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Off the Deep End: The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crises, And Qualify For the Olympics

Carter, W. Hodding Author

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Hodding Carter dreamed of being an Olympian as a kid. He worshipped Mark Spitz, swam his heart out, and just missed qualifying for the Olympic trials in swimming as a college senior. Although he didn't qualify for the 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or 2004 Olympics, he never stopped believing he could make it. And despite past failures and the passage of time, Carter began his quest once more at the age of forty-two.

Maybe he's crazy. But then again, maybe he's onto something. He entered the Masters Championships. He swam three to four miles each day, six days a week. He pumped iron, trained with former Olympians, and consulted with swimming gurus and medical researchers who taught him that the body doesn't have to age. He swam with sharks (inadvertently) in the Virgin Islands, suffered hypothermia in a relay around Manhattan, and put on fifteen pounds of muscle. Amazingly, he discovered that his heartbeat could keep pace with the best of the younger swimmers'. And each day he felt stronger, swam faster, and became more convinced that he wasn't crazy.

This outrageous, courageous chronicle is much more than Carter's race with time to make it to the Olympics. It's the exhilarating story of a man who rebels against middle age the only way he can—by chasing a dream. His article in Outside magazine, on which this book is based, was the winner of a Lowell Thomas award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

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From the Inside Flap:

Every kid dreams of defying all odds to become the next Bruce Jenner or Mary Lou Retton or Eric Heiden. And then on to the Wheaties box.
Hodding Carter dreamed of being the next Mark Spitz.
Though he’d failed to qualify for the Olympics year after year after year after year, he never stopped believing he could get there. And as with most men, upon reaching middle age, he had trouble accepting that his body—not to mention his hairline—was changing, and that he could no longer pass for a college kid. So Carter did what any moderately insane person would do. He set out to pursue once again his childhood dream of being a champion. Only now, it meant being the oldest swimmer to qualify for the Olympics.
So he began training in earnest for the 2008 games as a sprint swimmer. From his first race—which he now refers to as his Swim of Shame (when his arms “began to quake like rubbery Gumby limbs”)—Carter battled the odds and his own body to try to get to the gold.
He trained like the best of the best: swimming three to four miles each day, six days a week, often carrying weights or hauling parachute behind him. He attended swim camp, training under the ten-time Olympic medalist Gary Hall Jr. He swam his way through life: swimtrekking in the Caribbean while overcoming his fear of sharks; enduring hypothermia to swim around Manhattan; returning to college to train with his former coach; and even taking a job at the local YMCA as the assistant aquatics director.
Was he crazy? Maybe. But by December 2007, eight months away from the Olympics, he’d become the fastest swimmer in the country for his age group.
This outrageous and courageous chronicle of a man chasing the gold is an exuberant celebration of determination in the face of time and of achieving your goals at any age.

About the Author:

W. Hodding Carter was an NCAA Division III All-American and a national champion on his college swim team. He is a contributing writer for Outside magazine, has written for Esquire and Gourmet, and is the author of five previous books of nonfiction.

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