Friday, September 28, 2007

Getting Into It

It meaning my flip turns. Coach Brad pointed out I still wasn’t entering my turns properly, reminding me to commence the turn in conjunction with my final stroke at the wall and to make sure I tucked my head tightly. Now you might think this is all pretty elementary but I actually had to go through the motions a few times before I understood the whys behind the instruction. You see before now when I went to make a turn I’d take my final stroke, look up to make sure the wall hadn’t moved, then duck my head and with a convulsive heave throw my legs over. Actually given my age and flexibility the best I can do is get my legs to flop most way out of the water rather more to the side than overhead. Once around I’d line myself up with the wall again (quite literally) and then push off. Really it’s true. Aside from knowing I have incredibly bad turns for some reason this fact didn’t bother me over much until now – I think my mind was rationalizing the pause at the wall with the logic reversing directions must result in my forward velocity at some point dropping to zero. The difference in carrying momentum through the turn when I do a proper approach is quite profound. I’m actually moving away from the wall even before I push off so I’m accelerating much faster than before. Even better the shorter time spent making the actual turn means extra time and air for my submerged dolphin kick, something which if I ever learn to do properly will mean still better times. Try as I might I haven’t made much progress in correcting a bad habit of blowing half my air out to prevent water coming up my nose during mid-flip so the shorter duration means less of a ‘snort’. Of course running out of sufficient air to keep my sinuses clear still happens on a distressingly regular basis, but now at least it’s occurring over a meter farther down the pool. It’s progress, slow and painful, but progress. A couple of new difficulties have arisen from the changes though which I’ll have to work through. The first is my new rotation speed has meant I’ve a tendency to over rotate and pop up like a whale breaching the surface only a couple of meters away; and secondly no longer coasting into the turn has me initiating a fair number of them too early. Both problems, however, should be easily correctable given a little practice and time. I figure my turns may end up at a half to a full second faster, which translates into a serious improvement in my back and free times. Isn’t it wonderful how such small improvements in something completely irrelevant to one’s life can provide such a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction? Quite absurd really.

P.S. I’ve discovered coming out of the tumble too late is eminently preferable to doing the opposite and finding oneself still two meters deep when the air runs out! Luckily in my pool it’s easy at that depth to find the bottom to push off from, but embarrassing to be gasping for air whilst bobbing up and down in the water like a cork with the rest of the lane trying to avoid running over me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Massage Week

I’ve always had a tendency towards muscle cramps in the early stages of training and that tendency certainly hasn’t abated as I’ve gotten older. This month is the first of three planned months of ever heavier workouts intended to take me to a level of training capable of supporting true competitive swimming (at least for Masters) and the accumulated wear and tear of the past three weeks combined with Coach Brad’s emphasis on speed work has set off some bad cramping in my feet and legs. It’s always worth the effort to try to swim through the problem and typically this will succeed about a third of the time, but last Wednesday when I tried to do this during a short set it backfired on me, especially after I ‘tweaked’ my left hamstring starting the set. The cramp fully blossomed shortly thereafter on the second rep when I felt the hamstring start to tighten and, in the effort of trying to relax the muscle threw my left calf into spasm, quickly followed by my left foot, and then to completely screw me, my suffering hamstring joined the protest. I believe that’s the first time in my life all three of those muscles have cramped at the same time. Part of my problem probably lies with the fact I haven’t scheduled a massage in over three months since I lost my therapist to marriage and a move this past spring. But perhaps, and on a more hopeful note, another contributing factor may be yoga related back realignment and increased hip flexibility is causing my muscles to recast themselves to their subtly changed roles. In any event I’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone by scheduling three massages over this week by three different therapists. The idea is to work on all my muscles rather than target one specific problem while at the same time determining which therapist will be best for me. One thing is for certain – I can’t take these muscles cramps for much longer. They’re really starting to hurt.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Freakishly Good Write at Timed Finals

