It would have been perfect had I been able, over my recent six day stay in Toronto, to notch up one new pool a day to make this post "Six from the Six," but there was too much fun to be had in this great city to swim every day. When combined with my trip there in October '15 to see my middle daughter who attends The University of Toronto, this trip to see her again along with my oldest daughter who was competing at the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials at the exceptional Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre ...
... allowed me to add pools #225 to #228 to my list, bringing my Toronto pools total up to 6:
# 207 - North Toronto Community Centre
# 208 - Toronto Pan Ams Sports Complex - Training Pool
# 225 - University of Toronto Aquatic Center - 50M pool
# 226 - University Settlement Grange Fitness Centre
# 227 - Regent Park Aquatic Centre
# 228 - Ryerson University
Three experiences stand out across these pools:
You gotta love great team names - A great many Masters Swimming teams, while providing creative workouts and engaging training mates, often tend to have rather prosaic names. While the North Toronto Masters Swim Club, practicing at the aptly named North Toronto Community Centre (picture on left below) fits the 'name mold,' they have acquired, I think, the best website name ever, one that sums up a great philosophy on life - www.swimordie.ca.
Not to be outdone, though, is (I assume) their cross-town rival, a team that practices primarily at the University of Toronto Athletic Center (picture on the right) and puts their confidence right out there - The Toronto Masters of the Universe:
Innovation on the ceiling - Arguably the toughest event for a Canadian swimmer to make their 2016 Olympic team this year was the woman's 200 meter backstroke, where four women swam under the FINA "A" time standard for Rio. Those "A" standards represented the 16th place finish time at the 2012 Olympics, making them exceedingly fast. In many events, particularly on the men's side, it was rare for the top two swimmers to get under this standard - so to have four women well under it points to the depth of Canadian backstroking talent. One of those women, Kylie Masse, who also won the 100 backstroke and set a new Canadian National record while doing so, attends the University of Toronto and, I believe, does a significant portion of her training there.
I saw something so logical while swimming at that pool that it makes me wonder if this might be a Canadian innovation and secret to great backstroke swimming - while swimmers are completely used to 'staring at the black line' on the bottom of the pool, we are often thrown astray into lane ropes and other swimmers when swimming backstroke as there's no similar frame of reference. The University of Toronto pool solves that problem quite simply by painting lane lines on the ceiling!
According to the TMU Masters Coach, and former Varsity Blues competitor, this was the brainchild of long time U of T coach and '72 Olympian Byron MacDonald. Backstrokers of the world unite and request this at your pool!
A gift for me at a gift for Toronto - As my family will attest, I'm about the worst person in the world when it comes to answering this question, "What do you want for your birthday?" I can almost never point to any thing that I want. I think I figured out well before I read articles about the value of experiences over things that I preferred to be gifted an adventure or an outing over a material good.
I have trained my family well on this front and was able to redeem a great gift from my second daughter while in Toronto - not only did she gift me the experience of a new pool, she joined me for the swim! One morning we headed over to the architecturally stunning Regent Park Aquatic Centre, opened in 2012 as part of a major revitalization effort in the eastern edge of downtown Toronto. While the pool was a bit crowded for serious training, I got in a decent workout and loved the beautiful setting, the real joy for me was getting to spend some rare one-on-one time with my daughter.
I'm now looking forward to my next birthday-gift/swimming adventure as my oldest daughter is going to indulge my southern upbringing and take me out for the best grits breakfast in Greensboro, North Carolina when we are there at the end of this month for the US Masters National Swimming Championships!
Keep on swimming!