I met Patrick Quinn poolside in May 1989. I was attending my first ‘short course’ U.S. Masters Nationals at Mission Bay Aquatic Center in Florida. Patrick and I were both waiting for our heats in the 1000-yard freestyle. I was 38 at the time; Patrick was 58. Today he is 84 and I’m 64, and our friendship has deepened over the years over our shared love of swimming.
Patrick left a wise and poetic comment on my post From First Principles to Core Principles. It deserved a wider readership than was likely in the Comments section, so I asked Patrick if I could reprint as a guest post. Terry Laughlin
These I learned before.
Later I learned them again.
Today in the 50-meter outdoor pool I remembered them once more…and loved the feel of the water in the early morning.
I am 84 and still learning to swim efficiently and to counter this ancient energy-wasting machine.
There are more setbacks these days…more unexpected injuries, making it hard each time to get back in the water and start all over again.
But Terry comes to mind and I restart once more….and once more…and once more.
The first time back is slow, slow and tiring, even without trying too hard.
It takes perhaps a dozen times before the real love of the flow sets back into the subconscious and
eventually, the conscious mind.
This time the body tells the mind “it’s OK, we’re fine, we’re back.
One day….one day…..one day, at a time until it becomes a joy to swim again without wasting energy.
Then always comes the resolution “This time I will keep it going, every other day, forever, because I hate having to start all over again”.
But I know that something can happen outside of my control…a Fall on winter ice…a silly accident at home…an unexpected need for surgery…..the need to take time off to care for someone else in trouble….
And I also know that if I re-read Terry’s principles or re-view his freestyle videos it will get the old blood pumping again. It will re-kindle the desire to feel the beauty of flowing with the water.
It will restore the will to begin again at first principles.
A Biographical Sketch of Professor Patrick J. Quinn
A hurdler in high school, Patrick turned to middle-distance running in college and captained his University College Dublin Track & Field team to victory in the All Ireland Inter-Varsity championships.
He loved to swim but never seriously competed. Once, dragooned into 5m platform diving for his high school, he had finished dead last in the Leinster (Provincial) Championships.
Marriage, a family of six and the serious work of building a career both in Academia and his profession of architecture meant a twenty-year hiatus from serious exercise.
A triple coronary bypass in 1979 (a month after playing in the United States Amateur Public Links golf championships) commanded his full attention.
A Fellowship to the American Academy in Rome allowed him to spend six months recovering through extensive walking in that beautiful city. Returning to the USA he began to swim for physical therapy. Someone suggested he join US Masters Swimming. By 1985 he was competing in local Masters events and the State Senior Games.
Several attempts at the Empire State (NY) Games persuaded him to enter his first US Masters national championships in Boca Raton Florida, He was delighted to gain an eighth place medal in the 1000-yard freestyle, ten years after his heart surgery. There he first met Terry Laughlin and became a fan and a friend.
Thanks to coaching by Jeff Maxwell and the wise advice of Terry Laughlin he became a moderately good breaststroker and later a distance swimmer. He learned to apply certain techniques from his days as a track miler to distance swimming and even to breaststroke sprints. One notable result was his first gold medal at the Empire State Games, where less than two seconds covered the eight finishers in the 50 m breaststroke.
His swimming career has been both varied and delightful, checking out pools, lakes, rivers and oceans from Indiana to India, from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. His wise and beautiful wife however, put her foot down when he wanted to swim across the River Ganges in the Holy City of Varanasi.
Meets in Ireland, Canada and across the USA meant making friends with a fascinating diversity of men and women each of whom had a unique reason for swimming.
His proudest moments were an eighth place finish in the FINA World Masters 3k open water championships in San Francisco, and making his first World’s Top Ten in the 1500m (SC) at the tender age of 80, the same year he became the oldest member of the USMS Long Distance All-Star Team.
He looks forward with some anticipatory glee now to aging up into the eighty-five year plus bracket. He knows that he will be slower but he also intends, through increased efficiency to make it “feel” smoother and therefore more pleasurable. He’ll never make the Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale but his children and grandchildren will keep him in theirs.