A few days back I wrote a post about how the highest echelons of sport are invariably being occupied by individuals who not only work hard but are also phenomenally gifted. Now I've come across the same subject written by Mike Gustafson over at the Timed Finals website whom I believe has done a much better job in communicating the concept of 'freaks' in an entertaining and informative way. I recommend you read it; and if you're up to it, a couple of my earlier posts which also touched on talent (Talent: God's Gift) and what for most of us sport is truly about (My First Coach Archie McKinnon).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gary Hall Jr. Has Great Big Ones

In studying how sprint training relates to swimming for some upcoming posts I looked over The Race Club’s website – the Club itself a training facility for sprint excellence founded by the Olympian father and son swimming duo of Gary Hall and Gary Hall Junior. While I haven’t acquired any information about sprint training techniques (not surprising as The Race Club charges fees for its camps and clinics) I’ve learned Gary Hall Jr. and I share similar backgrounds, some similar beliefs, and even better that he and his father are pretty good writers. Consequently you’ll now find The Race Club listed in my Swimming Links section. A recent post of his, though, took me a little aback with its outspokenness; and no, it’s not a case of the kettle calling someone black. Gary Hall Jr. simply goes after a lot bigger fish. He’s questioned the phenomenal achievements of a “really nice guy” (RNG) by raising the possibility of him being guilty of doping, something I admit is fair enough because I’ve also talked about this possibility with a couple of friends. But Hall’s actually gone charging on in and named him before a doping incident linked to him is closed. Those who know or have read about Junior won’t be surprised by this of course. You don’t win the number of Olympic gold sprint medals Gary Hall Jr. has by being tentative now do you? It should be noted for the record that RNG (who has not yet been officially identified) failed a drug test indicating the presence of banned drugs but was excused by ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) for unknown reasons. This decision was challenged by FINA, requiring ASADA to conduct a just recently completed review of the case which saw the original decision upheld. So now FINA’s appealing the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). There’s plenty of room for speculation. Junior proposes RNG has been doping over a long period of time, perhaps even for most of his career, to a level just under the point which would call for sanction, only to be caught out after returning from an extended absence due to injury and illness by a recent change in the acceptable levels of testosterone. He complains the allowable limit for testosterone was set far too high at 6:1, this being the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone more commonly known as the T/E ratio; arguing if a normal healthy young individual’s ratio is only 1:1 then a 6:1 or 4:1 ratio allows unscrupulous individuals to tailor their doping regimes to keep under the legal limit (the T/E ratio does not discriminate between sexes but females typically possess only a fifth of the absolute amount of testosterone possessed by males).

The problem here keys on the use of normal, because when you get into the elite ranks of swimming normal starts to become less and less relevant. There are some who have natural testosterone ratios of 4:1 or even higher – it’s one of the reasons they’re as competitive as they are. Throw in the fact there are several known ways to naturally boost testosterone levels, ranging from alcohol consumption to the use of birth control pills and recent sex, then add in the inherent variability of the tests themselves, and determining just who is doping and who isn’t becomes considerably more blurry. For these reasons when testing was first instituted the ratio was established at 10:1. After studies showed the methods were sufficiently rigorous it was dropped to 6:1, and then in 2005 it was reduced still further to the current 4:1. Contrary to popular belief, while this ratio is considered in determining a positive result, it is used more as a screen for more complex and conclusive tests. Experience has shown a sample with a T/E ratio of 20:1 or ‘better’ will reveal doping more than 95% of the time¹ but the confirmation rate drops as the ratio declines. A 10:1 T/E ratio sees only 31% confirmed positive and the recent reduction in the threshold ratio from 6:1 to 4:1 has resulted in only an additional 0.3% increase in adverse findings (3 out of 1,000). Having the first sample fail doesn’t mean a positive test but it does, however, prompt the testing of the athlete’s “B” sample to verify the initial finding. Only if the second test confirms a higher than allowable amount of T does a positive test officially result. Still no reason to panic, especially if the test results from the two samples are only a little over the allowable 4:1 ratio because you’ll remember we can expect many in this particular population will have naturally high T/E ratios and there are a lot of ways the level can be boosted naturally. A confirmatory second test should therefore be carried out which examines the carbon isotope ratios of the byproducts of testosterone metabolism, known as metabolites, to determine whether the testosterone was made by the body ('endogenous T') or came from a man-made source ('exogenous T'). Four different metabolites are tested and an abnormal result in just one of them will confirm the positive result (i.e. the sample contains manufactured testosterone). It’s the finding of man-made testosterone in the sample which provides the actual evidence of doping. If there’s no evidence of exogenous testosterone then regardless of how high the T/E ratio the athlete will have an excellent chance to be cleared on review – despite a confirmed positive result of testosterone in excess of allowable limits.

