a suitable display case where my gift could be housed, possibly in the new USMS offices in Saratoga, possibly in the museum portion of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale (maybe they could have my finger next to Duke Kahanamoku's surfboard?), I would happily provide no shortage of finger pictures to use in the campaign.

    Note the body suit on the Olympic great, Duke, AKA the Big Kahuna.

    On an entirely unrelated note, if for any reason USMS cannot accept my gift, I would happily give my finger instead to FINA.
  5. Grasshopper Blogging Advice

    by , June 8th, 2010 at 01:25 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Recently, a rookie USMS blogger turned to me with a look of admiration and perplexity on his young, 42-year-old face and asked me two earnest questions. I cant remember the exact wording he used, but it was pretty close to this:

    1. Jim, you are such an amazing, preternaturally gifted vlogger, I feel sheepish to approach you directly with my Lilliputians inquiries. But I cant help myself, so great is my need for answers. First of all, why cant you write more vlogstwo-a-days, perhaps, but at the very minimum, something every day, if even just a haiku or villanelle? Honestly, I dont mean to be so demanding here, so needy. But you havent posted a new vlog since May. Speaking for many, many, many of us in the greater USMS community, life without our daily dollop of Jimtastic Jimdiosyncractic life wisdom comes very close to being, well, unlivable. When oh when will you vlog once more?

    2. Secondly, as an aspiring blogger myself, who hopes to attract the occasional view and comment, whose own efforts here started out promisingly with 100 views for the inaugural posting, but which has been backsliding slowly but surely ever since (precisely the opposite, I must add, of your own vlogging course, which has continued to gain momentum over the years like Genghis Khans small rag tag hordes eventually coalescing into the worlds largest army ever!), I am hoping you might offer me some insights and advice into what makes a popular blog?

    Oh, grasshopper!

    Please, feel free to always come to me with your earnest entreaties and queries!

    Like the Robber Barons of yore, most of lifes astonishing success stories like me reach a point in our trajectories towards the heavens when it is no longer just about ME, ME, ME, ME, and a little more ME! Eventually, the likes of me feel compelled to give back something, to prepare the next generation to take our place when the palatial sarcophagus is erected and its precious cargo ready to sleep forever without a CPAP mask!

    I am slouching ever so quickly in the direction of said sarcophagus and bed of everlasting granite! Nothing exceptional about me in this regard! I shall put on my death shroud pajama bottoms one leg at time, I assure you!

    And so it is that while I still have apneic breath left in the ragged lungs, I shall answer your questions, thus, one by one.

    1. Though this particular vlog here breaks the recent drought of entries, there is a reason for the drought. As perspicacious readers will note, we last left the groggy Jim and his Zarathustrianly high Epworth Score poised on the brink of obstructive sleep apnea treatment. Like many of my infirmities, I have managed to coax my real-world editor into letting me write about this topic for eventual magazine publication. He has, however, asked me to refrain from blogging about the topic until said article is done and published. I am doing my best to honor his request. Alas, as a somewhat obsessive fellow by nature, my ongoing travails in the world of sleep-wake disturbances are all I can think about lately. Until your recently merciful inquiries, dear grasshopper, gave me new fodder to ruminate over and write about, I couldnt think of anything to opine about, so fixated were my thoughts on nocturnal oxygen deprivation, hypoxic brain damage, non-restorative multiple anterograde amnestic arousals, and so forth.

    2. Its hard to say what attracts views. Most people get very few. Leslie the Fortress Livingston, on the other hand, gets zillions. Some of my own entries, too, have attracted attention, though not all with the 7,500 plus hits of such classics at Lost Person Behaviour and Will Swim for Polish Vodka. Its kind of a hit or miss thing.

    I think Leslie does well partly because she is a pulchritudinous chick that men want to be and women want to be with, or whatever that old chestnut is. In any event, I believe there are tons of women swimmers out there who read Leslies excellent blog to learn about her sometimes eccentric training techniques and remedies for orthopedic and gastrointestinal havoc. That these techniques and remedies are seldom burdened by actual science is no doubt a plus. We live in age where the anecdotal trumps the statistical and evidentiary, and Leslie gives us the former in an entirely unadulterated manner. She also has her coterie of male followers like Qbrain and SwimStud. If you examine a typical Leslie blog, its usually filled with specific advice on dryland exercises, underwater monofinic shooter regimens, gluten-free recipes, Family Circus-like balancing act info, passionate tech suit advocacy, taper strategies, and so on. Always, these are delivered in a friendly manner with a hint of feistinesslike Doritos with lime. She gets a ton of hits and an amazing number of comments with virtually every stroke of her iMac keyboard.

    But does such interesting and actionable advice account entirely for the dear girls popularity as the Queen of Blog? Personally, I think her true appeal transcends mere swimming. Say the phrase social networking, and Leslie defines both the social and the networking phases here. Leslie is constantly leaving comments for other bloggers and tending to her manifold online friendships with the expertise of a bonsai gardener. The reality is that Leslie is such a nice person, I think shes become like the USMS de facto mom with whom and through whom everyone in the extended family diaspora communicates--the nexus point, if you will, of the masters swimming world at large.

    But what about me?

    My vlog, which I am no longer writing (no doubt to its detriment) quite so often under the influence of Ambien, takes another approach. Its connection to swimming is often tangential at best, though I do try to work in something here and there about swimming on occasion.

    Case-in-point: during last nights T-30 swim, I managed 2360 yards compared to your own 2200, right? Though who, really, is counting here. If we have learned one thing in the modern era, its that awards are given for participation, not victory! Enough about swimming.

    I think the most popular of my vlog entries have been popular because I writein perhaps an overly unashamed and unfiltered waywith precisely whatever weaselly human emotions I happen to be feeling at a particular time.

    For instance, if I had had your subject matter todayfirst time swimming long course in 20 years, and doing so at a ridiculously early hour and with a new group of diehard swimmers Ive never met before--I might have thrown in some references to the tolls taken by circadian rhythm shifts (with referenced scientific studies to bolster the claim), explain how this no doubt impacted my swimming performance accordingly, but despite this, I still managed to climb from 4th in my lane at Pitts morning practice to 1st place, my progress measured not so much by the joy I felt in my own heart, but the chagrin and downright misery so evident on the maws of the deposed alpha males whose spirits I had crushed.

    Who knows, I might have even quoted Conan the Barbarian yet again in my vlog (I think I have referenced this quote every couple weeks since I began the vlog):

    To wit, when asked, What is the meaning of life?

    Conan the Barbarian answered:

    To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
    In any event, to sum up how to get more readers for your blog:

    1. Be nice like Leslie
    2. Be weaselly like me

    Oh, and post more pictures.


    Conan the Steroidian--Is his suit FINA legal? Can we wear knives?

  6. Thank Heaven for Little Girls

    by , May 25th, 2010 at 09:50 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    This just in! This just in! This just in!

    A new link to the Ciara Movie, Thank Heavens for Little Ciara's, may actually allow my vlog audience to see this rejuvenating mood-boosting video despite the copyright issues of the owners of the song I used.

    Try clicking this (and let me know if it works for you even if you aren't a facebook member.) Suggestion provided by one Mr. Bill Sherman of Kansas City, Missouri!

    Hats off, Mr. Sherman! Now please all of you try clicking here!!/video/vid...v=397876503758

    (Note: if you aren't in the mood for a long romp through my ruminations on moppet daughters, please feel free to skip down to the bottom and look for the words: Click Ciara Movie Link Directly Below!

    If you are in a horrible mood, or even a borderline bad mood, or maybe even an okay mood, or perhaps in a good mood, or even one so ecstatic you can't
    believe it could get any better, regardless of how you are feeling right now, I do guarantee you that watching my movie on Ciara will put you into a better place than you are now.

    Of course, I would be happy if you choose to read my ruminations on moppet daughters, too. Nothing wrong with that!)

    My teammates Bill and Mark are both very lucky guys.

    They are indefatigable swimmers who never whine and, to my knowledge, have never been compared to "that teacher on South Park" the way I have.

    Is this really what I look like? or is it more just a personality type I share with Mr. Garrison?

    But Bill and Mark share something besides swimming god status, and this something is what makes them both beyond just lucky but blessed.

    I refer to their respective adorable little daughters.

    In Bill's case, the daughter is Ciara, who always cheers for her Papa at swimming meets;

    and in Mark's case, the daughters are Caroline (a second grader), Georgia (a Kindergartner), and Lila (not yet in school but Harvard class of 2028).

    When I was enduring a particularly rough patch of psychiatric woe a few years back,
    Ciara was arguably the best antidepressant I could find. I would simply lift her up and apply her like an analgesic tablet to my forehead, and the pain would disappear for a while.

    Remember that product that used to be advertised for headache relief?

    [nomedia=""]YouTube- HEADON! Apply directly to the forehead![/nomedia]

    Watching the commercial for Head On actually caused headaches so intractable that all the homeopathic placebo evocation in the world could not remedy them!

    Ciara application, on the other hand, always worked!

    Ciara drew her father a picture, wandered downstairs and found him, then wordlessly pointed out how she wanted him to play with her.

    Here is her picture, which immediately became one of my favorite artworks of all time!!!! (The movie, Thank Heavens for Little
    Ciara's, which I shall post below, is my attempt to film a recreation of this art work's creation and first unveiling.)

    Bill playing with his daughter
    Ciara in the way that Ciara has instructed him to do.

    After seeing this picture, I thought Bill--alone among guys in the world--had the luckiest situation imaginable. He was the father of the artist/human analgesic tablet,
    Ciara, in whose adorable orbit he could forever bask and benefit! Who else could boast coming close to such a beatific life?

