By Guila Muir
“Never put an age limit on your dreams.” ~
Dara Torres, the oldest swimmer to win an Olympic medal
On Sunday, July 25th, I was delighted to be one of six swimmers over the age of 60 to complete a record-setting relay from Bremerton to the lighthouse on Alki, West Seattle. Calling ourselves the Silver Seals of the Salish Sea, we swam a total of 10.4 miles in 4 hours and 24 minutes. No relay team has made this crossing before, and no one over the age of forty had ever attempted it.
In water temperature of approximately 57 degrees, we used “English Channel Rules”, allowing us to use only a normal swimsuit, cap, and goggles—no wetsuit. Navigating for us was Martin Adams, 75 years old and captain of the Dona Marie sailboat. The Northwest Open Water Swimming Association provided an observer and sanctioned the event.
Swimming for Older People
Swimming is the greatest exercise for older adults. Non-jarring and fantastic for the heart, it exercises nearly every muscle in the body. People swim into their 90’s and even their 100’s and continue to compete in pool competition. Research is finding that swimming tops even other forms of aerobic exercise for brain health. I always call swimming my go-to “mental health pill”.
The idea to form a team of over-sixties swimmers and to set an open-water record came to me in 2019. I wanted to show that older people are still powerful and full of endurance. I recruited a team in 2020 and we began to train, but then the Covid shutdown thwarted our plans. This year, we rescheduled, recruited Captain Martin, and were on our way.
Adventure Day Arrives
As seasoned open water swimmers, some of us swam competitively. Others discovered swimming later in life and consider ourselves recreational swimmers. I teach open water swim lessons to people of any age.
After practicing together several times, our team met at 4:30 am in Bremerton on July 25th. After a safety briefing and a quick oatmeal breakfast, one of our strongest swimmers jumped in first. I was the third in line and was delighted to swim with the current through Rich Passage. This increased my usual “relaxed” swim time to approximately 4 mph. It felt like flying!
Each swimmer swam for 30-minute segments, and several of us got to swim twice. The day was gorgeous and spirits were high. The event passed far, far too quickly.
After landing at the Alki lighthouse, we swam back to the Dona Marie to be spirited away to a delicious potluck organized by family and friends. What a glorious day!
I encourage anyone who wants to feel better to simply get into the water—whether it is your local pool, a lake, or the ocean. You will find that water heals and refreshes like nothing else.