So you see while Gary Hall Jr.’s hypothesis of how RNG could have been cheating has merit it is also quite possible to have a positive result and see it reversed by the responsible authority. In fact, rather than saying the ratio is too lax, many are arguing it is far too narrow knowing what we do about the natural variability in human testosterone levels. Dissenters believe, beyond just being a waste of money, that the constant stream of false positives resulting from the current 4:1 T/E ratio will eventually cause the general public to lose confidence in the testing system. Perhaps the way to go is to jump directly to carbon isotope testing in certain random situations to prevent ‘doping to limit’, but practically speaking the present standard is already pretty close to that. RNG didn’t need his medical team to screw up and not adjust his doping program to the new standards (a very doubtful hypothesis); at his hypothetical elevated levels a slight unforeseen fluctuation in his testosterone, maybe too much beef for dinner, could have been enough to get him flagged for carbon isotope testing. Nowadays the margin for error is much too tight for somebody to hope get away with boosting testosterone levels over a long period of time without eventually raising some flags. But if RNG was cheating and caught as Junior suggests his medical ‘advisors’ may still be responsible for the mess: more knowledgeable cheats are now believed to be using animal based testosterone preparations because of the similarities their carbon isotope ratios have to endogenous T. Oy vey.

¹I have to point out this means upwards of five percent of those tested actually had naturally occurring T/E ratios of 20:1 or more – an amazing ratio which prompts the obvious question – just how do we get invited to their parties? On a more serious note the T/E ratio is known to be also affected by ethnicity; age; circadian rhythm; training and competition; diet; nutritional supplementation; environmental factors; enzyme deficiencies; decreased epitestosterone excretion; menstruation; pregnancy; other hormonal therapy; consumption of meat from animals supplemented with anabolic steroids; polycystic ovary syndrome (a common endocrine disorder); and other pathologic medical conditions (source: Inferences About Testosterone Abuse Among Athletes).

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Little Irritated

A couple of days ago I was struggling in a yoga class and getting more irritated by the minute, made more so because our session’s instructor was a very perky, cheerful girl who continually had us holding positions longer than required (I count strokes so why wouldn’t I count off the time?). But my irritation really wasn’t her fault. Right now I’m back into what I euphemistically call ‘Full Training’ trying to ramp my swimming all the way up to 30k (12 hours) a week while doing four weight sessions and two yoga classes at the same time. I find it very hard work – last spring when I tried to do this over training ended up costing me three weeks off to recuperate – and the workload leaves me in a perpetual state of fatigue and soreness (hence my irritability). Weight training especially has a hugely negative impact on my swimming performance, but this is expected and the reason why strength building is always restricted to the off season. My real problem is my swimming is suffering so much I’m having trouble even handling practices. I guess this is what comes from getting old.

My club, the Hyack Swim Club, schedules ten workouts a week for Master swimmers using three pools. Unfortunately the program is split between four groups and scheduling conflicts/group demarcations means the most anyone can swim is three times a week. Obviously three hours a week isn’t enough to compete on so I schedule practices on my own at the Hyacks' main pool where I can train both long course and short course. For my first year I was quite content to just put in some meters for general conditioning purposes and so would dash off a workout on paper in a few minutes before heading off to the pool. Now that I’m looking for better times I figure a little more attention should be paid to the composition of my workouts and perforce have had to teach myself some up to date theory and training practices. I finally settled on Bill Sweetenham’s book ‘Championship Swim Training’ as my training guide and so far (this being my first month) I think I’ve made an excellent choice. I admit my first encounter with this book left me wondering if perhaps it's aimed at too high a caliber of swimmer for me to use, but since he does make regular references to masters I figure where it gets too much I can just slow it down and stretch it out. In his preface (yes, I’m the sort of guy who reads prefaces) he writes about the amount of work which is necessary for best results in swimming:
Swimming 8 Hours a Week
This level offers participation, fun, involvement, and significant health benefits, but it is not competition swimming and never produces a competitive result.

