Protecting An 18-Year Swim Streak During The Perils Of COVID-19

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Tod Trousdell and the stretch off water that's keeping his dream alive - Photo Courtesy: Red Trousdell

My colleague of many years, Derek Parr, former Reuters correspondent and swim masters ace of his age, kept up a great swim streak by swimming a 200m butterfly in lane 4 at every major championship pool, Olympic, World and European, for at least a couple of decades, writes Craig Lord. Derek would do his 200 ‘fly  and then a training session whenever he could in between filing articles from prelims and finals. On many occasions I would join him, minus the 200 ‘fly warm-up! Many occasions – but not all. And that’s the point of a streak. Here’s one being kept alive at a time of towering challenge and confinement.

How ingenuity, determination, and good friends are keeping my dream alive!

Commentary By Tod Trousdell

Rounding the corner just as the sun peeked over the poolside bushes, the first thing that caught my eye was the bright yellow police tape. Nervous, I was afraid to even consider what I knew in my heart to be rather obvious.

Like most of the country before it, South Carolina had finally closed the many hotel and private pools that dot my island home of Hilton Head. Mind reeling, the next thing I saw was the massive make-shift sign that hadn’t been there the day before, it’s bold black letter letters piercing my heart like a cheap racing suit on a piece of stray coral.

“CLOSED BY ORDER ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR”

Yikes!

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Tod Trousdell and the stretch off water keeping his dream alive – Photo Courtesy: Tod Trousdell

As an overly regular swimmer nurturing what I believe to be one of the longest swimming streaks on record, I was used to the quirky nature of pool availability. Pools closed for holidays. Pools closed because the chemicals were “off”. And pools closed most Sunday mornings across the South, where I had lived since coming to Atlanta in the mid 80’s to work as a junior copywriter at an advertising agency.  

In fact, I had become quite an expert at pool work-arounds, cobbling together enough gate codes, hotel towels and inside knowledge to stitch a virtual patchwork of pools I could frequent whenever my streak was threatened – and over the years there had been plenty of threats.

Like the time I trashed a car in Ireland and had to take a $450 euro cab ride to the Dublin Aquatic Center.

Or, the time I jumped a fence – West Side story style – only to hear police sirens 15 minutes into a new year’s day swim at a closed pool.

Or – in perhaps my worst offence – two, 5:30 am swims in a pitch-black boat basin near Islamorada where nervous charter captains pulled me from the water because they said “bull sharks were tracking me”.

Now, facing perhaps the biggest threat to my streak, I chuckled nervously and thought:

“Oh to be a runner – my god, there are roads everywhere!”

With quiet indignation turning to downright terror, my mind raced. After nearly 18 years without missing at least a daily 1.5 mile swim, what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? And worse – how was I going to keep my beloved streak in tact?

Terrified, I sprinted to the closest body of water – the Atlantic Ocean – barely 300 yards away. Plunging my thermometer into the chilly surf I measured a temperature of 60 degrees, balmy perhaps by Monterey Bay standards, but way cold for an old man without a wetsuit on hand. Choosing discretion over valor, I ran back to my car as if sprinting for the start of a triathlon. 

Suddenly it dawned on me – Corona virus might finally be the aquatic undoing of a streak that started shortly after I’d had a heart attack in 2002? 

Barely past 7 am, there weren’t a lot of options. And even though I had owned a home in the area for over a decade, I had very few thoughts on who I could even call to beg and plead. Pulse racing, my mind scampered through a list of friends sporting backyard pools. Would any of them be willing to let me swim? Did any of them ever heat their pools? And – damn – how would I manage a workout in what amounted to little more than a large puddle?

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The stretch off water keeping Tod Trousdell’s dream alive – Photo Courtesy: Tod Trousdell

Sending out the alarm, I heard nothing back for several hours. Finally, my wife called to mention that her friend Karla – an angel I’ll have undying loyalty to forever – had a small pool that sat mostly in the sun. And while it was freezing cold, I was welcome to swim it. Racing home I grabbed a crappy old wetsuit – something I’ve worn only twice – I had stored in my garage. Perched on the northern tip of island, the pool sat in the middle of a back yard that jutted out into the Port Royal Sound, an amazingly idyllic setting.

