Just a quick blog post today to congratulate all the Duck swimmers who swam at the Provincials late last month! I hope you all were able to get some really quick times and were happy with your results. Sorry I missed you all. Things have been crazy work wise, and I also have not attended some practices (sorry Adam), but hope to make them all up soon.
The Thornhill Invitational Swim Meet was held at the Pan Am Centre in Markham. I have to commend the THOR group for running a spectacular swim meet! That coupled with an awesome facility, made the event a must attend.
My day however didn’t start off so great. I woke up at 5:30am wondering why in the world I signed up for the meet. I wasn’t in the right mindset to swim at all on Sunday, let alone try to swim some fast times. If it had of been any other day, I would have taken a rare day off of swimming, as I really needed a mental day off of swimming.
But I decided to go to the pool, even though I was not mentally ready to swim. I got all my belongings together, and drove down the highway listening to some tunes and noticing there was very little traffic at 7am on a Sunday morning.
As I stepped onto the pool deck, I marveled on how great the facility is. The Pan Am Centre in Markham is truly an amazing venue. As I walked over to see my fellow team mates, I quickly chatted with many of them making small talk.
Soon enough, I started my warm up. Only swam 300 meters, and called it an adequate warm up. Then the blocks opened, where I practiced my new dive. I still wasn’t in the racing mindset.
It’s almost the weekend, and I am excited about my second upcoming meet this Sunday at the 6th Annual Thornhill Masters Invitational at Markham’s Pan Am Centre. To be honest, I am not the biggest supporter of swimming in Master’s swim meets. The main reason is because I think the swim meet is essentially playing to all my disadvantages in a pool setting – namely starting off the blocks, flip turns, and the need to swim ultra-fast. My traditional strengths are in distance, especially in the area of marathon swimming. And as well, I have mentioned this several times for people that know me well – Masters swimming, at least that I am aware of, does not have para classifications. If anyone knows otherwise, please contact me. So the competition is so not fair. But does that really matter? The answer is, it depends.
It depends on what the objectives are. If the objective is to finish at the top of the age group amongst a group of able-bodied swimmers, well, unfortunately, that’s never going to happen. Ever. If the objective is to go out and have fun, or to socialize with my fellow swimmers, that’s a different take on competing as well. Being a Libra, I’d say I like to compete and do well, and in addition, socialize with my fellow swimmers.
By the way, if you would like to see my new start off the blocks, watch the video of my swim with the Ducks this morning. Coach Adam filmed us oldies jumping off the blocks. Very cool!!
This is not breaking news by any means, but I think Masters Swimming in Ontario, and in Canada generally, is truly messed up. I’m not going into detail about that whatsoever other than to acknowledge they are unlikely going to address my concerns anytime soon. So does that mean I should boycott swim meets? In the past, I have done just that. I have come up with reasons to not go coupled with why it isn’t worth my while to attend such as the following:
- I don’t swim in pools I don’t like..
- I don’t swim in 25 yard pools… that in my opinion further limits me, I don’t want more turns for example??
- I wish to spend more time with my family, especially now that I have a three year old daughter.
But attending SOME meets is worth my while. Especially if I like the atmosphere of where I’ll be swimming, and ultimately, competing. The pool at the Pan Am centre is fantastic, and I frankly really enjoy swimming there win, lose or draw. The pool is 10 lanes, and the water makes me feel fabulous! So that’s the reason why I’m swimming this weekend. Because its fun, and I like the pool. Simple as that.
For the record, I’ll be swimming the following events this Sunday:
- 200 M fly
- 200m Free
- 50 M free
- 100 M IM
If you’re swimming this Sunday at the meet, please feel free to say hello. J
Recently, I have been enrolled in a Mindfulness training session at my workplace during my lunch hour. At first, I did not understand what Mindfulness meant. So I performed a Google search, and it displayed the following on my screen:
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Must admit, given my business background in my profession, and not being very spiritual in nature, the mindfulness concept of “being conscious or aware of something” seemed to be somewhat off the wall notion I could not wrap my head around.
