ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: OUR FINAL STOP

Alexandria, Virginia was our last place to visit before ending our 18 day swimming and travel adventure. Our friends, Melody and David moved to Alexandria (from Burke, Virginia), so our plan was to see Alexandria during the day, and visit with Melody and David in the evening.

Dating back to the late 1600’s the old town section of Alexandria is very quaint and picturesque.

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Like Baltimore, it is a wonderful place to see on foot, so we did plenty of walking. We were walked out from Baltimore, though, so we also took advantage of the free trolley bus that circles the historic old town district.

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Although Alexandria has plenty of shops and restaurants, we spent most of our indoor time browsing the artist studios at the Torpedo Factory. At one time, this really was a torpedo factory and munitions storage site. Once World War II ended, it was no longer needed, and in 1969 the building was adapted to studios for working artists. There are now 82 studios, 6 galleries, and two workshops for artists who produce a diversity of artwork, ranging from painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture.

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After a lovely, relaxed day of wandering around Alexandria (and having a fabulous lunch at Mai Thai (http://maithai.us/ ), we enjoyed our final evening with Melody and David. Spending time with special friends was a wonderful way to conclude a fabulous trip!

Additional photos of Alexandria are posted at: http://www.ExquisiteCards.Fototime.com . Stop on by for a visit!

WALKING (AND WALKING, AND WALKING) BALTIMORE

Quebec City was fabulous, but it was time to turn my thoughts back to swimming and our purpose for heading to Baltimore Maryland:  U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship.

By the time we arrived at the University of Maryland for my races, my legs were completely shot from all the walking we had done in Quebec.  It was well worth it, though!

Knowing we had time on the back end to see Baltimore, our time at Nationals was spent either at the pool or lounging back at the hotel in College Park.  A previous post  was about the competition:  http://elaineiakstravels.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/redemption/

Saving our sightseeing in Baltimore for after Nationals was a smart move, since we love to walk, and our day in Baltimore lasted eleven hours– most of it walking!

Our day was to begin at Lexington Market, but just a few blocks away was a very interesting cemetery, according to Anna Lea Matysek from the USMS offices.  It is where Edgar Allan Poe was buried, and she urged us to have a look.  As it turned out, it was as interesting as promised, and quite photogenic as well.

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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” as the saying goes.  When in Maryland, eat crab cakes.  Next up?  Crab cakes at Faidley’s in Lexington Market.

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After our lunch and stroll through Lexington Market, we headed down to Fell’s Point, the historic waterfront district of Baltimore dating back to 1763. We left our rental car in Fell’s Point and followed the waterfront into downtown Baltimore on foot.  It was a wonderful walk with plenty of interesting things to see and photograph along the way. (There were some cheesey ones, too!)

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City planners did a wonderful job with the downtown waterfront of Baltimore.  It is pedestrian friendly, but for those who wish to ride instead, there is a free bus that covers the downtown area.

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Being avid walkers, we opted to walk the entire waterfront from Fell’s Point to the American Visionary Art Museum, stopping along the way for a quick lunch and plenty of photos.

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The interior of Barnes & Noble was unlike any store I had ever seen!

The interior of Barnes & Noble was unlike any store I had ever seen!

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Although the museum was closed the day we were in Baltimore, Anna Lea was emphatic we stop there to at least see the museum’s exterior.  That was a first.  Aren’t the exhibits at a museum INSIDE?  As you can see in the next several shots, there was plenty to see OUTSIDE of the museum!

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We were so fortunate to have perfect weather for our day in Baltimore.  The sun was shining bright, and as we headed back to Fell’s Point for dinner, it turned to a lovely golden light.

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To see additional photos of Baltimore, please visit: http://www.ExquisiteCards.Fototime.com

AU REVOIR, QUEBEC!

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On both sides of the walled Old City, Quebec is a very pleasant, attractive, and clean city; and, we always felt safe walking through the streets wherever we went. It is quite hilly, though, and I am now paying for hiking up and down those steep inclines! If you have arthritis in your hips and you visit Quebec City, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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The incline is so steep leading down to the Old Port, we walked down; however, after a full day of walking, we chose to take the inclinator back up. It was well worth the visit, though, as you can see below.

