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Trips to National Championships Pay Off for Lussier, Heim-Bowen

Lussier came in second on the men’s side, Heim-Bowen first on the women’s

Daniel Paulling | August 1, 2017

Hardy Lussier rolls out of bed five or six times a week while it’s still dark outside so he can do a lengthy swim practice that sometimes reaches 8,000 yards a session. Doing so is tough some days, he admits, but he always feels better once he’s in the water.

The Oregon Masters swimmer’s dedication helped him come in second place on the men’s side with a time of 1:05:51 on Sunday in the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Distance Open Water National Championship. The 5-kilometer race was in Elk Lake in Oregon about 200 miles southeast of Portland.

Lussier edged out Kevin Jackson, a 23-year-old unattached member of the Pacific Northwest LMSC, by a second, but fell by just under a minute to Jeff Erwin of the Sawtooth Masters club in Boise, Idaho. Erwin also beat Lussier by one second in the USMS 2-Mile Cable Open Water National Championship last month.

Full results from last weekend’s race are available online.

“In the classic Jeff Erwin style I’ve become a little familiar with, he warms up for the first third in these open water swims and then gets it up to speed and always pulls out a nice win,” Lussier says. “I kind of know what to expect.”

Lussier stayed with Erwin during the race’s first lap, which was 2,000 meters, and even led the pack for a portion of that stretch. Erwin then passed Lussier for the final two laps, which were 1,500 meters apiece, and held on for the win.

Still, Lussier was happy to compete in the event about 30 miles from his hometown of Bend, Ore. He describes himself as just getting started in open water swimming and plans to do the three USMS open water national championships in Oregon next July. He believes his not competing in college may be fueling his dedication to swimming.

“I have a passion for the sport, so kind of the longer I go, whether it’s in years or in the actual daily swim at the pool during the workout, the better I feel,” the 52-year-old Lussier says. “One of the things I really like is kind of not stopping on the wall. When I’m doing my regular practices, I just love the constant inertia of just going and going.”

Making a Return

Suzanne Heim-Bowen’s return after a decade went well.

She hadn’t competed in the Cascade Lakes Swim Series & Festival, which featured a series of races including the 5K national championship, in 10 years while going through what she calls “life events” the past few years. Heim-Bowen, who holds six USMS national records, entered this year having only competed in six races since 2013.

“It was hard to get back in the swimming groove,” says Heim-Bowen, who competes for the Walnut Creek Masters club in the San Francisco Bay area. “You meet people at all these Masters meets, you go to these Masters meets and you develop friendships. I’ve developed friendships all over the country. ‘Suzanne, it’s always so great to see you and that you’re back swimming.’ Things like that make you feel really, really good.”

Heim-Bowen was the top finisher on the women’s side of the 5K with a time of 1:11:03.

“At this stage in the game, I’m just happy to be out there doing it,” says Heim-Bowen, 59. “To do well is kind of like the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. I was in a pack, and it was a pretty equitable pack and everyone took turns pulling. At the very end, the guys sprinted ahead. I didn’t have overdrive, I didn’t have that fifth gear.”

Heim-Bowen plans to focus more on pool swimming for next year because she’ll be aging up into the 60-64 age group, but she was happy to compete over the weekend.

“When I finished, [Bob Bruce, who organized the event] said, ‘Welcome back, Suzanne,’” Heim-Bowen says. “You can’t beat the venue at Elk Lake. It was gorgeous.

“It’s kind of fun because all comers are welcome. You have anywhere from people that are triathletes to the people that are in their wetsuits to the people that just want to swim and participate and challenge themselves and step it up and do a 5K that they’ve never done before. It’s a very welcoming swim, very welcoming.”

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About the Author—Daniel Paulling

Daniel Paulling works as the managing editor of SWIMMER magazine and manages content development and production for the STREAMLINES eNewsletter series and articles published on usms.org. He swam for four years at Rollins College and covered Southeastern Conference athletics, Major League Baseball, and the NFL for a number of newspapers and websites across the country, including the Kansas City Star, MLB.com, and USA Today, before joining USMS in March 2017.

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