    It turns out that Mark actually has a similarly daughter-rich wonderland, too.

    Yesterday, Mark did not appear at our 7 x 500 swimming practice, presumably because he had just gotten back from Atlanta and was tired. Bill, who wrote the workout, didn't make it either. In fact, I am pretty sure I am the only person who actually swam all 7 of these 500s. But that's off topic.

    Anyhow, I went over to Mark's house after practice to congratulate him on his times and console him about his initial sense of failure in the 100 breaststroke.

    (You can read a great account of Mark's psychic metamorphosis from Ferklempt Meshugina to Mensch in Mark's own inaugural blog,
    You Never Forget Your First Time, here:

    The following pictures are what I found adorning Mark's front door. More unbelievably good artwork done by little daughters who love their daddy!

    What swimmer in all God's firmament would not want to come home from Nationals and be greeted by this?

    Note a few details here--the dolphin (a surrogate for father Mark?) on the starting blocks on the left, followed by the same dolphin with his Gold Medal standing sunlit on the podium once the race is done.

    Note, as well, the meet's "score" of Home O vs.
    Visitors 1,000,000 "because of my dad"; and finally, check out the order of finishers:

    1. Cox (Mark's last name) in the No. 1 spot.
    2. Some guy named "Rider" that none of us, including the artist, Caroline, know (she almost put Bill here, but then decided not to because he would beat her dad),
    3. and finally, in 3rd place, that is to say, last place, "Thornton.")

    Okay, enough. I realize this is in danger of becoming a Megila (n.).

    (A friend e-mailed me today and was bantering about in a bit of Yiddish, so I've been trying to improve my vocabulary here. If you need help with this, I recommend a quick perusal of for some basics.)

    Okay, if you took my option to skip all of the megila so far, and desire only to watch the movie about
    Ciara, here that is.

    I defy anybody to watch this and not emerge happier than they were before the viewing, no matter how disappointing or gladdening a recent swimming meet may have proved!

    Click Ciara Movie Link Directly Below! (i.e., the words right under these!)!/video/vid...v=397876503758

    Updated May 27th, 2010 at 12:35 AM by jim thornton (changing movie link to something I hope will work)

  7. See Pap Sleep!

    by , May 18th, 2010 at 07:26 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The next appointment at the sleep lab wasn't supposed to happen till June 13th, but I asked them to call me if somebody canceled, and somebody did. So I go back tonight at 8 p.m. for round two.

    A brief recap:

    1. Regular readers of this vlog may recall that from time to time I have complained, well, not complained exactly, more like objectively described without emotion my experience with what sleep doctors call EDS, or excessive daytime sleepiness.
    2. One of our many, many capital fellows in the USMS greater community, Dr. Tom Jaeger of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, wrote in to suggest I take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (which can be found here:
    3. On the following scale, I was somewhere between very and dangerously:

    • Score of 1-6: you're getting enough sleep
    • Score of 4-8: you tend to be sleepy during the day; this is the average score
    • Score of 9-15: you are very sleepy and should seek medical advice
    • Score of 16 or greater: you are dangerously sleepy and should seek medical advice

    Car crashes--and presumably Honda Metropolitan scooter crashes, as well--are said to be a risk in the untreated sleep apnea patient, especially when the apnea itself is happening at 85 mph.

    Tom at the time suggested going to a sleep lab to find out what was the likeliest culprit. Statistically speaking, sleep apnea is by far the most common cause in the population in general, and middle aged males in particular. However, some of the conventional red flags -- a thick neck, obesity, and very loud snoring -- were not on the Jim check list of attributes, and I tended to discount the likelihood I was an apnea sufferer.

    What I thought was much more likely were any or all of the following:

    1. a drug side effect, particularly my long use of antidepresants
    2. an occult virus -- a slow virus, in my vernacular -- or possibly a tsetse fly bite through which was vectored into my blood stream the trypanosome responsible for sleeping sickness.
    3. Or idiopathic hypersomnolence, AKA, grogginess for which there is no known physical, emotional, or existential cause.

    Time passed.

    The symptoms waxed.

    The symptoms waned.

    The symptoms returned like a Dunan yo-yo strapped forever to my **** you finger.

    Then a new symptom arose: ISH, or isolated systolic hypertension.

    My internal Dr. Gregory House had a field day with this new information. Could the Effexor XR be the cause of my ISH? What about the Provigil I had begun popping to counter my E.D.S.? Could I simply be overtraining? Might there be some sort of gluten allergy lurking in the background?

    But I am not a high-achieving white woman. Surely gluten allergy could be crossed off the list.

    Hovering in the background over all such speculations is the one disorder I Know for certain I do indeed suffer: hypochondriasis of the non-delusional variety.

    Or do I?

    Might there be an alternative, unified, and actual physical illness kind of explanation for why I suffer:

    • morning headaches and sore throats
    • night sweating
    • persistent daytime grogginess
    • neuralgia and myalgia
    • Provigil deficiency
    • and so forth?

    So I checked into the sleep lab and to my amazement was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

    Tonight, I go back in for a second night in the lab, this time to be fitted with a CPAP mask and a second round of testing to see if this reduces the number of apnea events (i.e., where I stop breathing).

    Do Robots Dream of Android Sheep? Naa! Naa!

    Part of me wonders if all of this is actually yet another elaborate scam from yet another scammeister of the Medical Industrial Complex, anxious not only to test and diagnose apnea at no little expense to the system, but to then ladle on with the need of expensive apparatus, the profits from which will line the pockets of yet more medical industrial golf club members hoping for dues money.

    I Googled "picture of a swindler," and this is what it came up with.

    Please keep your fingers crossed that only the best will come of this; that I will not be played yet again for a fool; that persistent daytime grogginess and its innumerable social and cognitive sequellae shall all but disappear from my life in coming weeks; and that a brand new, ebullient, vital, and sleep-restored oxygen hording Jimbo will very soon be taking over this vlog, and bring a new level of interest unfathomable at the present time!

    I Googled "picture of extreme excitement" and this is what the Internet thinks I might look like after CPAP treatment, though I have some doubts, I must admit. Some little, tiny, niggling doubts.
  8. Hairstyles for Twins and other Taper Distractions

    by , May 16th, 2010 at 02:04 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Many of you are going to Nationals and hence have probably begun to cut your yardage down for the so-called "taper" period.

    Two-a-day workouts consisting of 16,000 meters per session have been reduced by at least 10 percent. I daresay some of the lazier masters swimmers are swimming no more than 12,000 meters total per day now, all in order to let their bodies "rest."

    Alas, when the body rests, the mind is free to run particularly riotous, or at least that is my experience.

    Perhaps some of you are feeling odd sensations in your shoulders and have begun to speculate on S.L.A.P. lesions and rotator cuff fraying. Perhaps digestive irregularities have caused you to wonder if a diet consisting on 10 percent fruits and vegetables, 10 percent whole grains, 10 percent small sticks you have found in the woods, and 70 percent Activia yogurt has been, perhaps, a bit ill-advised?

    Who wants to swim Nationals feeling slightly bloated?

    Hence your mind ruminates over and over again on whether today is the right time to drop the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains entirely, and go to the oft-recommended 100 percent small-sticks-and-Activia diet?

    If you are thinking such thoughts, chances are you are in need of a major distraction.

    Just as a magnificent race horse can only be calmed down by the presence, in his or her barn stall, of a friendly pony, goat, or some other cuddly friend animal, so does your current swimming thoroughbred status--oh, you know who you are, you magnificent specimens, you!--require the assistance of a little fuzzy animal friend or two to calm you down before your own big show in Atlanta.

    My twin brother John and I are more than willing to be those comical little animal friends for you.

    In this spirit, we have made a short film that is IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO LIKE A LOT.

    It is on a subject that is of no little tangential interest to swimmers, as well: hair.

    To be sure, in this, the final swan song of the high tech body suit for men, the issue of hair is perhaps not quite so feverish as it will be next year at this time.

    But it is still of some interest.

    My brother told me this morning, "You are really going to have to like us to like this movie."

    He may be right. But I am betting that even people who hate us, or at the very least do not like us or are somewhat indifferent to us, will nevertheless like this movie regardless of their lack of affection for the hirsute protagonists.

    To reiterate: unlike some of my other efforts lately, this is a short film that is IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO LIKE A LOT.

    Especially if you watch it quite a number of times and let it grow on you.

    I dare you to prove me wrong.

    Good luck at Nationals; good luck with the small sticks and Activia diet; and good luck managing to stifle your affection reflex for the Thornton twins and their glorious manes of hair from toe to shining heads.

    [nomedia=""]YouTube- How to Hairdress Your Identical Twin[/nomedia]
  9. Night Nurse Mollie: Night Strangler, Pt. 2

    by , May 11th, 2010 at 12:14 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    As perspicacious viewers of [nomedia=""]The Night Strangler Part 1. - YouTube[/nomedia] have perhaps managed to glean already, your narrator has been tentatively diagnosed by the sleep lab technician, Ashley, (who parenthetically concedes that she is not allowed to diagnose sleep disorders), that the odds are extremely high I suffer from sleep apnea.

    This is a common condition typically suffered by those with stentorian roar-like snoring, obesity, and over-sized necks.

    I don't do or have any of these things, and in fact, sport a neck that measures 15 inches when I am flexing it, which technically qualifies me for the diagnosis of "pencil-necked geek."

    Still, people like me are known to have apnea despite our lack of the traditional red flags. And it looks like I almost certainly am soon to be getting official word--after a certified sleep doctor has examined my polysomnographic results--that I am, indeed, a PP-NGWAOSA, AKA, "paradoxically pencil-necked geek with advanced obstructive sleep apnea."

