Thursday, January 31, 2008

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!

A while back 17thman’s thumbs started to stick out instead of keeping with the rest of his hands, and he wondered if drilling more with hand paddles would correct the problem. I took the opportunity to point out this typically was symptomatic of a bad back and suggested paddles probably wouldn't help. Sure enough he was having a difficult time breaking in a new chair at work and his back was hurting. Sometimes it’s impressive how much minutiae one learns from years of physiotherapy.

Course learning never stops. A month ago I told my Alexander teacher about a problem in my right big toe I was experiencing: a sharp, burning sensation much like sciatica but much more localized and particularly evident doing kicking drills with fins. She immediately questioned whether I had my toes right. “You’re sure it’s the right and not the left?” she asked as she bent down to check how I stand on my feet. Yea I was sure. “Did you know tight back muscles can cause your thumbs and big toes to stick out from their normal resting position?” she said conversationally while manipulating my right ankle. Well I knew about thumbs but I didn’t know about the big toes. “The thumbs are caused by upper back problems and the big toes from lower back and hip difficulties”, she explained, “ ...causing your big toe to rub up against the fin”. “You’re sure it’s not the left that’s the problem?” she persisted. Well readers, it doesn’t take a detective to know which side of my body she thought most of my problems stem from. But after a couple more minutes she left off inspecting my feet and ankle positioning and returned to our regular lesson. In Alexander Technique trying to correct specific problems is known as end-gaining, something particularly frowned upon because the process ends up only adding still more corrections to an already overburdened musculature instead of addressing the originating problems. And that, friends, is how our postures deteriorate in the first place. A week later I was giving the same explanation to one of my massage therapists. “But if it can bother you even when you’re not swimming with fins it has to be more than that”, he said out loud as he puzzled it out. “You must have pulled your ____ muscle, that one travels all the way from the big toe to your hip”, he concluded. Well that made sense to me, and even if it didn’t stop the pain it was good to know as I pounded up and down the pool with my fins hurting all the time. But yesterday I had a session with my second massage therapist (I use the two of them because of their contrasting styles) and of course told him about my troubled right big toe. “Aahh”, he immediately responded when I’d finished, “you have a metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain – you’ll have to stop using your fins for a month or two”. See, that’s why I have two massage therapists. What’s a metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain you ask? Turf toe. I’ve gotten turf toe from swimming! You’ve gotta be kidding me!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Terms of Quality Swims Our Masters Women Leave the Men Far Behind

This past Wednesday practice our main set was an 8 x 50 or 100 choice best average on 3:00; meaning we were to go as fast as we could while maintaining the same pace for all eight reps. Of course because we’re masters we don’t put in the necessary kilometrage to properly gauge such efforts: for fifties I aim for a 95% effort the first couple and then go as fast as I can for the rest; and with hundreds I try to stick to a 90% effort throughout. Unfortunately since I was the only one in my lane who wanted to go hundreds we went fifties, and not being a sprinter at the best of times I really struggled throughout with some depressingly slow times. Shocked I was not. Since the start of January I’ve moved to my next stage of training intended to better develop my aerobic conditioning by adding a kilometer to each of my workouts while continuing efforts to revamp my stroke techniques. I’ve also radically increased the number and distance of my kick sets, and have made enough progress out of the pool in my physiotherapy to necessitate wholesale changes in the way I use my body. I’m tired and sore. If Phelps, Coughlin, Lochte et al can be compared to mountaineers perched high on the mountainside then I find myself so deep down in a valley well I have to bend my neck back merely to sight the sky. While some day in the future I will see my times improve to respectability right now any progress I’m likely to see will be minor and hard fought for.

What is a good time, a quality time, for a master swimmer? What sort of times can we reasonably shoot for? We can’t compare ourselves to the elite, but assessing performance upon existing masters world records has enormous pitfalls. Many are notorious for being ‘soft’ – slow times known not to be representative of the relevant age group’s true capabilities; and this number increases dramatically as we travel up and down the age groups either towards old age or youth. But then again, are the supposedly ‘hard’ records really that good either? To decide what constitutes great in masters swimming I ended up using as my benchmark something I saw being cited as proof of Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen’s bona fides: that she’d raced fast enough in masters to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. To me this appears like a good basis to judge performance. The qualification times are derived directly from the real world of elite swimming yet are still within reach of our very best masters swimmers.

