Sunday, April 6, 2014

I came, I swam, I conquered!

When I first heard about the Inaugural Matt Biondi Classic swim meet, I knew I had to go! The event was held on March 23, in Simi Valley, California on a beautiful Spring day.
The Rancho Conjeo Community Pool - site of the Inaugural Matt Biondi Classic - courtesy of TakeItLive
I was lucky enough to convince my coach to make the trip with me, and shortly thereafter, we learned that our teammate and AZ LMSC Chairman, Terry, was also making the trip with his family. Terry was Matt's roommate at Cal back in the day, so I knew there was a good chance that I might be lucky enough to meet this decorated Olympian, but to my surprise, I had the privilege of having dinner with him! After the meet, Matt and his significant other Amy, my coach Katy, and Terry and his beautiful family (and lucky ole me), had a delightful seafood dinner nearby.
Lisa, Terry, Matt, and Amy
 Of course, I had to indulge in the local brew, 805, which is named after the area code of Ventura County.
Instead of staying near the pool, Katy and I opted to stay near the beach in Ventura. What a great idea that was. After arriving on Saturday, we headed downtown for some food and found a really nice bistro-style Italian restaurant. Afterward we strolled around town and then down to the beach.
Ready for lunch!
Me and Katy -- Happy to be at the beach!!
View of the Ventura Pier and some seashore flora
The Beautiful Ventura City Hall
View from City Hall
The swim meet proved to be nothing short of awesome! Since it was the inaugural meet, everyone who placed 1st was guaranteed a pool record. Since we had one more Arizona swimmer, John, who made the trip besides me, Katy, and Terry, we were able to swim the mixed freestyle relay and, you guessed it, we placed first!
Number One in the 35+ 200 Mixed Freestyle Relay!
John, Terry, Me, and Katy
Our First Place relay "ribbons" -- bag tags with a picture of Matt Biondi. Nice!!
I ended up swimming a personal best in the 50 Freestyle and placed 3rd in my age group. In my other events, I swam close to my PBs from 2011. For a swimmer, that's exciting to say the least!
I had this custom t-shirt made at the meet. A pretty cool memento!
So, suffice it to say, I think the Matt Biondi Classic is going to be on my calendar every Spring for years to come.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Keep Calm and Swim On - 2013 Ron Johnson Invitational

I know this phrase has been beaten to death, but I really like our "Ron Jon" shirts this year. They're kind of fitting, considering our head coach, Jonny Tunstall, is a Brit originally from Liverpool. He's a US citizen now, but I don't think he'll ever lose that accent. So, in your best British accent say the words: Keep Calm and Swim On!
Without fail, Arizona experiences some of the best weather around beginning mid-September; however, once we're closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, things invariably get a bit chilly. And, without fail, the annual Ron Johnson Invitational swim meet, put on my swim club, takes place during that time. For the past three years, it's been a bit chilly on the day of the event and yesterday was no exception. Rainy and 55 degrees -- Brrrr!
Trying to warm-up before my races was near impossible, but thank goodness for furry boots and swim parkas!!
The ever smiling Shirley Chow

Yeah, it's chilly, but look how beautiful it is!!
This a webcam photo taken from Mesa, AZ pointing towards 
the Superstition Mountains. Gorgeous!!!

The cold and rainy weather didn't dampen the spirits of over 200 swimmers who came out for some some fun and fast swimming. Our new Masters champion, Darian Townsend was back for his second Masters meet and brought several of his former University of Arizona teammates with him. I wasn't able to watch many of Darian's races this time around, but I caught the last heat of the 200 Freestyle, which proved to be pretty amazing. One of Darian's former UofA teammates, Tyler DeBerry, swam a blistering time with our own LMSC President, Terry "Jaws" DeBiase (a former Cal Berkeley swimmer close to 50) on his heels. Another well-known Masters swimmer, Kurt Dickson was right there with them throughout the entire race.
In the top photo, from the left, Jaws is in Lane 3, with Tyler DeBerry just to his right in Lane 4.
Look where Tyler is after the first turn -- yeah, he's fast!