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Back up top, the Fairmont Hotel and the Old City looked beautiful in the sunlight.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our 2-1/2 days in Quebec City and were sorry to have to leave Canada. U.S. Masters Summer Nationals was next on my swimming competition plate, though, and it was time to continue on to College Park, Maryland.

How ironic that of all the people we spoke with in French Canada, the only one who couldn’t speak English was the taxi driver who took us to the airport! Seeing our luggage upon arrival, though, he pulled only two words out of his extremely limited English vocabulary: “Airport or train station?” And, off we went.

Somehow, in his French and my English, we were able to communicate perfectly fine. I had forgotten to photograph my Canadian currency (something I do in every country I visit), so I pulled out a $20 and photographed it on my leg. I conveyed to our driver that their $20 note was prettier than our $20 bill. He went on to comment on the value of their currency compared to ours and how it has fluctuated over the years. I didn’t understand a word he said, but we were sure we understood exactly what he said. Funny how sign language and facial expressions can be a wonderful substitute for understandable words.

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By the time we arrived at the airport, our discussion of economics had developed quite animated; however, it was time to say “au revoir.”

We both look forward to the day we return to Quebec City and are welcomed by our next French-speaking taxi driver with a hearty, “Bonjour!”

QUEBEC: OUI, OUI!

There was one place I felt completely at home among an entire group of French speaking locals: the pool. Lap swimming etiquette is the same throughout the world, and it took no time at all to size up the situation when I arrived for a morning training session. Lanes were designated by speed, and although I can’t read French, I knew what the red, yellow, and green signs meant: no-go, slow-go, and go-go! I hopped into the lane with the green sign (for fast swimmers) and fit right in with three swimmers who knew what they were doing (circle swimming counter-clockwise). We all went about our business and were right in sync, never getting in each others’ way.

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Two of us ended our session at the same time, and we got into a conversation. He spoke to me in French, and I replied, “Parlaz-vous anglais?” In perfect English, he repeated his question, “Are you new here? I’ve never seen you before.”

After explaining that I was American and had competed at the Masters World Championships, he welcomed me to Quebec and said, “I may be partial, but I think Quebec is the most beautiful city in North America. You are really going to enjoy it!” I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation, because it was the end of that day I came to the same conclusion.

San Diego, the city I called home for 24 years is wonderful in so many ways, and San Francisco is magical. Portland and Seattle are two beautiful cities, and I absolutely loved Chicago. Savannah is incredibly charming and picturesque, and although New York is HUGE, it also has a place on my favorite cities list.

In Canada, Vancouver topped the list for me and Bruce—until we stepped under the arch of the walled Old City of Quebec. It was love at first sight.

During our two full days in Quebec, Bruce and I enjoyed our quickly-established routine of swimming in the morning and sightseeing in the afternoon. While he lounged in the apartment, I made the five-minute walk to the community pool for the morning lap swimming session. (U.S. Master Swimming Summer Nationals was coming up in just a few days, so it was important to keep a feel for the water after Worlds concluded.)

This facility was excellent. Not only was it free (thanks to the taxpayers), it was clean as a whistle and well-maintained. The locker rooms were large and well-equipped, and the 25-meter pool was kept at a perfect temperature.

After my swim, I was curious to see who was pictured on the wall next to the posted information. As it turned out, it was the local Masters team, and I recognized several of the swimmers from World Championships!

Following my morning swim sessions, we ventured into the Old City and Old Port to explore.

The iconic centerpiece of the Old City is the Fairmont Hotel. Below are some photos I shot of the hotel and a parade we enjoyed the previous afternoon. It was a bit gloomy; however, we were fortunate to have perfect weather the remainder of our trip.

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Our first meal in Quebec was at Casse-Crepe Breton, a highly rated and reasonably priced recommended on my go-to travel site, http://www.TripAdvisor.com . We enjoyed our crepes there so much, we returned for more on our last day.