Two further questions and some particular aspects of this analysis need to be answered and clarified before I present my findings. The first question is at what age exactly does an athlete become a master? FINA recognizes eligibility at the age of twenty five while most countries set as their minimum age at nineteen (clearly for participative inclusiveness only). Also the reality only times from sanctioned masters event are eligible for masters consideration needs to be included in the equation. Times from the open circuit, even in FINA sanctioned events, are not counted and consequently there are several well known international swimming stars who are excluded by this technicality. To minimize this effect I’ve arbitrarily determined ‘true’ masters competition only commences at thirty for women and thirty five for men. While I’ve tried to include all those eligible swimmers both past and present who were still swimming in open competitions I’m certainly going to miss some of them. I apologize in advance. Let me know of any possible candidates and I’ll check to see if they should be added to the list. The second question is what Olympic Trials should be used as the benchmark. Not what country, that’s by default the U.S. (hats off to USA Swimming and its historical data base), but what year. The last Trials where short course times were accepted for qualifying purposes and thus listed were the 2000 Trials; and since most masters events are short course I’m only using this year’s Trials as a comparative for those who qualified swimming long course. As my primary benchmark I’ve settled on using the 1992 Trials. Interestingly I didn’t find the time differences between 1992 and 2008 particularly significant, something I’ll have to study and write about later on. Accordingly my list shows qualifying times by event, age group, the qualifying swimmer, his or her country, whether the qualification was long or short course, open or masters sanctioned event, and (if long course) whether the time also qualifies for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. The times are arranged fastest to slowest. So here you are – the world’s Greatest Masters Swimmers so far.

Three observations. One, the list is completely dominated by ex-Olympians. Two, you don’t see many qualifying here in the distance events do you? And three, just look at all the women!

Of course noting the domination of ex-Olympians in a list of the great masters swimmers is not particularly enlightening so I’ll not discuss that any further. The lack of anything over 200 meters is to be expected too. Aerobic metabolism, which starts to become a significant factor after some twenty seconds of effort, passes the initial boost received from ATP-PCr metabolism within a few more seconds and eventually overhauls glycolysis, which takes over from ATP-PCr as the body’s primary source of energy, at around the two minute mark. The ascendancy of aerobic metabolism, not coincidentally, marks the end of the sprint events. Aerobic capabilities decline with age – precipitously if the individual stops the activity for any length of time. Building it back up even partially takes years of effort typically not available to adults with other, more pressing concerns. So the domination of the sprint 50 free here is expected. I’m most impressed by the swimmers who qualified in the 200, the longest sprint distance. To be successful in the 200 after retiring from open competition means continuing to soldier on in the pool putting in lots of kilometers.

The real stunner is the ratio of great female master swimmers to the male equivalent, women qualifying 37 events to 6, an amazing 6:1. Even if you exclude Dara Torres who has qualified in an unbelievable eight events in three different age groups, the women still lap the men with ease. I speculate the difference comes from a vastly greater participation rate by elite women, which continuing with my conjecture, may rest upon how differently the two sexes view the notion of swimming as a team sport. In this hypothesis the two sexes approach the team concept in such different ways it affects the way they view swimming after retirement and, ultimately, the number who reenter the sport. I propose males only give lip service to the idea of belonging to a team, at least in so far as swimming is concerned, reserving this to games such as football, volleyball, and car racing amongst other endeavors. No man would seriously deny belonging to a team is essential for achieving elite status – but he'll rationalize in the end only he's going to be standing on the starting block. Being driven as much by the competition as by success they simply move on and don’t return once they become uncompetitive. On the other hand I suspect women truly buy into the concept of team swimming: finding deep satisfaction in the personal relationships developed in pursuit of shared dreams. So while like men the elite women don’t return to masters for the competition they can and do return for the sociability they associate with the sport. More elite women equals more quality performances - and the women win going away. Sound reasonable?

