Extra Thankful for This Year’s Swimming Feast

by Dean Ottati 0

November 24th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle

For nearly 40 years the Walnut Creek Masters swim team has gathered for the annual Thanksgiving Day workout (article here). It’s the most popular practice of the year, when we give thanks for our swim community, our swim coaches, and our commitment to the swimming lifestyle.

But this year, Thanksgiving practice almost didn’t happen.

Two weeks ago, driven by fierce winds, the Camp Fire swept through the town of Paradise, burning more than 153,000 acres and destroying more than 13,500 homes.  That same afternoon, smoke from those fires filled the Bay Area 150 miles away, driving the Air Quality Index well above unhealthy levels, forcing the closure of nearly all the pools in the Bay Area.  At one point over the next two weeks, Northern California had the worst air quality on the planet.  A trip into San Francisco was like a trip into a post-apocalyptic hellscape, with mask wearing human shapes emerging from the smoke less than a block ahead …

At first, the break from swimming felt like a respite, but after a few days, it turned to restlessness, and not long after that the indoor confinement, constant coughing, and continual sore throat became oppressive…

On Wednesday, the rains finally arrived, and along with them, the Air Quality Index map changed from angry purples and reds to a much more verdant and benign green. So on Thanksgiving, 135 of the Walnut Creek Masters, ranging in ages from 19 – 80, including at least 6 families with multiple generations in the water, gathered once again to enjoy the best practice of the year  — But this time with some enhanced thankfulness for the basic things like clean air and blue skies that we take so for granted that we don’t even consider them until they are gone.

It turns out that two weeks of staying indoors and coughing a lot is not the foundation of a solid training regimen after all.  So this year, practice was a relatively low calorie 3,300 yard affair instead of the usual full Thanksgiving meal of 4,200.  But many us, so happy for the chance to be outside and together again, hung around a little longer and added some extra yards in the sunshine anyway – Turkey and stuffing will rub out any residual stiffness later…

Special note 1: Like many Californians, a number of the Walnut Creek Masters have family and/or friends who lived in Paradise.  The death toll, already at 83, is likely to rise, as 563 people are still missing (all numbers are changing by the hour).  Keep all the California fire victims in your hearts, hug your loved ones a little extra tight, and be thankful for the great many gifts we don’t always think to appreciate like fresh air, a warm bed, and blue water in which to swim.  For those who would like to make a contribution to the fire relief efforts across California, this article offers links to many reputable organizations.

Special note 2:  As always, a special shout out to all the college swimmers who joined us in our holiday celebration of swimming.  Can’t believe some of you are seniors already.  Remember:  We masters swimmers refer to your college and club teams by what they really are: The Feeder System.  Live to swim, swim to live…

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About Dean Ottati

At various time in his life, Dean has been a summer rec swimmer, an AAU swimmer (yes, he is that old), a swim coach, a swim team director (social suicide through volunteerism), a meet director, a starter, an official, and just about everything else a swimmer/parent can be.  He currently …

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