In my first class, I showed up late because of work commitments where I missed the definition. I was not off to a good start, especially on a topic that was so foreign to me. Our second class was about not being judgemental, and skills to practice judging other people perhaps too quickly. However, it was my third and latest session at this point where the concept of being aware has started to take shape. The class was all about a concept I found interesting called “Radical Acceptance”. The idea behind Radical Acceptance is to accept something that has happened in your life rather than to keep fighting it or staying in denial. The official definition is described as “accepting something with your body, mind, and soul – accept it rather than half-hearted. Accepting it with all of yourself, rather than just with your mind”. (From The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook”.
I had to think long and hard about something that I had “Radically Accepted”. Then, the idea donned upon me that I had accepted the fact that I was a para athlete in swimming, and that I choose to fully accept it, and have done the best with the situation despite having this challenge. Then I thought about a particular situation about my disability that I had accepted, and what I had done to change it. Just this past week, I was thinking about my starts and turns. I discovered a YouTube video of a man in my situation that had tremendous starts. On my turns, I noticed I was not pushing off them efficiently. In an effort to fix this situation, I now push off the walls as hard as I can with my stumps, and now almost reaching the flags.
Fighting with myself by not accepting the situation, may very well have prohibited me from swimming with my able bodied peers. And the consequences of not swimming would mean a massive amount of weight gain, and eventually becoming immobile or wheelchair bound.
I’m going to end this blog post my answering a question about how I feel about being a para swimmer:
Am I trilled to be a para swimmer?
No, I’m not thrilled about it. But I now don’t complain about it either. It is what it is. Do I wish I was an able bodied swimmer? Of course I do. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so I am accepting who I am, and making due with what I do have, which is still TONS of ability. However, I am “Radically Accepting” being in this situation, because I’m not fighting about who I am or what I wish I was.
Is there something in swimming or your life in general that you are fighting, which you could “Radically Accept?” Think about it.
This morning I thought about my accomplishments in the world of swimming. Have to tell you all that I am amazed at what I have accomplished many years ago and even through this season as well. My swimming career started in the late eighties when I was fired from a part time job and decided to join Variety Village, a sports and training centre for the disabled. One of the first things I learned was how to swim and following that, I joined their very first swim team. Soon after that, I quickly qualified for SWAD (Swimmer with a Disability) Provincials and Nationals, and started going to those meets. My issue was that I was a good swimmer, but not a fast swimmer. But I loved to swim length after length in the pool, and seemed to never get tired. After a few months of swimming, after swim practice, I decided to stay behind and not stop swimming until I swam five kilometers in the pool. An hour after everyone on my swim team left the pool, I finally managed to get to my goal, and it felt great!
Mile Rock – Georgian Bay, Ontario
One summer while still a teenager, I went to an Easter Seals camp called Blue Mountain Camp, which was located in the town of Collingwood in Simcoe Country. The camp was located directly on the southern shores of Georgian Bay. Many days, I would just sit by the water and listen to the waves crashing on the shoreline. I was at peace with myself.
One day, the camp Councillors asked us campers if we wanted to swim to a place nicknamed “mile rock”, which was about a mile or so away from the shoreline. Having learned how to swim at Variety Village that summer, I quickly thought that I would swim out to the rock would be fun. A few days later, a Councillor and I started swimming towards the rock. I vividly recall aggressively swimming to the rock, getting closer and closer without getting tired at all. Also, I realized that I could be free, without being in a pool and not having to wear my prosthesis to get around. It was a great feeling. Then I noticed the Councillor getting tired, while I seemed to be okay. She demanded that she get pulled into the nearby kayak accompanying us, while I kept swimming. A few minutes later, I reached the rock, and touched it with my hands. Itwas my first accomplishment as an open water swimmer. I made it to the rock!
Blue Mountain Camp (now closed)
Last summer, my wife and I purchased a trailer north of Owen Sound, which features a lovely small lake. The very first weekend I was there, I went to the deck, and plunged into the cold water where it had snowed just a week earlier. Many people in the RV park must have thought I was crazy. Who would jump into the icy cold water? After many years, I found my new “mile rock”. Every weekend from that first swim, I would go to the deck, take off my prosthesis, jump in the lake and start swimming.
