Editor’s Note: Well, the world has changed since I began the “Masters Up Close” interviews with members of my swim team in late February 2020. Now that we can no longer swim together, I thought I’d continue the series to connect with my teammates, see how they’re coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and relish fond memories of swimming together. Here’s an interview with my teammate and breakfast buddy, Carole.
—Liz Kelsey [www.elizabethkelsey.com], Editor, Masters Up Close
Masters Swimmer Up Close: Carole Kitchel Bellew
First of all, how do you feel now that we can’t swim together as a team? What do you miss? What is different about your life now?
Somewhat frustrated. I miss the workouts, the camaraderie, Barbara, and the breakfasts with lane buddies after the workout. My life right now feels very disjointed—I think mostly because my routines are not there.
Are you finding ways to stay fit now that we can’t swim in the pool?
My husband and I are walking, and soon I will get my bike out.
When did you join Masters swimming, and why?
I think it was 2011. I need to be active all year round. I hate gyms and all that equipment—find it intimidating. I loved swimming as a kid, so I thought let me try swimming. I went to the three Upper Valley pools, and loved UVAC right off. I never really liked indoor pools—they’re too confined—but UVAC is a well ventilated and open space.
What is your swimming background?
I raced summers until I was 17. We went to Mount Desert Island—a little town called Southwest Harbor, for the summer. There were four clubs on the island: Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Seal harbor and Bar Harbor. Our pool was the smallest but ended up having the strongest team. I raced each summer for seven years. I was asked to join a Red Cross team in Massachusetts when I was 13, but my mom said no. I always wonder where that would have taken me?
Which is your favorite stroke?
Freestyle and backstroke. Probably because when I was racing as a kid, I always felt they were my best strokes. Now, since Barbara has taught me the right way to be swimming them, I really enjoy the way I glide through the water, especially with the freestyle.
How do you feel about being part of the UVRays?
Wonderful, energized and extremely lucky
Do you think life in the pool relates to life on the outside in any way?
Life in the pool for me was a great way to begin my day. I struggle a bit with discipline, but because of the rewards I got from Masters (i.e., maintain weight while eating well, low impact workouts, energy boost), I was really good about sticking to the program three times a week. Nothing is better than walking to my car after a workout and feeling so good, so ready to tackle my day. Life in the pool was a major part of my outside life.
What do you do professionally?
Not sure about “professionally,” but I am an artist—a sculptor, mostly. I have worn many hats in my 70-plus years, and now that I am devoting all my time to my art, I have to say I have found my passion. Fingers crossed; I still have 25 to 30 more years to enjoy it.
How long have you been in the Upper Valley? What brought you here?
We moved to Piermont, NH in 2005. My daughter who had married a dairy framer was having her first child. Since the housing market in Boston was taking a downward turn, I figured it was a good time to sell the house and be near my grandchildren.
Who’s in your family? Do you have pets?
I am married to Ib Bellew—he’s my pet. My daughter and family live in Lyme; I have a son and family out in Colorado; and a son and family down in Massachusetts.
Anything else you’d like to add about yourself or any thoughts you’d like to share?
Having a group/community that you belong to, different from the town you live in, is really good for your soul in so many ways. Now that we have had social interaction taken away from us because of the coronavirus pandemic, that feeling of belonging has been threatened. The first couple of weeks of this lock-down really befuddled me. It was like my life, as I knew it, had been put on hold. My new life was full of not knowing and disconnectedness. Now that I am settling in and forming new routines, I am feeling better. Also establishing connections with my lane buddies and my clay buddies has really helped. Being locked down with Ib is lots of fun as well.
Interview by Masters swimmer, Liz Kelsey