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Ditto for our pitas at La Galette Libonnaise, a tiny takeaway tucked in between posh restaurants on swank Grand-Allee est. We each tried a different pita during our two visits, so we tasted four in all. It was difficult to choose a favorite, because they were all so delicious!

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In my next post, I will share more about our Quebec experience. Until then, au revoir!

QUEBEC CITY: EXQUISITELY BEAUTIFUL!

Riding the train from Montreal to Quebec City was a very relaxing and enjoyable way to begin our remaining three days in Canada. Rather than book a hotel room in Quebec, we again opted to rent an apartment, this time at http://www.airbnb.com .

Melanie and Angus were there to greet us upon arrival, an easy task for them since their home was located just above our rental. Immediately, we knew we had made the right choice, because they were as warm and gracious as could be, and their apartment was as cozy and comfortable as we could hope for. What a perfect way to begin our visit in Quebec, the city that topped my bucket list for several years!

Quickly, we checked out the amenities, hung up our clothes, and off we went to explore the city. A short walk up the stairs and there we were at Rue Saint-Jean, the street that would take us to the Old City, just a ten-minute walk away.

Along the way were many inviting restaurants, shops, markets, and even a chocolatier with a chocolate museum!

My heart skipped a beat and my eyes lit up, though, when we arrived at the walls surrounding the Old City. I couldn’t wait to explore what awaited us on the other side.

Quebec City, the capital of Quebec perched on the hills above the Saint Lawrence River, is one of the oldest settlements in North America. French explorer Jacques Cartier built a fort at the site in 1535. That was a long time ago!

To us Americans, any structure that is more than 100 years old is old. In Quebec, homes at the Old Port dated back to the early 1600’s and appeared no worse for the wear. They just don’t build ‘em like they used to! (Too bad the Atlanta Braves don’t subscribe to that point of view, because they are abandoning Turner Field for a new stadium. Turner field was built for the Olympics in 1996 and still looks perfectly fine!)

Being in Quebec felt like being back in France. In addition to the beautiful European architecture of the Old City, about 95% of the city’s inhabitants are native French speakers.

Many Americans would find that intimidating or uncomfortable, but I am like a magnet when it comes to foreign cultures. Drop me in the middle of anywhere foreign and I love the challenge of communicating with the locals and making myself at home.

I don’t speak French, but it didn’t take much effort to learn a few simple phrases that proved to be all that was needed to enjoy our stay in Quebec. Check this out on Trip Advisor; it’s all you will need if you visit Quebec: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-s604/Canada:Important.Phrases.html

“Bonjour! Parlez-vous anglais?” Asked with a smile, the locals unfailingly responded in perfect English. We never once experienced the unfriendliness that Americans often speak about when it comes to the French or French Canadians. Avoid playing the “ugly American” role, and Quebec City is thoroughly enjoyable.

The following are a few of the photos I shot in Quebec City. Visit http://www.ExquisiteCards.fototime.com to see more, and check back for my next post for more about Quebec City.

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THE STREETS OF MONTREAL

Given the worn-out condition of my legs after a full day of sightseeing during my free day at Masters Swimming World Championships (and a rotten race time in my 400 IM the following day because of it), we decided to save most of the remainder of our sightseeing for after the completion of Worlds. We had already signed up for a walking tour after my morning race, though, so what the heck. You only live once, right?

Off we went to meet our guide for an afternoon walk through Old Montreal, the Old Port, and the underground city. It was a beautiful day for a walking tour, and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the sights along the way.

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We were most fascinated by the underground tunnels that connect shopping malls, apartment buildings, condos, offices, museums, universities, seven Metro stations, two commuter train stations, a bus terminal, and the hockey arena. Whew! In all, these air conditioned and lit tunnels are spread over more than 12 km (4.6 square miles)! Many are so wide they have shops on both sides of the passage.

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Colorful paint added life to this otherwise bleak hallway connecting the underground city to one of the Metro train stations.

Winters are so brutal in Montreal that 500,000 people use the underground city every day to escape the cold and snow. During our stay in Montreal, the weather was too gorgeous to spend much of our time down there.