Bass Lake Park
During the holidays, I decided that I would head over to the local electronics store to get my hands on a boxing day deal that I could not refuse. It is an action camera, and apparently, they are all the rage and I have been missing out on it! So I did my research before heading to the store, and decided to go with a GoPro knock off. The camera I ended up buying was an ActiveOn CX, and I am really happy with my purchase so far. What I like about it most is that it is comparable with GoPro, and it also allows me to buy GoPro accessories.
The first video is me and my local swim partner Alejandro going over a swim set. I’ve become a novice swim coach as well as masters swimmer it seems.
The second video that I recorded is a tad goofy. The truth is that I didn’t want to ask the life guards permission to use it, and wanted to record short tid bits just to see how it works. The video quality is amazing! I’ve never seen nor recorded myself underwater before, and even though I was fooling around, the fact that I was able to see myself underwater is pretty cool. In order to share them with you all to see, I decided to create my very own YouTube channel. Yes, I am with the times now! 🙂
The reason why I purchased it is to see and get someone to record me swimming underwater, so that I can see myself swimming and compare to the best swimmers in the world. Not that I want to be the best swimmer in the world, just a reasonable copy would be just fine with me! J
In the third video, I recorded myself swimming a 50 meter swim during my warm up.
Over the coming weeks, I hope to take the action cam to practice and record myself, and others (if interested) on how their strokes look in and out of the water. Not to mention, I think using the action cam for other hobbies that I have like at my camp ground up north I think would be awesome.
If you have any other ideas on how an action camera could be useful, please let me know!
This post is about my swim starts off the blocks. The situation at present is that I don’t like my starts at all. I’d like to change my swim starts to what U.S Paralympian Rudy Garcia-Tolson uses when he starts off the blocks. We basically have the same level of amputation, which is through the knee.
I think that I have been doing starts incorrectly my entire swimming career. I’ll have to post what my starts look like, and look more what Rudy does.
Let me know what you think, folks.
I would like to wish all of you a very happy New Year!
May you all have peace, love, good health and prosperity in 2017! It’s hard to believe that we are already encroaching upon the mid-season in the masters swim season. It seemed as though the swim season started just yesterday, when in fact it was a few months ago in September.
Some competitions in the masters season has occurred, namely the Etobicoke meet and the North York Pentathlon. I know that there are more upcoming, with February being a busy month meet wise. Of course, the big meet is the upcoming Provincials competition, which is in my opinion a fantastic meet. Hope to see you all at the meets, and if you recognize me, please say hello!
Incidentally, I’m looking for some masters swimmers to profile as I generally prefer to write about others, rather than myself. If you are at all interested, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject title “Carlos Waves story idea(s)”. Looking forward to hearing from you.
In honour of the Aurora Master Ducks 12 Days of Christmas workout this Sunday, I thought I would find some examples of what Adam may have in store for us. So I went digging on the internet to see what I could find as good examples of what others do for a similar workout.
The first interesting workout I found was a rather hilarious video which is kind of corny, but rather funny.. have a look at it.
Also, below are two samples which combine all strokes, speeds, and even incorporating some block diving starts to make things interesting. Perhaps some of us can swim these workouts during the Christmas break to keep us in shape?
12×75 (50 of one stroke, 25 of another stroke) on 1:20
11×50 free on :50
10×25 on :30 (odd fly, even breast)
9×50 (25 of one stroke, 25 of another stroke) on :55
8×100 free on 1:30, hold under 1:15 or 1:20 depending on ability
7×50 back on :50
6×125 (100 free/25 no free) on 1:50
5×50 free on :45
4×25 fly on :25
3×50 breast on :50
2×200 free on 4:00 from the blocks (“Always trying to get them up and race when they are tired.”)
1×200 fly from the blocks
(all on about 20-seconds rest)
12 x 75 Swim, steady, every 3rd repeat = no freestyle
11 x 50 Swim, steady, alternate free/stroke
10 x 25 Steady, alternate 25 kick / 25 swim
9 x 75 Swim, last 25 always faster effort
8 x 50 Swim, steady
7 x 25 Swim, fast
6 x 75 Swim, steady
5 x 50 Swim, fast
4 x 25 Kick, flippers, fast
3 x 75 Swim, flippers, fast
2 x 50 Swim, flippers, fast
1 x 100 Swim, flippers, big finish!