    The good news, if this does prove to be the case, is that a lifetime of malaise, neuralgia, fatigue, excessive daytime fatigue, night sweats, high blood pressure, nervous temperament, morning hoarseness, vulnerability to sore throats, pronounced stupor, and hog-whimpering headaches upon awakening with or without the explanation of alcohol--all these symptoms and many, many more may not have been psychosomatic and/or the result of character defects which we all, myself robustly included in this unanimity of opinion, assumed was Jim in a Nutshell explained.

    In fact, rather than being a neurotic whiny little bitch of a boyish old baby, I might in fact be something of a hero, whose relative lack of complaint about his life's circumstances over the years (a minor word here, a sigh there, perhaps a faintly uttered phrase under the breath a la, Jesus, that hurts like a mother ****er!) can only be described in light of what we now know to be the true extent of my life torture as...astonishing bravery of the sort rarely seen in the human animal.

    All this, to be sure, awaits further medical evaluation and sanction, and I do not in any way mean to risk a torn shoulder labrum patting myself brusquely upon my own back even if I so surely deserve such a vigorous patting!

    In any event, for those rare individuals who still do not know what apnea does to the sleeping human hoping for a moment of repose, the truth is not pretty.

    Not pretty at all.

    Since my semi-diagnosis by a knowledgeable though uncertified lab tech, I have had trouble sleeping because of the Nightmare on Elm Street murder scenario I am certain awaits me every time I nod off.

    To protect myself from premature demise, I took the liberty of hiring a night nurse, young candy-striper Mollie, fresh from the nunnery, to keep watch over me as I slept, protecting me from the bogey man that lives inside me.

    Yikes! Asked to remove film. I did so!

    Oh, and there was one scene in the film that was so graphic and disturbing in its nature that the Ratings Board on Vimeo, YouTube, Mayo Clinic Medical Videos, RedTube, and all the other reputable user sites that I submitted it to forced me to remove it.

    As an added bonus, I am including that disturbing Out Take, as well. Click here...if you dare: [nomedia=""]Night Strangler Pt. 2 Out Take Prolonged Overly Graphic Str - YouTube[/nomedia]

    Updated November 29th, 2011 at 05:02 PM by jim thornton

  10. The Night Strangler, Part 1

    by , May 10th, 2010 at 12:16 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Too tired to explain, but I will try to follow up soon with more details.

    In the middle of magical thinking.

    A cure! A cure!

    If nothing else, perchance a blow hole?

    On this note, I bid you all a good night. I wish I could go gently into mine.

    [nomedia=""]YouTube- The Night Strangler Part 1.[/nomedia]
  11. Motivating Water Nymphs

    by , May 2nd, 2010 at 05:43 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Girls these days have it hard.

    They have become the Super Gender, excelling in everything from academics to sports to Godly favoritism.

    If you look at standard TV sitcoms, these Super Girls are often linked with Loser Guys.


    Ed and Heather

    Esmeralda and Quasimodo

    Michele and me

    today's girls are so ridiculously good at just about everything they do, and so absurdly better than our drone gender, it has become increasingly difficult for us (i,e,. the still primarily male mentor/coaching ranks) to find new ways to motivate these super girls in the pool.


    The typical super girl has so many trophies that they have become old hat!

    Old hats?

    Alas, they have a surfeit of these too!

    On our team here in Sewickley, we are blessed with a super girl of the highest rank--a great swimmer who can also taxidermy road-killed raccoons via the so-called "brain method" (whereby the hide is cured in the fatty acid emollients of the critter's brain), turning said sad specimen into one of the most spectacular handbags you have ever seen in all your born days.

    Mistress Mollie is something of a globe hopper, too--wintering in the Islands hither, summering at the beach thither, returning to Sewickley only for short interludes between the shifting of the high social seasons of her different preferred locales.

    How might I manage to motivate such a girlish specimen to even greater heights of accomplishment?

    It seems, at first glance, an absolutely impossible dream!

    But I have found that the key is the right admixture of evoked emotions. These cannot be entirely sweet; these can't be entirely sour; these can't be entirely sensual appeals to appetites unspoken but obvious; nor can they be wholly the instigation of massive disgust and "is that all there is?" desperation.

    No. The psychological appeal must include all these things and more.

    Of course, every super girl is unique, and you must find a distinctive set of motivational tools to push her individualized set of buttons. (There are usually three of these.)

    In this video, I demonstrate how seemingly peculiar set of props--including a veterinary medical display item and a man who uncannily resembles it--conspired to get our team's super girl Mollie to respond way beyond my wildest dreams.

    Please feel free to borrow and adapt the protocol for use in motivating your own team's super girls.

    Oh, and one more thing: You're welcome!

    [nomedia=""]YouTube- Motivating Mollie[/nomedia]
  12. Jim: The Classics Illustrated Version

    by , April 27th, 2010 at 03:36 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Okay, after this, I will take a break from swimming self-aggrandizement and move onto other areas of self-aggrandizement so vlog followers won't get sick of me.

    But I can't help myself.

    I must post footage of what proved to be the greatest meet experience of my life.

    Many many thanks to the munificent Chicken of the Sea, Amanda "HTFU" Hunt, who filmed all these races.

    Swim #1. 1000 yard freestyle (Friday night)

    Fortunately, this does not include the 1000.

    Even I would be hard pressed to watch me plodding back and forth for 11:22.39 Z

    Swim #2. 100 yard freestyle (Saturday morning)

    I was sort of out of it for this swim. I got up on the blocks late after some confusion about what heat I was in and was still semi-putting my goggles on when the starter, perhaps noting my discombobulation, had one of the only quick interludes of the whole meet between the "take your marks" and the "go."

    So, I did not have time to remind myself to keep my eyes open. You will see on the third length that I hit the lap lane. What you can't see is that the turns on the far end of the pool were all wobbly because of this slippy metal rim that the GMU pool has around its perimeter.

    When I finished the race, I looked up at the clock and thought I had done a 53.35, slower than two weeks earlier in our Amish mudhole. I was horribly disappointed and instantly groggy and bedraggled.

    A half hour later, when they posted the results, I saw that I had been looking at the wrong time on the board. I had actually swum a 52.43Z, which turns out to be my fastest ever electronically timed 100 as a masters swimmer. (I went a 52.09 hand-timed at CMU when I was 50.)

    This time beat my old zone's record of 52.90, but it was crushed by the great sprinter, Paul Trevisan in the next heat. Still, I had a new Zones record for about 1 minute!

    Anyhow, great joy for me here-- and a tincture of what might have been had I had time to remind myself to keep my eyes opened:

    Swim #3. 500 Freestyle (Saturday afternoon)

    I swam this race, like the 1000, not in my B70 but rather a FS1 I had purchased in the pre-B70 era but never worn before. My goal was to man up for this race and not coddle myself too much, vis a vis pain avoidance. But I also didn't want to suffer arm lockjaw half way through and require mechanical hoist water evacuation. Thus I attempted, as best I could, to adopt a metronomic death march kind of approach, with a bit of a sprint at the end if there was anything left.

    Note: I am putting these videos in order of how I swam the races, but you might want to save watching this one for last and take the precaution of cushioning the floor around you with throw pillows in case it causes you to nod off.

    My time--5:23.18Z--beat my old Zones record in this event.

    Swim #4. 200 Freestyle (Sunday morning)

    This was the high point of my swimming life--a new zones record (beating my time of 1:56.07 from last year.

    Event 32 Men 55-59 200 Yard Freestyle
    ================================================== ================
    ZONE: Z 1:56.07 4/26/2009 James Thornton, TPIT
    NATL: ! 1:50.85 5/14/2006 JIM MCCONICA
    Name Age Team Seed Finals
    ================================================== ================
    1 Thornton, James 57 TEAM PITTSBURGH 1:58.90 1:54.89Z
    26.55 55.39 (28.84)
    1:25.44 (30.05) 1:54.89 (29.45)

    'Nuff said.

    [nomedia=""]YouTube- Jim's 200 free[/nomedia]

    Immediate aftermath:

    Aftermath continued:

    Swim #5. 50 Freestyle (Sunday afternoon)

    Being as I had absolutely no chance to make the Top 10 in the 50--and doubt I could have made the Top 100 in this pure sprinter's event--I decided to end the meet on a note that might preminisce my FINA-legal future.

    And so it was for the first time since I was 47, and the Speedo Aquablade body suit had not yet been invented, that I actually raced something in a jammer.

    The suit was the new Speedo racing jammer, which had a peculiar feel. People who have raced in so-called paper suits told me its got a similar tactile sensation to this. I have a size 34 gut (if I am being generous to myself), so I wore a size 30 jammer.

    It got on easily, perhaps too easily.

    My initial concern with this suit was that it compresses and miniaturizes the one part of my body that needs not further miniaturization. Moreover, by compacting the flesh here, it only served--like a pasta extruder--to push more fat out where I suspected it might be flubbering and blubbering like a sail that has lost one of its lines in a gale.

    In other words, I did not think I would be swimming with the sleekness of an orca but more with the inelegance of a sumo.

    My best times this year previous to today were a 24.81 and a 24.50, both swum in Amish mudholes with my B70 kneeskin.

    I figured that if I could break 26.0 in the jammers, I would be doing okay.

    To give myself some additional boost, I first took some Jolt, the use of which is illustrated in the following, where I instructed Leslie in the proper application of the gum:

    Next, I did the pre-50 weigh in on the George Mason University cattle scale. Why they have this thing in the natatorium baffles me, but I used it anyhow.

