GEORGIA GAMES PRESS RELEASE: THE TABLES WERE TURNED!

I’m used to submitting press releases rather than being the subject of one!  After writing press releases for several Griffin-area non-profits over the past eight years and submitting them to Griffin Daily News, I’ve gotten quite used to contacting the editors of our local newspaper.  The tables were turned, though, and I received a request from the assistant editor for a photo of me to accompany a press release somebody else was submitting about me!

As it turns out Georgia Games staff member, August Lynch, submitted the following release:

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YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP TO WIN!

It sure feels good to be back!

Ironically, just after submitting this article to Swimspire, my body decided to crap out on me all at once. After putting in several months of good training in the pool where I was feeling great (and racing my best breaststroke times in four years), my body rebelled. One day I felt great after a terrific workout, and the next day, I didn’t. That following day, an elbow injury from February and a shoulder repetitive stress injury from March—both land-based injuries that had not affected my swimming at all—decided to join me in the pool.  For the trifecta, I aggravated the scar tissue in my hip—again.  (Oh, and did I mention autoimmune issues returning with a vengeance?)

A visit to my orthopaedic surgeon resulted in a diagnosis of elbow tendonitis, shoulder bursitis, and a knowing smile about my hip.  We both knew that it took two months to heal last time I aggravated the scar tissue, and it will take two months to heal again.  “Don’t sweat it; you’ll be fine,” we both said with that smile to each other.

Meanwhile, I kept thinking to myself, “How do I listen to my body if it doesn’t give me any warning?”  It sure makes training iffy.

It has been over two months since my body took a dump on me. I’ve been very diligent about doing the PT exercises Dr. Andrachuk prescribed.  (Knowing I’ve had quite a past history in physical therapy over the years and was always diligent about doing my exercises, we both decided I would be fine on my own.)

Fortunately, I have mostly recovered– perhaps about 80%. I saw Doc at the end of June and received a positive report. Other than wanting me to lay off full butterfly and backstroke for awhile longer (I just started back at breaststroke), he said my prognosis was good for a complete recovery.  “Let pain be your guide,” my past physical therapist always told me.

Although I missed the National Senior Games and will not compete at U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships, I did a few test swims in the pool to see if I could handle swimming (not exactly “racing”) an open water 1K race.  I was fine, so I competed in the 1K at the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet, today.  (I usually swim the 3K and 1K; however, I knew not to even THINK about that yet!)

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What a blast!  It’s always one of my favorite events of the year; I LOVE open water swimming!  It felt great, and I was able to kick it up a notch to about 75% race-pace effort without repercussions.  What a glorious feeling to be back in the groove again!  I won a gold medal, too!!  (I will admit, however, that I was the only one in my age group.  Hey, you have to show up to win!)

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It has been tough (both physically and mentally), and I am still very unsure what my body will be able to handle in the future. I am fearful of injuries– especially since they almost always come without warning.  (For example, I’ve had two spontaneous floating rib dislocations and one at the sternoclavicular joint.  WTF?)

Whether I will be able to TRAIN to RACE in the future remains to be seen, but even if my future means “swimming” my races rather than “racing” them, it feels GREAT to be back!

BRINGING HOME THE GOLD (AND SILVER, TOO!)

When I joined U.S. Masters Swimming in 2010, I never dreamed I would compete in open water swimming.  I was a breaststroker, after all, and a sprinter at that.

In July, 2012 that all changed.  To win the Georgia Championship Series, I needed to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet to rack up enough points to remain in the lead.  The series is comprised of four events (Short Course Yards, Long Course Meters, Open Water, and Short Course Meters), and I was leading my age group after the first two meets.

I will never forget showing up to Lake Acworth and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  There were three races (5K, 3K, and 1K), and I had signed up for the 3K and 1K in hopes of winning some points.  Was I NUTS?

As it turned out, I won a silver medal in the 3K and a gold medal in the 1K.  I was overjoyed!  More importantly, it was the most fun I had ever had at a swimming event.  Ever.  I was hooked.

In 2013, I couldn’t wait until July rolled around, so I could compete at the Georgia Games once again.  This time, I swam faster; however, the competition was tougher, and I went home with two bronze medals.  It didn’t matter, because I had a blast!