Swimming 10 to 12 Hours a Week
This amount of swimming is too much training to be fun but not enough to produce a competitive result. The swimmers in this middle ground never feel good, and in time they become frustrated. We call this the competitive swimming twilight zone.

Swimming 18 to 24 Hours a Week
This level can be termed competitive swimming. Athletes in this program are committed and gain satisfaction by attaining improved competitive results.
Son-of-a-bitch! That pretty well takes care of us masters. Thankfully I don’t need to be competitive as I would be absolutely delighted to just settle for holding one or two Masters world records, but still his suggested minimum hours for ‘competitive swimming’ floored me when I first read this. Remember this is only the time spent actually in the pool. Start adding in travel, dry land training, physiotherapy, and all the rest and you’re looking at effectively a full-time job equivalent. Seems he’s referring to world-class when he writes about being ‘competitive’. Regardless his attitude indicates how important and necessary training is to swimming your best. I’d love to know what he thinks of Dara Torres’ success, coming as it does from only ten hours in the pool a week.

Update: New information from a New York Times article dated November 18, 2007 about Torres' training program reveals she is only training ninety minutes a workout, making for an average of just 7½ hours training a week.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Michael Phelps and the Rest of the Freaks


I’m pretty sure the average person has no idea just how freakish, how special, a world record holder in swimming now is. They certainly don’t have the foggiest concept of what makes a great athlete. On our blogs we talk about and compare world record performances as if we were kids trading baseball cards, but like children we have little real comprehension of the true magnitude of the achievements. Forget about the world record holders – one has to be a very, very special individual to even qualify for the Olympics, and it isn’t just due to hard work. In preparing my last post about Jim Sorensen I came across where he had to explain to his school’s principal his American record in the 800 meters was a Master’s record, not ‘the’ American record; and how his students asked him if he was going to run at the Beijing Olympics. I have my own experience with this. I still remember watching an East German touched out for the gold in the 1980 Moscow Games by a couple of hundredths of a second and remarking how devastating it must be for the swimmer – only to hear an Aunt, an exceptionally bright and knowledgeable woman, remark “he should have worked harder”. How else can I explain why nearly six out of ten believe a forty year old mother coming back with less than two years training can be one of best sprinters in the world? That they accept she can continue to improve twenty years past her peak? In the movie Good Will Hunting the protagonist is a mathematical prodigy promoted by Fields Medalist Gerard Lambeau, an individual who recognizes Hunting’s talent outstrips even his own prodigious genius. In Amadeus the accomplished composer Salieri similarly shares Lambeau’s shock and dismay when he listens to the genius of Mozart’s music. Is there any one who believes all the two had to do to reach the same level of achievement was work harder and better? Of course not. But why then do the majority of people believe ultimate success at sport can be determined by training methods and learned techniques?

