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

No. 13 Cliffhanger Resolution

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Meninges throbbing with exertional headache, your Sickboy proudly announces the resolution of No. 13 on yesterday's list of cliffhangers: Will Jimby swim the 1650 at CMU despite sickness.

Since I had already paid for it, I decided--perhaps unwisely--to go ahead and swim.

Let me now provide not exactly an autopsy of my race, for I am still clinging to life; more of a pre-mortem, if you will, an analytical vivisection.

Note: because my days of late have been so consumed with reading the scientific literature of soy phytoestrogens and the putative health effects of same, the literary form of these scholarly papers has begun to ingrain itself in mind.

I thus will write up the following case report in a manner I hope will prove inviting not only to my vlog audience, but researchers who subscribe to, and find comfort in, the familiar linguistic rhythms of leading peer-reviewed journals.

The Journal of Somatoform Disorders, Hypochondriasis, Swimming Science, and Babyishness 2009 Feb;72(1):220-4. Epub 2009 Mar 21.

"Sarcopenia of Muscle or Mind? A case-study of a masters swimmer in the 1650 yard competition"

Thornton, J (*), Huang Y, Pan L, Xia X, Feng Y, Jiang C, Cui Y.

Department of Psychiatry and Masters Swimming, Thornton University School of Internet Diplomas, Jim's Garage, Sewickley Heights, PA 15143

* corresponding author. Please send grant moneys to Prof. Thornton c/o his institution. Footnoted references unavailable upon request

Earlier studies (1, 2, 3) have shown compelling evidence that swimming times slow in a non linear fashion (4,5,6) with a performer's age, with exceptions (7,8,9,10,11). One of the factors hypothesized to account for these exceptions is psychological "character." In the present case study, we examined the performance of a 56-year-old man (12, 13, 14) with a long record of 1650 swims. After subjecting his times over the past 5 years to multivariate statistical analysis (p < .005), we concluded that there is no evidence of "character" (15, ibid) whatsoever in our test subject.

Wiser swimming minds than ours have long proposed a validated construct whereby the nervousness preceding competitions can be largely explicated by two global fears:

  • The Fear of Pain
  • The Fear of Poor Performance

In our present study, volunteer subject James T. (JT) appeared highly anxious with full-blown expressions of both state and trait anxiety (17,18, 19) over both these prospects. His mood appeared, however, to cycle quickly to a negative affective state, which he described as "despondency" and "the sickness unto death" and wherein he claimed to no longer have fear of either pain or poor performance ("They can't transfuse a turnip or make a dead man dance.")

In our pre-competition interviews, JT also claimed to have been sick for the past 6 weeks with a "slow virus" (23, 24, 28). A laboratory workup found some evidence to support a likely cold, with attendant mucous, sniffles, mild malaise, and fatigue. Titers for hemorrhagic fever, bird fancier's lung, and Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome proved negative. His blood workup and urine were unremarkable.

Despite our reassurances, JT wavered about even participating in this year's race, to be held at the indoor SCY course at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

He decided to go at the last minute because he had already mailed in his entry form six weeks earlier during "a time of relative health."

Warm up consisted of a very leisurely 600 yards swim with open turns, followed by a leisurely 400 yards with flip turns, and some time in the shower to warm up his frigid feet to help prevent arch and toe cramps. He then changed into his overly used Tyr $56.95 discounted competition suit even though at least one of his competitors was wearing a B70 (47-83).

Interviewed right before the race, JT expressed no fear of pain ("Because I am not going to swim fast enough or try hard enough to cause any") nor too much fear of poor performance ("Because I have already reconciled myself to swimming poorly.")

He did concede his biggest extant anxiety was that his presence in the first and fastest heat would lead to a substantial delay in the timeline of the meet, thus subjecting himself to considerable social opprobrium (99,102, 117). He petitioned to meet officials to be removed to heat #7, where the average seed time of 34 minutes seemed more doable. The meet officials declined to allow the switch.

