The Other Daughter

A blog by Lara Jackson’s sister

Archive for March, 2009

Texas, or NCAA Wednesday

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 28, 2009

texas-shapeI had been looking forward to NCAAs since Christmas.  I couldn’t wait to see my family — I hadn’t seen my dad or sister for a year– and to be someplace warm.

My parents drove to College Station from El Paso.  They brought Lara’s best friend from high school, Danny Motoya.  You know he’s a very good friend because he spent nine hours in the car with my parents.  My dad made him listen to Mark Levin podcasts.  Now Danny has Mark Levin on his own iPod.

Lara didn’t know Danny was coming.  My parents and Danny kept it a secret for a whole year.  Danny even sent faux “good luck!” text messages to Lara on Wednesday.

Mom, Dad and Danny picked me up from the College Station airport, the smallest airport in the universe.  It was smaller than a Wal-Mart.  There was only one gate and one baggage claim.  I’m certain that 90 percent of the people on my flight were there for NCAAs.

Aw Texas.  There’s a saying in Texas,”I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could,” (I found out this phrase has been imitated by California and Montana among others, but those states are just fooling themselves.)

Well, I was born in Texas — technically.  El Paso is really it’s own place, which I already wrote about here.  But I have road-tripped extensively through North Texas and Central Texas.  This is what road-tripping in Texas looks like:

The blue sky, the green grass, the open road.

The blue sky, the green grass, the open road.

I couldn’t stop looking at the sky!  We don’t have sky in Boston, we have tall buildings and a gray space.  There’s something about open space that makes you feel like you can breathe.  I miss that.

The other major difference about Texas is how people talk to you.  On Wednesday night we went out to dinner and the waiter was very attentive.  He made eye-contact with every person at the table, and there were five of us!  Can you imagine a New England waiter taking the time to wish you a good night and look you in the eye?  I have yet to find one.  At first I thought he was just working for his tip, but no, that’s just how people are in Texas.

Back to the reporting: Lara’s fan club (Mom, Dad, Danny and me) were at the hotel when the team came back from the pool.  Danny hid behind a large column.  Lara came in and she hugged us.  I was ready with my camera.  Then Danny came out from behind the column.

In the crowded Hilton lobby, Lara yelled, “What the f*** are you doing here?” and jumped on him.

Here are my pictures: Danny Surprise

Then she whispered, “I said the f-word really loud and people looked at me.”

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Olympic Trials Part II

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 15, 2009

Olympic Trials were the last week of June and the first week of July.  I had a wedding to go to in Chicago over the weekend that Lara would swim her 50-free.

Lara was in Lane 5.  Photo by: Martina Jackson

Lara was in Lane 5. Photo by: Martina Jackson

Lara swam preliminaries in the morning, Saturday July 5.  I was staying at the Palmer House Hilton, with many of the wedding guests.  I managed to sneak away from the festivities to watch prelims in the business center at the hotel.  I think it cost $7 per 15 minutes of internet use, but I wanted to make sure I could hear everything and get the live feed set in plenty of time.  I monopolized one of three computers in the UPS business center for about an hour.  Those hotel guests who needed to print boarding passes? Yeah, they had to wait.

I managed to get the video feed, but I couldn’t hear anything either in my headphones or through the computer’s speakers.  I asked the two UPS guys working in the business center.  They could tell I was pretty anxious.  My hands were a little shaky and my voice was definitely tense.  They probably thought I was another irate customer.  Once I explained that my sister was swimming in Olympic Trials, they were very helpful, though.

By the time the 50-free started, sound was set, most of the hotel guests had left, so the two UPS guys and I watched the 12 heats of the 50-free.  Lara was in the 12th heat.  I wrote down the fastest time for each heat, and the World and US records in a notebook.  I wanted to know immediately how Lara did.  Turns out I didn’t need to worry.

So the 12th heat begins.  I’ve been sending text messages to my mom, so I know which lane to watch.  It started, I was tapping the desk.  The two UPS guys are riveted.  I start chanting, “Come on Lara, go Lara!  Faster Lara! Go! Go!” 

Also swimming in that heat was Dara Torres, who beat Lara in Nationals the year before.  The announcers were very excited about Torres, because she was 41-years-old.  They kept saying, “And keep an eye on Torres in lane” whatever, I didn’t care.

During the race, however, Lara pulled ahead of Dara, and the announcer said, “Whoa! Look at Lara Jackson!”

