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by Ali Hall

December 31, 2011

The postal swims are all about personal goals

If you were one of the nearly 3000 swimmers who entered the 2011 USMS 1-Hour Postal Swim (OHP), then you have a chance to do what very few swimmers do each year:  complete the USMS Postal Challenge and earn the most elusive patch of all for the accomplishment.

What is this thing? The Postal Challenge goes like this: USMS holds five long distance postal championships each year: the 1-Hour, 5K, 10K, and the 3000- and 6000-yard events. Swimmers who complete all five championships in the same year will be sent a participation patch to honor their achievement.

One question you may be asking yourself is, “Why?” That’s easy, says Oregon Masters swimmer Bob Bruce, “The Postals are the most heart-healthy events on the schedule!” And, evidently, the more you do, the better. “I've completed the Postal Challenge seven times: 2000-2001 and 2006-2010. I'm also on course this year, having done three of the five.”

We asked Bruce a second time, “Why?” He responds, “The first time, it was there. After that, I've done it to train, to gain personal satisfaction, and to lead my club team by example.”

Same is true for Michigan Masters swimmer and four-time Postal Challenger Maddie Diedo, “I enjoy completing the Postal series because it keeps me on track with my goals for distance and has also improved my endurance. Participation in the Postal series keeps me training.”

Getting Started…

If you’ve already done the OHP, then you’re a fifth of the way there. Sort of. Now you need to get your 10K and 5K Postal swims done by September 15 and complete your online entries. Some swimmers view these as tough events, partly for the distance (Bob Bruce calls it his “annual exercise in mental discipline since I usually don’t even swim a 10K in a week of training, outside of the postal swim”) and partly for logistics. (On this, Bruce counsels, “Plan ahead and schedule appropriate weekends and pool time! In the paired Postals, complete the longer swim first and early.”)

But once you get started, it’s hard to stop. Diedo recalls her first 10K experience: “My teammate and I talked about training and preparation and before I knew it, I gave that a try. I remember counting to 100 and then thinking about oh, another 100 laps.  Somehow, it went well and I finished. From that point, I was pretty much hooked and eager to improve my times the following year.”

And lastly, don’t forget to thank your timer/counter … again and again. It takes major support to accomplish Postal swims, someone to count and time for you and to help you aggregate your results for entry.

Once you’re done with the 5K/10K, it’s on to the last two on the schedule: the 3000- and 6000-yard Postals, which start on September 15, your last day of the 5K/10K. Not to worry, you’ve got until November 15 to get those done. “The easiest event I think is the 3000,” says Diedo, “the hardest I would have to say is the 6000; 239 flip turns, ugh.”

And even if you’ve done it all before…

Still they keep swimming: “I intend to do the Postal Challenge each year. When I didn't, something else kept me from doing it (bronchitis, impossible personal schedule, long travel to 50-meter pools, etc.). Since 2006, I've had a 50-meter pool at my disposal, so no excuses in that department,” declares Bruce.

And some last minute advice from Diedo:  “I would ask anyone trying to improve their endurance to give the Postal Challenge a try. Set your own personal goals and go for it! The only thing you have to do is ‘just keep swimming!’”


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