His secondary fear was being beaten, yet again, by the young female swimming vunderkind nemesis, Marla Sanchez, who nearly lapped him in the same pool during the ill-fated hour swim earlier in the season. When JT noted that Marla was swimming right next to him, again, he resolved to not let her lap him twice.

Here are the results of the meet in their entirety. The most pertinent sections will be pasted in below the link.

1 Goldman, Carl 45 SHY 18:00.59S
2 Buerger, Daniel 41 CMU 18:49.28S
3 Ratliff, Nathan 27 CMU 19:05.79S
4 Kress, Paul 35 TPIT 19:10.35S
5 Thorton, James 56 SEWY19:54.24S

6 Brewton, David 49 TPIT 20:04.25S
7 Breisinger, Sarah 24 MLAC 20:17.84S
8 Sanchez, Marla 35 SHY 20:18.60S

JT provided the following data, which represents all the timed 1650s in his life that he knows of:

56 19:54.24
55 19:47.91
53 21:34.00
52 20:45.65
51 18:59.22
50 18.53.69
49 19:27.75
48 20:34.05
47 21:10.00
44 21:40.54

For purposes of analysis, we randomly selected two races to submit to the Finnish Formula and age graded swimming calculations. These two races, again, by pure random luck of the draw, turned out to be today's race at 56, and JT's race at age 50, six years ago, when he got his life time best.

Finnish formula comparisons:

(Note: because the longest distance this calculator will allow is the 200 freestyle, we simply plugged the time at age 50 for the 1650 into the 200 box.)

50 18:53.69 (18:53.69)

51 19:01.81 (19:01.84)

52 19:10.52 (19:10.33)

53 19:19.87 (19:19.18)

54 19:29.89 (19:28.42)

55 19:40.63 (19:38.06)

56 19:52.16 (19:48.12)

As you see, JT's performance today fell short of both the American aged prediction, 19:52.16, AND the Finish formula in parentheses (19:48.12).

Age graded scores:

Grade for an 18:53. 69 at age 50:

Course SCY Event 1650 Free Gender Male Age 50 Time 18:53.69 Record Curve 16:39.96 b0 937.825 b1 1.71402 b2 0.07181 Rating 88.2

Grade for 19:54.24 at age 56

Course SCY Event 1650 Free Gender Male Age 56 Time 19:54.24 Record Curve 17:13.42 b0 937.825 b1 1.71402 b2 0.07181 Rating 86.5
Hence, on the age grading scheme, as well, JT's time represents something of a disappointment.

There really is nothing to discuss at this point.

Though our study did not rule out the possibility that character or some other as yet un-elucidated factor might allow certain exceptional individuals to swim well into their dotage, we found no evidence for any such factor in JT's performance today.

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  1. qbrain's Avatar
    Mr. Thorton:

    If you ever part ways with the alternative lifestyle magazine that currently employs you, you are welcome to be head researcher at Hamer Nutriton where your talents writing un-peer reviewed research papers that appear to be real peer reviewed research papers for our marketing department is greatly needed.

    Sincerely -

    Stev Bjorn
    Senor Advisor
    Hamer Nutriton
    Updated February 22nd, 2009 at 08:21 PM by qbrain
  2. tjrpatt's Avatar
    Great effort considering the paragraph after paragraph of illnesses/problems. Hopefully, on your next 1650, you will be illness and problem free.
  3. qbrain's Avatar
    JT, I get the same ratings as you!

    ...when I plug in my times with your age.

    One less thing you should be complaining about.
  4. ensignada's Avatar
    I just finished a read aloud of your article to my hubby, who frequently revises and resubmits similar scholarly articles to so-called peer review journals.