As world records continue to be pushed lower and lower swimming’s pinnacle is increasingly being occupied by the statistical anomalies, the outliers, those one in a hundred million individuals whose physical makeup and biochemistry are best suited to competing in the water. Michael Phelps is a great example of such a freak. At 193 cm (6’4”) and 86½ kgs (195 lbs.) a quick glance would see the typical heavyweight Olympian swimmer. A second and closer look would belie that as his leg inseam is only 81 cm. (32”), a length of leg more befitting a six foot man. This actually helps as there’s less leg for drag but in the absolutely critical arm span category, where the greater the reach the better for propulsion, Phelps’ 201 cms (6’7”) wingspan corresponds more to his theoretical height had he possessed a more normally proportioned body. A great advantage. Sure his size 14 feet make for nice flippers but far higher on the ‘what makes a fast swimmer’ scale is his overall hyperflexibility. Mark Spitz has hyperflexible knees, the ability not only to flex more than usual but to also flex the opposite way, so his legs could operate rather like a dolphin’s tail. It's helpful. In Michael Phelps case all of his joints are hyperflexible, which makes him rather awkward out of the water and notable for an inability to safely perform many dry land exercises such as running and weight training. But in water he quite literally swims like a fish. His coach Bowman also hints at a superbly adapted metabolism by being quoted as saying, “He (Phelps) had been metabolically trained since the age of 7, which is a plus”. Another piece of Phelppian trivia is Phelps has never taken a test to measure his VO² max despite a high reading being almost a precondition for elite status. Perhaps Bowman and Phelps aren’t particularly interested in a test which wouldn’t directly contribute to improved performance – there would be few takers on a bet it isn’t somewhere between 'Wow!' and 'No Freaking Way!' Yet for all this if you talked to his coach he’d probably first mention Phelps’ ‘feel for the water’ as his biggest advantage, a feel which is extraordinary even among world class swimmers. His ability to streamline his body, to come out of a turn faster than anyone else, to have mastered every stroke, is famous in the swimming world. So Phelps has all the ingredients to become a great swimmer plus one other. He’s also noted for his work ethic. There’s a saying “Great athletes are born, and then made better”. Day in and day out Phelps has put in the hours, reportedly not missing a single day in his career, and regularly putting in 70,000 meter weeks. Trying to beat a Freak at his or her own game is pretty nigh unattainable, but for a Normal to beat a Freak when he or she is willing to work hard at their gift – that's simply impossible.

P.S. Technically Liesel would have been disqualified for what would have been an illegal breaststroke back in 1972.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Start of the Season for Hyack Masters

Last night was our first practice and I was looking forward to seeing some new faces swimming ahead of me but was disappointed in this regard. Our best swimmer currently is Doug, who swam with us during the summer session and who had announced his intention to continue training with us over the winter, but tonight at least he didn’t show up. Neither did a rumored recent competitive swimmer only barely qualified to swim Masters yet apparently talented enough for Brad to say Doug will have to work to keep up with him. I was more disappointed, however, that the faster lanes seem to be becoming a men’s only club as Darcy, Kyra and Jodi, three of our best female swimmers, weren’t there. And as Jodi was married over the summer the betting line is overwhelming in favor of Hyack Masters not seeing her again. That’s a shame as there is nothing on this earth that provides the same incentive for hard work than having my ass kicked by some twenty something woman (actually having a fourteen year old girl do the ass-kicking would provide even more incentive but I think perhaps my fragile male ego would suffer a little too much). But the real subject of this post comes from the after practice hot tub soak where Ian talked about his son’s rapid improvement the last month of his summer swimming league. Turner saw his 100 back time drop seven seconds to place 2nd at the end-of-summer Provincial Championships; took ten seconds off his 200 IM for a 3rd; 1½ seconds from his 50 free for another 3rd; and finished the Provincials in style by taking the gold in the 100 free by swimming a full four seconds faster – every one improving on times he was swimming less than one month earlier. As a thirteen year old weighing in at 112 lbs. Ian’s absolutely right in pointing out he’s not winning races because he’s bigger than the rest. He’s winning because of improved technique and a better feel for the water, plus of course a generous portion of intestinal fortitude; the three of which makes for a winning combination in swimming. A big assist obviously comes from inheriting some of his father’s natural talent. Ian’s now moaning next summer he can only count on bettering Turner in fly and even in that, his favorite stroke, he wonders for how long. A good lesson to us all on the importance of technique and body position to swimming fast times and what we should be emphasizing in practice. Turner will be joining our team later on in the year after hockey season winds down to carry out his allowable winter conditioning. Hopefully somebody will step up such as Doug so we don’t have to ask Turner to lead Lane Six, our fastest lane. There would be something fundamentally wrong with a Masters swim team having a fourteen year old as its best swimmer wouldn’t you agree?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Jim Sorensen: Master Miler

My recent blogging subject has been rather depressing so to get more upbeat let me introduce you to a true icon in the making, forty year old American Jim Sorensen. One of the great marks in Sport has been the sub four minute mile and it remains the definitive measure for an elite middle distance runner. Only one man has run the mile under four minutes as a forty year old or older: the four time Olympian, World Championship gold medalist, and former indoor mile world record holder Eamonn Coghlan. Now Jim Sorensen has a real shot at being the second ever, and the first outdoor if he can do it on a regular track. This past June he ran a 1,500 in a new Masters world record time of 3:44.06, a pace which translates in 4:00 flat for the mile.

