Name: Mary Sweat
City and State: Redmond, Oregon
Age Group: 50-54
Team Affiliation: Oregon

What kind of swimming background do you have? None at all, Age group, High School, College, International Competition, the Olympics?

I was an age group swimmer from the time I was 11-15 years old. I quit at this early age because my coach went to a different team (our rivals no less!) and I decided to engage in silly teenage activities (ahem). Unfortunately, that unsavory lifestyle went on past my teenage years! It’s an absolute wonder that I made it through those years?!

How long have you been swimming in Masters & why did you decide to join?

After quitting some of my bad habits and experiencing major stress at work, I started swimming again after a 22 year break from the sport. The first time I was back in the water I could barely swim 500 yards. Fortunately, my passion for our sport resurfaced quickly and was stronger than ever. I used to swim during my lunch break while my husband made us lunch at our condo across the street from the pool – how cool was that?!?!

I eventually joined USMS so that I could compete in the USMS SCY Nationals in Tempe, AZ in 1994. Yes – my first Masters meet was Nationals! I had never raced with goggles on and I couldn’t find a pool that would allow a lap swimmer to practice diving off the blocks. I must say that standing on those blocks, goggles on tight as they could be and about to swim the 1650 at the SCY Nationals (yikes!)… was an emotional experience to say the least!

Where do you swim and how often? Do you compete? If you do compete what are your favorite events to swim?

I now swim 5-6 times per week with an average of about 5000 meters per practice. Most of the time I practice alone at our local pool. However, my favorite practice is once a week when I drive to Bend, OR (25 miles one way) to swim with the USA-S club coach Mark Bernett. He’s the best – tough workouts, great advice with an unlimited supply of gentle patience for his “older swimmers”.

My favorite events are long distance open water swims. I started swimming open water in 2001 and fell in love with swimming in spectacular venues! Fortunately, the Northwest offers quite the variety of fun and beautiful places for this type of racing.

What do you do for a living out of the pool?

I am a retired geophysicist. I spent 21+ years working for ARCO Oil and Gas. I worked in research and development (seismic modeling, gravity and magnetics, VSP’s and interpretation techniques) for the first 17 years (in Texas) and then moved to Alaska where I worked in the Exploration department as their liaison with R&D. I had some phenomenal experiences during my career. Then when my husband retired (computer expert) I decided to join him as I didn’t want him to have to play alone! We moved to Central Oregon because we found it to be a huge playground with tons of adventures to be had! We’ve been here since 2001 and aren’t bored yet!

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a masters swimmer?

“That’s nice…”

How does Swimming help you with your lifestyle (health, relationships, etc.)?

Goodness – it continues to keep me out of trouble! I have a great place to expend lots of energy in an incredibly wholesome way! The worst that happens is that I smell like chlorine and I run around with wet hair – how bad can that be?!?

Anything else that you want to share? Have a great swimming story? Are you a top 10 swimmer or a record holder in your age group ? Swimming tips?

Yes, I have placed in the Top Ten all but 2 years since 1994. I have some records from the local level to Zone records. As far as national records – no – I’m in the same age group as Suzanne Heim-Bowen – need I say more? The accomplishment I’m proudest of was when I had the honor of being selected for the USMS Long Distance All Star Team in 2003 and 2005.

You run the Go the Distance program which is about to turn 2 years old, tell us about the program and how it got started. Where did the idea come from? What is it all about? How does one get involved? How many swimmers does the program currently have?

The USMS Fitness “Go the Distance” (aka GTD) began in 2007 with 364 participants. In late 2008 we are now at 604 participants and the event continues to grow daily!

It all started a few years back when I was helping a friend with the fitness event named “Virtual Geographic Swim Series”. She asked me to create a “tracking log” for her participants to track how far they swam as they pursued “virtual swims” from all over the world. Being a scientist whose hobby is analyzing numbers, it was a fun project to be involved with. Unfortunately, participation in this event was quite low and the USMS fitness committee deemed it time to consider revamping that event.

I remembered that when I was 8-9 years old that one of my brothers and I had participated in an American Red Cross event at our local pool. The goal was to swim 50 miles. Each time we swam, we logged our mileage and then had to get the lifeguard to sign our card to verify that we did indeed swim that far on that day. Once we reached 50 miles we received a “card” to recognize our accomplishment. If I remember correctly, it took us about 2 months swimming about a mile daily!

Thus, GTD was born. It was designed to be like a “virtual swim” but instead of imagining you were in an exotic place – you just had to swim 50, 100, 150 etc.. The challenge morphed into “how far can you swim in a year”?

The objective of GTD is to choose an appropriate, but challenging, goal of the distance you can swim in a year and to “track your progress” towards your goal. At the end of each month participants are requested to submit their monthly distance via an email to usmsgtd@yahoo.com (that would be me!). Then I enter all of the distances, compute cumulative totals and analyze the data in lots of ways.

Results and recognition of achievements are updated on a monthly basis on the USMS website under the Fitness Section. GTD has “distance milestones” of 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 365.25 (average mile a day), 400, 500, 750, 1000, 1250 and 1500 miles. Then when participants achieve one of these milestones they can purchase (at a minimal cost) GTD awards with the specific distance specified on a swim cap, patch and/or certificate.

This event is super easy to participate in. There is no cost (you read that right!) and the only requirement is that you are registered with USMS. A simple email with your name, age as of 12/31/09, your 2009 USMS id and an email address for contact purposes is all you need to send (to usmsgtd@yahoo.com) to register for this event in 2009.

GTD 2009 will have some new features. As of 1/1/09 we will begin tracking time spent swimming (as well as the distance) in addition to your progress towards your personal goal. There will also be “online tracking” available in a USMS members only section of the USMS website. Details will be available soon for this exciting new feature!

The objective of this event is to recognize ones’ progress towards their personal goal(s). There is no time limit for the distance milestones so speed does not count – just the effort to attain the next goal. We wish to recognize participation and achievement of goals with this event.

    A big thank you to Mary for sharing a little about herself and the Go the Distance program. More information regarding this event can be found at http://www.usms.org/fitness/content/gothedistance (updates for GTD 2009 should be available soon!). Any questions can be directed to your GTD pal, Mary Sweat, at usmsgtd@yahoo.com

    You can read more masters swimmers profiles here. If you would like to be profiled on the site or know an exceptional masters swimmer that would make for some good reading let me know! Check out more details on the program here or email me at rob@robaquatics.com

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