    Finally, I moved to the blocks for the first of what would prove two starts in the 50:

    Then the second start and actual race:

    Followed by the aftermath:

    My time of 24.78 is the best jammer time I have done as a master. I don't know what the discrepancy between this and a B70 time would be. Last year, my 50 in the b70 was a 24.17, so if we compare these, it's a .61 second difference.

    However, I also swam the 100 and 200 slower last year, so it is possible I might have beaten my 24.17 this year had I done it in a B70. I doubt I would have beaten the time by anymore than roughly have the time I beat my 100 by (52.90-52.43=.47/2=.23). So saying I might have done a 24.17-.23 = 23.94 in the B70, that would suggest that switching to jammers cost me .84 seconds per 50.

    Not great, but I suspect learning to keep my eyes open could make up some of this, shaving off chest hair a little more, and losing the gut maybe a wee bit more.

    But such is fodder for future vlogs. This is the time to reap, not to sow!

    Updated April 28th, 2010 at 05:02 PM by jim thornton

  13. 57 years, 7 months, lifetime best!

    by , April 26th, 2010 at 06:31 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    I have spent much of my life as a late bloomer subscribing to a basic philosophy:

    What is mediocre in youth becomes steadily less so provided you can hang onto it.

    In my very mediocre life of swimming, my best high school time in the 200 freestyle was a 1:56.00 via hand timing. The only time I got to swim it in college was even worse--1:57 something.

    When I resumed competing in masters, I have a video from our little Y championships where I did, at age 45 or 46, a 2:08.

    I did not make it into the 1:55's till age 49, when I did a 1:55.11 at Y Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale.

    At 50, my best time was a 1:55.48.

    At 51, a 1:55.42

    At 52, a 1:56.41.

    At 53, a 1:57.07.

    At 54, a 1:57.09.

    At 55, a 1:58.03

    The momentum of the Grim Reaper at this point seemed clear and inexorable.

    But then, with the help and inspiration of my friend and swimming coach nonpareil, Bill White, I began once again to train a bit harder, hoping to redeem myself in the new age group....

    At 56, a 1:56.07...a new Zones record at last year's Colonies Zone meet, and a time I was sure would be the high water mark for me for the rest of my life.

    But then, plagued by mysterious groin lesions and isolated systolic hypertension and excessive daytime sleepiness and massive financial misgivings and the influx of impossibly fast Super Hero swimmers like Jack Groselle and Michael Mann into a once geriatric age group that could actually field a pretty competitve Jr. College swimming team of semi-centenarian-pluses...

    I decided to try to overcome my personal decrepitudes and recapture, perchance even build upon, my 20-something swimming mediocrity...

    And thus it was, on Sunday morning, April 26, at approximately 10:15 a.m., I readied myself for my best event. I was a bit tired out already from the previous two days.

    On Friday, I had already swum my personal age group best in the 1000, in the process setting the new Zones record!

    Event 1 Men 55-59 1000 Yard Freestyle
    ================================================== ================
    ZONE: Z 11:23.72 4/20/1997 Drury Gallagher
    NATL: ! 10:07.36 5/14/2006 JIM MCCONICA
    Name Age Team Seed Finals
    ================================================== ================
    1 Thornton, James 57 TEAM PITTSBURGH 11:44.00 11:22.39Z
    29.39 1:03.28 (33.89)
    1:37.64 (34.36) 2:11.32 (33.68)
    2:46.34 (35.02) 3:21.41 (35.07)
    3:56.55 (35.14) 4:30.46 (33.91)
    5:05.95 (35.49) 5:41.17 (35.22)
    6:15.69 (34.52) 6:49.54 (33.85)
    7:24.64 (35.10) 7:59.90 (35.26)
    8:35.16 (35.26) 9:09.60 (34.44)
    9:44.21 (34.61) 10:18.27 (34.06)
    10:51.76 (33.49) 11:22.39 (30.63)

    On Saturday, I had set my personal age group bests in the 100 and 500 as well:

    Event 6 Men 55-59 100 Yard Freestyle
    ================================================== ================
    ZONE: Z 52.86 4/25/2009 James Thornton, TPIT
    NATL: ! 48.37 4/30/2000 RICHARD ABRAHAMS
    Name Age Team Seed Finals
    ================================================== ================
    1 Trevisan, Paul 58 COLONIALS 1776 51.10 50.24Z
    24.25 50.24 (25.99)
    2 Thornton, James 57 TEAM PITTSBURGH 53.35 52.43Z
    25.39 52.43 (27.04)

    (I broke my own zones record here, but lost it to the remarkable god-like swimming god, Paul Trevisan, in the next heat)

    Event 18 Men 55-59 500 Yard Freestyle
    ================================================== ================
    ZONE: Z 5:24.84 4/25/2009 James Thornton, TPIT
    NATL: ! 4:57.82 5/20/2007 JIM MCCONICA
    Name Age Team Seed Finals
    ================================================== ================
    1 Thornton, James 57 TEAM PITTSBURGH 5:32.00 5:23.18Z
    28.94 1:01.25 (32.31)
    1:34.60 (33.35) 2:07.93 (33.33)
    2:41.22 (33.29) 3:14.34 (33.12)
    3:47.97 (33.63) 4:20.96 (32.99)
    4:53.64 (32.68) 5:23.18 (29.54)

    (I broke my Zones record and fortunately Paul does not swim anything longer than the 100. So this one stood.)

    I am not particularly fast, nor do I boast particularly good endurance. But somewhere in the intersection of "somewhat fast" and "somewhat good endurance" is the perfect distance for me: the 200.

    And so it was I woke Sunday morning with an semi-digested full platter of Mephis-style dry ribs still in my digestive tract and feeling a bit nervous and crickity as is my wont.

    I would like to give a big thanks to Rich "SwimStud" Bell, who suggested a strategy for swimming the 200 about 10 minutes before my heat: he said to build the final 75. Regular readers of this vlog know that I generally try to really stretch and stay smooth on the 3rd 50, then blast out the final 50 sprint. But Rich convinced me to start building earlier.

    I would also like to thank Leslie "The Fortress" Livingston for keeping our house in fine shape during my absence, and for feeding me her proprietary Mystery Smoothy in the morning, with its various secret greens, coconutty water admixtures, whey and hemp protein, berries of various stripes, and a little of this and a little of that.

    And I also want to thank Chicken of the Sea, Amanda Hunt, who in her aboriginal HTFU Aussie wisdom finally managed to communicate to me another bit of advice that others have been suggesting for years: i.e., that you will swim faster in you keep your eyes open.

    In the 100, for instance, I was bemoaning my lousy time, having glanced at the scoreboard and seen somebody else's time--a 53:35, worse than what I had swum two weeks ago in the Amish mudhole.

    Amanda tried to console me by saying that I had actually swum 103 yards. (When the film has been processed, I will post my various swims, but the 100, in particular, was very erratic. There was a collission in which I appear like a salmon in rut with lane line.) Anyhow, her words sunk in, and even after I learned I had actually swum a 52.43, I realized I might have gone faster if I had limited the race to 100 yards.

    But enough preamble. I mounted the blocks chanting the words, "Eyes open, eyes open, eyes open."

    The race started.

    1:54.89 later it was over for me.

    It was the fastest 200 of my life.

    Possibly the shortest 200 of my life as well, as the footage will show: I swam right on the line the whole way.

    I also feel I split it perfectly for me--out in 55.39 and back in 59.50:

    Event 32 Men 55-59 200 Yard Freestyle
    ================================================== ================
    ZONE: Z 1:56.07 4/26/2009 James Thornton, TPIT
    NATL: ! 1:50.85 5/14/2006 JIM MCCONICA
    Name Age Team Seed Finals
    ================================================== ================
    1 Thornton, James 57 TEAM PITTSBURGH 1:58.90 1:54.89Z
    26.55 55.39 (28.84)
    1:25.44 (30.05) 1:54.89 (29.45)

    Sorry for going on so long about this. I know that even my fellow swimmers tend to suffer eye-glazing when reading about the swimming performances of people outside their own age groups.

    But I never, ever thought I could do this.

    And I know this sounds like one massive bragging session (we all know the sound of two hands clapping, but who knows the sound of one hand clapping? Well, I do, actually. Since I usually clap it most loudly on my own back...)

    Anyhow, I offer this vlog to all my fellow masters swimmers, afflicted as we all are with some various species of infirmity and woe and calamity and weakness.

    It is possible, with the help of your friends like Bill and Leslie and Amanda and Rich and all the others we see at these meets and correspond with on these forums...

    It is possible to hold onto your youthful mediocrity much longer than you might imagine, and by so doing, wait it out and transcend it.
  14. Jim! The acclaimed new HBO series

    by , April 21st, 2010 at 11:12 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Tomorrow I leave for Colony Zones. I am hoping that when I return on Sunday night, or possibly Monday afternoon, that I will have excellent news awaiting me regarding a new acclaimed HBO miniseries based on my life.

    You may say I'm a dreamer....
    But I'm not the only one...

    -John Lennon

    Here is how this rapidly developing news began developing rapidly:

    Magazine has been serializing little video clips from my time in the Wilderness last fall. In an effort to let my various acquaintances know about this, I sent out innumerable Facebook postings, and when these went largely ignored, decided to try a more direct approach, that is to say, a mass emailing.

    Here is what I wrote:


    Dearest Munificent Swimming Friends of Jim,

    How I treasure each and every one of you!

    Great news!!! (Though I should say at the outset here you will not hurt my feelings if you delete this unread!)

    Part 2.
    of my Lost in the Wilderness video diary is ready for your viewing at the Backpacker magazine web site!

