Name/Age: Dave Wash/54
Workout Group: COMA; swims on the southern Oregon coast
Although swimming for COMA, Dave swims on the southern Oregon coast
I work for the U.S. Department of the Interior as an outdoor recreation program manager. The work I do for the Bureau of Land Management in Coos Bay centers around managing the district’s recreation and parks program, campgrounds, coastal areas, hiking trails, historic sites.
I grew up in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and started competitive swimming at age 8 in a summer league. I moved up to swimming year round for the YMCA and the AAU when I was 10, and eventually swam for the Bradford Area High School team until I was 18.
I was pretty burned out after high school and opted to not swim in college. Instead, I got into outdoor sports–cross country skiing, backpacking, climbing, whitewater kayaking, caving–stuff like that. I returned to swimming for fitness in my mid-twenties as a good way to stay in shape for my outdoor pursuits. I worked as a park and desert ranger for a while and eventually started to work in outdoor recreation management in the California Desert Conservation Area. Moving from a field job to indoor work in my mid-thirties, I quickly found that swimming became an essential part of staying fit as I aged. We moved to the Coos Bay area in 2001 and I started swimming at the North Bend pool.
One weekend a friend asked me to join him for an open water swim in Eel Lake. After that I was hooked. The next year, just after I turned 50, I decided it was time to enter my first U.S. Masters open water race at Dorena Lake. It was a 3000 meter event and was really a challenge for me. I had no idea what I was doing, but afterward decided I really wanted to get better at this. I took a clinic from Bob Bruce, who coaches COMA, and learned some of the basics from this master open water swimmer and coach. Now nearly five years later, open water competitive swimming has become a vital part of my life.
My most memorable swimming experiences have been some of my training swims at Eel Lake–out there in the spring in the early morning on a glassy surface with the mist rising. Those swims have a meditative quality to them and when I get the pace just right and cruise along in that void all by myself—it’s more than training—it’s a spiritual experience. Honestly, I love that more than the thrill of competition. Some of my life’s biggest insights and most healing moments have come to me in those swims.
I love to kayak, paddleboard, backpack and travel. Right now I am doing the planning in preparation for hiking the El Camino de Santiago across northern Spain this fall. A pilgrimage I have thought about taking for quite a while.
I was married to my wife Katie for 27 years. Tragically and suddenly she died on January 31, of this year. It is still hard to put this into words. I have used swimming, especially those long open water swims, as a part of my healing journey as I have worked through my grief over this huge loss. I have two children–Jon is 25, and Galen is 20. They both grew up swimming competitively and Galen swims for the Linfield Wildcats. Two years ago the three of us swam the Columbia River Channel Swim from Washington to Oregon–my wife greeted us on the shore with warm coffee and lots of hugs. It’s a really good memory.