Update: Floswimming has an interesting video with Jimmy Tierney, coach of Northwestern's womens swimming, who contrasts the differences between coaching men and women and the often divergent methods used to motivate them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Discovering Yet Another Technique I Need to Learn

Not a swimming technique but rather a method of teaching proper posture and movement, the Alexander Technique has been around for over a hundred years. Named after the technique’s innovator F. Mathias Alexander, who developed it from purely empirical observations of his own body and his own problems, the technique is aimed at allowing an individual to recognize and change habits which interfere with well integrated skeletal and muscular functioning. It was Alexander’s belief the daily stress and repetition inherent in modern daily life causes the body to compensate in ways which create still further problems. Eventually the body begins to work against itself, pitting muscle group against muscle group, until free flowing and efficient movement becomes in varying degrees impaired or, under certain conditions, impossible. It’s a difficult concept to grasp but you can try this simple posture to gain a better understanding of the problem. First attempt to stand on one leg with both your arms held outstretched from your sides for fifteen seconds. Most readers of this blog should be able to do this – it’s a basic test for inadequate musculature given to senior citizens. It might take two or three tries but no real problem right? Now try to do the same posture but with eyes closed. I’m betting 99% of my readers won’t be able to stand more than a couple of seconds, much less the full fifteen. Welcome to the teeming masses. The reason why we fail is our dependency on visual inputs to provide the constant stream of corrections we need to remain standing. Without them our non symmetrical and conflicting muscles overwhelm our sense of balance and we fall out of the posture.

If you’re an athlete this clearly isn’t a good thing, but for many these problems can develop into actual physical deformity. Alas this has been the result for me. I exhibit an observable curve in my lower back, a significantly higher left shoulder than my right, a backward canted head, and hips which for all intents and purposes could be considered completely fused. For the morbidly inclined you can view my pictures from November here. When I started rehabilitation only the need to eliminate my back pain preceded the desire to correct my crookedness. Yet despite three years of extensive physiotherapy, chiropractics, yoga, stretching, some weight lifting, and two years swimming I’ve seen no apparent change in my posture. I’ve lost weight, gained muscle, and now enjoy better overall conditioning; but still no improvement in the way I hold my back. So late November I finally decided to go ahead and see if Alexander Technique could solve my problems.

Now Alexander Technique works by providing the body with new references for holding itself rather than continuing along the well trodden path established by the harmful habits and demands of everyday life: and it relies heavily upon a teacher’s efforts to guide the student through touch and words. Sometimes knowing I’m in the proper position is easy – because I feel a definite floating sensation as muscles which have been working for years finally get a few seconds of relaxation. Then there's the times she's effusive in her praise when I hadn't realized I'd even moved. And at still other moments the position I’ve been guided into requires considerable concentration and effort. The process is unlike any other physiotherapy I have known. Overall the training works on simple movement to begin with, such as sitting in a chair or walking up and down stairs, and progresses as the teacher determines he or she has seen enough progress to move on to other areas. I’ve spent much of the past two months limited to learning how to properly stand up and sit down but there have been lessons which were directly applicable to my swimming. In one lesson my teacher commented on the significant difference in the way I hold my shoulders and asked me to demonstrate how I use my arms and shoulders swimming freestyle. A couple of simulated strokes later she was apologizing for criticizing something she knew little about but then proceeded to explain why my stroke was all wrong from an Alexander viewpoint. Instead of initiating my stroke from the shoulder (i.e. starting my overhead recovery from my deltoids) and then by still more shoulder rotation propelling my arm reach forward she explained how my recovery stroke should only incidentally impact the shoulder. What she recommended to increase my stroke's efficiency was instead to allow my arms to follow my elbows up and then extend through the finger tips in an effortless manner rather than trying to muscle my arms from the shoulders. Does any of this sound familiar? We never did get to discuss the reasons for my shoulder differences but at that point I didn’t care, so pleased was I that the Alexander Technique could correctly point out defects in my stroke.

Even better, and to my agreeable surprise as I had little real expectations from these lessons, I believe I can see improvements in my back and shoulders after only a couple months. I’m looking forward to the end of season in March when I’ll retake my pictures and actually can compare the changes over the past few months. I’m also sure my hip flexibility has significantly increased for another encouraging development. As a counter point, however, all these structural changes going on have affected the way I use many of my muscles - necessitating not only the retraining of several key muscle groups but also demanding further stroke changes. I can take solace, however, that all this seems to be leading eventually to a new and better foundation for my swimming. Things are looking up.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Another Question for Dara

I know at least some of you out there are reading my blog. In October I wrote “When Less Doesn’t Mean More” about how Dara Torres’ reported training regime didn’t jibe with any recognized training approach for sprinting; observing she was neither spending the hours in the pool typically associated with Olympian-level sprinters nor apparently relying on the innovative theories of Mike Bottom and his “Less is More” training style. Only three weeks later the New York Times came out with the story “Torres is Getting Older, But Swimming Faster”, which addressed almost every one of my questions. I’m sure it was just a coincidence and fortuitous timing on Torres’ part the article came out when it did.