Lara won!  She broke the American record!  I was near tears.  The UPS guys congratulated me, and one gave me a hug.  I thanked them for letting me occupy the whole business center.  He said it was exciting to be so close to a potential Olympian.

That’s when I realized the impact of the Olympics.  The unsung athletes get a lot of respect from people.  One of my friends, another guest at the wedding, said the Olympics is the one thing that makes her proud to be an American.  So even just watching the race with the sister of a potential Olympic athlete was memorable.

From the UPS business center, I went to a ladies brunch with the bride and several wedding guests.  I wore an Arizona t-shirt, with star tatoos on the back, over my brunch dress.  I wasn’t ready to take it off, I still had an adrenaline rush from Lara kicking butt in the race.  Thank goodness the bride was so understanding. 

Lara was expected to swim semi-finals shortly after the wedding ceremony.  I wouldn’t have to throw down more cash for the business center, though, because semi-finals were televised.  I went to the wedding, which was only a block away from the hotel.  I dressed up, put on the make-up, attended the wedding, cried, visited with friends, got my table designation, went through the receiving line, then ran back to the hotel to watch semi-finals.

The timing was perfect. 

Cecily and me at her wedding.jpg

To the right: Cecily Martin, the beautiful, understanding bride, and me in the receiving line, after which I ran back to the hotel to watch semi-finals.

I can’t remember if Lara got first place or not during semi-finals.  The important thing was that she made it to finals.  No problem.  She was in.  I went back to eat the delicious wedding dinner and shake my groove thing at the reception.

The months of anticipation wouldn’t find relief until the next day, July 6, 2008, 50-meter freestyle finals.  I was scheduled to be on a plane at the same time that Lara was to swim.  Bugger.

I got to the airport early, and claimed a table in a cafe where I could watch Olympic Trials on TV.  The minutes ticked away, and I debated how badly I wanted to watch finals.  Would it be worth missing my flight?  Did I really need to go to work the next day?  So what if I spent the night in Chicago Midway airport?

Well, turns out I like my creature comforts.  I watched the trials, but no miracle occurred to bump up the 50-meter freestyle race before my flight.

Instead, I spent the whole flight clutching my phone, sighing and rocking back and forth.  Yes, I was literally rocking in my seat.  The passenger sitting next to me probably thought I was crazy, or severely afraid of flying.  I waited until I could turn my phone on and send a text to my mom to find out what happened.  I stared at my watch, “Ten minutes after 7 o’clock.  Do they know yet?  Do they know if Lara is going to Beijing?”

“What would happen if I turned on my phone mid-flight?  Would it interfere with the pilot’s radio?  Would a flight attendent storm down the aisle to reprimand me for putting all our lives in danger?”

“Fifteen minutes, do they know now?  Why can’t this plane go faster?”

“I’m sure I saw that flight attendent using her Blackberry.  How dare they tell passengers to turn off electronics and she’s using her Blackberry??  What if she interferes with the pilot’s radio?  She could be putting all our lives in danger!?”

“Do I have to wait for the plane to reach the gate, or is it safe to use my phone when we’re on the ground?”

“Twenty minutes past.  They know now.  They’re either celebrating or mourning,  Which is it?  Why can’t I be in Omaha right now?”

“Twenty-five minutes past.  The whole world knows except me.”

I was never on a longer flight.  I was good, though, I didn’t turn on my phone until the flight attendent said so.  I sent a text to my mom: “WHAT HAPPENED?”  No response.  I called.  No response.  I sent a text to my dad.  I called my dad.  I called my mom again.  Nothing.  They forgot me.  They completely forgot that I exist and want to know what the hell happened.

Finally Mom answered her phone: “She got third,” Mom said.

Seriously?  Third?  That’s worse than last place!  Stupid Dara Torres!  She’s already been to the Olympics! Four times!  Let someone else go!  Let my sister go!

Alas, four more years to wait.  What if Lara gets sick of swimming?

Here’s an NBC video of the finals race, in which Lara got third place.

Then, the woman who got second place, Jessica Hardy,  tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Trials 2008 bronze medal.jpgNormally this would mean that Lara could take her place on the team, but USA Swimming didn’t release the information in time to add Lara to the team.  Just as Lara, and all of us, were accepting Lara’s bronze (pictured left), we got this news.  It felt like she lost her place again.

Still, as her friend and co-captain Taylor Baughman says, Lara’s medal is framed and hanging in her room with the word “motivation” under it.  Motivation for this year, and the next three.  See you in London.

