Name: Vicky Buelow
Occupation: Public Health Data & Policy Analyst
Team: Oregon Reign Masters
I grew up on the eastside of Seattle and started swimming around 3 or 4 years old. My parents say they noticed my love for the water when we made our yearly family vacation out to Hawaii. When I was 5, my mom took me to St. Edwards pool in Kirkland, WA, to sign me up for synchronized swimming. Turns out you needed to be 6 years old to join the synch team, so she signed me up for swim team instead (phew!).
I spent my entire childhood swimming for Totem Lake Swim Team/WAVE Aquatics/Juanita High School. I remember when the King County Aquatic Center opened in Federal Way, and some of my fondest memories are hanging out with my teammates playing Uno and eating bagels in the hallways between prelims and finals of meets. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life at that pool.
I had the opportunity to swim in college, but I decided at that point I was done. I really struggled swimming with the senior group on my team, mostly because I missed or was late to so many morning practices. (Those who know me know that I am NOT a morning person, and if I am in the water before noon then you bet I’ll have my poolside coffee with me.) Even though I didn’t swim in college, I never let swimming get too far away from me. I swam for PE credits, did lap swim on my own, worked as a lifeguard and taught swim lessons throughout college and grad school.
I moved to Portland in 2005 and spent some years lap swimming at Columbia Pool. In 2008, I dislocated my shoulder when I fell off a skateboard. I remember I sat on the couch in a sling that summer and watched Michael Phelps get his 8 gold medals. I was over 30, had a bum shoulder, and realized I had become the perfect Masters Swimming candidate. I looked for a team that had evening practices (remember, I don’t do mornings), found ORM and have been swimming with them ever since. At this point I have been swimming Masters almost as long as I swam age group. Before, I would have said that I was a butterflyer/IMer, but I’ve learned that I’m much better at the technical aspects/5th stroke (underwater dolphin) rather than straight over the water swimming. I’m probably best at starts and walls over anything else – give me short course or give me death! And to this day I’m still not even sure how breaststroke works.
I have also learned that swimming is what I need to do to maintain my sanity, especially during these crazy pandemic times. There is nothing like diving in an outdoor pool on a sunny day – I absolutely live for those bouncing blue light reflections at the bottom of the pool. Though I’m fine with counting hairballs and bandages during the indoor season too. The goal is to keep showing up and remain present in the process of getting slower and slower. I’m definitely in it for the long-haul!
Outside of the pool I work as a data and policy analyst for the Oregon Public Health Division. I help collect and track alcohol, tobacco and cannabis-related data, and use it to help inform policy development and health communications efforts. I deal with numbers most of the day, so by the time I get to practice, my brain can’t seem to keep count of anything over a 200. I’m also a warm-weather scuba diver and enjoy staring out into the deep blue nothingness under the sea (ocean life is pretty cool too).