Cool down as desired
TOTAL DISTANCE = 4,100
Which workout do you prefer?
This post is about a story about a remarkable 44 year old woman whom embarked on a marathon swim in the hopes of making other people’s lives better. Meet Anita Doppenberg, whom this past summer decided to swim across the waters of Lake Erie to complete a crossing to raise funds to assist the Mayan people of Guatemala.
Anita humbly describes herself as a stay at home mother of five. She loves the water and swimming, and comments that she boats quite often on the weekends in the summer. Anita also volunteers at schools and at Church. What I found interesting about Anita is that she is interested in a hobby farm where she can raise livestock and have “fresh eggs and veggies”. She hopes the fruit trees will bear fresh fruit in the years to come.
I asked Anita she came up with the idea to raise money to help the Mayan people in Guatemala. In her own words, she described to be how she thought of the idea. Anita states vividly “ I went to Guatemala where some family have moved to permanently live there to help the Mayan people. These people are very poor. There is so much to do there. I came home and felt so helpless and hopeless. I so badly wanted to help and do more. I asked myself what I am good at and thought of swimming. This was the birth of the idea to do a fairly big swim to raise funds for this cause. Once I found a fundraiser coordinator who really is responsible for getting every last dollar of the 21,000 dollars that were raised. I just had to focus on training”.
My next question to Anita was about her background in swimming, especially given the fact she planned for what would end up being a grueling and challenging 19 km swim across Lake Erie. What I found surprising, yet admirable was the amount of swimming she had before she had decided to complete her crossing. Anita says that she “dabbled in a summer swim team for 1 season” and also swum on her own in pools as well as in Lake Ontario. She adds that she never really competed until she needed to train for Lake Erie by competing in open water races where she was exposed to a wide range of distances, temperature fluctuations, as well as different bodies of water. From what Anita told me, I thought she just decided to go for it once she had a vision of what she wanted to accomplish.
The following four questions are in question and answer format, because upon reading Anita’s responses to my questions, I thought it would be best to present them as a direct response as I felt it would be best to capture the emotion of her story of describing aspects of her Lake Erie swim.
My Question to Anita:
- In an online news article, the reporter noted that you were facing tough conditions just one and a half kilometers into your swim, yet you ended up finishing ahead of schedule. How did you conquer these issues to press on until you completed your swim?
“The first two hours were quite rough. The rolling boats made a couple of crew members sick. I was despairing and thought I cannot do this for 8 hours. Then I got mad! Mad at the waves, mad at my suit, mad at myself and even mad at my swim master! My husband could tell I was mad by the way I was swimming. I didn’t like what was happening so as I swam I thought of ways to fix it. Next feed, I told my media person to tell all the supporters on-line to pray for better conditions. My suit felt like it was dragging, so I took it off! I asked my coach what to do. He said “keep head down and kick, the wind was expected to die down”. And then it calmed. What a relief! With the calmer waters my media person was able to check the gofundme page and update me as money came in by writing the amount on a white board that I could read when I breathed on that side. She also put jokes, riddles and messages people were posting on-line. I thought of each person who donated, pictured them in my mind, saw their kids, saw their smiles and even heard their laughs. This was a great way to distract me from fatigue and boredom. I would also imagine the Mayan people and how they lived”.
My Question to Anita:
How did you feel when you were greeted by more than 100 friends and family when you reached shore?
“Completely humbled! It was just Lake Erie! I was so touched by the support! It was really unbelievable! I was so relieved it was over and that I had been able to finish as I had doubted all along that I was ready. Adrenalin must have hit then because I felt amazing, even my shoulders! I kept going the rest of the day and barely slept that night, and kept going all the following day”.
My Question to Anita:
After your swim, you continue to tell your story and motivate others to make positive change. What gave you the motivation and the inspiration to tell your story to others, especially children?
“ I learned so much from this journey. Not only about others but about myself too. I want to try to create empathy in kids for others and then the courage and confidence to change things that are unjust. It can be anything”.
My Question to Anita:
What inspires and motivates you? What are your talents and strengths? Can you connect the two?