The mile (the 1,500 is sometimes called the metric mile) is a special event in athletics straddling both sprint and distance disciplines and so requires speed and endurance in almost equal measure. The formula for an over 40 sub-four minute miler is an elite runner who could run a sub-four mile with several seconds to spare at his peak and a willingness to continue training without a significant break long after his competitive days have passed. Jim Sorensen is just that man. The 1991 NCAA II 1500 champion and runner up in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials (he just narrowly missed making the qualifying time to actually participate in those Games) he has never left the sport he clearly loves. And boy he must love running. In an excellent interview by Masters News and Muse he describes his constant battle with injury, how he thought in 2000 a pelvic stress fracture had finished his competitive career, goes into some detail on how he trains (between 40 and 60 miles a week depending on the season), and his racing experiences. I strongly recommend you read it. As a former middle distance man myself it’s surreal listening to him talk about setting a Masters outdoor 800 meter American record in 1:51.57 a few days after his fortieth birthday and confessing the week before he ran a half marathon in 1:12:24 (“I ran too fast ... it shows that at 40 you can still do dumb things”). Absolutely incredible! Go Jim!

A funny thing happened to Sorensen along the way in life when he followed John Rembao, his coach, to Arizona. Sorensen – who doesn’t look or dress much like a runner (usually ran with a plaid shirt on and training pants with holes in them to go along with glasses he had taped together!) - was asked by the head coach of the U of A programme to actually get off the track one day when Sorensen was out warming up, with the coach saying something to the effect that the track was for athletes only (as opposed to everyday joggers). Taught one and all not to judge a book by its cover – not then, and certainly not 13 years later -

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Come Join the Bandwagon!

I’ve long been a strong proponent of weight training for overall physical fitness, and have made several posts about the importance of maintaining your musculature for later on in life. Posts such as Osteoporosis Isn’t Only A Concern For Women; and Losing It: The Difficulty Building and Keeping Muscle as We Age; and Free Weights & Home Gyms, all emphasize weight lifting. Last month the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association updated their physical activity guidelines and now encourage Americans to strength-train all of the major muscle groups at least twice a week on top of regular cardio activity. It’s important to note they’re calling for full workouts too – no ‘get a least twenty minutes a day’. They’re recommending adults perform eight to 12 reps of eight to 10 exercises on the chest, back, shoulders, upper legs, lower legs and arms, via either free weights, machines or weight-bearing activities. They also specifically single out adults 65 and older, whom they recommend should strength-train two to three times a week. I must say I think they’re being very optimistic prescribing such a ‘heavy’ exercise program but it might well prompt the sort of person who would read this blog to get out there and start lifting. Let’s hope you do!

Go to the ASCM Healthy Adults Manuscript
Go to the ASCM Older Adults Manuscript

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dara Torres Doping Poll Closed

My posts asserting Dara Torres is without doubt cheating brought several ardent supporters to her defense, or more correctly, to attack my position as incredibly obtuse and disrespectful. The final tally saw 41% saying Torres definitely has never used drugs; 17% believe her performance possibly is the result of doping but on balance much more likely she is clean; 29% think she is doping but require actual physical evidence before taking any action against her; and bringing up the rear were the 12%, me included, who think there is enough circumstantial evidence to justify banning her outright, a la Michael Rasmussen. Yea OK, banning someone on purely circumstantial evidence is a little radical but there’s a lot of frustration in Torres’ case.

