Swimmer Spotlight – Michael Dix 11

Name:  Michael Dix
AGE:  46
Occupation:  Veterinarian
Local Team:  SOMA

Michael Dix and family

Michael Dix and family

For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself a swimmer.  Even when I rarely touched a pool or lake for almost 20 years, I still considered myself a swimmer.  I started competitively swimming when I was 5 years old at our local neighborhood pool in Concord, CA.  When I was almost 8 years old, my family moved to Michigan, and I started swimming year round.  Other than some futile attempts at playing football and basketball (it was just too hard to practice and not have “zone-out” time), I more or less swam straight for the next 10 years.

There were times when I was considered a good swimmer, times when I was OK, times when I loved swimming, and times when I really did not like it at all.  Yet, I kept on doing it.  I enjoyed being around friends while still being in my own bubble, and I enjoyed the time to think about things or to think about nothing.  I do credit swimming with helping me learn fractions and percentages – at a young age I could tell you what percentage any multiple of 25 was of 500.  Swimming is just what I did.  I never questioned it, I just did it.

Being a late physical bloomer, I didn’t actually start placing in state meets until my senior year of high school.  I didn’t intend to swim in college, but my successes at the end of high school made me change my mind.  That was a big part of the reason I attended the University of New Hampshire.  It was a mid-sized school that had the academic programs I wanted, and the swim team was not very strong so I figured I could swim there.  (There was no way I could swim for the University of Michigan – I would have had to shave and taper just to keep up with their slowest swimmers in practice).

Choosing to swim at UNH ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.  I was a shy person and it allowed me to integrate into a social group very quickly.  As a swimming friend of mine used to say “Swimmers are my people,” and I was able to find my people fairly quickly in college.  I improved considerably in college and, by the time of graduation, I held several school records.  To this day, I still hold the school 200 butterfly record.  (Caveat – the men’s swimming program at UNH was dropped some time in the early 2000s, but that is just a technicality).

I remember crying after my last event at the championship meet of my senior year.  I didn’t cry because I lost a close race (though I did lose a close race), nor because I had a boo-boo.  I cried because I thought I would never again find the comradery that I had found in swimming (and maybe because one of my best friends hugged me and said, in hopes of making me laugh, “You know Mike, we are never going to look this good again.”  I occasionally use those words to spur me on to try and prove him wrong, but, he was right.)

After taking a year off of school and coaching swimming (and learning why my coaches had us do sets of 4 X 1000s), I attended the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.  I had tried to get back into swimming, but the rigors of school and just life in general got in the way.  After graduating I moved to Portland, OR, and would occasionally get in a pool 3-4 times over two weeks but would then not get back in the pool for several years.  Yet, while in Portland, I found a new activity – hiking.  I would hike 12+ miles three times a week in the Gorge and around Mt Hood.  It is what kept me in shape – though I never developed a social group from hiking.  Also, in Portland, I met my beautiful wife Elissa and we got married in 2003.

Then, in 2005, my wife and I moved to a very small town in Southern Utah called Kanab.  We worked at an animal rescue organization called Best Friends Animal Society.   The nearest indoor pool was 90 minutes away, and the town’s outdoor pool was only open for about 10 weeks each summer, would frequently be closed, and was only open for lap swim during the week from 9-10AM.  With the limited availability to a pool and a very busy job, I basically did not swim for 10 years.

We had a beautiful, sweet, stubborn child in 2012, and we decided to move back to Oregon in 2015.  We had loved Portland, but had gotten used to the dry weather in Southern Utah, so decided Southern Oregon would be a nice compromise.  I ended up getting a job at a small veterinary practice in Jacksonville, OR, at a practice that I had interviewed at after I finished my internship in 1999.  I was excited to move back to Oregon and be near a pool.

However, I didn’t start swimming regularly again until the winter of 2016.  I was a little nervous to start swimming again, because in my mind I was still that record holder in the 200 fly, but in my body I was that record holder’s out-of-shape dad.  I tried running to stay in shape – but I hated it.  Eventually, I realized I just needed to jump in the pool again, or keep gaining weight (long distance hiking time was harder to come by with a small child).  I started swimming at the local Y.  My first 50 felt great and I thought I still had it.  Then, when I could not complete a 200 without gasping for air, I realized I did not have it and was not sure I wanted to go looking for it.  But I persisted.  The smell of a pool deck conjured fond memories for me, and I felt content at the pool.  I also loved being able to move smoothly through the water, and I started talking to people about competing again.  Initially, I did not want to compete, as I did not want to become obsessed with competition, and just wanted to swim for the joy of it.  Well, a tiger cannot change its stripes.  I found that I needed the idea of competition to keep myself training, and to not just turn off my alarm clock at 5 AM.  I also found that having an outlet for my competitive nature has made me nicer in other aspects of my life – though my son may disagree.

I did OK training by myself for almost a year, but found myself stagnating, so I decided to reach out to Matt Miller and started training with him, Mike Servant, Mark Hageman, Maggie Trujillo and other members of what is now known as SOMA.  I am so happy I swim with them now even though they chit-chat too much sometimes and do crazy things (Matt Miller will warm up doing a 100 freestyle in 1:02 – who does that?)  I know this is supposed to be a positive piece, that OMS is a supportive environment, and Matt is a great guy that everyone loves – but I think people deserve to know that he has a very dark side.  I am happy to discuss these issues with anyone who wants to know more.  I feel like I am with my people again, and am so happy to be swimming competitively again.  I am happy to be part of the OMS community.

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11 thoughts on “Swimmer Spotlight – Michael Dix

  • Mike Oxendine

    Glad to see the beautiful faces in your photo are the same ones I met at Elk Lake, I guess your family does exist after all and who knew they would be so nice. Very nice article sir fun, learning more about you.

  • Hailey

    Just remember Dix that it was me and David Heller who made you stop and talk to us at the Y so we could pull you into our swimming world of RVM-SOMA! I’m so glad you’ve found another “home” with all of us.

    • Jeff piette

      Thanks for sharing your story! I can relate to much of what you have experienced during your lifetime. The not being able to swim as much as you wanted is what a lot of us faced when we were developing our career. Now that you are more established you can enjoy swimming again! I finally realized that the most important thing about swimming is the fun we all have. I used to think it was strictly all business especially at a meet. You are right about swimmers are my people. Thx for the great article. Loved it. Will meet you sometime as I recently joined SOMA but live in Vancouver. Jeff

  • Rebecca Kay

    So happy to learn a little more about you, Mike! My best friend was a regular donor to Best Friends Animal Society — even left money to them in her will, which I distributed just this past July. I share your feelings about camaraderie with swim folks in general, and my swim team family in particular of RVM/SOMA. And, competition, friendly competition, is a great motivator!

  • Ann Anderson Noser

    On a whim, I’ve been looking up old vet school comrades online. Mike, this is a great piece filled with your voice and humor. I wish you and your beautiful family the very best.