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by Margie Hutinger

November 1, 2004

Stories from several virtual swimmers

Since the Florida Mavericks are hosting the Virtual Swim Series for 2004, we have selected this as a team event, and are encouraging all to participate. To make this event more appealing, we've asked several Mavericks to comment on the swims they are doing, and their stories appear in our team newsletters. These swimmers have diverse abilities that they bring to Masters swimming. Whatever your swimming talents may be, this event is open to all, and a useful tool to set goals for the rest of the year. Come on down to the pool and be a part of the Virtual Swim game.

Lake Winnipesaukee: by Martha Jacobs (part of her rehab program)

I joined the Mavericks after reading in the newspaper, "The St. Petersburg Times,-- (12/23/03) about how supportive the group is, even of rehab swimmers. I have been a rehab swimmer for most of my life and a swimmer for as long as I can remember.

Now, I am a pool triathlete. Some of what I do involves exercises from Beth, the physical therapist at St. Anthony's Hospital. She gave me this routine:

5-10 minutes of pool walking

5-10 minutes of pool "bicycling,-- using a noodle

10-20 minutes of swimming laps.

When I swim my laps, I wear a centerline snorkel, which allows me to keep my head straight and alleviates pressure on my neck.

For my Virtual Swim, I'm swimming the width, 15 miles, of Lake Winnipesaukee, in scenic New Hampshire. It is the largest lake in the state, has an average depth of 43 feet with 244 islands. There are six mapped shipwrecks in the lake, and while I'm swimming, I peer through my snorkel in hopes of sighting one of them. Not yet, but I'm hopeful.

Since January, I've logged in 12 miles. On these hot summer days, I like to imagine I'm swimming in the chilly, clear water instead of my warm pool in St. Pete.

Swim to Key West & Willamette River, OR: by Doris Prokopi (active competitive swimmer)

I love to swim. In fact, I swim five days every week, usually for 2 to 3 hours. At this rate, I figure that since January, I've swum 420 miles. If I drove that far in my car from my home in Land _RO Lakes, I'd be farther north than Atlanta, GA!

On my 200 mile trip in the Gulf of Mexico from St. Pete to Key West, I passed under the Sunshine Bridge, gathered sharks' teeth in Venice, saw the lighthouse on Sanibel Island and stayed far away from the alligators in the Everglades

I've also swum the 183 mile section of the Willamette River in OR, WITH the current, from Eugene to the Columbia River. The water is 60 degrees, and I've had to swim through stretches of whitewater, stumps, branches, rock shoals, low dams and strong currents. Sure glad I'm doing this swim in my own pool.

Alcatraz Ultimate Survival Swim, CA: by Rodney Swanigan (prefers swimming in the Gulf and playing water polo)

I prefer to do my swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, rather than within the confines of lane lines and following the black lines on the bottom of a pool. My usual route is a two-mile round trip, between the Seabird Sanctuary and the Pier each Sunday. This year, I've swum 31 miles as I left the unfriendly confines of Alcatraz Island, looked UP at the Golden Gate bridge, survived the strong currents and outfoxed the sharks as I'm on the lam and trying to escape from the Feds.

Swim to Key West: by Sharon Vargas (newcomer to Masters)

It's hard to believe that just over one year ago, I was getting back into the swimming routine, after a layoff of over 20 years. My first swim consisted of only four 25 yard lengths. With suggestions from the guards and Paul and Margie, I eventually increased my yardage to one mile per day, 4 or 5 days a week. Last summer, Margie suggested I try one of the Virtual Swims. After the first one, I was hooked! Altogether, I completed 3 Virtual Swims, for a total of 69 miles.

It's only May, and I've already swum 84 miles, this year. I'm attempting to tackle the longest Virtual swim, the 200 mile Key West Swim, from St Petersburg, FL to Key West. I've just passed Boca Grande and will soon arrive at Sanibel Island. I think I'll take a break and look for seashells. It continues to be fun as I learn more about the strokes etc. I don't foresee ever becoming bored with this as a fitness routine.

Alcatraz Island to the Farallon Islands: by Dakota Eliason (swims for her own fitness)

Virtual swims are my game. I once swam from Tampa Bay to Key West. Doing a mile at a time in the North Shore Pool, St. Petersburg, FL, it took me a year. I loved it. It gave me something to think about while doing my laps.

Then I swam Crater Lake in Washington, 34 miles. Recently, I decided to swim from Alcatraz Island, under the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands_`29 miles. I'm about half way as I write this.

At the pool, I tell my swim buddies what's going on. They respond in kind. Steve says, "You watch out! There are sharks out there!"

My son calls on Sunday and he says, "M-o-o-m! Wear a wet suit! That water is cold!-- He ought to know. He lives near Mendocino in northern California. He isn't even a swimmer, he's a horseback rider.

Bob says, "I wish they'd paint the bridge. It is SO rusty.-- I don't think Bob has ever been to San Francisco, but that doesn't stop him from indulging in the Virtual Swim game with me. As an aside: I heard that the painters paint the bridge and as soon as they finish, it's time to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Some days, the swimming goes well, other days it is difficult. I usually swim a mile a day but recently the current was coming into the bay and was so strong, I had a hard time and swam only a half mile.

Lake Erie Islands, OH & Pelee Is, CAN: by Margie Hutinger (competes in local and National meets)

I started the year by surviving the Alcatraz swim. I wish Dakota would have been around, when I encountered and fought off my one and only shark. My next Virtual Swim was the 20 mile Great Lakes Lighthouse Swim, along the southeastern coast of Lake Michigan. It was winter and chopping through the chunks of ice was hard on the fingers, so, I simply visualized it was summer. Swimming by the lovely sand dunes and beaches, while watching sailboats drift by made the journey more pleasurable.

Presently, I am swimming among the Lake Erie Islands. After stepping in the chilly water off Catawba Is, my first stop was South Bass Is. My college roommate, Sue, and her husband, Phil, live on the northern shores of Ohio so they can launch their sail boat and explore the area by water. We're meeting for lunch on their boat. I'll need plenty of sustenance before heading 15 miles north to Pelee Island, the Southernmost inhabited part of Canada. Some people refer to this as the Canadian Tropics, but it's sure not like Florida.

Author Margie Hutinger was co-recipient of the 2003 USMS Fitness Award.