While I’m firmly ensconced among those who believe Dara Torres is using some performance enhancing drug to achieve her spectacular results in the pool there remain many others, coming from the same population who buy lottery tickets and think Diebold voting machines produce reliable vote counts I’m sure, who believe without a failed test we necessarily must consider her ‘clean’. Despite the many instances of proven, long-time cheats who passed their drug tests for years this lack of definitive proof is admittedly a significant obstacle to overcome. One source for the circumstantial evidence I use to bolster my case is from comparing her recent performances to other recognizably more accomplished swimmers. So I’m always on the look out for details and facts about great swimmers both past and present to compare against Torres’ own career.

Yesterday I discovered a treasure trove of comparable facts in this month’s Outdoor Magazine. In his excellent article “The Big Chill” Christopher Solomon reveals several previously unknown facts about the incomparable Michael Phelps. All excellent fodder intended for later posts except for the one I’m going to discuss and compare to Torres here and now, which reveals he put on fourteen pounds (6⅓ kgs) of muscle in the three years prior to his phenomenal performance at last year’s World Championships in Melbourne. Now this isn’t a particularly noteworthy accomplishment for a twenty two year old male even if those pounds are being added to an already well developed Olympian frame. As one of Torres’ defenders stated in response to an observation I made about her muscle gains prior to the 2000 Sydney Games, “How often have I read this about a kid going to the NBA? Are they all taking steroids?” The answer is of course not. Young men engaged in strenuous activities or physical exercise can in most cases add the necessary sinew to handle pretty well anything. Yet it does take considerable effort and time to do so. Phelps' coach Bob Bowman had to institute a dry land program of one to two hours strength training three times a week on top of the 70,000 or so meters Phelps swims every week to give him his extra muscle. And he started the new regime right after the 2004 Athens Games when Michael was nineteen years old. Dara Torres, on the other hand, is noteworthy for taking only one year to add seventeen pounds of muscle as she prepared for her Sydney Olympics - and that was at the advanced age of 32. I think it needs to be noted she's a woman and not a man. After all she gave birth to her daughter only a little over a year and a half ago. I wonder how she managed it? The muscle gain I mean, not the child.

Now the ‘Torre-bles’ will invariably want to point out Dara’s muscle gain was then and this is now, and she’s currently racing ten pounds lighter than her Sydney Games days. Not a particularly convincing argument for me. Times change and as WADA identifies new ways of cheating and shuts some doors pharmacology continues to open new ones, always keeping a step or two ahead. Torres is certainly using something better and less detectable now than eight years ago because she’s swimming even faster at the age of forty. But perhaps Torres has some other explanation for her newfound speed and if so I’d be most interested in hearing it. Maybe past and present coaches Richard Quick and Michael Lohberg could even tape a couple of videos for Floswimming and share with everybody what they and Dara have learned about building power into her stroke over the past ten years. If not, and if she can’t arrange for the New York Times to get the details out, I suggest she use some other paper – Washington Post perhaps, or the Miami Herald, or even the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. I don’t really care. I’ll be watching all or them. Such is my fascination with Dara Torres.

Read my first article on Dara Torres (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

Welcome Back Isis!

Isis keeps a blog called “The Secrets of Isis” where masters swimming ranks high among her many varied interests. Now swimming is known for being a sport with minimal injury risk, but when we do have serious problems it generally involves the shoulder. Unfortunately 2007 saw Isis’s shoulder go under the knife twice trying to correct a chronic injury, initially restricting her to endless kicking sets but eventually forcing her out of the pool altogether. Now she’s back in and needs some cheering to complete her recovery! If you are curious about what rehabilitation from a shoulder injury entails for a swimmer this is a great blog to encourage you to correct those technique problems now or give your shoulder a rest; with neat surgical pictures and some graphic descriptions of the complications which arise from post-operative infection. A well written blog: one which you will find especially appealing if your interests also include literature and/or a fondness for knitting.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

