Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Meditations on perfection

The butterfly, requiring tremendous coordination and strength, is considered by many swimmers to be one of the most complex strokes to master. So when Coach Lisa asked us to execute a series of "perfect" butterflies at a recent workout, I counted myself among the country--or rather, continent--of swimmers filled with dread and self-doubt.

Fortunately, there was no need to fret because the 12 x 25s set was not only an exercise in confidence-building, but a source of unexpected bliss. For the first 25 yards, we began with one butterfly stroke and continued to swim freestyle the rest of the pool's length. In the next 25, we swam two "perfect butterflies," again followed by freestyle. It was a rhythmic fly, fly, fly, followed by free, free, free, free, free on the third lap of the pool. And finally, after building up to the goal of six technically perfect butterflies, we happily worked our way down the ladder back to one. Delight!

The one perfect butterfly in my reading life has been Ravi Howard's compelling debut novel, Like Trees, Walking. Incredible!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Swimming with a purpose

Go Sondra! Go Jack! Go David! Go Barbie! Allez, allez, allez! Over 100 masters swimmers showed up this weekend for the 17th Annual One Hour Swim, a fundraiser for two extraordinary nonprofit organizations which offer a comprehensive range of programs and services to individuals and families living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS: the AIDS Service Center NYC and the Momentum Project. Tremendous!

Monday, January 15, 2007


On training your mind

In preparation for the upcoming One Hour Swim, our team practices have emphasized distance. Yesterday, the head coach gave us a main set of 2,400 yards which consisted of 24 x 100s {i.e. 3 x100 pace followed by 1 x 100 at 85% effort}. Our lane was fortunate enough to have Bill as a leader (consistency being his middle name). Finding a comfortable space at the end of the pack, I daydreamed about the views from Lake Michigan, hummed "Let it Snow" and mulled over Dean's suggestions in Open Water Swimming: A Complete Guide for Distance Swimmers and Triathletes. The guru stresses:

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Power Lunch

At least once a month, I join Martha (my lifelong teammate) for lunch in Midtown. More often, we discuss our shared passion for books and swimming over paninis. Early this week, we sketched out our 2007 race calendar. And among the events we're planning to train for this year are the:
This list certainly gives me five reasons to leave the safe harbor of my bed and head for the pool at 5:30 AM.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


The city as beloved

Set in 1960s London, Off the King's Road is Phyllis Raphael's immensely appealing story of self-discovery. Leaving Los Angeles to join her film producer husband in England, Raphael is shocked to discover him having an affair with an eighteen-year-old actress. After twelve years of marriage, Raphael finds herself navigating the world as a single mother of three, seeking solace in London's maze-like streets and the company of freethinkers, i.e. actors, writers, painters and musicians--even an "anti-psychiatrist psychiatrist" who encourages her to strip away the sacrosanct. "Break out. The nuclear family is over. Try something new." And Raphael does! The self-described "person of small ambitions" turns adventuress and finds a voice of her own. Positively delightful!

Monday, January 01, 2007


On swimming pretty

A month into her job at a department store, teenage swimming champion Esther Williams receives an unexpected phone call from Billy Rose's Aquacade office asking her to audition for a San Franciso-based show. Curious about "swimming as entertainment," Williams joins fifty other women at a Los Angeles Athletic Club, and when asked to demonstrate her skills, she decides to swim as fast as she can.
"You swim very fast," the producer says.
"That's what I do, Mr. Rose. I'm a sprint swimmer. The U.S. 100-meter freestyle champion," Esther replies.
"I don't want fast; I want pretty."
"Mr. Rose, if you're not strong enough to swim fast, then you're probably not strong enough to swim 'pretty'."
He puffs his cigar and thinks about it. "You're probably right. I want you to swim with your head up and your shoulders out of the water."
"That would take a really good, stong kick," Esther tells him, " and when you swim fast you have a really strong kick."
"Well, that's very informative. You know your stuff about swimming. Do you want the job?"
"Mr. Rose, I already have a job at I. Magnin, and if I take a job swimming professionally for you, I'll lose my amateur standing and any chance to be in the Olympics."
"Young lady, there's a war on and there aren't going to be any Olympics Games for a long time. What are you gonna do in the meantime, eat your medals? You might as well make some money with your talent," Rose says handing Esther a business card.
In her sparkling memoir, The Million Dollar Mermaid, Esther Williams reflects candidly on a professional career built on swimming pretty, while personally struggling to keep her head above water.

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