Placing my foot on the top step, my mind reeled as a jolt of cold shot through my leg, already numb from nagging sciatica. Dropping my thermometer in, there it was – a chilly 63 degrees! Barely warmer than the ocean, but at least devoid of “bitey” things I couldn’t see. Pulling on my neoprene cap, I – literally – took the plunge as bells and whistles blared in my head. 

Needless to say, this was going to be a challenge!

Gorilla swimming because my face was too cold to put in the water, I peered through my trusty set of Magic 5 goggles – a new brand that 3-D “prints” a unique pair of specs after scanning your face on a phone app (wonders never cease) – and pondered my dilemma.

“How in the hell was this going to work?!”

After a few attempts at turning at each end – which netted me about 6 strokes in each direction – I opted to swim in circles. Dangerously careening off the pool ends, I started slowly. Soon I gave that up and started swimming in circles, which have become my new normal. These days, I’m focused on getting 100 under my belt during what ends up being a 2,300 yard, 50-minute swim. Is it ideal? Hell no! 

But – under the current situation – does it suffice? OMG – without question!

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Like all of us, I have no idea when social restrictions will ease to the point I can return to my old swimming – I guess none of us do. For now, I’m simply grateful that my wife and two daughter are healthy, and for my good aquatic fortune. Obviously they’re are a lot more important things  than swimming – I mean, people are sick, and worse, dying. Hopefully some day soon there’ll be a therapy or vaccine that will return us to the days when we can hug a friend – or shake hands with the guy who just beat us in a race.

Until then, let’s all strive to stay focused on the future – and dedicated to helping our fellow man thrive during this challenging time. If we do, we’ll for sure all get through this together and – who knows – maybe even get back in our favorite place to swim, soon!

  • Tod Trousdell is a marketing and branding consultant living near Hilton Head Island, SC. He can be reached at tod@robertstrousdell.com, and is happy to offer tips on start – or keeping – a swim streak of your own.

Do you have a swim streak you’d like to tell us about.

Send an email to editorial@swimmingworld.com and we’ll get back too you.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, nor its staff.

5 comments

  1. avatar
    Kevin

    I recall one similar time when Tod was faced with missing a day of swimming so he dove in the lake on the 12th hole at a golf course we fondly refer to as the Natty. When he finally got out of this pond filled with bacteria and bass he was met by the GM who handed him a towel and a suspension notice. The upside, he kept the streak alive

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      🙂 ?

  2. avatar
    Tommy Harris

    This is one great, ‘whacky’ story! Congrats Todd.

  3. avatar
    Brad

    I have always loved the creativity for how you have kept this streak alive. Sure, some perhaps unauthorized adventures, but it says a lot about you, your focus and commitment. If you ever meet Tod you will find he gives that level of commitment to his family, friends and work product.

    Keep the streak alive! You may need to launch a GoFund Me to buy your own pool though.

  4. avatar
    Harriet Wall

    My first long streak was 798 days and then there was a big ice storm and all the local Michigan pools were closed and my road was impassible. Then I started a new streak but it only lasted until the week before my mother died when I had a long day of driving starting at 5 a.m. and ending after pools again had closed for the day. That started an 8 year streak that ended last winter when the roads were covered with ice and the visibility was a few feet and all pools were closed. So, again I started only to be stopped by every pool, even motels, being closed. The open water was slightly above freezing, this being Michigan. BTW, I did swim about 3 hours every week day and a bit less on the weekends. Now I haven’t been swimming since March 16, my longest non-swim streak since about 1970 or so. I now am 77 years old and have been swimming for about 73 of those years. I think I’ll have to invest in an endless pool of some sort. Nice article. It is difficult to maintain a streak in a cold climate, though.