I believe everyone has a purpose and can be the change with the right support and tools. On the back of my workout log I wrote words/phrases to help me when I wanted to quit. Some examples being……habit, push, clear your head, step out of the norm, be grateful, ALWAYS do your best, make it your own, no excuses, focus, fight the negativity, strong, hate it now love it later, it’s just a feeling, do it because you can, do not psych yourself out, commitment, stay calm and breath, appreciate the challenge, you are a competitor, trust your training, confidence”.
Her children also had something to say about their mom. They asked her to expand on her sentence “do it because you can”. Anita responded by saying “there are many people who can’t. Just walk through the cancer clinic or Sick Kid’s hospital. If you are healthy and able bodied…don’t waste it.”
Sunday is the North York Gators 2016 Pentathlon Swim Meet. Even though I will not be attending, I wish the swimmers from the Ducks a great meet, and hope you have some awesome times in the pool!
Good day everyone!
I hope that everyone is enjoying reading the blog. In regards to today’s post, I thought I would try something different and reference an article about the art and science of swimming itself.
Don’t get me wrong, posts about outstanding individuals to me are fascinating, however there also needs to be a balance with some general swimming news and tips.
Many of you may know of a blog called Swimming Science. It’s a blog about the scientific aspects of swimming that I personally find really useful. A post that I found that could help you in your quest to reach your swimming goals is about swimming the perfect swim practice. We often have many demands placed on our time – family, friends, and of course for most of us – our careers. The tips recommended are top notch, and I recommend you review them and consider implementing, if not already done.
If you are interested in tips in perfecting your time at the pool, please read the blog post referenced here. Ignore the references to parents, as this post was written to be geared towards a younger age group athlete.
At the age of 19, Kim became just the 11th person to swim across Lake Ontario in 1976. The marathon swimming community is very small; especially those whom have dared themselves to try one of the toughest marathon swims in the world. I’ve known Kim for many years, and am thankful for her agreeing to be interviewed for this blog.
Kim noted to me that even though her 1976 swim was a success, but was a “hard swim” and was thankful that her father, a successful marathon swimmer in his own right, prepared her for her swim and kept her going.
Kim was born in 1957, who managed to get into the sport of swimming as a result of her parents placing her into competitive swimming at just the age of 9. Kim quickly realized that her strengths would be better used by swimming long distances, rather than short races, due to many operations on her legs. It turned out Kim was right, as she explained to me that she won United States National Championships by winning a three mile race at the age of 15. She kept up by continuously ranking in the top 5, for the next 5 years, in winning the woman’s division, which I think is an extraordinary achievement.
Kim has many achievements as a Masters swimmer as well. She has been ranked in the Top 10 in the 800m and 1,500m free events respectively when she was in the 40 to 45 age group. Although Kim likes swimming at Masters Meets, she has a greater preference to swim longer swims, as well as open water events.
As a former marathon swimmer myself, I asked Kim what advice she would give to any swimmer whom aspires to swim a major body of water. Kim mentioned that in order to prepare, the person considering a major swim must do these three essential things:
- Be mentally ready to swim, especially when swimming for long periods of time;
- Your diet must be suitable to support your training;
- Plan your training program for the year in order to get to your goals;
I totally agree with Kim’s suggestions. One point I would add is to also surround yourself with positive people who believe in what you are trying to accomplish.
Kim, now 60 years old, is planning a swim across Lake Erie this summer, in preparation for a Lake Ontario crossing in the year 2020, where she hopes to become the oldest woman (63) ever to complete this extraordinary feat.
Kim is a mother of 3, who are now in their 30’s and has three beautiful grandchildren.
Meet Laura Vree, whom I know well. Laura just joined the Ducks this season, after spending three years learning how to swim while enrolled in a local learn to swim fitness program. Laura lives and has her own business in Bradford, Ontario. I admire Laura and her desire to swim because she makes things happen! Laura swims for fitness, as well as to be social. Welcome aboard, Laura. Below are the questions she graciously answers for us:
- Can you tell me about yourself (i.e approximate age, family, your hobbies and your business for example)?