    In fact, you can also find
    The Trailer and Part at this web site also:

    Part 3the Finale
    --is going to be posted on April 26th. I cant wait to see if I live or die!

    For those of you who like to read, I will also attach
    the .pdf of the actual story. Feel free, of course, to delete this unread if you have reached this point in todays email and are having second thoughts and cold feet!

    {Note from Jim--if you want me to send you, too, a .pdf of the actual story, just send me your email address and I will!}

    My feelings are impervious to insult! You wont hurt them by deleting any of this at any time!

    However, if you can leave a nice comment on the
    Backpacker web site, it might help secure my employment for future oddventures that assuming they dont kill, maim, or completely dement me you might find future amusement in living vicariously through my sufferings.

    I am, for instance, trying to talk them into sending me to Death Valley this summer to hike around and see just how thirst quenching mirages are...

    Again, videos here:

    (Comments are moderated so wont appear immediately.)

    PS If you want to be removed from any of the very infrequent mailings of mine in the future, just send me a note to this effect. If, however, you want to add some of your friends, you can send me a note to that effect as well.

    No wonder I treasure each of you so!

    Jim Thornton

    Jim's USMS Masters Swimming Vlog:


    This mass emailing, alas, provoked a...less than mass response.

    However, quantity is not the only measure of a response. There is also quality to consider.

    And one of the few respondents that actually did write me back was the lovely
    swimming star, Cheryl Kupan. You can look up Cheryl's astonishing masters swimming record here:

    As remarkable as her swimming has been, what is even more intriguing to me is her life among the New York Glitterati.

    This is what Cheryl recently posted as her "status" on Facebook:

    Cheryl Kupan is wondering if she can find date/friend for the Entourage premiere...

    Naturally, I thought she meant the kind of thing we little people mean when we say things like this on Facebook--i.e., can anyone out there in Coraopolis, Leetsdale, Edgeworth, Emsworth, etc. with cable, HBO, and, preferably, a High Definition TV, invite me over to watch Vince, Drama, E, and Turtle when they resume their mildly amusing lives of leisure and privilege?

    (from left to right: Hodding Carter, Rahm Emmanuel, Mike Ross, Michael Schmidt, Jim Thornton)

    But it turns out that Cheryl is not like the little people. She means the actual, live, Entourage premier somewhere out in Los Angeles.

    She told me that she works for Time Warner, which owns HBO, which makes Entourage. And furthermore, I managed to wheedle out of her that "the HBO chicks" love her.

    Could I somehow finagle a
    Munchhausen by proxy syndrome pathological love spin-off sort of arrangement for me?

    Could I?


    Okay, so, with the above background in mind, and the premise set up, here is our subsequent correspondence.

    Cheryl, I hope you don't mind. And I
    really hope that the HBO chicks that love you/by-extension-us don't mind.
    Jim's inaugural gambit: sent out mass emailing, see above.
    Cheryl's reply:

    In a message dated 4/21/2010 1:48:42 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
    Part 3the Finale--is going to be posted on April 26th. I cant wait to see if I live or die!

    Wow! Real life Drama! I have lots of catching up to do. I'm the reading type, so I'll take if for the train ride/snooze home.

    I too will wait in anticipation for April 26th to see your fate. Is there a "Will Jim Live or Die" pool that I can put a wager in?

    {note from Jim--Cheryl picked out this pretty-in-pink font color expressly for me. At least I am pretty sure she did.}

    Jim's reply:

    Insider tip: Bet on him not making it.

    Send your wager to me, and if I dont make it out of Idaho, I will pay you your winnings within 24 hours!

    PS Consider floating The Jim Thornton Story/Experience to your friends at HBO. This has mini series written all over it!

    Cheryl's reply:

    Let me read through it first -- HBO does do quirky.
    Is this more like Hung, or Curb, or redneck Sopranos?
    I can't wait for my train ride home to start reading all about your adventures....

    {note from Jim: she has abandoned the pretty-in-pink font color to a business-like black. My heart skips a beat}

    Jim's measured reply:

    Its a little like Hung meets Survivor Man only I am neither hung nor a survivor but rather loser freelance writer forced to go on these oddventurous trips to keep from losing his house. A few of the other ones Ive done over the years:

    Lay down with dead cows in the Chihuahuan desert in hopes of coaxing vultures into landing on me

    Jetskiied to Siberia where I was held at gun point by Kalashnikov-toting Soviets

    Set my own personal land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a 69 Mustang with a Lincoln Continental engine tweaked to burn Nitrous

    Blowgun monkey hunted in the Ecuadorian Amazon

    Almost got electrocuted testing out a shark-repelling device while swimming through a feeding frenzy of sharks

    Scissored through a half-pipe at Breckenridge, twice, on a snow bike after breaking my ribs on the thing 20 minutes earlier

    I also have done the same kind of thing with countless unnecessary medical proceduresfrom virtual colonoscopies to anti-impotence trans-urethral micro-suppository pellets (not actually impotent, so in order to simulate this, I had my wife sing Ethel Merman songs in bed).

    I will attach a few pictures!

    Desperation breeds desperate measuresas enthralled viewers of HBOs new acclaimed seriesJIM! will surely attest to!

    Joking aside, I have so many of these first person experiential stories Ive written over the decades that we could do easily do 5 years worth of episodes in visually spectacular locales. Throw in some (fictitious) love interests, like the cruelly beautiful publicist for HBO who keeps threatening to cut my show, and a Dickensian assortment of Smallweed-like rapacious creditors, and I think we have the next American Masterpiece on our hands!


    Cheryl's reply:

    You had me at Hung, then lost me at not hung.


    Jim's reply: {note--I am not proud of this, but Hollywood is a cruel town. You do what you must to secure yourself a place on the casting couch.}

    What I meant was that I am not hung. Im HUNG!!!!
    But I was afraid this would scare the Japanese side of your family tree.


    Cheryl's reply:
    But I was afraid this would scare the Japanese side of your family tree. --good memory.

    All right. As of now, the ball, or perhaps balls, for I have floated quite a few concepts here, are in Cheryl's lovely court/cougar cave.

    Who knows what the high-powered beautiful media mavens of Manhattan are thinking?

    If I had to venture a guess, she's on the horn with her stiletto-heeled HBO chick mafia, telling them even now about this sad sack rube who has blundered onto a pot of gold with his sad sack life.

    They may even be debating ways of negotiating a low-ball rock-bottom option for my life story.

    Let me take the angst out of the equation for you, Cheryl.

    You are correct. I am no "sophisticate" with even the most rudimentary understanding of "moral obligation bonds backed by collateralized Burger King Limited Partnership swap derivative shares amortized against the yen."

    These kinds of money things baffle and daze me.

    My life story is my gift to the world.

    I will let it go in a heartbeat for an option in the very, very low seven figures.

    Cheryl's reply to
    JIM! ?

    Apparently, she is still thinking it over.

    But when I get back from Colony Zones, I am confident everybody's gonna get well!
  15. A Decade of Jim's Amish Mudhole Freestyle Results

    by , April 13th, 2010 at 07:15 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Younger middle-aged swimmers interested in seeing a possible glimpse of their swimming performance trajectories from the late 40s to late 50s might be able to glean some clues from my own changes over the years.

    I am by no means a top echelon swimmer, but I am not completely mediocre either, having placed in the Top 10 around 30 times or so in the last decade, and even making the FINA World's Masters Tabulations on several flukish occasions.

    officially started swimming masters in 1984, at the age of 32, when I saw a sign for a team forming at the then brand-new St. Paul (MN) Skyway YMCA.

    I think we had maybe one or two meets in the next 11 years; competition was definitely not a high priority for me at that stage of life.

    My wife, two Minnesota-born youngsters, and I moved back to my boyhood stomping grounds of Sewickley, PA in 1995. The Sewickley YMCA Sea Dragons, which I had swum with as a youth, now boasted a masters team, and I joined this and eventually took over as coach.

    Again, I did not compete much until some of my fellow swimmers goaded me into going to some of the local AMYMSA meets (for Allegheny Mountain YMCA Masters Swimming Association.)

    Resuming meets at the now long-in-the-tooth age of 48 was a bit nerve wracking, but I slowly warmed up to it.

    Our league holds meets every two-three weeks from September through April. One of the many capital chaps involved in the AMYMSA administration has computerized all the Top 10 times going back to the league's inception in the early 1980s (if not before.)

    This fellow, Steve Love, is a nuclear engineer and very likable sort. He recently made it even easier for us to find our own times in various events for every one of the past ten seasons.

    For my fellow data-mining enthusiasts, a look at my own times here may be somewhat illuminating.

    A few preliminary notes:

    • These do not necessarily reflect each season's best performance by me since I often swam faster in USMS sponsored meets in great pools. Most of these swims below were done in what I affectionately refer to as Amish mudhole facilities because they are sprinkled around the hinterlands of Western PA farm land, are never more than 6 lanes and sometimes as few as 4 or 5, have a tendency to be on the hot side, and often have lane lines that are fully submerged at the point of wall attachment.

    • The past decade also reflects times done in the tech suit era, beginning with the Aquablade I got when I was 48 and ending this year with a somewhat distended B70 I just used at Clarion.

    • What this data does have going for it is a reasonable sense of year-to-year consistency. A few of the venues have changed, and the tech suits arguably improved a bit, but for the most part I was swimming these same races in the same set of Amish mudholes.

    • The major variables have been my own aging process (from 48 to 57) and fluctuations in how much training I was able to get in each year.

    • My major conclusions from looking at my apples-to-apples times over the past decade are that A) raw speed does seem to have diminished (ignore the 25s since these are hand-timed and dependent on the reflexes of your hand timer!) and B) there is some correlation between how many weekly miles you average in the pool and how fast you swim your events, though the shorter events appear to be more forgiving of slacking.