Our last full day in Montreal was spent exploring the Mont Royal neighborhood and surrounding area. My camera got a lot of use that day, and our legs put on some miles!  To see more photos of Montreal, visit:  www.ExquisiteCards.fototime.com .

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MONTREAL, CANADA (BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!)

Where has the time gone? So much has happened since visiting Montreal and competing in the FINA Masters Swimming World Championships in early August! After World’s, we visited Quebec City for a few days of sightseeing and then flew back to the States to compete in the U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships. Next, it was time to gear back up to compete in the Southside Seals Pentathlon on September 13 where I competed in my first Ironman. Nothing like racing a 400 Individual Medley, 200 Freestyle, 200 Breaststroke, 200 Backstroke, and 200 Butterfly (saving the hardest for last) in just over two hours! Then, on September 19, I raced a full slate in the Georgia Senior Golden Olympics so I could qualify for Nationals that will take place in the Twin Cities in July 2015. My race times were slow; however, competition was light, so I ended up with two gold and three silver medals.

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Our travels are still on my mind as wonderful memories, though, so I thought I would share some of them with you.

Back in Montreal, Day 2 of competition at World’s didn’t include any of my race events, so it was a day off for me. Most swimmers would choose to relax and stay off their feet given that opportunity; however, we wanted to see Montreal and it was important to me to make this an enjoyable trip for Bruce as well.

Our day off from the pool started with a Metro ride to the Marche Jean-Talon, a wonderful market that was so much more than just produce stalls. It was an experience.
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Most of the remainder of the day was spent exploring the streets of Old Montreal where it felt like being back in France. From the architecture dating back to the 1600’s to the horse-drawn carriages, it was hard to believe we were still in North America. The gas lamps, flower baskets, sidewalk cafes and French-speaking locals gave Old Montreal even more of a French feel to transport me back in my mind to France.

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Riding the Metro trains around Montreal was an efficient way to see the city, and swimmers were given a free 9-day pass to see the sights. Family members were sold passes at an excellent discount, so Bruce and I took advantage of it throughout our nine-day visit. The condo we rented through http://www.homeaway.com was located downtown just a couple of blocks from a Metro station, so it was very convenient. Since the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex was located at one of the Metro stops, we used Metro for getting to and from the pool each day of competition.

Everywhere we went around the city, we saw other swimmers and their families wearing their World Championships credentials around their necks. It was to be
expected given the 9,000 athletes in town for the five Masters aquatic events, including swimming, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo.

What I didn’t expect, though, was to run into my own teammate on a crowded train during our day away from the pool sightseeing! On our way back to the condo, we were just about to board a train when I noticed that some of the cars were more packed than others. We made a quick decision to run up ahead to board a less-crowded train, and there was Ed Saltzman, Georgia Masters team relay coordinator, standing at the car door with a grin on his face. Ed had all of the team’s t-shirts with him, so he quickly dug through his backpack trying to locate mine. Wait! “What station are you getting off at, Ed?” When we realized we were hopping off at the same one, we breathed a sigh of relief and took care of business in the station instead. What a fun way to end our first day of sightseeing in Montreal!

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The view from our condo in downtown Montreal

The view from our condo in downtown Montreal

REDEMPTION!

This post was written following my final race at U.S. Masters Swimming Nationals in Maryland.  We are now home, so once I get caught up with more important things, I will write about Montreal, Quebec City, Baltimore, and Alexandria.  Stay tuned!

After having way too much fun seeing sightseeing in Montreal in between my races at the 2014 Masters Swimming World Championships (and again in Quebec City), I made the decision to get down to business when I arrived in Maryland.

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U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championships at University of Maryland

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At the beginning of U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course National Championships, my body was depleted and I was sure I had completely blown my taper. Still, I thought I would do my best to rest up and prepare to race.

We had seen Washington, D.C. two years ago, and our plans were to see Baltimore after the completion of Nationals. We’ll also be back in the region next year when we spend six weeks touring the northeast in our car.

Besides, Bruce was also exhausted, and he was perfectly happy taking long naps in between our time at the pool.