It should be obvious I have nothing personal to gain from questioning Torres’ achievements. It’s only my aggrieved sense of justice and empathy for what today’s elite female sprinters must be thinking when they line up beside her that led me to write my article. If our best aren’t to be forced into doping to remain competitive they’ll have to be protected. Still many readers took it personally. It also became manifestly clear many had no desire to seek the truth but rather only sought to have their own beliefs dominate, right or wrong - often aggressively attacking opposing viewpoints with false statements or employing ad hominem comments. This led to some head shaking posts. One individual thought he could counter my observation Torres had added nearly twenty pounds of muscle in just one year’s time (actually now known to have been seventeen pounds) by saying it wasn’t unusual to see this in kids headed for the NBA. It’s difficult to anticipate these arguments - to my knowledge there hasn’t been a single woman to play in the NBA, much less one who started in her early thirties. Am I wrong that they have all been young males? The same individual, incensed by my certainty Torres is doping, then proceeded to slur Mark Spitz’s comeback attempt by stating he “just did this for attention” ignoring my very careful explanation why Spitz had every incentive to take it very seriously indeed. He actually cited the fact Spitz’s best comeback time was slower than the current Masters 100 fly world record as proof the attempt was treated as a lark (Mark Spitz would rank fifth fastest all time for males 40-44 if his best time had been achieved at a Masters sanctioned meet). This bizarre logic would label the majority of swimming's past greats, such as the likes of Don Schollander¹ and Dawn Fraser² among many, many others, as out right slackers for not being faster. It also avoids dealing with my point his time is about the best you can expect from two years training when coming back after years of retirement. More readers gave arguments which clearly showed they hadn’t read preceding responses where their issues had already been addressed. Several argued points which weren’t salient to my central hypothesis. Some even took exception to me taking exception. When I dismissed the opinions of those who voted Torres had definitely never taken drugs as clearly flawed (in that her extraordinary performance and today’s reality made it impossible not to call at least into question the possibility of her doping) a reader wrote what was the literary equivalent of spitting in my face. When I responded with a figurative punch he actually complained, going so far as to point out my comment about ad hominem attacks. Apparently he thought that while he could stoop to personal attacks my ethics would prevent a like response. He was wrong. Later another reader, evidently thinking attacking me directly wouldn’t be worth the trouble, decided to instead ridicule a blogger supporting my position. Unsurprisingly his justification rests on deliberately misrepresenting the blogger's argument “that training hasn't changed or technique hasn't changed” when Damien actually wrote “The argument that technology has improved and better training methods have caused this to happen is nonsense since it was not that long ago and technology hasn't progressed that much”. Clearly Damien is arguing the amount of improvement Torres has shown in her thirties and forties isn’t supported by an equivalent improvement in swimming technique and training practices; not there haven’t been significant improvements over the past couple decades. And he’s right. Overall world records in women’s swimming are 1.91% faster than those existing in 1988, yet during this same span Dara has seen her 50 meter free time improve by 5.30%³ and her 100 free improve by 1.97%. Improved technique and training alone cannot explain her late rise to greatness even if you ignore entirely the fact she’s fifteen years older, has put in only minimal training, and that for the most part the current records are held by new swimmers – not the same 1980’s record holders simply swimming faster.

I’ll have some more posts about Dara Torres later on. For now I’ll end with another one of my “dumb quotes” from a Lane Nine News August 1, 2007 article on Torres winning the U.S. 50 and 100 free titles at Indianapolis, setting a new American 50 free record in the process.
Evan Morgenstein, Torres' agent, was justifiably "thrilled that she did what she did - she focuses on a demographic in which there is no competition. She didn't make any money today - she didn't make a dime. She came because she wanted to win a national championship."
Wow, what a woman. Imagine swimming at the National Championships for nothing. Perhaps when the Church finishes canonizing Mother Teresa they’ll take a look at Dara Torres.

¹Schollander’s 1968 200 free world record and PB was 1:53.3; in Masters men’s 35-39 age group the world record is 1:52.84 held by Vlad Pyshnenko
² Dawn Fraser’s 1964 100 free world record and PB was 58.9 and remained a world record until Jan/72; in Masters women’s 35-39 age group the world record is 58.87 held by S. Neilson-Bell
³Measured from her 1988 Olympic Trials 25.83. Her personal best in 1988 (as can be determined at the time of writing) was 25.61 achieved four years earlier on July 21, 1984.

P.S. The last line is I believe my very first triple entendre – a rather rare word play I’ve only encountered twice outside of Shakespeare. I’ll give a bottle of scotch to the first person who can tell me the three ‘meanings’ contained therein and so prove I’m right.