Name: Britta Daubersmith
Team: Oregon City Tankers
Occupation: Taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades for 25+ years. I am currently taking a break
I followed my three older brothers into swimming when I was eight years old. In our small town, swimming was one of the few sports available year round, and something my brothers and I could all do together. I grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska which you may know as the first stop on a northbound Alaskan cruise ship, but which was a town defined in the 70s and 80s by the logging and fishing industries.
Ketchikan is located on an island called Rivillagegedo in southeastern Alaska. It’s about 600 miles north of Seattle and 1,000 miles south of Anchorage. The road on the island stretches 31 miles long, but never more than 10 blocks wide. Travel to neighboring towns for swim meets required taking a ferry, since flights were too expensive for team travel, and there were no roads or bridges connecting towns. It might take our team two days to get to a weekend meet, and two more days to come home. Our coaches held “school” on board the ferries, and once we got there we were housed with other swimmers’ families for the week. Because of this time spent together, swim team members and their families were generally really close. I always had the feeling on the team that someone had my back.
Sometimes we would travel to Canada for swim meets since it was only 90 miles from home. My very first memory of swimming in a meet is Prince Rupert, BC. I had been swimming for about a month, but somehow ended up entered in the 200 free. I remember stopping mid race thinking I was finished because the other swimmers were at the wall, but then someone yelled to push off and keep going, so I did. By the time I reached the end the race which, I’m sure, was minutes behind the next person, people on deck were on their feet cheering. I have thought of that moment many times since – remembering the struggle and embarrassment of my first race but, more importantly, how supported my early swimming efforts were. I really believe that one of the most important components of swimming on a team is the team itself. Even though it’s an individual sport, a good team can make the difference between a mediocre practice and a great practice, or a meet that holds a spectacular memory, despite any missed times or lost races.
I swam through high school and in my first year of college at Lewis and Clark. After that I didn’t swim for many, many years as life, work and family took over my time and attention. When I was 43, two things happened that brought me back to the pool after almost 25 years. First, my daughter was born, and I kept throwing out my back because she was one of those lovely chunky babies who liked to be carried around. Then, my father got gravely ill, but recovered, a miracle his doctors credited to his staying in great physical shape throughout his life. Those two things were a sign that it was time to do something about my own aging body, and I began going to the Oregon City pool in the mornings to swim with a small Masters team that had started working out there. Tim Waud showed up to help coach a few months later, and the team began to build.
I really love swimming with the Tankers. We are a team that is made up in almost equal parts of triathletes, fitness swimmers and those training to swim in meets. There is a lot of laughter, friendly competition and support. We celebrate each others’ birthdays with Saturday morning doughnuts, throw baby showers when there are newborns, have holiday parties with silly gift exchanges, and show up when there is need. When you see the Tankers encouraging each other at meets and screaming crazy cheers, this is a genuine expression of excitement from a group of people who are happy to be together and to be swimming.
Most of the time I swim backstroke and IM events in meets. My favorite event is the 200 back, which I think is the perfect combination of grueling and interesting; too much kick at the beginning and you lose your legs, too little and your splits are uneven. The race intrigues me and I am constantly trying to find the correct balance. I have been planning to broaden my swimming repertoire a little bit more by concentrating on making my freestyle a bit more efficient. We’ll see.
Can it really be that it was less than a year ago when we were setting our sights toward Nationals at San Antonio? This has been a tough time for everyone, I know. The pandemic, wildfires, civil unrest, political upheaval, and the fallout of each, has left folks grieving and exhausted. During my best days this past year I have thought, “There will never be another time like this again, and I want to take advantage of what this year has to offer instead of dwelling on missed opportunities”. Although this is easier said than done, I have been able to step back a bit and to gain some perspective on what is important…family, close friends, hikes with my dogs.…
One very positive thing for me this year has been the amount of time I’ve had to spend with my mother, who usually lives in California. In March, right before we all went into lockdown for the first time, she came to live with us. We initially thought she would be here for a month or two, tops. How wonderful it’s been to have had her here with us for almost a year now.
At best, swimming has been infrequent for me this year. I swam in the Willamette for a while last spring and summer, and just briefly when our pool opened for a bit in the fall. In July I helped to organize a 5k river swim to benefit Swim Across America, a national organization that has raised nearly 100 million dollars for cancer research. Our small team swam as part of Susan Helmrich’s team, Team Susan Survives, in the Bay Area. We raised about $6,000 and had a great day. I really hope to do this again next year, and possibly organize an Oregon team. Please consider joining us!
These days I can feel the familiar aches creeping into my back and my muscle tone softening. As I write this though, there is a crew outside installing an Endless Pool, and I am looking forward to hours of swimming just steps away from my house. It won’t exactly be like working out with the team, and I will miss the laughter and the lighthearted banter of my teammates, but it will be good to return to the water and splash around a bit.
Be well, friends. See you all soon, and may the New Year bring you health, happiness and at least a few good swims.