My first race was the 200 Meter Butterfly. Although my time was faster than in Montreal, I was told I was disqualified for an “alternating kick.” WHAT? I had never been DQ’d in my life, and I was sure I had swum the race clean. Slow, but clean.

As it turned out, I was just one of five women in that event who got DQ’d by the same judge. After looking at the video Bruce shot of my race and seeing my feet practically glued together throughout the race, I was completely baffled. I sent my video to the chief official who happens to also be my teammate to ask for advice. Knowing I had the 400 Individual Medley the next morning, I feared getting another “DQ” next to my name in the results and missing out on a potential medal opportunity.

Ed wrote back, “Don’t change a thing.” Huhhh? Surely, he wouldn’t want me to receive another DQ!

At the pool the following day, after a horrible fitful night of sleep, I raced the 400 IM and earned a medal. Woo Hoo! I had still felt quite tired, so my time was much slower than I had raced that event in the past, but at least it was faster than in Montreal.

After collecting my medal and interviewing my adorable 98 year-old teammate, Anne Dunivin, for a team newsletter article, I headed to the locker room. It was there that I learned my name had been announced on the P.A. to report to the official’s desk. Uh-oh! What did I do this time? Did I get DQ’d in my race and the officials neglected to tell me when I exited the pool? Would I be asked to return my medal? Gulp.

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Anne Dunivin, age 98

When I reported to the desk, Jim Carey said he needed to speak with me in private. He had a very serious look on his face as he escorted me to an office and shut the door behind us. GULP!

What came next was completely unexpected. Jim offered a sincere apology for the “inappropriate” DQ and told me that not only would my DQ be overturned, the other four DQ’s were being overturned as well. In addition, Ms. DQ was being relieved from her officiating duties on deck.

I was sent on my way with good luck wishes, a hug, and a souvenir photo I took of Jim wanting to remember the official who broke the good news. Vindication! My clean swim record remained intact.
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That next day, I felt more rested, and I swam the best breaststroke relay split in two years during the following day’s team relay. Things were looking up!

That night, I did a 10-hour crash and burn. Finally, I felt well-rested and ready to race my best in the 200 Meter Breaststroke. I knew I would win a medal if I placed 2nd in my heat, and I was determined to do so.

Getting up on the blocks, I hummed my re-written them song, “Aqua Dog,” sung to the tune of “Aqua Lung,” by Jethro Tull. (See my previous post on this completely lame attempt at songwriting!) I felt good, and I was ready to conquer my previous demons with this event. It used to me my most difficult event to race—that is, before I took on the 200 Butterfly and 400 IM.

During the race, I thought about the advice I had been given by my teammate, Dale Alton. I resisted the urge to let adrenaline get the best of me and take my first 50 out to fast. I was patient, and I felt strong. Surprisingly, I kept feeling strong throughout the second 50 meters and after the turn during the third 50. Usually at this point my body starts protesting to the point where I lose all strength in my legs and shoulders. Perhaps I hadn’t completely blown my taper after all!

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A special thanks to Florian Galan for capturing me in action.

As I raced that third 50, I could see the swimmer in the neighboring lane up ahead. I was determined to run her down, because I had no idea where the other swimmers were around us. I knew I had to place 2nd to medal, so only one could beat me.

I closed the gap going into the third turn and amazingly enough had enough strength to attempt a “sprint” in the last 50. I increased my turnover rate, dug deep, and gave it all I had.

Although I was unable to catch the gal in the next lane (she beat by 4 seconds), I swam the best 200 breaststroke race of my life. No matter the results, I felt a sense of pride as I looked up at the results. Seeing a “2” next to my name meant a well-earned medal.

As I exited the pool, I realized I had never looked at my time. All I wanted to confirm was that I had indeed beat the other competitors around me and the winner; but, I also was curious if my time had beaten my Worlds time and perhaps even my seed time from my June long course meet in Athens.

What I heard next SHOCKED me. The first number of my time was “3” which meant I beat my seed time by at least six seconds. The other numbers were even better. I ended up with a time of 3:54.47; 12 seconds faster than my seed time (my race time at UGA in last June) and 14 seconds faster than at Worlds. In addition, it was the best 200 Meter Breaststroke time EVER!

