Saturday, October 09, 2004

Swimming for the Gold

I wanted to swim in high school, but in those days, long before "no fear" became a marketing phrase, I couldn't motivate myself to attend the tryouts. If I'd heard Woody Allen's quote that "90 percent of life is showing up," I didn't understand it. The closest I got to competitive swimming as a teenager was photographing our state-championship team at the nearly-new University of Utah Natatorium in 1972.

"Life comes at you fast," as the life insurance commercial says. I finished high school and college, married a beautiful young school teacher and we're now the parents of children who are in high school and college themselves.

My career eventually led to a great job at the University of Utah, and a few years ago I started swimming on my lunch hours at same natatorium where my friends made their mark three decades ago.

U of U Natatorium Originally uploaded by rfin.

Thanks to a local swim shop, I discovered the life work of Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion Swimming (TI), a method of instruction for adults seeking to hone their swimming skills. Terry's books, tapes and Web site made sense and I began to swim with greater confidence, better flow and even a little faster.

Through Terry I also met a Utah TI swimmer who has won senior triathlons. This summer he invited me to compete at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George. "Since you're 50 now, so why don't you sign up?"

Prior to the games I had never raced, never stood in the blocks before a motionless pool as a starter instructed "swimmers take your mark." By Friday afternoon I'd raced in six events at the beautiful Sand Hollow Aquatic Center. Last night at the awards banquet I heard these still unbelievable words, "From Utah, Richard Finlinson, two gold, one silver, one bronze."

The wins are both thrilling and humbling. Thrilling because they were so unexpected. Humbling because my fastest times are slower than winners in their seventies and eighties.

But to win, I only had to do better than other men in my age group of 50-54. In two of my races, the other scheduled competitors didn't show up. I got lucky, but I've never been more motivated to keep striving to improve. Below are my results and the comparisons that put my times in perspective.

100 M Gold 1:27.67 (1:01.49)* 200 M Gold 3:31.29 (2:14.66)* 400 M Bronze 8:33.74 (4:45.72)* 800 M Silver 16:38.10 (9:50.53)*

*FINA Masters 50-54 World Records Short Course Meters as of 05-01-04.