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Olympic Trials Part I

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 14, 2009

Last spring, Lara winning 50-yard free at NCAA planted the seed of expectation for Olympic Trials in July.  I thought about the Trials constantly.


Trials 2008 pool length & crowd.jpg


Above is a picture of the pool at the Qwest Center in Omaha where the Trials were held.  Notice the fancy display board and the huge crowd.  Can you imagine so many people going to watch a swim meet??


My parents spent the money to get tickets to Omaha.  We worried about Lara getting one of the high-tech suits, which she did.  I figured out how to watch the races via web streaming. 


My dad and I wondered if we would be able to go to Beijing if she did make the Olympic team.  Believe it or not, parents of athletes do not get free tickets to Olympic games.  Total bunk, don’t you think?


Lara’s chances to make the Olympic team were excellent.  At Nationals the year before she took second place to Dara Torres in the 50-free.  If Olympics were in 2007, Lara would have gone.  We were stoked.


Because of her excellent swim at Nationals in 2007, Lara was invited to swim in Japan for USA Swimming.  And thanks to YouTube, I found a video of it.  Unfortunately, Lara is Lane 2, which you can’t see from the camera angle.  Still, it’s fun to hear how excited the announcers get.


 


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Tucson

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 13, 2009

Swimming was not necessarily a burdensome limit on our family vacations.  Going to out of town meets gave us the chance to see places we never would have visited otherwise.

The first such city was Tucson.  I love Tucson, especially when in an air-conditioned room.

Below, Lara and a view of the Tucson desert at the Sonora Desert Museum.

Lara at Desert Museum.jpgLara swam at a meet in Tucson every June.  We would stay at a cozy Embassy Suites which had the best breakfast spread of any hotel I’ve stayed in, including the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.  In Tucson we felt positively decadent with our short-order pancakes, fruit, and juice bar, sitting on the patio in the cool morning.

After breakfast, we would stock up the cooler with sports drinks and water and head to the swim meet.

Lara & Gramp & Dad in Tucson 1999.jpg

To the right, Lara with our grandfather, Richard Jackson, and dad, Keith Jackson in 1999.  The bleachers are above the pool, which you can see in the background.

I would usually spend most of the meet listening to Cowboy Mouth on my CD player, reading sci-fi — and I will not post a link to exactly which sci-fi, because I’m too ashamed to admit what horrible stuff I used to read.

In the evening we would

a) go to a movie, because movie theaters out west are usually extravagant.  My theory: during summer, people like to go someplace cool and dark and drink bladder-busting sodas.

b) go to the Sonora Desert Museum.

We drove for about an hour (again, me listening to Cowboy Mouth and reading in the car, because in high school I avoided “togetherness”), arrive at the museum at dusk.  The museum is something like a nature hike, zoo, and natural history museum in one easy package.

We walk these trails, with signs pointing out important flowers and cacti, and warning people to avoid the javelinas. Javelinas.jpg

To the left: javelinas on the trail.  Oh yes, they run free in the desert.  They may look like friendly, furry pigs, but in real life they’re vicious killers and will eat your face.  At least that’s the impression I got.  I’ve never seen one.

The museum has animal enclosures.  I remember the mountain lions and the mountain goats as big as mountain lions.   Sonora Desert Museum mt goats.jpg   The animal enclosures blended so perfectly with the landscape, you forgot they were in a zoo.  To the right, three mountain goats and their au naturel cage.

 There was also an awesome display where you went into a cave.  I don’t know how much of the cave was man-made and how much was natural.  there were tight cave paths that kids (humans, because goats weren’t allowed) could squeeze through to learn about spelunking and bats.

 One year, my parents bought a new camcorder and I took control, taping Lara’s races, but also documenting the rest of our vacation.  I learned how to work a camera, use zoom so that nobody gets motion sickness when you force your unsuspecting relatives to watch it, and to edit because as cool as it is to stare at a mountain goat in real life, no one wants to watch a two minute home video of a goat.

Below, a picture of Lara and me probably watching a display about bats, which is why it’s so dark.

 Lara and me at Desert Museum.jpg On one trip, we went to Old Tucson, the movie studio where masterpieces were filmed, including:

 Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne

 The Outlaw Josey Wales, starring Clint Eastwood

 The Frisco Kid, starring Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford

 My dad and I would always watch Christmas with The Duke on TBS, so when we came upon that Rio Bravo set, where the final shoot-out takes place, I went bonkers.  I stood in the same place where John Wayne crouched behind a rock and shot a Hollywood gun.  You are so jealous right now.