    • I also hope you will note that I am presenting my data not so much in the spirit of self aggrandizement as a science project with me as a Human Test Subject, i.e., a reasonably ordinary Swimmer Everyman, if you will--who has enjoyed training and competing with some consistency over the past decade and hope this might inspire my younger comrades to do so, as well.

    Well, enough preamble for now. Here is the data, and I truly and earnestly solicit any observations my readers might have regarding their interpretation of same.


    JIM THORNTON 57 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 8.21 so far

    25Free SEWY 12/09 SEWY 11.23

    50Free SEWY 04/10 CLAR 24.50

    100Free SEWY 04/10 CLAR 53.14

    200Free SEWY 04/10 CLAR 1:58.59

    500Free SEWY 04/10 CLAR 5:24.12

    1000Free SEWY 04/10 CLAR 11:32.38

    1650Free SEWY 03/08 MAIL 19:34.18


    JIM THORNTON 56 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.82

    25Free SEWY 09/08 BARL 10.78

    50Free SEWY 02/09 FRNK 24.63

    100Free SEWY 04/09 CLAR 53.39

    200Free SEWY 04/09 CLAR 1:59.28

    500Free SEWY 04/09 CLAR 5:28.42

    1000Free SEWY 04/09 CLAR 11:50.12

    1650Free SEWY 03/08 MAIL 19:54.24

    JIM THORNTON 55 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.16

    25Free SEWY 12/07 BARL 11.37

    50Free SEWY 04/08 CLAR 24.78

    100Free SEWY 04/08 CLAR 52.97

    200Free SEWY 04/08 CLAR 1:58.03

    500Free SEWY 04/08 CLAR 5:24.57

    1000Free SEWY 04/08 CLAR 11:31.24

    1650Free SEWY 03/08 MAIL 19:47.91


    JIM THORNTON 54 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.18

    The Lost year...JIM THORNTON 54, did not swim AMYMSA
    (for reasons to complicated to get into here)


    JIM THORNTON 53 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 5.24

    25Free SEWY 10/05 GROV 11.56

    50Free SEWY 04/06 CLAR 25.04

    100Free SEWY 04/06 CLAR 53.97

    200Free SEWY 04/06 CLAR 1:57.07

    500Free SEWY 04/06 CLAR 5:25.87

    1000Free SEWY 04/06 CLAR 11:32.00

    1650 free did not swim


    JIM THORNTON 52 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.00

    25Free SEWY 09/04 SEWY 10.84

    50Free SEWY 04/05 CLAR 24.92

    100Free SEWY 04/05 CLAR 54.09

    200Free SEWY 09/04 SEWY 1:58.33

    500Free SEWY 04/05 CLAR 5:24.30

    1000Free SEWY 04/05 CLAR 11:32.91

    1650Free SEWY 03/05 MAIL 20:41.65


    JIM THORNTON 51 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.50

    50Free SEWY 11/03 ERIE 24.34

    100Free SEWY 01/04 AVY 52.87

    200Free SEWY 04/04 CLAR 1:57.32

    500Free SEWY 04/04 CLAR 5:20.77

    1000Free SEWY 04/04 CLAR 11:22.29

    1650Free SEWY 03/05 MAIL 18:59.22


    JIM THORNTON 50 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.92

    25Free SEWY 01/03 MEAD 11.03

    50Free SEWY 10/02 BUTL 24.28

    100Free SEWY 04/03 CLAR 53.02

    200Free SEWY 01/03 MEAD 1:56.07

    500Free SEWY 04/03 CLAR 5:20.35

    1000Free SEWY 04/03 CLAR 11:15.86

    1650Free SEWY 03/03 MAIL 18:53.69


    JIM THORNTON 49 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 7.21

    25Free SEWY 10/01 CUMB 11.01

    50Free SEWY 04/02 CLAR 24.25

    100Free SEWY 01/02 AVY 52.50

    200Free SEWY 12/01 GROV 1:57.88

    500Free SEWY 01/02 MDVL 5:26.07

    1000Free SEWY 04/02 CLAR 11:33.85

    1650Free SEWY 03/02 MAIL 19:27.75


    JIM THORNTON 48 Average Miles Swum Per Week: 5.08

    25Free SEWY 01-01 MEAD 11.28

    50Free SEWY 02-01 CMU 23.84

    100Free SEWY 02-01 CMU 52.09

    200Free SEWY 04-01 CLAR 1:59.29

    500Free SEWY 02-01 CMU 5:44.15

    1650Free SEWY 02-01 MAIL 20:34.05


  16. I am Jim's Broken Rib

    by , April 9th, 2010 at 03:36 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Our dear Bobinator has recently broken her ribs and has been sidelined temporarily from the pool, which is understandably driving her crazy.

    I have also been in this painful situation--three separate times, in fact, over the past 15 years. I wrote an article about rib problems during which I invited a friend-orthopedic surgeon out for dinner at a barbecue rib place so that he could show me on the slathered slab what I had done to my own fatty baby backs.

    This is that article.

    I hope, Bobinator, it helps you--and I hope it helps anybody else out there who currently has, or may eventually get, a cracked set of your own.

    The convex surface represents the outside of the ribs, explains my orthopedic surgeon, Gary Smith, MD. Wielding stainless steel cutlery with the skillfulness of an 18-year veteran sports medicine cutter, Gary dissects the underlying tissues including the exterior and interior intercostal muscles and a sheathe of fascia. He smears off some red matter to enhance the view, then bends forward and eats a bite of baby back soft tissue.

    Whats this? asks my wife, Debbie. Shes located an unusual anatomical feature in her own St. Louis-style slab--a floppy extension that dangles from the tip of one floating rib like a beige Gummi worm.

    That must be the cartilaginous extension you mentioned, eh? I volunteer, ever the eager suck-up student.

    The lower several ribs arent attached to the breast plate, he replies professorially. The bone continues as cartilage that narrows down and eventually attaches to ligaments in the abdominal wall.

    Despite the pain I am feeling from my own two currently fractured lower ribs, I cannot keep myself from hurts so good engorgement. The intersection of gluttony and gee-whiz science is proving irresistible to this nerdish gourmand.

    Garys wife, Karen, takes a swig of pilsner and says, These ribs really put meat on your bones.

    I acknowledge her excellent laymans point, then ask Gary if regularly eating ribs might, in some small way, help me avoid future trauma to my own ribs. I stick a micro cassette in his face to record his reply.

    Wait till I wipe this barbecue sauce off my face, he says. Then: Outside the protective layer of muscle is a cushioning layer of fat.

    Four weeks ago, I could have used great gobs of such cushioning not to mention a Kevlar flack jacket. My accident occurred not as a result of bronco busting, ski jumping, or drag racing gone awry, but rather during the somewhat less publicized sport of water volleyball. With my reflexes slightly addled by hops and haze, I jumped high into the air for a spike. Alas, my body followed through the overhead motion, beaching me with considerable violence upon a length of barely-visible, underwater pipe supporting the net.

    If youve ever done something similar to yourself, youve probably experienced a comparably instantaneous epiphany: that sickening acknowledgment that youve really bollixed yourself up this time. For the next three weeks, I subjected my wounded ribs to a constant regimen of ice and ibuprofen. Breathing deeply was nearly impossible; rolling over in bed an agony. Sick of my whining, my swimming team friends all urged me to see a doctor--easy advice for the well-insured. Still, by breathing on the opposite side and modifying my free style slightly into a kind of aquatic limp, I was able to continue swimming practice.

    After a couple weeks, the pain was, if anything, getting worse. Even more disturbing was the fact that I could now feel something moving around, punctuated with occasional gristle grindings and pinprick stabbing pains that made one think of bone splinters. Perhaps its only hypochondria talking here, but Ive never liked novel bodily sensations involving internal organs. I made an appointment. It was now three weeks after the misadventure.


    What about jousting? I ask.

    Jousting would be out.


    The first thing Gary did in examining me was gently squeeze my rib cage front and back, then side to side--both of which, the latter especially, provoked more than a little wincing.

    Since your ribs are all connected, he said, explaining his diagnostic technique, if you compress the chest like this, it usually causes a fracture to hurt. It might not cause a muscle bruise alone to hurt.

    Other telltale signs of a fracture include tenderness on the surface of the affected bone or bones; swelling at the fracture site; and a grating feeling like something is moving around in there. If I had come to see him within a few days of the episode, he says, he would have confirmed the diagnosis with an X-ray, but at this point three weeks after the fact, this would be a waste of money.

    He tells me the odds are extremely high I broke two ribs on the lower left side.

    Im feeling like a miserly imbecile for not consulting him sooner, but he quickly relieves my self-recrimination by telling me hed have recommended the same treatment that I did on my own.

    Broken ribs, he says, can hurt a lot for several weeks, but then they just heal by themselves without any special treatment. Theyre usually fine within six to eight weeks. Unlike a fracture in, say, your hand, it doesnt matter if the bone lines up perfectly straight. With ribs, theyll still function fine even if they heal a little crookedly.

    Though a relatively common form of sports injury, Gary says he rarely sees rib patients in his practice--probably because many athletes have gotten the theres nothing you can do but wait it out message. Rib cracks are, in other words, one of the few injuries where doctor avoidance is usually a safe bet.

    There are, however, important exceptions. If your rib has been so badly broken that the ends are displaced, a not uncommon consequence of car wrecks and other high speed collisions, the splintered bone tips can puncture the pleura lining the chest wall and lungs, breaking the vacuum seal that keeps your lungs inflated. This condition, called pneumothorax, requires surgical insertion of a chest tube to reestablish the surrounding vacuum so the lung can become re-inflated. Best bet: if you cant breathe, see a doctor.

