A Need for Speed
Likes to have fun, too
After recently turning 50 and aging up for competition, Scott Guthrie decided to go all out at a small swim meet in New Orleans. He promptly set a national age-group record in the 50-meter breaststroke, then set out for the French Quarter to treat himself to a two-hour feast that included a bottle of wine, a decadent dessert and a Hoyo de Monterey Excaliber No.1 cigar.
Guthrie returned to the pool the next day, swam the 100 breast and beat all the 25-year-old "children," as he calls them. He celebrated that swim by pigging out on a Bourbon Street venison and tiramisu before returning home to Tallahassee, Fla.
For all the long hours of training he puts in, Guthrie figures the least he can do is treat his meets as a beautiful reward. Considering that Guthrie has posted Top Ten times for 18 consecutive years in Masters swimming, the payoff has been consistently sweet.
"I like to use my time efficiently and I like to have fun," said Guthrie. "I give myself permission after a meet to enjoy things. I set a national record in the 50. That was a wonderful thing. (And he celebrated it as such.) I came back the next day and everybody said, “what if it affects your swimming in the 100?” My attitude is, “so what? I set a national record in the 50. How do you do better?”
"For me, the swim meet is a reward for going to the pool every day and working out all the time. I'm going to get tired. I'm going to hurt. I'm going to get out of breath. So the swim meet is my reward for going to practice."
Several years ago, a field that had gathered for a meet in Philadelphia learned just how much Guthrie enjoys his reward. Guthrie invited the horde to a few beers in the parking lot. When the congregation gathered, they found that Guthrie had 50 cases of brewskies in his truck. He had made a beer run to the northeast as part of an annual party in which friends bring unusual beers from different parts of the country. The swim meet just happened to be along the way. Guthrie decided he could pick up more beer on the way home so he treated the meet participants to a few cold ones.
"We just had a little tailgate party right there," said Guthrie. "Beer is a Masters swimmer's perfect food. It has carbohydrates. It has water and it's a good general anesthetic. And it has no fat."
No one will ever accuse Guthrie of cheating life. He's a top-flight competitor at the national level in Masters swimming. But, swimming actually takes a back seat to his other passion—motorcycles.
Guthrie is a world-class motorcycle racer. Since 1973, he has set 49 world records at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Windover, Utah. Thirty-four of those records still ride high. To put that dominance in perspective, Guthrie's record total is more than the next six drivers combined.
Guthrie is most proud of the record he established in 1980 for conventional motorcycles. He drove a 1974 Yamaha (700 cc) to an average speed of 201.168 mph. The previous record was 171 mph. Guthrie said breaking that record was like swimming against Matt Biondi in the 100 freestyle and beating him by four seconds.
Jack Dolan is the motorcycle steward for the Southern California Timing Association that oversees the Bonneville racing. He said that Guthrie is famed for setting a different record in a different class every day during the annual Speed Week.
"Only a few have ever done that," said Dolan. "He's done everything. He does it better than anyone."
Dolan said some competitors are so frustrated by Guthrie's dominance or intimidated by his blur of victories that they often try and set up their motorcycles to race in events they're guessing Guthrie won't enter.
Guthrie's newest passion is to race cars at Bonneville. He's got one car with a 1000 cc engine that hit 258 mph. He hopes to surpass the 300 mph mark the next time he races.
"I like the sensation of speed." said Guthrie. "And I like being able to design and build and time and drive the machinery. I like to do it all and still be the best."
For his last birthday, Guthrie gave his Nissan 300 ZX an extra 100 horsepower. It now goes 180 mph. Asked where in Florida he could press that pedal to the metal that hard, Guthrie said. "if I tell you, I'll have to kill you."
Guthrie is a retired industrial arts teacher at Florida State University. He earns a living as an expert witness in motorcycle-crash related court cases. When he's not swimming or driving motorcycles or cars, Guthrie said he enjoys National Rifle Association target competitions.
That's obviously a full plate, but Guthrie said as long as his back holds up and the desire is still there, why not? The rewards are still worth the trouble.
Several years ago, Guthrie had to wonder if it really was worth the effort. After a doctor ordered him to drop 50 pounds, Guthrie attacked swimming so hard that it nearly burned him out. He swam 6,000 yards six days a week. He lost the weight but tore the rotator cuff muscles in both shoulders because of improper stroke mechanics. Guthrie had surgery three years ago to repair his shoulders and has learned to train in moderation. For the moment, he is limited to breaststroke events.
Today, Guthrie said he swims about 2,500 yards three times a week. He augments his swimming with some weight training, mostly to support his back.
Guthrie admits his weight has inched back up some, but it hasn't impaired his ability to swim well. At the Short Course Nationals this past May in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Guthrie won the 50 and 100 breaststroke events with his best times in eight years. He repeated that feat at Long Course Nationals in the 50.
Guthrie said his secret to success is concentration. He calls it, "be here now." Guthrie is so in-tuned with his swimming events that he can close his eyes, visualize the race in his head, count the strokes, use a stopwatch and be within a half-second of his actual time. Try that sometime.
Despite all of his interests, Guthrie hopes to swim for the rest of his life. His goal is to win the 100-and-over age group. His dream is to have five heats of eight swimmers.
"I want them all there, all these people I've been swimming against for 60 years," said Guthrie. "I'm not worried about winning. I just want to be there with them."
That would be some reward.
published in SWIM magazine, Jan-Feb, 1996
Scott Guthrie lives in Tallahassee, Fla., and swims for Bob Ruth Aquatic Team.