School Time Nightmares

Monday night was the first practice after a two week Christmas break and finishing a few minutes of announcements Coach warned before the workout commenced that he hoped we had been doing ‘homework’ over the holidays and kept up with our swimming. That caused me to immediately flashback to my boarding school days – where not having one’s homework done brought disastrous consequences. Caning students was still in vogue back then. Actually, I realized with a sigh of relief, I had been doing my ‘homework’; at least I’d done a little over 20,000 meters in the two weeks we were away. Not enough of course but still a lot more than all but a handful of my teammates. And almost immediately after that thought I groaned because I had done some ‘homework’, 2,700 meters of it, the night before – including 6x100 back on 1:50, 600 meters kicking without flippers, and a combined 600 meters of fly and breast – and was still feeling it. At the time I figured our first night back would bring with it a fairly easy practice, and so wrote out what turned out to be a more difficult than usual practice set for Sunday (doesn’t it always seem easier to write a workout than actually swim it?). And here Brad was insinuating tonight’s workout would be tough. In the end it was hard but not crushingly so, though some in Lanes Five and Six would probably disagree on this particular day. Coach, clearly in a sadistic mood, released the workout in dribs and drabs to keep anxiety high:

12x50 free warm-up done in three sets of four (3 @ 0:50 + 1 @ 0:45)

4x100 free @ 1:50
4x100 kick (w/fins) @ 2:00
4x100 IM @ 2:00
1x100 free @ 2:00
3x100 IM @ 1:50

After finishing the last 400 meters both Doug and I figured at almost the very same instant we’d be seeing more declining IMs such as 1x100 free @ 2:00 and a 2x100 IM @ 1:40, and then 1x100 free @ 2:00 followed by a 1x100 IM @ 1:30; but Brad tripped us up and instead went:

4x100 free: first @ 1:50
second @ 1:35
third @ 1:30
fourth @ 1:25

Brad did give Lane Six the option of doing the set with the intervals ten seconds faster which we declined, but I did notice Doug pushing to finish the last hundred under 1:15. I was happy just to make the interval.

Choice of warm down (I did an easy 100 back)

Since we had a short hour to swim the 2,600 plus warm down the workout had a fair amount of meters in it. I know when we finished I was feeling pretty ‘wobbly’ in the legs. So it turned out I ended up rather roughed up despite the fact I had done my homework. Life really can be unfair.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Swimming is Harder Than It Looks

When I first joined the Hyacks it was with the idea I’d give it a shot for three months and at least learn how to swim fly and perform a decent backstroke rollover turn. A year and four months later not only have I failed to master either fly or turn but I'm also entangled in correcting the many other flaws this old body depends on. Take simple, straightforward freestyle. I’ve succeeded in changing my stroke’s old style underwater s-curve to today’s more accepted straight arm but now struggle with a strong tendency for my left hand to enter well over my centre line, giving me a pronounced loping style of swimming. Almost certainly an idiosyncrasy developed to allow me to bring my face clear of the water to breathe. In a sport which revolves around a swimmer’s core and maintaining the body’s horizontal axis both are serious flaws. Correcting them will be a long and uncomfortable process. In backstroke I’m experiencing problems holding a correct body position and completing my stroke. After mentally reviewing past races I’ve traced part of my breathing difficulties in back to poor body position, with too deep hips resulting in an overly upright body position and consequently an increased susceptibility to inhaling water. I now realize this is why most of my water swallowing episodes come after emerging from a turn: I get hit by the backwash my poor turn technique creates at a particularly vulnerable point of time. As my dragging hips come from a combination of an ineffective kick, weak body rotation, and a badly fading finishing stroke - problems stemming from my flexibility and overall strength issues - any resolution is equally far away. This desperate need for more strength shows up in dramatic fashion in fly, where I still struggle to swim a complete hundred in good form. On the plus side my technique is showing slow but steady progress, enough to still nurse hopes I can put together a decent race before season’s end. That’s good, because the less said about my breaststroke the better. The technical and strength requirements of breast unfortunately highlight my personal deficiencies which will take years, if ever, to correct. So while every practice on my own I try to spend at least one set doing the stroke and related drills frankly I strongly doubt I’ll ever be any good at it. Then on top of all else my ongoing struggle with endurance and aerobic conditioning throws its shadow over everything I do in the pool. Progress in these two key facets of swimming has been both meager and fleeting – apparent improvement one day seems to dissipate like a mirage the following workout.

