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Biography

Meet GTD Swimmer Karla Oeler

Enjoys her lane mates

Greta Van Meeteren | May 28, 2010

Karla Oeler is an associate professor in the film studies department at Emory University in Atlanta. But for the past two years she has been teaching in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, where she has also enjoyed swimming on the Stanford Masters team. Oeler has a partner, Alex, and a dog named Raymond. During the school year in particular, life can be very busy, especially when writing deadlines are looming.

Oeler enjoys all the different kinds of projects associated with her job: writing, watching films and reading about them, developing classes and teaching them, giving talks, etc. She has published work on such directors as Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Jim Jarmusch. She is interested in all cinema, but the national film cultures she knows best are those of Russia, France, and the United States.

Swimming is a hobby, but also an integral part of Oeler's life. "I’m so happy that a friend introduced me to Masters swimming when I was a junior professor. Because I swim, I experience much less stress and don’t suffer the back and shoulder pain that would otherwise accompany my long hours at desks and in front of computers," she says.

Oeler began Masters swimming in Atlanta eight years ago. Before then, she had no swim team experience, although she did take swimming classes at the local YMCA in McKeesport, Pa. when she was a child. She thinks she made it up to the “flying fish” level. So far, her only competition has been the 2008 TI2Y swim (from Treasure Island across the San Francisco Bay to the Embarcadero). She placed right in the middle of her age group (40-44), which made her happy. Oeler would like to compete in pool meets, but thinks that she is way too slow.

Oeler's swimming frequency varies with her workload and with travel. She has missed entire weeks and she hates that. She tries to swim at least four days a week with distances varying between 2,000 and 3,500 meters. She considers even 1,500 meters a good workout if that is all she has time for. "If I swim over 3,000 meters, I usually need a nap."

She prefers swimming in the Stanford pools with her Masters team. "I have great lane mates who inspire me to keep going. I also think I could learn to love open water swimming if I had more occasion to do it," she adds. Her favorite workouts usually have lots of IM. She enjoys all the strokes, but feels as though she is the opposite of all the other swimmers on her team, because she tends to be faster at the non-freestyle strokes, and finds swimming efficient and fast freestyle to be extremely challenging. Her cruise speed is two minutes for 100 meters of freestyle (LCM) although she has been trying to bring it closer to 1:50.

"I think I need some private lessons and lots more practice! As it is, I feel I’ve never worked so hard at something and been so mediocre. Fortunately, I don’t find this disheartening, but challenging. I believe that if I practice and concentrate on my form, then one day I will be able to swim in the 1:50 lane. Then I’ll start aiming for the 1:40 lane! Maybe by the time I’m 70 I’ll get there," she quips.

Participating in GTD gives Oeler a sense of accomplishment. Her fantasy is to swim the English Channel. When she got to 100 miles just recently, she told herself it was as if she swam the English Channel four times. "Of course it took me over four months! I don’t really have a distance goal, I just want to see how far I end up swimming by the end of this year and then try to swim a little more next year. My real goal is to lower my cruise speed for freestyle," she says.

Oeler likes walking and petting her dog, making different kinds of paella, shopping at the farmers’ market, hiking, reading and watching movies. She loves corny jokes. Her coach, Timothy Edmonds, tells a joke at the start of each workout. He gets some of his jokes from his children who are very young. Sometimes Oeler is the only person in the pool who is laughing because she still has that grade-school sense of humor. She is particularly fond of silly puns, the kind that make you roll your eyes.

Oeler thinks this is the kind of lane mate she is: "I’m incorrigibly optimistic that all of us in the two minute lane can get faster (and indeed some have!); I tend to be insistent about finishing the entire workout although sometimes, given our speed, it’s a bit much for me and my lane mates; I like to lead when we’re doing IM, but hate leading in freestyle."

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