Originally from the beautiful Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, I started my swimming career in the Summer Swimming program in my hometown of Hantsport and then moved to Winter Swimming with the Wolfville Tritons Swim Club at Acadia University. I've lived in Halifax since my Mount St. Vincent University years (late 80?s) and have worked for the past 17 years at Gateway Homes Inc. with individuals who have an intellectual disability. I've been swimming with the Halifax Trojan Masters Swim Club (HALT) since 1999 and have just aged-up this year into the 40-44 age group.
Birthplace: Windsor, Nova Scotia
Number of Years in Swimming: 18 years competitively, in both Age Group and Masters
First Swim Club: Hantsport Beavers Summer Swim Club
Favourite Stroke: Breaststroke?.is there any other stroke?!!!
(That was for all the members in my swim club who are in the ?Society for the Elimination of Breaststroke from IM? ? they all swim backstroke or freestyle!)
Preferred Training Toy: Hmmm?either a good looking male training partner or my fins?the fins are great for breaststroke pull!
Favourite Set: 5x100 breast pull, descending - I like the challenge and the muscle burn.
Favourite Pool: My home pool, Centennial Pool? I won my first gold medal and broke the provincial record in the 100 breast there when I was 11. I still have that medal too!
Favourite Post-Swim Meal: Yogurt plus a rice cake with almond butter, honey and sliced banana?yummy!
Hobbies: What, besides swimming?
Mostly reading, cooking (I?m learning to cook some Thai and Ukrainian meals - Mmmm? Borsht), camping and dancing.
Current Reading: one of my teammates got me an autographed copy of Mark Tewksbury & Debbie Muir?s book ?The Great Traits of Champions: the Fundamentals for Achievers, Leaders and Legacy Leaders? so I'm reading that at the moment.
Favourite Sports Movie:
American Flyers (road bike racing movie with Kevin Costner). I liked the Victor Davis movie too but it made me sad all over again!
What initially attracted you to swimming?
I took swimming lessons as a child and when I got to the Intermediate level, I was too weak to swim all the required lengths. My instructor suggested I join the summer swim team to build up my endurance. A few weeks after joining there was a swim-a-thon where we were required to swim 200 laps. My parents figured that I couldn't swim all 200 laps so they sponsored me 15 cents a lap and my grandparents gave me 10 cents a lap? I?m pretty stubborn and I finished all 200 laps in the allotted time! My family never underestimated my swimming abilities (or stubbornness) after that.
You were a pretty fast age-group swimmer ? what records did you hold?
Wow?that?s going back a few years. All my provincial record years were when I was in the 11&12 Age Group (1981-82).
I held the SCM: 50,100 & 200 Breast, 50,100 & 200 Fly, 100 & 200 Free and the 200 & 400 IM. I held the LCM: 50 Free, 100 Fly and the 100 & 200 Breast.
I still hold the 11&12 Age Group SCM: 100 & 200 Breast records. Gosh, to be that fast again!
When, and why, did you decide to get back into swimming and join a Masters club?
I stopped Age Group swimming in high school because I wanted to try some other sports and I was kind of disillusioned with swimming. It just wasn?t fun for me anymore. I started playing NS Senior League Volleyball in university and after I graduated I was looking at picking up another form of exercise to cross-train. At a NS Senior League Volleyball Tournament in 1999, I ran into a former swimming parent who was swimming Masters and suggested that I try it out. I figured it was something that would hopefully come back easily to me and thought that a couple swims a week would help with the volleyball. I've been with the Halifax Trojan Masters Swim Club (HALT) ever since!
You sustained a significant injury a couple years back ? tell us about that, and how you recovered from it.
I broke my neck (hyper-extension injury) at the end of July, 2000. I had what they call a ?stable fracture? which means that I have a gap between my 5th and 6th vertebrae and I broke the tip off the 5th vertebra. I was on my back unable to move much for a month and in a neck brace for four months. I was pretty depressed at the time; it meant that I had to make some significant changes to my lifestyle to accommodate the injury. It meant giving up my volleyball, skiing, water sports or any other activity where I would cause a ?jarring motion? to my neck and head. Thank God it meant I had an excuse not to take up running!
So, I decided to invest full-time in swimming. My neurologist thought it would be great physiotherapy for my neck and shoulders. Unfortunately, he thought I was speaking about going to the pool for open swims at the time. When I saw him a month after I went back to the pool and I explained that I was swimming 2.5-3km, 4 days a week, he just shook his head and said he didn?t think he needed to see me anymore!
You always have a quote on a laminated card attached to your swim bag ? what's the current one say?
?Success in competitions is not necessarily success in the sport. Winning races is of value only to the extent that it represents the quality of the experience you had along the road to victory.?
My next one will be: ?If you?re dating a swimmer raise your hand? if not, then raise your standards.? Not very philosophical but really hilarious!!
You seem to really love competition - what continues to get you pumped for swim meets?
The same thing that probably helped to keep me sane when I swam Age Group...
All of my swims are personal and I have to take ownership of the good swims and the bad swims - it?s all about trying to swim a new personal best vs. my last swim in that event. Only I can make or break my next swim?it?s up to me to have faith in the time that I?ve put into training, the coaching I received, and my ability to swim that particular event or stroke.