Last year, it was during the 3K race that my hip pain that was previously only an issue on land became problematic in the water.  For the first time, it affected my swimming, and I was forced to drag my right leg along for the ride.  Still, I swam well, enjoyed the competition, and took home two silver medals.

This year, I wasn’t going to race at all.  Between having hip surgery in December and not knowing for sure whether my hip could tolerate 4K’s of racing, I was going to give it a miss.  Add the ridiculously hot weather we’ve been having to the mix, and the fact that I didn’t get enough pool time logged during our 47-day road trip, it was a no-go for me.  Or, maybe not.

I decided to swim a trial 3K race in the pool to see if perhaps I could handle the yardage.  If I could swim pain-free and not struggle, I thought I would give the Georgia Games a try after all.

Surprisingly, I finished in 1:05, ten minutes slower than when I had swum the same time trial in 2014.  Given the circumstances, I was happy to finish at all!

In open water, though, there are factors that make swimming the same distance much more difficult.  There are no walls to push off of after each 25 yards of swimming, there is no black line to follow or lane lines to separate the swimmers, and the water is as clear as mud.  Literally.  Add the sun and warmer water to the mix and the need to “sight” the buoys on a frequent basis, and it is a much greater challenge.  Oh, I also forgot the fact that getting kicked in the head or smacked by an arm doesn’t happen in pool competition, but it does in an open water race, especially at the start.  I know, because it has happened to me.

Still, I had too much fun the first three times at Lake Acworth to sit this one out.

I drove to the lake this morning with the idea I would race the 3K and opt out of the 1K if I felt bad from the heat and hot water.  If my hip started hurting, I would quit.

The water was even hotter than I thought it would be, and I was surprised the meet wasn’t cancelled.  USMS’ rules state a limit of 86 degrees, and FINA (the international governing body for swimming) sets a limit of 87 degrees.  Surely, the water temperature hit those limits.

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That’s me (side view) on the right (front) without the cap getting ready to start the 3K.

I chucked my swim cap, hit the water, and swam cautiously until I knew my body could handle the heat.  Surprisingly, I was able to increase my speed throughout the 3K race rather than slow down or quit.  After turning at the last buoy for the last 1K to the finish, I kicked it up to full throttle and aimed for the finish.

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It wasn’t until after my 1K race that I learned how I had finished in the 3K.  The two races had only a short break in between, and the medals were announced while I was racing.  No matter. I was just ECSTATIC that I finished the 3K strong and felt good enough to return to the water for the 1K.  Besides, it was enormously gratifying to watch all of the swimmers who finished AFTER me, especially many of the young studs and studettes who appeared to be in their 20’s and 30’s.  Talking about a great sense of satisfaction!

The 1K was a diamond-shaped course, and I noticed after rounding the first buoy that I had company by my side.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake this blue-capped gal who was matching me stroke-for-stroke.  I was hoping she would swim off-course, but her sighting was good, and we both swam straight.

As we approached the last third of the race, I decided it was time to turn up the heat (as if I wasn’t hot enough already!), test out my hip, and kick with all I had left in the tank.

The effort paid off; I beat her to the finish by over a minute.

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When we met up onshore, we introduced ourselves, gave each other a big hug, and thanked each other for the great competition.  We each had swum the 3K as well, so we looked up our times on the results sheet to see if we had finished close in that race as well.  As it turned out, she beat me by less than two minutes!

Thankfully, Loukia is only 34 years old, and I’m 53, so we didn’t have to give up medals to each other.  That was a good thing, because just before we posed for this photo, Bruce put my 3K medal around my neck.  It wasn’t until afterwards that I looked down to see which one it was.  I just assumed it was bronze, and I was just so happy to win ANY medal!

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When I finally looked down at it, I had to pick it up and turn it back and forth before I was convinced it was actually GOLD.  For the first time in four years, I won gold in the 3K.  (There were only four in my age group, but still…)

The gold medal winner in the 1K hadn’t swum the 3K, so she was fresh for her race and beat me for the gold.  During the 1K medal ceremony, another name was called for the bronze, so I thought my chance for a medal was zilch.  When the name was called for the silver, though, it was mine.  YES!  Once again, I won a gold and silver; however, this time they were switched, and the gold was for the longer race.

The sense of satisfaction I feel today is the greatest I have felt since becoming a USMS competitive swimmer.  What a fabulous day!

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U.S. Masters Swimming medal winners from Georgia Masters