Hello Carlos, I am in my late 40s, I have been married for almost 25 years, I have two beautiful daughters (one in University, one just about done high school) and I am the proud owner of a custom cookie business, Sweet Handmade Cookies. I help with the care of my elderly mother, I have a chocolate lab named Marley that keeps me on my toes, I keep busy with the organization of our town’s farmers’ market, and I am a homebody that likes nothing more than spending time with my family.
- Do your family members enjoy sporting or leisure activities? If so, what sports do they partake in?
My husband is very physically active, he works out regularly and his favourite sport is cycling. My daughters, unfortunately, are not as active as we would love for them to be, but they work extremely hard at school and music, so we are grudgingly cutting them some slack and hope they will soon find a sport they love.
- What makes you tick? What makes you wake up early to swim on a consistent basis?
Hmmm, I don’t know if I have ever thought about that. What makes me tick….? I guess I would say that routine makes me tick. I am a creature of habit and there is something so satisfying about getting up, getting my workout in, getting in some social interaction with friends, getting showered and dressed, all before the day starts! Granted, I am a morning person but I am also in bed by 9:30 each night so that I can be a morning person.
- How important is it to be involved with others in a social atmosphere weather it is in sport, or your personal life?
For me it is extremely important to be involved socially with others. I like being around people and since I spend most of my days working alone at my business, I work hard to find time to socialize with friends and family outside of work hours. I make time both to get together with friends regularly, and in my home life, we do many things together as a family, like meals and shopping and just hanging out. My time at the pool/gym is also social for me. I love meeting and chatting with people and over the years, some of my gym friends have become close friends. We actually get together outside of the gym for dinners and hanging out. Don’t laugh at this, but for about 25 minutes per week, one of my friends and I do nothing but “flutter” in the pool. Back and forth we go, chatting and catching up on each other’s week. We call it “fluttering Wednesday”, heck, even the lifeguards know what it is called! It is actually a little bit of therapy and we joke that we have saved hundreds of dollars doing this. Swimming is not exactly a social sport, what with your face being under the water most of the time, so we have solved that problem once a week for 25 minutes.
- You recently contributed towards the Special Olympics artisan sale. What did you make?
Yes, I heard about the Ducks’ association with the Special Olympics team and thought I could help out. I donated a box of my decorated cookies; snowflakes and mittens. Part of my business mandate is to give back and so I help a number of charities throughout the year.
- If I recall correctly, you have been swimming for several years now. What made you decide to start swimming? Did you have a previous history with swimming or any other sport or leisure activity?
My husband has always been very active. I wasn’t, in fact, I didn’t even take phys ed in high school, but the year we got married, my husband and I joined a gym and we started working out together. I did a couple duathlons (run/bike) but eventually had to give up running due to arthritis and also decided I actually didn’t like cycling very much. I continued to work out, but I didn’t have a sport I loved. When our town built a new leisure complex that included a pool, I didn’t figure it would interest me at all, as I didn’t even know how to swim, but somehow I got myself into that pool and after joining a triathlon training program, I did learn how to swim. Unlike almost everything I have learned in life, learning to swim is still such a vivid memory for me and such an accomplishment. I remember the panic I felt getting into the pool and having to put my face in the water. But I loved the feeling of being in the pool and I kept going back. Somehow, I met and started swimming with real athletes (triathletes, including a number who have completed more than one Ironman competition and of course, you!) Swimming with those incredible people pushed me further and further and I just couldn’t get enough. Soon, I was swimming 5 or 6 days per week and loving every minute. I had finally found my sport!
- You decided to make a decision this season to join the Aurora Ducks masters swim team. What motivated you to join? What have you learned about swimming since you started swimming with the Ducks?
I decided to join the Aurora Ducks master swim team because I want to learn more and work harder in the pool. Working out with an instructor pushes me more than swimming on my own does. My first few times were scary! Oh, who am I kidding, it is still scary! Luckily, everyone has been friendly and non-judgemental, which was important to my fragile ego! I have learned that I need to keep showing up and keep practising in the pool. I have learned that I can probably master the fly sometime in the near future. I have also learned that the learning doesn’t stop.
- How often do you swim? What are your goals or what do you expect to accomplish?
