Come on in…the water is fine!

Aloha! My name is Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen and I live in Kona, Hawaii. Fastatforty certainly applies to me since at the age of 47 I am still swimming WAY faster than I did as a top-age group swimmer in my youth. It’s a privilege to be invited by Joanna Zeiger to be the Fastatforty “swim expert,” and I hope you find my suggestions and advice on technique, training, motivation, as well as offbeat subjects, helpful.

However, before we get started, I think you need to have bit more information about me. Everyone knows about Joanna, so I think I need more of an introduction.

A brief history: I began swimming at the age of six and swam competitively in San Diego for most of my youth and one year of college on a scholarship at the University of Arkansas (long story). I swam for Olympic gold medalist Mike Troy from the age of 12-18 and was very talented with Olympic potential. However, I lacked work ethic and discipline, and I really liked boys and having a social life, so consequently I did not take it very far. In 1982, I dropped out of swimming, became a beach lifeguard, waitress, and bartender and during the next 11 years I picked up some very unhealthy habits.

In 1993 at the age of 31, I poured myself back into the water to heal my body and soul, and joined a Masters group in Coronado, CA.  Without any pressure to perform, within 6 months I broke my first FINA Masters world record. In less than a year I was swimming lifetime bests. But more importantly, I was having FUN!

Swimming helped me reclaim my life and gave me confidence to go back to college. In 1995 I started out at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, CA swimming for Patti Waterman. Junior college swimming was a blast and in the two year I swam for Patti I set numerous national, conference and school records…many of which still stand today.

In 1997, at the age of 35 with only one year of eligibility left, I accepted a full athletic swimming to Cal State Bakersfield (CSUB), a Division II school. While under the tutelage of coach Pat Skehan I won three events at NCAA’s (400 IM, 100-200 back), and became the oldest person to break an NCAA DIV II record with a time of 2:00.54 for the 200-yard back. Even more rewarding was that I was a member of the CSUB’s women’s team that placed second at the championship meet. At CSUB I graduated cum-laude with a degree in Communications/Public Relations. Going back to college as an adult I truly appreciated the experience and am very grateful for my coaches, Patti and Pat, for believing in me and providing the opportunity to achieve both in and out of the pool.

During this time frame I also made a run at qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Trials. Let me say this right now…I was NOT trying to make it to the Olympic team. Making it to the trials was enough for me. While I did fall short of actually going to the event, six months later I dipped under the qualifying time standard in the 200m back while placing 10th at the USA National championships – not to be confused with Masters Nationals – earning a world ranking at the age of 36. So, long before the amazing Dara Torres jumped back in the water, I was the original “FAST OLD LADY” around the pool deck.

If you have done the math, you will see that I have now been back in the water training and racing for almost 17 years. What a truly memorable ride it has been. Swimming literally saved my life. I have also been given the wonderful gift of a big DO OVER and with the support from my friends, coaches and family, I feel I have done a pretty job of making the very most of it.

Currently I live in warm and sunny Kona, Hawaii but I also travel a great deal offering Aquatic Edge FASTER FREESTYLE swim technique clinics and camps I worldwide…about 70+ per year. When I am at home, I schedule private instruction in my Endless pool or on the Ironman swim course and feel blessed to be working with some big-name triathletes…even Joanna has come to Aquatic Edge for help! I love teaching and feel that my simple, easy to understand approach to technique has really made a difference to many swimmers and triathletes.

In my next feature I will actually give you some insight on how you can swim faster with less effort. But before I do that, I want YOU to figure out what your DREAM is. Don’t wait…start thinking about it RIGHT NOW!!

The dream of today is tomorrow’s reality

Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen

Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen of Aquatic Edge is the 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2004 World Masters swimmer of the year and to date has set over 214 FINA Masters World records…at least one in each stroke. Karlyn is also an accomplished open water and long distance swimmer setting numerous course records in Hawaii and San Diego. Email Karlyn

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