Here's a link to the Swimming World article, which provides additional insight into the amazing swims at our meet:

Besides, the fast swimming, there is the social aspect of a Masters meet that helps to offset the less than ideal weather.
Aung Sann Oo and Katy  Hodson (a.k.a. K-funk) in between races (sitting to Katy's left is her brother Greg (a.k.a. G-funk) Our coach is very fond of giving us fun nicknames.

Doug Foster (a former Navy Seal) in his "tactical" weather gear

Well, another Ron Jon is under my belt (my third), so it's time to continue keeping calm and swimming on until the next meet. Cheers!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

First Top Ten Swim! Another USMS Milestone!

While checking my swim information on today (I was curious as to whether the info from the October Flagstaff meet had been posted), I was delighted to learn that my 3rd place Summer Nationals relay swim counts as a Top Ten swim -- my first! The results are still Preliminary, but I'm sure they'll stick and I'll be ordering my first ever Top Ten patch. Woot! I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to swim with such fast ladies!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Happy 4th Swim Anniversary!!

November 7th marked my fourth anniversary with United States Masters Swimming! 
4th Swim Anniversary Collage
Top (l-to-r): Members of my swim club, Sun Devil Masters, helping me show off my Third-place relay medal at Summer Nationals -- Me showing off one of my old "bar" tricks (balancing a salt shaker) -- My swim board. I've added so much stuff to it in four years I think I'm going to have to start another one.
Middle (l-to-r): Someone snapped a picture of me warming up in the rain during a noon workout. My club parka -- Me with my coveted medal
Bottom (l-to-r): My best swim friend Elaine and Me at Summer Nationals -- My kickass swim team at Summer Nationals (we won 1st place Regional Team -- 1st place Men's and 1st place Women's)

Since my swim year starts in November, the first "official" meet for me is the Ron Johnson Invitational, held at my home pool. This particular year I swam in a lot of relays and had a ton of fun.
Me and my mixed relay team at the 2012 Ron Jon

The next highlight was attending the Swim Diva Holiday Party. I ended up with a "gift" of 50+ Olympic Trial swim caps. I have too many already!!! LOL!
Know anyone who needs a cap?

The next meet was the January Polar Bear held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where I swam my fastest 50 ever!!!.
Wendy from the Phoenix Swim Club (left) and Helen ("of Troy") from Tucson Ford Masters.
Two wonderful Masters Swimming ambassadors.

I missed out on a couple of meets due to a weird hip injury, but I didn't let that stop me from having fun as a volunteer at the Mesa Grand Prix in April.
Clark Burckle (back toward camera), Matt Grevers (to Clark's right), and 
Mike Alexandrov (making a point). Lots of Olympic representation at the Mesa Grand Prix

In late April, I made a huge change to my swimming schedule, and switched from swimming workouts at 6 PM to the noon hour. This was my first summer swimming through the day-time Arizona heat. But you know what? I think it really helped me be better acclimated to our searing summer temperatures. The first few weeks when the temps were well above 100, I could really feel the fatigue, but as the weeks went on, it no longer mattered even when it topped out at 119 on the 29th of June. It just felt good to be in the water. Plus, I'm sporting a really bitchin' tan!! (And, yes, I do wear sunscreen.)
My noon "watering hole" -- McClintock High School -- Tempe, AZ

The next big event on my calendar was Summer Nationals in Mission Viejo, which I posted about earlier in August.
Here's a video of me swimming the 50 meter Breaststroke at Summer Nationals
(I'm in lane 6 near the top of the video wearing a white cap)

My next swim meet took place at high altitude in Flagstaff mid-October. Talk about a strange experience. This was my first time swimming above 7000 feet and my body did not like it. I'll swim this meet next year, but I've already told myself "Nothing over a 50!!" One of the highlights of this trip was watching a "daddy/daughter" kick grudge match (of course, the daughter won).
Several members of my swim team cheering on the kickers in the grudge match

On November 3rd, I swam at the Mesa Aquatics Fall Classic meet. In this particular meet, I didn't swim very fast, but someone else sure did. None other than Olympic swimmer Darian Townsend. He set 5 USMS World Records at this meet within a 2 hour time frame. I can't think of a better way to end my fourth year of swimming, and what a perfect beginning to my fifth!
Darian Townsend  (photo by Mike Lewis -- Ola Vista Photography via SwimSwam)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Going Gatsby!

