Monday, June 10, 2013

Swim Like A Fish

Today we went over to the Marie Selby Aquatic Center to see the 2013 Pan American Masters Swimming and Open Water championship event held for the first time here in Sarasota, and it's the biggest athletic event Sarasota has ever hosted. The Selby Aquatic Center has an eight lane, 50 meter competition pool, and it's just gorgeous as you can see in the top photo.

It's free to the public, and it was a real treat for Sparky to be back in an environment she immersed herself in (oooooohhhh...that was a bad pun, Sparky!) for about 8-9 years....Sparky started swimming competitively late in life for the old age of 13. Her three younger brothers started a lot sooner and took to the water like anhingas swimming underwater...Ever see one of those? Sleek and FAST! Sparky---not so much, but she tried mightily to develop endurance and speed...never quite made it. Her brothers did! Anyway, it was great to be back at a competitive swimming event and to see OLDER people competing and swimming.

It takes a LOT of courage for an older guy to wear a Speedo don't you think? There were people of all shapes, sizes, and ages in Speedos....
Not bad, eh? :-)
(And where are the WOMEN in THEIR Speedo suits? wonders Eldy.) Didn't see any really interesting suits, hon. The women's event was up so they were swimming.....

Sparky would have to get in shape first before starting to swim competitively again in order not to be embarrassed at wearing a serious racing suit.....Sparky is short and a little on the stocky side, she never did become a fast swimmer, just a good one..But that's ok....Sparky does well at a lot of sports, just never excelled at any particular one unless you count adult soccer. Oh--and field hockey in high school She was awesome at that! Then later in life, soccer. She was a MEAN center forward, right wing or left wing-- fast and aggressive at the age of 32. Sparky mowed anybody down who got in her way and didn't back down. Sparky played for five years. Sparky has also tried tennis, never could do the serve, but boy, can she crack that ball on a forehand shot! Racket ball? Yes, ma'am...she was a class C champion in her thirties...Ballroom dancer, she has rhythm, yes, she does! Sparky did ballroom dancing for many years while single...Volleyball? Nope!  Don't like it at all....Softball? Can't catch a ball.......Golf?--remains to be seen, Sparky has clubs, she just needs to get out and play and take a few lessons. Biking? Sparky's got endurance there..Hiking? She loves climbing vistas, not the straightaway stuff.....Pickleball? Pretty good, getting better all the time!..AND--Sparky raced a stockcar for her 40th birthday and came in third in the women's Powder Puff at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana. But she digresses....

AHEM! Back to the pool.....We sat and watched for awhile...It brought back lots of good  memories of swim team practice....They use to start the race with a gun, now they use some kind of buzzer/beep sound. It's not very defined so you can see not everyone leaves the block at the same time.
Sparky remembered the sprints from one end of the pool to the other, catch your breath for a few seconds, dive in and swim again----UNDERWATER--in a 25 yard pool..We did that again and again during practices...These ladies were swimming the 800 freestyle today...Sparky had to do that once--16 laps in a 50 meter pool. Not having great endurance, 16 laps about killed her. She told her coach she wasn't going to do THAT one again!

Sparky used to lose count of where she was in her laps. In the old days, people along side the pool would hold up fingers. If you were lucky to see them, you'd know how many laps you had left if you weren't counting yourself. Sparky was in agony mode along about twelve laps, so she needed the count from the side. Today, they had people holding poles with the numbers on a flip chart.
Then, as the swimmer approached the end, they stuck them in the water. That's cool!

Sparky never did learn how to do a flip turn properly as a kid. Today, they make it look so easy! And they really are. Sparky practiced not too long ago, and discovered she could do one at the age of 62 fairly handily.

When Sparky saw this guy, resting and waiting for his race, she immediately thought of all the gymnasiums we used to wait in as a kid, where the swim teams were kept in a "holding" pattern, waiting for their race.

Our swim team, Michigan Shores Club, out of Wilmette, IL, would be all gathered with blankets and towels, staking out our "team" area in the gyms, along with all the other swim teams. We'd sit there and wait for our parents to come and tell us when our heat was up and it was time to swim or for our heavyset coach, Gil Fenney, to come yelling, "WHERE'S CHARLIE?" (Sparky's baby brother who was sometimes AWOL, messing around someplace else with his little swim team mischievous buddies.) "HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE UP FOR HIS HEAT NOW!" You didn't want to get on the bad side of Coach Fenney. He was LOUD and a little scary. But it was a lot of fun, yet nerve wracking for Sparky, because she always worried about coming in last and the timers impatiently (in her mind) waiting for her to finish. That happened some times.....But it was still a happy memory, to be part of a team, that rooted for you, and it was a wonderful, healthy outlet for our family.......Sparky appreciates all those things her parents did, schlepping four kids around to swim meets all over the midwest, feeding us, getting motel rooms for away meets, and giving up their weekends for years so we kids could participate in this great sport.....

It was great to see it again today...Eldo asked Sparky if she thought she might get into it again...Sparky thinks probably not, at least not in a competitive way...She feels being short limbed and stocky is a detriment to being fast and sleek in the water. That might not be true..(Excuses, excuses!) But you never know. She might take the sport up again! It's one of the best exercises you can do for your body. There are many swimmers in the masters who didn't start until much later in life.....We'll see what Sparky does.........

Lemur update:  Susan made a comment on the blog asking if it was possible if we saw a ring tailed CAT, (relative of the raccoon) and after looking at photos of them, it's totally possible that that was a ringtail cat that I saw. But Florida is not mentioned as a state where they are found, and the habitat doesn't match very well. (desert and canyons)....Nothing showed up on the news about the lemur, but I'm still leaning towards the lemur as what I saw based on the looks of both animals.


  1. A fun day at the swim match and reliving those great memories of a couple years ago.

  2. regarding the Lemur/Cat.. most likely it was a raccoon with a ringed tail - some of them do have rings and I saw one the other day (in Sarasota) with a ringed tail and thought of you....