    An even more common threat occurs in patients who are suffering so much pain that they avoid coughing and breathing deeply--which significantly ups the risk of developing pneumonia. In yesteryear, broken ribs were often bound tightly with tape. This made the person feel better, Gary tells me, but it further compromised breathing, so thats fallen by the wayside. For most people, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are sufficient for pain management, but in severe cases, patients sometimes require narcotics like Percocet or Vicodin to breathe normally.

    In terms of preventing future rib injuries, Gary recommends stressing the bones via exercise and making sure to eat a diet that provides plenty of calcium to keep the bone tissue well-mineralized. Studies of osteoporosis patients, for instance, have shown they are particularly prone to cracking ribs. You can also provide yourself with some trauma insulation by beefing up the abdominal and chest muscles--a fact that helps professional boxers cope with body blows.

    Not that you should necessarily overdo it immediately following an injury. I ask Gary if it was a mistake for me to continue swimming 3,000 yard practices the day after I hurt myself.

    The barometer is your pain, he says. Its probably okay to keep up your conditioning in some way that doesnt cause too much pain. You may have delayed your healing a little by overdoing it, but its not going to affect the ultimate outcome. And at this point, its fine for you to keep swimming.

    Gary does, however, draw the line at any sports with a high risk of impact--football, rugby, mountain biking, and the like.

    What about jousting? I ask.

    Jousting would be out.

    Back at the rib joint a week later, I have a sudden medical insight.

    Do you guys still use mustard plasters to treat pain or muscle spasms? I ask Gary.

    He chuckles. People today sometimes use lineaments and sports crmes, he says. You dont hear much about mustard plasters anymore, but I suppose there may have been some pharmacologic reason why they worked. Endorphin release and whatnot.

    Glancing down at the remnants of my meal, I say, So can you see any plausible scientific reason for slathering very spicy barbecue sauce on my own ribs? I mean, could that help?

    The good doctor furrows his brow, nods, then replies, I guess it would depend on how much your wife likes barbecue sauce.
  17. The Thousand Strategy

    by , April 8th, 2010 at 08:03 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    To die or not to die, that is the question.

    Tomorrow, I head up to Clarion University about two hours away. I will spend the night at the Holiday Inn, getting up in time (I hope) on Saturday morning to make it to the pool in time for 8 a.m. warm ups for the 1000.

    I am in the first heat, which is scheduled to start at 8:45.

    Already, I am starting to get nervous.

    It's been suggested that a swimmer fears two things most of all: pain and poor performance.

    If you avoid the former completely, you guarantee the latter. I know I could take 20 minutes, in other words, to swim the 1000, be assured of suffering no pain, but my time would be terrible.

    But fully embracing pain, alas, does not guarantee good performance.

    In fact, pretty much any distance over a 50 requires husbanding your pain just so. Take on too much too soon, and you will tie up prematurely and finish badly, if, that is, you can finish at all.

    But if you fail to suffer too long into a race, you risk leaving too much behind--and even the most heroic attempts at negative splitting won't be able to overcome the hole you've dug yourself.

    With races like the 500, there are opportunities to practice throughout the season.

    But for me, the 1000 comes but once or at most twice a year.

    The closest thing to a 1000 I've swum this season is the 1650. I went out what felt like a decent pace but soon proved to have been too fast.

    By the 1000 mark in that race, I had begun wondering if I could even finish. The last 26 lengths were a torment I'd just as soon avoid suffering ever again!

    Here are my splits (500 and 1000 highlighted):

    1 1-5 Thorton, Jim 57 TPIT-AM 19:50.00 19:34.18

    1:05.54 (34.58)
    1:40.03 (34.49)
    2:14.52 (34.49)
    2:49.55 (35.03)
    3:24.78 (35.23)
    3:59.96 (35.18)
    4:34.94 (34.98)
    5:10.07 (35.13)
    5:45.07 (35.00)

    [note: 50s all 35s and 34s}

    6:20.07 (35.00)
    6:55.36 (35.29)
    7:30.52 (35.16)
    8:06.58 (36.06)
    8:42.46 (35.88)
    9:18.37 (35.91)
    9:54.37 (36.00)
    10:30.72 (36.35)
    11:07.09 (36.37)
    11:43.09 (36.00)

    {note: 50s all 35s and 36s now}

    12:20.04 (36.95)
    12:57.12 (37.08)
    13:33.82 (36.70)
    14:10.80 (36.98)
    14:47.27 (36.47)
    15:24.20 (36.93)
    16:00.74 (36.54)
    16:37.19 (36.45)
    17:13.84 (36.65)
    17:50.36 (36.52)
    18:26.61 (36.25)
    19:02.29 (35.68)
    19:34.18 (31.89)

    That race was back in January, and I have already forgotten how I paced it. I just know it got really painful. With the exception of the last two 50s of the race, I didn't break 36 after the first 1000.

    Which brings me to my quandary:

    How to pace the 1000?

    I could just try to swim the whole thing relatively fast by "feel"--approach the lactate threshold but back off if I sense I am getting too close. I used to be able to do this better; for some reason, lately my sense of "feel" is not so reliable. I have been going out too fast and regretting it.

    Kirsten, who I solicited for advice, said to try to relax.

    There is also the possibility of adapting the Glenn Battle 500 strategy to the 1000.

    Here is how I would try to do this if I decide to try it:

    • 6 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths just out of the comfort zone
    • 6 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths just out of the comfort zone
    • 6 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths just out of the comfort zone
    • 4 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths just out of the comfort zone
    • 4 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths pretty fast
    • 2 lengths comfortable, 2 lengths all out sprint

    If nothing else, trying to remember this math scheme might distract me from corporeal discomfort.

    If you have any suggestions, please post soon! I leave sometime tomorrow afternoon!

    I did sign up to swim it again two weeks later at Colony Zones. If nothing else, I will try to learn something from the Clarion swim.
  18. Zombie Grog: Radical Cure

    by , April 5th, 2010 at 06:14 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Easter Sunday, I woke up at 10 a.m., having gone to sleep the previous midnight. I fought my way out of the bag of profound grogginess that separates my sort of nights from my sort of days, grabbed a 100 mg Provigil tablet , carefully negotiated the downstairs steps, set to brew my typical 8 cups of coffee (which actually translates into 3 nice sized mugs), fed the dogs, fed myself, read the paper, and waited for the caffeine-and-Provigil one-two kick to stir me to the 78 percent full consciousness which has become for me as close as I ever come these days to full consciousness.

    By 11 a.m., the kick showed no signs of arrival. I had been awake for exactly one hour. I made my way to the couch. I lay down. I fell back to sleep. I woke up at 1:30 p.m., so stuporously groggy I was not sure if I was a sentient beast at all.

    By 2:30, I was at my dear sister's house for an Easter feast of lamb and ham.

    By 5:00, I was not only profoundly groggy again but as fat as I have been in years. I felt like one of those humongous sluggish flies that somehow resurrect themselves each spring in the space between your regular window and the storm window.

    When one of these fatted springtime flies escapes inside your house, they buzz around in a sluggish, fat, droning, salute to all that is disgusting in the world today.

    You can swat them easily, but you have learned not to, because they are just flying, meandering daubs of revolting goo that you want absolutely no trace of on your livingroom walls, or kitchen table, or baby's crib, or wherever else such creatures choose to take a momentary rest where the swatting process becomes child's play.

    This is what I felt like, a revolting daub of goo that no one dares to swat and put out of our respective miseries, for fear of the permanent stain such mercy killing would leave.

    The major difference between me and such a fly is that the latter has enough energy to fly, at least now and then.

    I have only barely enough energy to alight on the baby's pristine crib, perhaps upon its little satin pillow, daring the angry parents to swat me while I take my next in an endless series of disgusting naps!

    Last night, I did what human flies of my sort often do when plagued by a symptom as intractable and life-ruining as my persistent grogginess: I Googled it.

    I shall not bore you with all the info I found on E.D.S., or excessive daytime sleepiness, but here is a brief excerpt of some of the stuff that seems to characterize my problem:

    Excessive Daytime Sleepiness. As with the sleepiness of other sleep disorders, the EDS of narcolepsy presents with an increased propensity to fall asleep, nod or doze easily in relaxed or sedentary situations, or a need to exert extra effort to avoid sleeping in these situations. Additionally, irresistible or overwhelming urges to sleep commonly occur from time to time during wakeful periods in the untreated patient with narcolepsy. These so-called "sleep attacks" are not instantaneous lapses into sleep, as is often thought by the general public, but represent the episodes of profound sleepiness experienced by those with marked sleep deprivation or other severe sleep disorders. Epworth Sleepiness Scale scores of ≥15 are common in untreated patients.[5,6] In addition to frank sleepiness, the excessive daytime sleepiness of narcolepsy, as in other sleep disorders, can cause related symptoms including poor memory, reduced concentration or attention, and irritability.


    Sleep Paralysis. Sleep paralysis is the inability to move, lasting from a few seconds to minutes, during the transition from sleep to wakefulness or from wakefulness to sleep. Episodes of sleep paralysis may alarm patients, particularly those who experience the sensation of being unable to breathe. Although accessory respiratory muscles may not be active during these episodes, diaphragmatic activity continues and air exchange remains adequate.

    Readers of my vlog over the years will recall that I am no stranger to excessive daytime sleepiness, that I have posted my depressing Epworth Scores in the past, and have tried various measures to cure myself of the affliction.

