It is one thing to preach the idealistic pursuit of excellence in sport and quite another to live it. Doing it all your life, especially after an elite career, is really rare.
Katie Glenn, 45, a Vail attorney and former Team USA swimmer with NCAA titles and Olympic Trials to her name, knows the pinnacle of her sport, but that hasn’t deterred her from its core essence. .
“For me, it’s fun to test myself,” she said.
“My focus has always been ‘how fast can I be at any age.'”
Turns out it’s pretty quick. The head coach of Off-Piste Aquatics, a masters swimming team that trains three times a week at the Vail Racquet Club, she recently set two American records at the USMS National Short Course Championships in late April. His breaststroke marks of 50 yards (29.42 seconds) and 100 yards (1:04.45) were his 24th and 25th U.S. Masters Swim (USMS) records. She still holds 12 USMS age group national records and three International Swimming Federation age group world records.
Glenn doesn’t care about her accolades at this point, and while she’s training for elite performances, her main joy comes from instilling a passion for swimming in an area known for snow.
“We feel like we have a really fun bunch of people and that’s what gets everyone up in the middle of winter when it’s dark and snowing and there’s a blizzard on I-70,” she laughed at the regular team meeting at the outdoor pool. ups throughout the year.
“We always ask everyone going to East Vail to come swim. People are what makes our team so special.
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A native of Dallas, Glenn was an NCAA national champion and 18-time All-American at Southern Methodist before appearing at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic trials. Although she didn’t qualify for either Atlanta or Sydney, she had the chance to represent his country at the World University Games in Beijing in 2001.
“To compete for the United States in anything is the pinnacle,” she said.
She “retired” from competitive swimming in 2001, but four years later some of her former college teammates convinced her to do the Maui Channel, a six-person relay over a 9-mile stretch of Hawaiian ocean. 9 miles.
“I became addicted to swimming again and since then I have mastered swimming,” she summed up.
She also met her husband, another former All-American swimmer, at the event. After dating long distances for a few years, she moved to Palo Alto in 2009 before the two moved together to Vail in 2015. Reinvigorated, it was natural for the two to begin coaching a team of master athletes.
“I think I needed it mentally and came back to the sport with a new perspective,” she said of the four-year hiatus.
“I realized that the joy of swimming, especially for adults — it can be a sport for life — and that’s what I encourage with my swimmers here. Use swimming to help you do the other things you want to do, then test your swimming limits.
For the 15 athletes on the team, the majority of whom have never been swimmers before joining, the 6:30 a.m. practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday are vital breaths interspersed with hectic work weeks.
“I think we try to instill in our swimmers the confidence to finish a tough practice even if they’ve had a really tough day or their work life is really stressful,” Glenn said.
“Coming to the pool and being with your adult teammates – it’s a super social sport, it doesn’t look like it but it really is. It’s really the community that draws people to swim or keeps it there, especially with COVID.
During the pandemic, Off Piste held a few workouts at Gore Creek, splashing in and out of the freezing water for short stints.
“We were just like, ‘ok this is the only way we can swim, so let’s do it,'” Glenn fondly recalled.
“It was actually really fun and funny and we kind of thought about it this year. We’re so happy that we’ve had our pool since July 2020.”
The tight-knit nature of the group and their love for the sport means that team hikes, bike rides, dinner parties or happy hour conversations inevitably return to the pool.
“We find ourselves talking about swimming even when we’re doing these other things just because it’s a fun sport for them,” she said.
Glenn sees the unique place to swim in a community drawn to injury-prone activities like winter sports, rock climbing and mountain biking.
“Swimming is where injuries are minimal,” she said.
“There are a lot of swimmers in this valley, but getting people to do something together and helping them find the social aspect of swimming and the joy it brings is really fun.”
The team is made up of doctors, ski instructors, Vail Health employees and retirees. Although Glenn considers herself to be in the “fire-eater category,” she said the National Masters Championships encompass a wide range of goals.
“There are also people who aren’t serious about racing, who go because it’s social and their team goes,” she added.
Others, like Thomas Hackett, an orthopedic surgeon at the Steadman Clinic, train to perform iconic swims in open water like the English Channel. “He’s your adventure swimming guy,” Glenn described.
Anyone over the age of 18 is considered a master athlete, although some, like Maurine Kornfeld, continue to compete past the age of 100. “Everyone wants to take their picture with her,” Glenn said of the basic USMS Nationals figure.
The National Short Course Yard Championships are held each spring, with the National Long Course Meter Championships in August. Only world records can be set in meters, so Glenn’s spring records are “only” national records. There are also unofficial National Short Course Meter Championships in the fall. With age splits split into five-year increments starting at age 25, there’s always an internal and external carrot to aim for.
“If I move to a new age group, I’m going to check what those new records are,” Glenn revealed.
“Are they within my reach? How hard do I have to work? What should I do to prepare myself for the opportunity to try and break these records. That’s how I find dynamism.
Sometimes Olympians and national-level athletes go racing, looking for a less stressful environment.
“National Masters Championships are a really fun competition,” Glenn summed up.
When she prepares for a competition, she swims 60 to 75 minutes, five to six times a week. Alternating between breaststroke – her best event – and freestyle and individual medley, she estimates that she covers 3,000 to 3,500 meters per session. Of course, as a Vail local, she can’t help but take advantage of the area’s attractive cross-training opportunities.
“I feel like I have an ADD with all the activities you can do when you live in a mountain town,” she said of her hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. bottom. Like many elite athletes, Glenn is sometimes caught up in her own competitiveness when competing in more “foreign” sports.
“I find it hard to find joy in other things when I know I’m not as good at them,” she said, a laugh escaping with light-hearted honesty.
“There is a balance. I do the other things because they’re really fun and I just have to let it go and not think about doing it for the competition. The competition is strictly in the pool.
Besides chasing records, Glenn is motivated to be active for those who can’t. Her husband, Tim, recently returned to the pool after battling a brain tumour.
“I want to make him proud – I can’t train without having a goal in mind,” she said.
Striving for individual improvement is not where his philosophy of sport ends. The camaraderie and mutual effort pay off when her teammates and athletes reach new heights.
“I have an internal push to see how fast I can go as I continue to age, but my joy for the sport really comes from seeing the hard work and effort that I know my swimmers have put in and seeing them get the results,” she mentioned.
Karl Edgerton competed in six events at this year’s nationals, placing fifth in the 1,650 yard event in the 55-59 age group. He won the 1,500 meters at the National Masters Long Course Championships last summer.
“I got goosebumps and was so excited for Karl (Edgerton) when he had such great races at the Nationals and that really motivated me and knowing our teammates at home wanted us to do fine,” Glenn said.
Compared to when she was trying to make Olympic teams, the coach said, “I find more joy in racing,” referring to the USMS circuit. Even if an Olympic birth or an NCAA title isn’t at stake, when she competes, there’s still a lot at stake, both individually and collectively.
“I was trying to get the best time to make everyone proud – that we were representing Vail nationally.”