Tuesday, August 14, 2012

swimmed swammed swummed

Found this boulder in the middle of the Umpqua River; glad I
didn't find it with my nose …
Vacation leftovers:

• Overwhelming thought: Homeward bound on my 5,000-meter race up in the Cascades a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't outswim the thought of how they do it … how all those swimmers can swim 20-plus miles across the daunting English Channel ('tis the season), the Catalina Channel, Lake Tahoe, or even a 10k race. I'm drained completing three miles.

Retroactively thunk thought: Haley Anderson from Granite Bay (just a 20-minute drive from where I live) won the silver medal in the 10k race at the London Olympics. She finished the 6.2-mile open water swim just four-tenths of a second (!) behind the Hungarian gold medalist, Eva Risztov. Over the final 1,000 meters, the 20-year old swimmer churned from fourth to fractions of a second behind the winner. Anderson swam the race in one hour, 57 minutes, 38 and six-tenths seconds. That is still faster than I managed to swim half that distance up in the Cascades. I wonder if she'd join our ragtag swim group out on Lake Natoma.

Haley's older sister Alyssa shared a gold in the women's 4 by 200 freestyle relay at the London Olympics. Two Olympic medalists from one games, from one family. What're the odds? Alyssa can swim with us too, I guess.

• Canoe!: Canoes outnumber kayaks 10 to one atop cars in mountainous central Oregon (quite the opposite in my neighborhood). Though I like kayaks, I love canoes. It's tradition for our family (well, me, and sometimes my wife) to blurt "Canoe!" at the sight of one atop of a vehicle, the same way someone might say "Puppy!" (And Rat, according to Stephan Pastis' "Pearls Before Swine" comic strip, defines tradition as "a reason for doing something you can no longer think of a reason for doing.")

A canoe contains romance for me, and since I declare myself fairly accomplished at steering one, I yearn for quiet waters to rove on early mornings. My one material longing would be for an 18-foot Kevlar™®© or carbon fiber canoe, luggable by one person, with which to wander backwaters so deep the mosquitoes could airlift me back to my car.

I long for such a canoe the way some might crave a wristwatch that tells time at 20,000 times the price of a Timex™and is only recognizable by others wearing similar watches … I'm sorry: Timepieces.

•  Stay out of my summer!: C'mon, NFL, your meaningless preseason games have taken over the sports media. Your games, a week hence, are listed in the broadcast schedule in my paper above today's baseball games, and Major League Baseball is fighting down the home stretch, with the Giants, my favorite team, at first place in its division, the drama intense. Baseball stays out of football's way, for the most part. Why can't football go dark for another month or so? I know this happens every year, but it's on my last nerve this year.
• Shows what I know: Someone please enlighten me: How did central and eastern Europe come to dominate men's water polo? It's not the sport I'd imagine that part of the world to champion, but I'm picayune and too narrow minded. Croatia won the gold, Serbia the bronze. Croatia, Serbia and Hungary destroyed the U.S. men's team, the golden boys of swimming pools and SoCal beaches (again, picayune pea brain, that's me), made 'em look like they had just picked up the game the week before. What's the evolution of water polo in Europe?

• Shows what I know, II: Team handball would wear me out, surely, but there's something off about it. Is it the progenitor for all similar sports? Did someone playing it say, "This is fun and all, but if you really want a challenge, we should try to play without using our hands (soccer), or move the ball with sticks (hockey), heck strap on some skates (ice hockey) and make it really interesting. Did Dr. Naismith decide, "Let's shrink the goal to a tiny hoop and require players who wanted to keep the ball had to bounce it all the time?" Someone else must have said, "If you really want a challenge, let's do this in the water," and gave birth to water polo.

Having come late to team handball (and seriously doubting I'll see it again until four years hence) I'm reminded of finally seeing "High Noon," the seminal man-alone-against-the-world Gary Cooper western, and thinking it hokey because I grew up on a steady diet of Gunsmoke, Bonanza and every other movie and show turned original movie moments into clichés.

• Crass act: Why do athletes pretend to bite their medals? Whether this gesture derives from fact or Dickensian fiction, it's meant to show how people might tell if their gain is real gold, since the soft metal would show teeth marks; it implies the giver might have cheated recipients. Though the geasture might have lost its historical meaning, and athletes and photographers think it may be cute, it's rude to receive such a high honor, one of a kind, crafted to celebrate athletic achievement, and put it in your mouth. We get a two-year reprieve from seeing that.

• Fish, meet pond: Time was I swam in pools only because I knew no other. Now I'm in lakes most of the time and in a pool almost never. Stopping over in Eugene where our daughter goes to school, I ran out of swim choices except for a pool, within walking distance. The online schedule listed open times and prices, but did not specify that two separate swim teams would be going through their paces during lap swim and using all lanes. Lanes were marked "slow" "medium" and "fast" and I had no idea what the teams really meant by that. Finding a man alone in a lane, I got permission to swim with him, but he swam in circle within the lane, rather than up and down one side, so I would have had to look for him constantly throughout my swim because I didn't know how fast he swam and whether he would swim up against me. Plus, the pool water wasn't all that clear, and the high water temperature in the cool morning left the surface in a foam of mist, so I couldn't see much. I was out in 10 minutes. Keep your pool; give me the open water any time.

• Back home: It's a big change from 4,893 feet above sea level, to 128 feet above. Lake Natoma is so much easier to swim in, unlike the mountain lakes on our vacation. Not easy; it's never easy for me. But it feels so much better.

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