    I am seriously thinking this time of going to a doctor, getting a sleep study done in some basement chamber someplace, then trying to figure out the intersection of the curves of my remaining lifespan and the most unsavory symptoms of progressive meth addiction. I am thinking that if I start off with a very, very low dose of meth, and be extremely cautious in how much I escalate it, it will be hard for anyone but a forensic pathologist to tell if my before and after pictures were caused by meth or just the natural rotting process of an old man.

    Okay. So anyhoo, last night I decided I can no longer live this way.

    Sleep walking through my sort of life has been nice at times, but for the most part, it's kind of a drag.

    I decided to try the following strategy:

    1. stop taking anything that can possibly make me sleepy. Ambien (actually, generic zolpidem, same difference) and Nyquil are two substances whose entire raison d'etre is the inducement of somnolence. I quit both last night cold turkey. The result: I slept fitfully from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., then fell back asleep till 9 a.m.
    2. be a harsh taskmaster when it comes to surrendering to grogginess. if the urge to nod off or nap becomes overwhelming, i will slap myself as hard as I can until the urge passes. if the urge doesn't pass, I will continue the slapping. it is very difficult to fall asleep mid-vicious self-slap. try it.
    3. take provigil religiously and drink coffee the way college girls drink Evian (Naive spelled backwards.) So far today, I have had my standard 8 cups this morning, and another 5 just a few minutes ago. I am sleepy, but the combination of Provigal, 13 cups of coffee, and facial slaps has thus far kept me awake.
    4. if i am on the verge of cataplexy, force myself on a death march. Again, difficult to fall asleep when you are walking. Perhaps walk along boulevards where speeding cars and 18-wheelers piloted by truck drivers no doubt as sleepy as I am might add to the stimulation.
    5. Possibly pull an all nighter tonight. I think my body is used to being sleep-coddled. If I can stay up for, say, 48 hours straight, then slowly reintroduce sleep on a more reasonable basis, perhaps I can teach my babyish body it does not need to be wrapped up in its sleep nut quite so much of each day.
    6. generally speaking, sum up all of the above with the following, easier-to-remember-when-passing-out-from-grogginess motto: Be hard on your weak self. Unbelievably hard. Ruthlessly punish all natural desire to sleep.
    7. It is conceivable there is some occult reason for my sleepiness that might be better remedied by seeing a doctor who knows what he or she is doing. Leave open the option to consult with one of these if the self-punishment route proves--after a reasonable trial of several years--less than effective.
    8. Sleep apnea is one common, perhaps even the most common, cause of male E.D.S. I have thought about performing a tracheotomy on myself to see if bypassing the potential nocturnal collapse of my soft palate and layrngeal membranes might restores a certain vigor to my zombie/half-dead fly existence. Perhaps it would be best to have a doctor do this, too.
    9. I shall keep you posted. Oh, how I crave to nod off right now.
    10. Slap! Slap-slap! Slap-slap-slappity-slappity-slap-SLAP!

  19. Swim Scandal True, Reports Sewickley Tattler

    by , April 1st, 2010 at 06:19 PM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    The Sewickley Tattler is a gossip tabloid serving the Quaker Valley School District communities of Sewickley, Sewickley Heights, Edgeworth, Glen Osborne, Aleppo, Leetsdale, and Leet Township.

    The Tattler has garnered a national reputation for sensationalized scoops, almost exclusively involving the mating, ovulatory, seed-spreading, shagging, lactation, pheromone-emitting, cosmetic surgical enhancing, STD-infecting, sperm count fluctuating, and assorted other reproduction-relating physiology and behaviors of the local citizenry, from Republican burghers, to ragamuffin high schoolers, to the odd Sewickley Sea Dragon masters swimmer who has mistaken B lane for a salmon spawning stream.

    On the exquisitely rare occasions when celebrities do visit our community, the librarians of the Village, in particular, are thrilled, because this temporarily pries them and their wanton slatternery off the cover.

    These celebrity visitors, on the other hand, really need to keep a close eye on their ovaries, testes, fallopian tubes, epidydimises and what have you, because they are virtually guaranteed of a first-class journalistic rogering by our local Fourth Estate.

    Thanks to the combination of rapacity and hair-trigger reporting, The Tattler has earned many kudos in its industry for being the first to break news stories, often weeks if not years before the competition does, if ever. Where The Tattler has not fared so well is in terms of accuracy in their reporting.

    Because of this, I am only going to paste in below this week’s cover. Do not worry! I am not concealing anything about what we here in the Heights have already shrugged off as Le Scandal Livingston (even as those unsophisticated bumpkins down in the flats continue to follow the scandal like the rutting soap opera fans they are.)

    The entirety of The Tattler's inside pages are devoted—as is the case with every issue--to lengthy retractions of previous cover stories that proved libelous, untrue, and hurtful.

    Certainly, I do not condone this sort of journalism myself. I do, however, subscribe to it.

    For those of you who know Leslie Livingston as an unimpeachable beacon of propriety in our swimming community, who know she is truly one of the most virtuous and hard-working swimmers, albeit one who used fins promiscuously (but that’s neither here nor there), I can only say: I agree!

    In my heart of hearts, I honestly doubt if any of the garbage in this week’s edition of The Tattler has more than a 15 percent shred of truth to it, if that. So please, if you do look at the cover—SEE COVER DIRECTLY BELOW!!!!—I only ask that you do your best to forget it immediately.

    It probably isn’t true. Really. It probably isn’t.

    Final note: I happened to see the Pregnancy Beat Reporter for the Sewickley Tattler slinking about this afternoon, and I grabbed him by his pencil neck and ask him what inspired his cover story. The pathetic little man reached into his tattered suit coat and handed me the following. I think he fancies himself a poet!

    Don’t they all, these shabby little men! Don’t they all!

    After last night’s swimming
    Practice did one fast mother
    Relax in languor and steep herself
    In clouds of Eucalyptus steam. Our lovely
    Leslie, flipper-footed

    Fortress! So fleet and fleeting her times and time here!
    Oh, how we and future generations beg for more of her!
    Oh, how we crave the Leslies still to come! A myriad of them--
    Leslie Jr.s, and juniors of those Jr.s! From such dreams of spawn is
    Spawned our dreams: that an impregnable fortress be impregnable yet.

    Updated April 6th, 2010 at 01:00 AM by jim thornton (to patronize the readers)

  20. NCAA suit lessons

    by , March 29th, 2010 at 01:30 AM (Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton)
    Prelimary Note: I have decided to establish the Thornton Cup for accuracy in modeling post-cheating suit time changes. It is open to any and all swimmers or non-swimming math aficionados. For more on this exhilarating new competition, please see the thread: [ame=""][/ame]

    I took most of the free style events and compared the top 3 performances in men this year (sans high tech racing suits) with last year (when suits were still legal.)

    I have not started more than a cursory inspection, but what strikes me is that the longer the race, the more the lack of speed suits hurt performance. There was only one case where someone who got a second place this year beat the person who got second place last year. All other top 3 performances were slower this year than last within their matched pairs.

    Here's the data. To make it easier to review, I am using red as a kind of skin tone of the heavily exercised swimmer, and since much of this ruddy skin tone is, indeed, revealed by jammers and skimpier suits, when you see red, think this year.

    Blue is the color of many of the high tech suits, certainly not all, but enough so that for heuristic purposes when you see numbers in blue, it means the race was done last year in a speed suit.

    Think of this as the rough data upon which new formulae can be calculated..

    50 2010/
    50 2009

    1 Schneider, Josh CINC 18.93P
    1 Adrian, Nathan California 18.71

    2 Adrian, Nathan CAL 19.02

    2 Feigen, James Texas 18.84

    3 Brown, Adam AUB 19.03
    3 Targett, Matt Auburn 18.87


    100 2010/
    100 2009

    1 Adrian, Nathan CAL 41.50

    1 Adrian, Nathan California 41.08

    2 Feigen, Jimmy TEX 41.91
    2 Feigen, James Texas

    3 Louw, Gideon AUB 42.06

    3 Targett, Matt Auburn 41.64

    200 2010/
    200 2009

    1 Dwyer, Conor FLOR 1:32.31

    1 Fraser, Shaune Florida 1:31.70

    2 Fraser, Shaune FLOR 1:32.53

    2 Walters, Dave Texas 1:32.59

    3 Walters, Dave TEX 1:33.04
    3 Berens, Ricky Texas 1:32.74


    400 relay 2010/
    400 relay 2009

    1 California 'A' 2:48.78

    1 Auburn 2:46.67

    2 Texas 'A' 2:49.90

    2 Texas 2:47.02

    3 Stanford 'A' 2:51.27

    3 California 2:47.61


    500 2010/
    500 2009

    1 Dwyer, Conor FLOR 4:13.64P
    1 Basson, Jean Arizona 4:08.92

    2 Basson, Jean ARIZ 4:13.65P

    2 Klueh, Michael Texas 4:09.32

    3 Lefert, Clement USC 4:13.77
    3 McLean, Matt Virginia 4:10.41


    800 relay 2010/
    800 relay 2009

    1 TEX 6:12.77

    1 Texas 6:10.16

    2 FLOR 6:14.72

    2 Arizona 6:11.82

    3 ARIZ 6:18.33

    3 Stanford 6:16.71

    1650 2010/
    1650 2009

    1 La Tourette, Ch STAN
    1 Prinsloo, Troy Georgia 14:30.91

    2 Grodzki, Martin UGA
    2 La Tourette, Chad Stanford 14:33.55

    3 Wilcox, Jackson TEX
    3 Spansail, Scott Washington 14:34.95

    Updated March 29th, 2010 at 01:11 PM by jim thornton (Adding notice of the Thornton Cup math challenge)

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