It took me a few years of being back into swimming with Masters to remind myself of that. I still catch myself getting caught up in the whole ?wanting to win? aspect of competition. I have to face that I may never win a big race or break a record?for me, swimming and competition is really about the fun and friendship aspects of Masters swimming. I?m all about the SOCIAL (and the beer) after the meet is over! But don?t get me wrong?when I win an event or swim a personal best I definitely think ?I ROCK!!!?
Speaking of swim meets...how did you become involved in coaching a Special Olympics team?
One of the women I swim with had been coaching with Special Olympics swimming for the past year or so. She invited me to come watch their Provincials last year and it was a blast! I was so inspired each time one of the Special Olympians swam and by the effort (with no complaints) that they put into each swim. Every year since my University days I?ve wanted to coach but have never seemed to be able to find the time or make the commitment. So this year when I knew they were looking for coaches I made the time. And I'm so glad I did!
Right now my athletes are learning how to swim butterfly and to dive off the pool side or blocks. It's a challenge but everyone is enthusiastic and very supportive of one another! I didn?t know that there could be so many variations of one stroke.
I think I have learned more about myself and how I relate to all people since working with my athletes this season. I thank them for that gift.
What lessons have you learned since becoming a Masters swimmer?
That I think that I am a bit of a snob when it comes to training?
Masters swimming is about Fun, Fitness and Friendship?everyone is at practice for a different reason. We all come from different swimming backgrounds. I have to be able to accommodate the needs of all the swimmers in my lane if at all possible. Sometimes training can be frustrating if everyone is not on the same page or there for the same reason. I have to remember that not all Masters swimmers come from the same competitive background that I do. I do try to use my swimming and training knowledge to help my lane mates understand practices and why our coach gives us certain sets. It will only make training easier for everyone in the long run.
What an interesting question? I guess breaststroke picked me?
I started out swimming backstroke and butterfly when I first started with Age Group swimming. Where I was new to swimming, my coach decided to have me try out all the strokes/events at competitions which often meant swimming 11 out of 13 events. At the time, he must have seen some breaststroke potential at practice and meets and had me enter some breaststroke competitions. It just sort of clicked for me. I dropped the backstroke events and became a 100 & 200 breaststroke, 100 & 200 butterfly and 200 & 400 IM swimmer.
What goals have you set for yourself over the next 5 years?
That?s funny? after breaking my neck, I've stopped making long term goals. I try now to set goals for 6 months or less so I don't disappoint myself.
I?ve had a couple of health setbacks over the past few years?I?ve had to change my diet (I no longer eat wheat/gluten) and have consulted a sports nutritionist to help me figure out what works best for me with regards to training foods. I?ve got my fingers crossed that in the remainder of this season I can get back to training hard and make some personal bests at Nationals this year in Etobicoke. Having a balanced lifestyle, being healthy & happy and most of all, swimming?those are all goals. Being able to swim is such a major part of my lifestyle both physically and socially and I cannot imagine not being able to do it.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your swimming life thus far?
Probably to some extent my swimming success as a young swimmer but now I guess as a Masters swimmer, being able to put myself out there and network with other swimmers to help create change for Masters swimming. I?m currently the Nova Scotia Masters Swimming Representive and that has given me a chance to travel and to talk to new swimmers, to members of clubs that have just started up, and to swimmers who have been swimming with Masters in other provinces.
There's a wealth of information and knowledge out there in the form of Masters swimming coaches (many of them former varsity coaches or successful swimmers themselves), former Olympians and the representatives that make up our MSC Board, Council of Provinces (COP) and Working Committees. I hope that as long as I'm a member of MSC, I can help to create change for Masters swimming and help more individuals get involved and make healthier lifestyle changes.
What advice would you give to someone considering joining a Masters club?
To check out the MSC website to check out clubs available (if any) in their area. During my most recent vacation travels to Ottawa and Pembroke/Petawawa I was surprised to learn that many of the pools have Masters swimmers but no Masters clubs. I would tell anyone interested to contact MSC for provincial contacts (COP Reps.) for guidance in setting up a Masters club in their area.
I would tell them to also talk to the club's coach and not to let the seasoned swimmers intimidate them. We haven?t always been the good swimmers we are now! When I first came back to swimming I had been out of the pool for 13 years. I started out in the slowest lane and couldn?t swim more than 2 lengths without being winded. I was really more worried at the time about being in a bathing suit in front of strangers than the swimming. I sure got over that quickly!
Whether you have a swimming background or you are a new swimmer, everyone has to start somewhere. Listen to your coaches, and let seasoned swimmers help you. When you?re tired, sit out a couple of reps. And then start again! Build up your endurance. But most of all HAVE FUN!!
What is your personal philosophy or credo?
?Live Life Large??you never know what will happen later today or tomorrow. I really learned that after breaking my neck. Things could have turned out very differently for me if the break had been any worse than it was! I try to live my life to the fullest all the time and try to create as many new experiences and lasting memories with family and friends as possible.
Who inspires you?
Easiest question of all to answer?
All the individuals I have been fortunate enough to have worked for and supported in my time with Gateway Homes Inc. They have allowed me to help create for them a sense of community & family. They have let me make mistakes but have never criticized me for them. They have put up with constant changes and have never complained. Many of them are now in their 50's-70?s but have never stopped learning, have never stop trying new things, most times greet me with a hug or a laugh and have never held a grudge?we?ll almost never!
They have all faced life?s challenges head-on and have never let that stop them from living their lives to the fullest?they are definitely my heroes!!!