Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

20 Pools - A Swimming Odyssey: Pool #3: Osborne Aquatic Center Indoor Pool - Corvallis, Ore

After a month of swimming two 500-yard sets of elementary backstroke five days a week, I decided I had to upgrade the workout. Before I started swimming, I couldn't lift my left arm above my head without an assist from my right arm. But now I could swing it up and even sustain it for a few seconds. I also noticed there were strange lumps eminating from my chest. I recognized them from pictures of me in my youth. They were my ribs.

My hands were getting chewed up by the lane markers because I had to share a lane and the wide stroke meant I was always scraping the buoys. In order to upgrade my game, I had to try the front crawl. When I was in Denver, I tried a few strokes, but my shoulder wouldn't support it and the breathing was nearly impossible. Now with a month of swimming in me, I turned on my belly and started a series of long, extended freestyle pulls. At Nicolet high school one of my team mates, Cary Hiller, had the most beautiful free style stroke I'd ever seen. I saw him swim at an alumni event about ten years ago and that perfect stroke was still as good as ever: Elbow high, fingers barely missing the surface of the water and a clean entry point far above his head. Cary seemed to effortlessly pass everyone in the pool - and his name was littered all over the Nicolet "boards", the banners listing the top 5 performances in each event. I put Cary Hiller's stroke in my head and tried to copy every single segement of it.

For two weeks I just did the first and last 50 meters (2 lengths) of each 500 using freestyle. By the time the outdoor pool closed, I was able to do nearly half the workout using freestyle. The closing of the outdoor pool also eliminated dozens of swimmers who packed it in for the year. When I moved into the 50-meter 8-lane indoor pool, I always had a lane to myself. Before I knew it the scratches on my hands disappeared and within a month of moving inside, I had swum my first full 1000-yard freestyle.

The elementary back stroke was a thing of the past. My shoulder felt good, my weight was down and the workouts had gone from hour-long torture sessions to mildly palatable experiences. I started getting a reputation around the pool, not as the only disabled swimmer, but as the guy who did big belly flops out of his chair when he entered the pool every day. I started having fun with the lifeguards and the pool staff. There is a servicable piano in one of the class rooms outside the pool, so I could get in a practice session every day after my workout. For the first time in my life, swimming had become... tolerable.   I no longer hated swimming. Granted there were days things went poorly and I was dying to be back on my bicycle. But the sheer torture of the first three months had passed.

And then things got weird.

Which brings us to Pool #4: Albany Community Pool - Albany, Ore.

No comments:

Post a Comment