    He has a couple of observations: First, you have omitted the both the "avenues of future research" and the "limitations of this study" sections in the discussion section, the latter of which generally exonerates the researcher for bone-headed and patently obvious methodological shortcomings. Second, are you looking for a co-author?
  5. RustyScupperton's Avatar
    Mr. Thornton, we here in Stockholm want to unofficially inform you that you are on our short list for the 2009 Nobel Prize for Biology/Medicine. Your invaluable research gives hope to a moribund humanity.
    The Nobel Committee
  6. Bobinator's Avatar
    Great swim Jimby. I think the distraction of illness, man-boobs, and getting lapped by a young chick works well for you!
  7. jim thornton's Avatar
    Because we are very close to the 400 comments milestone, let me adress each of your inquiries individually.
  8. jim thornton's Avatar
    Mr. Bjorn, there appears to be some sort of translocation of letters or some other minor snafu in your web address, where I am hoping to send my resume and salary requirements.

    Well, not requirements, exactly. More like a wish list that there is, indeed, any sort of salary at all.

    Unfortunately, I keep getting messages like:

    # Did you make a mistake when typing the domain? (e.g. "" instead of "")
    # Are you certain this domain address exists? Its registration may have expired.
    # Are you unable to browse other sites? Check your network connection and DNS server settings.
    # Is your computer or network protected by a firewall or proxy? Incorrect settings can interfere with Web browsing.

    I am, of course, certain that you exist. Please correct errors in web address and let me know.

    Your future servant.
  9. jim thornton's Avatar

    Thanks for the kind words. I actually read about your swims this past weekend and figured maybe this is just not the best time for swimming meets. This has been a long cold winter, and it doesn't seem to be surrendering its grip.

    Good luck to you, as well!
  10. jim thornton's Avatar

    Bless you. I am so glad that the scientific community have received my latest effort to branch out into the world of junk science!

    I left out study limitations, not as an oversight, but rather out of a very sincere belief that there are none. This, in my view, is the definitive case study on JT's 1650 on Feb. 22, 2009. No more can be added.

    As for the future avenues of research, I was afraid to let that sluice gait open. When the worlds of swimming, health, performance, and JT collide, the world itself could easily drown in the future avenues of research.

    I kept my thumb tightly in the dyke there.
  11. jim thornton's Avatar
    Comrade from Stolkholm Syndrome!

    Спасибо так много, человек комитета от чудесного bikinied мира белокурых цыпленоков научного работника бомбы!

    Note: I do not spreakenzi the Swedenzi, so I wrote you in Russian. The above, in English, means:

    Thanks so much, Committee Man from the wonderful bikinied world of blonde bombshell scientist chicks!
  12. Chicken of the Sea's Avatar
    "His blood workup and urine were unremarkable."

    Jimbo, drink a Berocca every morning and your urine will indeed become remarkable! I guarantee it.
  13. qbrain's Avatar
    Great post Jim. My wife and I laughed our asses off.

    I am a little confused about this concern over 1650 times. Why would you want to swim a mile fast? Wouldn't that be worse than say two fast 200s in the same day?

    You are leading me to believe that you might not in fact be a wimp.
  14. tjrpatt's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jim thornton

    Thanks for the kind words. I actually read about your swims this past weekend and figured maybe this is just not the best time for swimming meets. This has been a long cold winter
    Well, March is only a week away and this winter garbage is almost over. Thank gosh, Zones is in late April. Although the meet in indoors, the warm weather makes you extra happy. Then again, when I did SCY Zones in 2004, it was kind of cold that weekend but I think that was the first weekend in April.

    Overall, I don't think that it is a bad time for meets. During heavy training, you are going to have crappy meets like I had on Saturday. Sunday was better(at least, I am finally under 5:30 in the 500) and I think that I did ok when I had to do the 200 IM and 100 fly like 10 minutes apart due to officials stopping my 200 IM heat in the midst of the race.
  15. Kurt Dickson's Avatar
    What no statistical analysis? Where are your "p" values? Damn Jimbo, u r getting slopy.