I swim 5 or 6 days per week. I would swim 7 days per week if my schedule would allow it. I feel I am rare breed when I say that I don’t need a competition to keep me motivated to go. I don’t have a desire to compete, I just want to improve speed, fitness, and skills. With only 4 years of swimming under my belt, I have a lot of areas where I can improve. Many of my friends lose their motivation outside of training season, but I am just in it for the journey, 365 days of the year!
One last thing… I remember one day I arrived for my triathlon group’s swim lesson and for the first time, we were getting in at the deep end. I was in an immediate panic, and wondered how the heck I was going to get into the pool. I watched as all my teammates dove or jumped in. I just stood there until everyone swam away and then lowered myself in, hanging onto the wall. Within a few lessons everyone had caught on I couldn’t do it, so I decided I had better learn how. So one day, after the class, I stood on the pool deck and told myself I would do it. The minutes ticked by. Soon, it was just me and a lifeguard left. It was so scary. It was so intimidating. It was so deep! I was beside myself with panic and fear, but eventually I did it. I jumped in. Later, I learned how to dive in too. Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone changed how I look at the world. I now feel I can try anything. I didn’t feel that way just a few years ago. Who knew a pool could change me that much!
My latest blog post is about who I think is a popular master’s swimmer whom attends both competitive swim meets, as well as many open water events. His name is Michael Kenny, and has been a master’s swimmer since 2013. Michael and his wife Fabia have three children, with all of them being athletic.
Michael swims with the Cambridge Mavericks, and is one of his recent accomplishments was to win the 2015-16 Global Swim Series Championship in Open Water Swimming. Recently, I had asked Michael if he would be interested in being interviewed as part of this blog. He graciously agreed and responded to my questions on the same day they were asked.
Michael’s masters swimming journey started with a promise to lose weight and wanted to break the cycle once and for all. In his first practice with his team, he could barely swim one length of the pool. Yet, just recently he swam a 400 meter fly as an open event at the Etobicoke Semi Serious swim meet.
I think you will find Michael an interesting personality. Below are my questions, and Michael’s response:
1. Can you tell me about yourself? What makes you tick?
I am a bit of an oddball. I have never fit in with the crowd and it took a while for me to understand that this was not the end of the world. If you were to ask what my “gifting” in life was it would be that I am what is known as an “Exhorter”. In a nutshell I can meet someone wherever they are at and bring rationale and encouragement to the table. As for what makes me tick…. There are a few things. My primary goal at this stage in my life is to raise my children to be more than I am and to prepare them for life as best as I can. A large part of that in my household is sport. All of my kids are athletic and it takes up a lot of our schedules. Another thing is “The Mountain” as my friend Greg would call it. And the adventure that goes with it. The Mountain is that obstacle and unknown that deep inside calls to you, almost begging you, to journey to the other side.
2. Did you have a competitive swimming or similar career before going into masters?
Yes and No. If I were to say that I never was on a swim team growing up I would not be telling the whole story. As a young teenager I lived on a small lake in Knowlton, Quebec. For three summers in a row I was on their “swim team”. I’m pretty sure I was voluntold that I was on it. I was always at the beach anyways in the summer and I was taking lessons so I guess it seemed natural to the swim instructors that I would join their team. We would have one swim meet against the rich kids from the boat club next door. This lasted for about six weeks each summer and I really had no idea what was going on or what I was doing. I did get “swimmer of the year” twice in a row. I also was on a high school team for a few weeks until I got embarrassed by kids who were obviously club swimmers. That really is the extent of it, nothing like what age group swimmers do.
3. You swam the 400 open event in Etobicoke recently using the Butterfly stroke. One of your mottos is #swimanything. What made you wish to take on this challenge, and what did you learn from the experience?