REDEMPTION!

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Florian took this photo of me as well. I was one happy camper!

For more photos of the 2014 USMS Summer National Championships, go to:  http://www.fototime.com/inv/AE19CAC4F90547D

MY FAVORITE RACE MEMORY AT WORLD’S

Our week in Montreal was a whirl wind of activity and excitement even in our down time between competition and sightseeing. The head coach for the Americans had started a Facebook page before the world championships began, so I found myself spending more time than I had intended sifting through the posts for any helpful information. Between intel being shared there and on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, and keeping up with e-mails, additional blog posts never got written.

I try to keep a very limited presence on Facebook but find it necessary to be on that site to keep up with swim team and meet information. In the case of Worlds, it was a must due to FINA (the world governing body of the five aquatic sports represented at the world championships) falling down on the job. Without getting into details as to why it was necessary, trust me when I say how crucial it was that the competitors and coaches themselves stepped in to help each other out.

The swimmers and coaches are what made the entire experience a fabulous one for me. The memories I will take away from the meet and our time in Canada are ones I will always cherish and hope never to forget.

In the pool, my race times were very forgettable. Bruce and I had way too much fun seeing the city of Montreal in between competition to be well-rested to race at my best! There was one race, however, that was special.

Most of the time when I race, I am unaware of where the other competitors are in the pool until after I hit the timing pad at the end. I put my head down during my race and just focus on my stroke and where I should be at any given moment.

During my 200 breaststroke race, however, the French swimmer in the adjacent lane was constantly in my peripheral vision, and we were matching each other stroke for stroke. I tried ignoring her, but as I focused on my stroke cadence, she was always right beside me.

After the final turn, I tried to shake her knowing it was time to go all out and sprint for the wall. Still, she was right beside me.

In the final 20 meters, I knew there was no way I was going to let her pass me after the fight I had put up over the past 180 meters. I dug as deep as I could to muster up what was left in my tank and sprinted to the finish, increasing my stroke rate the best I could. I had no strength left at that point in the race, so quickening my stroke rate was what I believed would make the difference.

It appeared in my peripheral vision as if we both touched the pads at the same time. Neither of us could see the electronic time board due to tents blocking our vision, so we didn’t know the results. We knew we came in 3rd and 4th in our heat, because the other gals were still racing after we touched the wall; however, they were in the next older age group, so they didn’t matter to us in the results. (There will be a combined heat when it is necessary to fill the 10-lane pool to keep the meet running more efficiently and faster.)

After exiting the pool, the French gal and I gave each other a high-five and a hug, congratulating each other on a great race– she in French and me in English. We didn’t speak each other’s language; however, we both knew exactly what the other was saying: “You pushed me to swim faster and harder than I thought I could push myself to swim during that race. Thank you.”

Not having access to our official race times (the timers at each lane are only there for back-up in case the electronic system fails), we left the pool only knowing that we had given each other one heck of a race, and I had just touched her out.

It wasn’t until I saw the official results that evening that I learned that less than a quarter of a second had separated us at the finish, and we were the last two finishers in our age group.

It didn’t matter, because I had the race of my life, and if the smile on my French competitor was any indication, I’ll bet she had the race of her life, too.

2014 FINA MASTERS SWIMMING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN MONTREAL

When I left competitive swimming after high school, I never thought I would ever compete again, especially in any sort of national competition. Fast forward to 2010 when I joined U.S. Masters Swimming and entered Spring Nationals, because it was just up the freeway at Georgia Tech. Since then, I have swum at several Nationals, from Greensboro, North Carolina to Mission Viejo, California. Those experiences were huge for me, way beyond what I had ever dreamed of doing with my swimming. Now, here it is, four years into my Masters swimming “career,” and I am in Montreal, Canada competing at the 2014 FINA Masters World Championship!

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I may be in the lowest 20% in my age group here at Worlds, but I’m so happy to be able to be here to compete. How fortunate the swim meet is just up north and located in one of the two Canadian cities on my bucket list (Quebec City being the other)! Last year it was in Italy, and next year it will take place in Russia.

