I just retired after 32 years at Caterpillar Inc - A heavy equipment maker. I started there just out of college and had many great experiences... the one most memorable was living in the Philippines where we had our first daughter, Ashley. What a treasure to bring home to the US. With the family started and becoming more established with Caterpillar ... I looked at myself and said, I need to get back into shape (I’d put on a few pounds) and fitness is important to me. The only exercise I knew was swimming, so I started back into Masters swimming when I was 32. At the time, Sally was pregnant with out 2nd daughter, and when I started back and she also swam to get me motivated. Well, I’ve been swimming masters ever since... so, over 23 years.
I started swimming before I could walk. I just lived at the pool as a kid - what you’d call a “pool rat”. My older brother and I swam on the country club team, which was the extent of my formal training until I got to High School. Richwoods High School provided the best downstate Illinois HS swimming program. This was where I began to improve with intense training. At less then 100 pounds going into HS there were only 2 sports to consider ... Wrestling or swimming and swimming was what I knew.
I made huge strides in swimming over my 4 years in High School. I actually improved to the point where I could compete at the Division I level in College. I ended up at University of Missouri with a swimming scholarship. I also kept it in perspective and completed my Mechanical Engineering Degree in 4 and a half years. While at Missouri, I always swam in the Conference meet and as a Junior I went to NCAA's in Tennessee. I was on a relay, but seeing swimming at that level was exciting. After college swimming I thought I was done in the sport... I had to get established in a working career and start a family, but fitness was still important to me.
Fast forward to age 32. Like I said, I wanted to get back into shape. Luckily, swimming is what I call a “lifelong sport.” My daughters know they’ll be cheering me on in the 80+ age group.
I have enjoyed Masters Swimming for many reasons:
I have enjoyed Masters Swimming for many reasons:
1) Setting a good example for the kids... need to stay fit and exercise.
2) I like to eat and drink what I want. However, without exercise I’ve learned you are what you eat.
3) Meeting folks through swimming. Sally and I have made some of our closest friends through the sport.
4) Competing in Masters Swimming is a great motivator to keep practicing/training. You want to do well when in competition, so setting your sights on a race is a great motivator.
5) You can easily travel with a swim suit and goggles! As I traveled for Caterpillar (with a speedo and goggles in my briefcase), I would look up the local Masters team and join them for a workout. Teams in Les Vegas, Alabama, Denver, and many places overseas. One in particular was the pool where Mark Spitz set his 7 world records in Munich, 1972. Fun to swim in a well known Olympic pool. Also, Melbourne Australia - the 1960 Olympic pool.
I enjoy the feeling I get after I’ve completed a work out. While at Caterpillar, I’d get in workouts before work and it made the day much more productive. Just getting up to swim for an hour gets you going for a day in the office.
While in Masters swimming I’ve competed in Nationals – meets where I’ve been able to race against many former Olympic swimmers. Exciting to see the swimmers I worshiped as a High School swimmer. I’ve enjoyed talking to them and learning about their lives post-olympics.
I always competed in the Illinois State Masters Meet. Normally, I placed top 5 (age group) in all of my events, and depending on where I was in my age group I would win many events. It’s rewarding to see how I maintain my swim times as I age. Yes, over time, I’ve gained a few seconds, but some of my events have improved with age. I’ve lost the ability to sprint but the endurance is coming.
Over the last eleven years I organized a Masters Swim Meet at our daughter’s High school. It was always held on Superbowl Sunday and acted as a fundraiser for the High School girls swim team. The number of participants ranged from 170 to 230 over the years, but this would earn the girls swim team almost $3000 annually. I’d organize the meet, and the girl’s team + their Parents conducted the meet. They ran the event, day of... officials, timers, timing system and all that is required to conduct a swim meet. I even continued to direct this meet after the girls graduated from High School, since the Masters swimmers appreciated the meet and of course the HS girls team gained from the income.
Now that I’ve retired, I will probably spend more time at swimming workouts... and enter competition in the Southeast. I know I’ll meet many new swimmers and invite some of the Illinois swimmers down here for meets.
Hey, I’ve got to keep it going for Team LONG!