I have always been attracted to those who do what others dare not. In our sport there are the typical pool events and regular open water distances. Once you do something outside of those boundaries it gets interesting. In my first year of swimming I heard about the great Vicki Keith and how she swam across Lake Ontario swimming Butterfly and I thought to myself “how is that even possible?”. At the
time I was still new and I couldn’t swim Butterfly at all. In my second season I decided to race something other than freestyle and I also decided to figure out this Butterfly thing. The thing with this particular stroke is there really isn’t any way to fake it. Either you are swimming Butterfly or you are drowning. I taught myself to swim what I call “cheater fly” which is completely stroke legal but is as ugly as sin and not at all like what you would see in the Olympics. At Nationals 2015 I raced the 200m event for the 1st time. Fast forward to the summer of 2016. Somehow some of my open water buddies and I got talking about butterfly in open water. It was there I decided to see how much more I could push my limits. It wasn’t long after that I decided that I would do a 400 Butterfly at a swim meet. There are many many reasons but one of them is that old saying that if your goal doesn’t scare you then it isn’t big enough. Another was to encourage others. If I can go from someone who was basically sedentary to someone that can swim a 400m Butterfly than surely people out there can challenge themselves to move past whatever obstacle seems to be in their way. What I really and truly have learned has come not only from that experience but many along the way; you are capable of more than you know. If you pitch your tent at “I can’t” then you are likely never going to leave camp. If you give your brain the challenge “How can I _ _ _ ?” it will begin to try and sort it out.
4. You are also an accomplished open water swimmer. What excites you more with regards to swimming, swimming indoors during the winter months or open waters during the warmer weather?
For me they go hand in hand. I know many people that swim one or the other but would never do both. When I finished my first season of pool racing I was left looking for more. I decided to try an open water swim as that was where I got my first swimming experience anyways. I was instantly hooked.
5. You are also an avid blogger with your own blog, which you update on a regular basis. Can you tell us what your blog is all about, and why you created it?
The original purpose for the blog is very much different from what it is now. To better understand I need to give you some history. In 2013 one of the Fast and the Furious movies was in theatre. My wife came home from the movie and gave me some tough love. “You know, you kind of look like Vin Diesel except he’s all muscle and you’re just fat.” It sounds harsh but it was true. I was 239 pounds and not carrying it all that well. For whatever reason we came up with the nick name “Vin Gasoline” to make light of the whole thing. It wasn’t long after that I decided to do something about the weight. In the summer months my oldest son joined the local club’s summer swim league and as I watched him swim I remembered those days of swimming in Quebec and found that I missed it. I asked the coaches if they had a program for adults and they did. This was my first exposure to Masters swimming. I decided to set a crazy goal for myself which was to compete at the Fina Masters World Championships in Montreal, 2014. At the time it seemed like an absurd goal. Combined with my new desire to lose weight I decided it would be great to chronicle the whole thing in a blog, partially to tell my story, but also to help keep me accountable. With people reading what was going on and supporting me I was more likely to actually succeed. Then of course I needed a cool and catchy name. Vin Gasoline wasn’t all that sexy. Swim Diesel on the other hand jumped right off the page at me. That was how it was born. If you go there now it has turned into a lot of “race reports” from my point of view along with some cool stories. It is my very own soapbox that has a fair following of people who don’t mind my quirks.
6. Your daughter also swims. You recently posted about her swimming at her very first meet. How did you get your daughter into swimming, and is she enjoying it thus far?
I have three children and all of them love the water. I heard a friend say long before I was into swimming that this was the only sport that would save their lives. That has always been in the back of my head somewhere and I have made sure the kids can swim. My oldest is a competitive swimmer on the local team. I believe that once he grows into his body he will be a very good swimmer. My middle child excels at sports and we had to settle on one “major” sport at a time. While he would likely be a strong swimmer in a short period of time on a competitive team we put him in a sport with a ball which is more his tempo. He still takes lessons and etc. but isn’t on the team yet. My daughter is at the beginning stages of it all. We are still trying to figure out what sport she gravitates to most. She enjoys trying out what her brothers are doing and loves to participate and socialize. She also like having her father dole out praise for a job well done. So far she hasn’t shown any sort of “killer instinct” or competitive streak but it may come with age. At her level she is not swimming in a Swim Canada meet. It is a “fun meet” that doesn’t count for anything but does get them familiar with what a meet might look like. She’s in no rush at any point which is comical to me as a competitor but she has a smile on her face the whole time which really is what is most important right now.
Michael also believes that the masters motto needs to change to “We want you to come” because of the connections that are made, and the common struggle to keep active. Agree with his assessment one hundred percent! If you wish to read more about Michael and his latest endeavors, please visit his blog http://www.swim-diesel.com/.