Here in Montreal, there are 1,500 Americans competing in a group of 5,868 swimmers from 93 countries. In all, there are 9,000 athletes competing in Masters swimming, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo.

The aquatic complex is a beehive of activity; tanned and (mostly) fit wet bodies ages 25 to 97 have completely taken over the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex. It’s insane! What a scene, and I’m lovin’ every minute of it.

The warm-up pool:  8 lanes for 5,868 swimmers!  It got much more crowded thant this...

The warm-up pool: 8 lanes for 5,868 swimmers! It got much more crowded thant this…

Although FINA, the international governing body of five aquatic sports, has done a poor job of running this meet (the complaints are wide and universal amongst the international swimmers), it hasn’t dampened the spirit around the pools. The excitement and enthusiasm is contagious; I can’t think of a better place to people watch! It is really quite a festive atmosphere, seeing a bunch of fit swimmers in their racing suits, smiles on their faces, laughing, giving each other hugs and high-fives.

Under the big tent by the main competition pool, it’s one big international social scene. Teams gather in clusters, swimmers spread out their towels, and they sprawl out all over the place leaving no path to walk. (Thanks to FINA and the facility not supplying chairs.) To get from the warm-up pool to the marshaling zone where swimmers line up for their races, it’s an obstacle course. I’ve gotten pretty good at hopscotch!

Hanging out under the tent with Bruce, a couple of teammates, and my discussion forums buddy "King Frog" (aka Allen Stark).  At the meet, Allen broke the world record in his age group for 200 breaststroke!

Hanging out under the tent with Bruce, a couple of teammates, and my discussion forums buddy “King Frog” (aka Allen Stark). At the meet, Allen broke the world record in his age group for 200 breaststroke!

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It’s a festive atmosphere with many different languages being spoken and many excited conversations going on at once. In addition to swimming talk amongst teammates, another “sport” is taking place between swimmers of different countries: trading swim caps, t-shirts, and pins. I got in on that action as can see in the photos below:

Andreas and I traded caps from Berlin and Auburn University

Andreas and I traded caps from Berlin and Auburn University

My Canadian cap trading partner

My Canadian cap trading partner

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Damian, from Team Hong Kong

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My new Chinese friend was out of team caps; however, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on my USMS cap (which I got for free at Nationals) in exchange for the official World Championships cap he had just purchased at the Speedo store for $11.99.

63

Yes, he’s Italian!

67

And, she is from Brazil

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I was so happy to make a trade for an Australian cap after having spent so much time in her country over the years!

66-CzechTeam

When I told Peter (next to me) that I loved his home town of Prague, he didn’t want to trade caps. Instead, he wanted to just GIVE me his competition cap as a gift! I insisted on giving him a U.S. Masters cap as a gift, too.

70-AndyRoberts

I keep a very limited presence on Facebook under an alias; however, I found it necessary to keep tabs on Team U.S.A.’s World’s page to get updates we weren’t receiving otherwise. In the process, I got to know Andy, a Canadian who graciously provided a lot of tourist information to us Americans, so we would enjoy our time in Montreal. I was so excited when I finally caught up with Andy and his wife on relay day. We even ended up swimming in the same heat of one of the two relays I competed in that day.

As for the actual racing, it has been exciting to see several of my teammates and U.S. Masters friends win some impressive hardware, including gold, silver, and bronze medals. Since I am not anywhere near that caliber of swimmer, I’m just happy to be able to be here and race. I’m having a blast!

Some of my Georgia Masters teammates with Tim Waud, Team U.S.A. Head Coach

Some of my Georgia Masters teammates with Tim Waud, Team U.S.A. Head Coach

Georgia Masters teammates at World's

Georgia Masters teammates at World’s

42-MarianneCountryman

Marianne Countryman

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Bruce and I visited the Biosphere, scene in the background of the warm-up pool at the beginning of this post. Over my shoulder is a view down to the main competition pool at the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex.

For more photos from World’s, check out my album at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/DB1CA7062961254