This past weekend, one of my swim friends turned the big 3-0 and wanted to celebrate in style -- Gatsby style!! Here is the result.
 Not a bad looking bunch!
 Cheryl and the birthday boy
 It's fun to dress up!
Cheryl looking vintage
After enjoying cocktails at the home of the birthday boy (yes, there were designated drivers), we regrouped at Fort McDowell Casino for their "all-you-can-eat" crab leg buffet. Taylor is one serious crab-eater!! He doesn't bother with a cracking tool, he just goes for it with his teeth!
Don't get between Taylor and his crab! Happy Birthday!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Old US 80 (Gila Bend to Buckeye)

An historic highway, Old US 80, between Gila Bend and Buckeye, was my adventure destination this past Saturday. My daughter Cheryl, who is my frequent adventure companion, joined me on what turned out to be a picture-perfect day in Arizona.

Our adventure began just after our lunch stop in Gila Bend. As we were pulling out of Love's, I noticed a gorgeous old pickup at the gas pump, which turned out to be a 1941 International. A true "sympathy" restoration, the weathered patina on this old truck was incredible.

A monster of an engine lurks beneath this battered old facade. I got goosebumps when the owner started it up and pumped the throttle. Love the sound of V8 power!

After our love fest with the old "corn binder", we headed to the turn-off to the old highway. Just look for the Shrimp Farm sign, you can't miss it. What you can easily miss is which way to go when you hit the fork in the road. Fortunately, a nice artist erected a sign that clearly marks the way.
You must be this tall to ride!

Once we were headed in the correct direction, we were treated to lots of typical Arizona desert and farmland, and I am happy to say, several "Solar" farms, but, there is a reason why Old US 80 has so much appeal. It's the Gillepsie Bridge and Dam that are a "must see". The concrete dam was built in 1921, and to enable traffic safer passage, the bridge was completed in 1927.

Due to heavy rains in 1993, the dam suffered a breach and has been standing "as is" ever since.

Our next discovery was of an old bridge section of US 80 that is no longer functioning. At some point, this bridge crossed a large wash, but has been out of commission for quite some time.

Sticking our toes over the edge.
It's hard to tell from this angle, but it's about 20 feet from the edge to the ground.

Driving along, we spotted an old abandoned farm house, which allowed for some haunting photos.

Our next gem of a discovery was an old Dodge work truck that has been wasting away for decades. I'm not sure of the year, but I estimate this truck to be an older 40s model.
Grapes of Wrath

As we approached Buckeye, we passed through the small community of Arlington, or should I say, we almost didn't pass through Arlington. A few days earlier, this area had experienced some heavy monsoon rains, which unbeknownst to me, caused Old US 80 to be closed due to flooding.  While pondering whether we should ignore the road closure signs, we decided to take some photos of the Arlington Cattle Company, where we encountered some very old grain equipment rusting away.

We decided to try an alternate road, but quickly found out it was also closed! So, we found ourselves back at the original road closure. In no way did we want to turn around and head back to Gila Bend, as we were only a few miles from Buckeye. So, being the adventurer that I am, and with my daughter's gentle prodding, I drove past the road closure signs to see how bad the flooding was (if any). My thought was the road had been completely washed out, but when we got to the wash, all we found was some left-over debris, and no water. Win!! Buckeye, here we come!

Our final "find" of the day was the heart-shaped marking on the face of a beautiful Holstein dairy cow. Cheryl spotted it as we were passing the dairy. Good eye, Cheryl!

"Bessie" (aren't all cows named Bessie?)
She was enjoying the salt lick when we interrupted her for a photo.

So, if you ever find yourself in the Phoenix area and have a few hours to spend, check out Old US 80. Who knows what treasures you might find.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Amazing Macro Photography

I am a huge fan of macro photography. Last night while reading the news on the Internet, I stumbled across Nicky Bay's blog:

Nicky has taken some absolutely gorgeous macro photos over the years of insects in his part of the world. Here's a screen grab I made of a recent blog post. Beautiful!