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, Phoebe.
—Liz Kelsey, Editor, Masters Up Close
Masters Swimmer, Phoebe Mix
What is your swimming background?
I was a country club summer league swimmer from ages 11-14 when my family lived in Minnesota. I enjoyed it and took it seriously enough to suggest to my parents that they should move to Santa Barbara, where I understood the best swimmers lived. They declined.
I swam my last two years in college—mostly to complete my gym requirement. I had failed a gym class called Relaxation (I am not sure what techniques were taught). The class met at 9 am and I was rarely up before 11. Gym was the only class for which attendance was mandatory. My protestations that I excelled at relaxing in my own bed, rather than lying on a smelly mat in the gym, fell on deaf ears. I was in danger of having to run laps to be eligible graduate. The gym department agreed to give me double credit for participating in meets. I was a catch for that team because I could do a flip turn.
Which stroke is your favorite?
Now Freestyle. In my youth, my favorite event was the IM. I liked butterfly, in one length doses.
How do you feel about being part of the UVRays?
I felt so lucky to find the UVRays when I came to Vermont. The pool is spectacular, and Barbara is a fabulous coach. UVRays is my third Masters team. I swam for 15 years with Alexandria Masters in Fairfax County Rec Center pools and five years with the Stripers in Kilmarnock, Virginia in a YMCA pool. All of those teams shared the pool with aquatic classes, and on a good day, the pool was 83.5 degrees (too warm for competitive swimmers and too cold for many doing water aerobics—splitting the difference). The Upper Valley Aquatic Center keeps the competition pool at 80 degrees, which is a real treat. UVRay swimmers were very welcoming, even though I was a fairly irregular swimmer. They are a fascinating group of people, and I am so pleased that I count a number as good friends. I am as committed to breakfast with a group of them as I am to practice.
Who’s in your family?
My husband and I have a 34 son who lives in Alexandria, Virginia and a newly adopted young rescue dog, Portia.
How do you feel now that we can’t swim together as a team?
Utterly deprived. I broke my arm three weeks before the pool closed, and I had planned to get a waterproof cast at three weeks so I could start swimming again. I miss the camaraderie in the locker room, the sense of getting the day off to a good start that comes with early morning practices, and a regular exercise routine. I have relocated to our beach house on Chesapeake Bay for the duration of Covid 19 stay homes. I try to walk regularly but cute as Portia is, I am lonely.
Are you finding ways to stay fit now that we can’t swim in the pool?
I try to walk regularly with Portia, but she would prefer more energetic sessions of tennis ball launching. I meet swimmers from my Kilmarnock team for walks as well.
What do you do professionally?
I retired in 2012. I had been a lawyer at the IRS, specializing in the taxation of derivative financial instruments.
How long have you been in the Upper Valley? What brought you here?
I first came to the Upper Valley in 1969 when my parents moved to South Strafford. I went to Vermont Law School and moved to Washington DC. I came back regularly while my parents were alive. I came back to Strafford part time in 2015 when I renovated an apartment in the Brick Store, a building I inherited from my mother, who had died the year before. I intended to use the apartment seasonally but have found that I want to be in Strafford most of the time. Strafford is a magical small town, a picture-perfect village inhabited by an exceptional group of people.
Do you think life in the pool relates to life on the outside in any way?
I have been fascinated by how important Masters swimming has been to me and to so many of my teammates on multiple teams. Who would have thought that a group of people who spent most of their time together with their faces under water could become so close? Masters Swimming has made me a big believer in the power of affinity groups. The community that develops among a group of people brought together by a common athletic activity proves to be refreshingly diverse.
Interview by Masters swimmer, Liz Kelsey