I expected to find obstacles between where I am now and peak performance. It is, however, a little frustrating. I understand you can’t just turn on a switch and become an elite swimmer. It takes years of effort for even the supremely talented, so I understood it would take considerable effort at my advanced age to develop enough conditioning and technique to start putting in decent races. Yet it’s only in the past few months that I’ve slowly awakened to the sobering fact the road is longer, and the work harder, than my initial calculations. Still, this is good. To paraphrase Prospero a prize too easily obtained is a prize too easily dismissed. The desire to swim faster also doesn’t consider the real reason I’m swimming is for my health and well being, the pursuit of which necessarily should be a lifelong endeavor. I might not be competing in a couple years time but I’ll probably still be swimming. It seems there’s really no rush at all ... there's plenty of time to perfect my strokes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Looking Forward to a Better New Year

After taking virtually all of December off I thought I’d put in at least an appearance to show I’m still around. This past month has been consumed by work, primarily two divorce cases I’ve taken on a contingency basis (which in these cases pretty well means pro bono) – one getting close to the end, and the other most unfortunately just beginning. Both are incredibly vicious, cut-throat battles where the men, both marked as multimillionaires, are arguing they’re effectively bankrupt and challenging their ex-spouses to prove otherwise: a difficult and costly challenge in their particular cases. The first is getting quite famous, at least in local legal circles. It’s been going on since 1999, when the Respondent claimed he couldn’t afford the less than $1,000/month in child support for his three young children anymore and simply stopped paying. Going into its ninth year (thankfully I only became involved in 2003) the case is still before the court, with combined legal expenses of both parties which (if I extrapolate the other side's litigation costs on the basis of our own billable hours and disbursements) must be getting close to a million dollars. The Defendant is on his third set of lawyers and the case itself is now being tried by our second judge. All over a few tens of thousand dollars in missed child support because of the Respondent’s claim of insolvency! Frankly everyone associated with this case is desperately searching for someway out of this mess. Such is the absurdity of our court system and human irrationality.

Enough of my whining. I have a lot of articles either in various stages of completion or planned for the coming year, and here I’m referring to my opinion pieces rather than the various and sundry posts I also write marking my efforts to establish myself as a ‘serious’ competitive swimmer. It’s a fairly easy process to dash off some commentary concerning a particular workout, or write about the myriads of problems presented by my poor swimming technique or about race results, but much more difficult and time consuming to write opinions on what are often controversial subjects. Regardless I believe these opinions are the heart of my blog, and have been rewarded in turn by learning a great deal in writing them. For example I’ve had an article on trans fats sitting around for some time, my problem getting it into print is a desire to change it’s emphasis from merely disclosing the undeniable hazards of trans fats into a critique of the food industry’s trans fats disclosure rules, something which is being manipulated and exploited to an outrageous degree. Of course I haven't forgotten about Dara Torres, having several works-in-progress concerned with or related to her. In a piece with the rather long title, “Viva La DiffĂ©rence: The Impact of Aging on Female Athletes (Or Why Medical Science Says Dara Torres Can’t Be for Real) I go about showing why the rule-of-thumb decline for female performance of 3% per decade applies even to Ms. Torres. In another post titled, “Dara Torres v. The IOC”, an article not particularly flattering to the IOC either, I discuss the devastation Dara Torres would bring to the Olympic movement and amateur sport in general should she actually individually medal at Beijing and consequently the IOC’s obvious but belated desperation to stop her and her ilk. In a similar bit of writing with the title, “Dara Torres: All Alone and Leading the Way” I draw comparisons between Torres and other ‘great’ athletes who were subsequently found to have cheated, placing particular emphasis on baseball icon Roger Clemens, whom Americans have often held up as an example of why Torres is for real. I find the irony I can now also use Mr. Clemens as one of my own examples to be absolutely delicious. I'd roll in it if I could. Other posts concerning her have titles such as “Money, Money, Money”, “The Ethics of Cheating”, and “A Woman’s Prerogative: Dara Torres and Her Ever Changing Training Regime”. Self explanatory no? But there are many more subjects I’d like to cover, especially since this is an Olympic year. With titles ranging from “Competitive Swimming: The Best Sport on Earth for Children”, through “A Case in Point: Britain’s Search for Olympic Swimming Success”, and “An Open Letter About the Unfairness in the Way Canada Goes About Selecting It’s Olympic Athletes”, to “In Praise of ‘Doc’ Councilman”, “The Great Arthur Lydiard”, and “The Psychology of Sprinters” I have a plethora of topics to choose from. Hopefully 2008 will allow me to tackle at least these and some of the many, many others I've jotted down over the past year. I hope you’ll stick around to read them. Happy New Year!