Way Above Average
by: Laura S. Jones
Jamie Miller, 57 and a member of North Carolina Masters, says he is playing catch-up. After learning a little about him, though, you might think that he has already caught up and moved on into the stratosphere. USMS doesn’t know what an average number of swims is for an average Masters swimmer. There are too many variables, and it isn’t right to reduce the diversity of USMS to a single number. Many of our members enjoy pool racing, but they also enjoy open water swimming and swimming purely for fun and fitness. That said, we’re guessing Miller’s accumulation of nearly 300 swims in less than four years is way above average.
As a child in West Philadelphia, Miller’s father told him not to go into the pool, to stay in the sprinklers. “So naturally, I wanted to go into the pool.” Miller went on to swim in YMCA programs and for his junior high and high schools, but the opportunities were limited. In high school, for example, his team only practiced three times a week and had to take the bus to a pool across town. Miller swam in college at North Carolina A&T until 1974 when they eliminated the team.
In 2008, out of the water for 34 years, Miller saw the North Carolina State Games going on at Linley Pool in Greensboro and hopped in and did the 400 free and 200 breaststroke. That was all it took; he was back in the water for good.
Swimming regularly soon took 65 pounds off his frame and eight inches off his waist. He is proud that he takes no medication of any kind. Beyond swimming, he says “just going up the steps, just waking up” feels so much better.
Now, he’s a regular at national and regional meets as well as anything within driving distance of his home in Greensboro. In fact, he is so much of a regular that he has accumulated 298 swims since that fateful day in 2008.
When he started back in 2008, “I met guys my age who could just “blow me away. So I decided to work.” He enjoys Masters swimming and swimmers. “I’ve met so many interesting people and they are all so nice. I may not be in the front, but it all depends on how you look at it.”
He’s also figured out how to do well—by doing the hard events few people want to do. “I do the 200 fly and the 400 IM because I can place; no one wants to do them.” But his favorite event is the 1650.
Miller has always enjoyed competition but he had never experienced the intensity in training that he is now getting. “Now that I am older, I’m younger. There are things I want to do. It’s all a challenge, and adventure.” Growing up, he says, “we had no weights, no two-a-days.” He wants to see where good training can take him. He even works out with a local women’s college team some mornings and “does the same workout they do,” including swimming with t-shirts for drag.
"I guess I am now striving for a goal to compete with highly competitive swimmers. The Masters swimming program gives me a chance to associate with the best swimmers, and maybe I can simulate the same results," he says. “Swimming has also made me more in tune with my body and with other things. I’ve started doing yoga.” Now he just wishes he could get his family, beyond his grandaughter pictured with him, interested.
“My first Nationals were in Indy. I was afraid of going, but Don Gilchrist encouraged me. It was eye opening. There were so many nice people, and everyone shared so much information. I started getting hooked.”
He’s had to deal with some injuries from his rigorous schedule of 4-5,000 yards a day, broken into two practices, six days a week. A pinched nerve rendered his right arm useless for a while and taught him the importance of bilateral breathing.
His advice to others considering meets or even Nationals? Just do it. “If you wait until you are ready, you’ll never be ready,” says Miller. And no waiting until you age up, either. “You may not make it to the next age group, so you better do it now.”