12 February 2007

The Moulton Journal: thoughts of swimming while skiing

Sunday morning, and I was on a tour up Buzzy, a few loops around the north trails, and then down Sluice Box. It was a nice ski--a little fresh snow, warm temperature c. 30 deg F, very active flocks of black-backed woodpeckers and chickadees and pine siskins. Mostly, though, I was thinking about swimming. So much for being in the moment! Luckily the snow was not too fast, so I could get by with daydreaming along the trails.

Daughter Emily is in her freshman year and swimming for Boston University. The past four days was the championship swimming & diving conference meet--a competition between BU and seven other colleges, about 400 swimmers (male & female; plus I'm not sure how many divers). Each day, Jan & I listened eagerly to Emily's telephoned reports of her & her team. She swam well, making finals in her events and contributing to first, second, and third place relay team finishes. Come the end of the meet, the BU women took second honors.

For those who are not part of competitive swimming culture, anything short of the Olympics is probably considered dull fare. Certainly I feel the same way about most other sports. But in college, of course, we hope that the social and psychological benefit of engagement in sport -- well, almost any sport -- justifies the huge amount of time that goes into practice and competition.

It is animal nature to compete physically. The sociobiologists will argue the evolutionary benefits of this, but even RTD knows the primary reason: it's fun. Just ask RTD while she is racing ahead down a steep slope, digging for all she is worth to stay ahead as the tips of my skis gain on her... Of course, RTD is getting old and can stay ahead only on the gentle descents. She has aged gracefully and come to terms with her own limitations. She steps out of the way to let me pass even on the gentle downhills as I go into skating form. I felt the same way when, as a 10-year old, Emily began easily outswimming me even on a short sprint.

So here is to the young athletes -- children, young adults, or dogs. May they enjoy the peak years of their physical ability, and may they always enjoy the thrill of a good downhill run.

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