 My parents loved traveling to Tucson.  We would look at the record boards, the lists of names and my parents would speculate that Lara might one day attend UA and have her name on the records board. records board Oct 2008.jpg

 In October 2008, my mom took this picture:

See Lara’s name, with a whole bunch of other glamorous swimmers?There’s one place Lara has made her mark.

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Swim Season – never ends

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

Aside: an article about Lara.  The writer focussed on Lara’s unique pasttime: horseback riding.  Lara & Calypso.jpgNotice the inaccuracy?  I just want to say for the record: a) I have never belonged to a swim team and b) I would never join any sort of team for a cute boy, because I am a liberated woman.

Okay, back to the blog:

I mentioned in an earlier post that once the swimming phenom invaded the Jackson family, we never went camping again.  It’s true.  Also, any vacations to visit family had to be scheduled around swim season.

Since this is a blog about swimming, I’ll explain a little about swim seasons.

From September to March, U.S. college and high school swimmers compete in short course pools.  Below is a picture of the pool where Lara just competed in the Pacific 10 Conference.

The divider in the middle allows for short-course competition on one side and warm-up lanes on the other side of the pool.  During the long-course season, the divider is removed.  The two strings of flags are for backstrokers.  When they see the flags, they know to turn over, because they’ve reached the end of the pool.

pac 10 Seattle 2009 pool length.jpg

Lara holds the American Record in the 50-yard freestyle.  Since only crazy Americans swim in 25-yard pools, technically she’s the world record holder, according to my dad.

The rest of the world swims a short course season in a 25-meter length pool.

If you have watched Olympic swimming, you may have noticed the races in 50-meter length pools.  This is called long-course.  The long-course season runs from April to August, and is usually run by USA Swimming

These seasons are basically the same from age 6 to age 42.  When Lara was in high school, she swam the short-course season with her high school team, though she still trained with her USA Swimming team.  That’s right, Lara trained on two swim teams; but so did every other swimmer.

During summer vacation, Lara trained with her USA Swimming “club” team, the Barracudas.  Now that she is in college, she stays in Tucson over the summer to train with the Ford Aquatic Team.  With Christmas training and summer training, I never get to see her.

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Story from Seattle

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

So this post is a blatant rip-off of my mom’s blog.

gramp & nan in Seattle.jpg

To the left is a photo of my grandparents: Richard and Rosalie Jackson at the Seattle Space Needle.  My dad sent this picture via cell phone. Ah technology.

Here’s a story, copied directly from my mom’s blog.  Sorry if people have already read it there, it’s just too good not to copy.

“Do all swimmers look alike?  Carly wrote on her blog that it is often difficult to tell the swimmers apart in their goggles and caps.  And it might be the same issue when the swimmers are out of the pool in their warm up suits and their hair knotted up on top of their heads.  Well, last evening after finals, we were waiting in the lobby for Lara to come upstairs from deck.  Her very proud grandmother, Rosie, went up to a swimmer and started to hug her thinking that it was Lara, and it was not.  So Rosie apparently made some comment that hopefully this swimmer would one day be as fast as Lara.   When Rosie rejoined our group, we informed her that she had been speaking with Rebecca Soni, an Olympian with one individual gold and one individual silver from Beijing.  So sorry Rebecca!”

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quick update

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

parents & craig in Seattle photo by Craig.JPGHi all,

Thanks to everybody who has emailed or posted comments on Facebook about the blog.  I’m glad people are enjoying it!

Last night I tried to watch Lara break the Pac-10 meet record via live webstream, but CBS College Sports had technical difficulties.  Boo.

Anyway, if you want meet highlights, read my mom’s blog.  She posts every morning about the meet and visiting Seattle.

In the photo, my parents enjoying gray northwestern skies.

Also check out this Swimming World Magazine article with Lara in the headline.

Three more posts to go for the homework assignment!  Then I will move the blog to a more accomodating content manager, so that people can actually comment on the blog.

Thanks again for reading!

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Pac-10 and The Swim Meet Schedule

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

NCAA 2008 Champ.jpgI have only been to one of my sister’s college meets, but it was the big one: NCAA 2008.

To the left: Lara accepted her 1st place medal for the 50 free at NCAA 2008.  She’s making a “WC” with her hand, for Wildcats.

My parents, as I have mentioned before, are experienced swimmeet cheerleaders.  By 2008 Lara was a junior and Mom and Dad had the schedule down pat.

This week, Lara and her teammates are swimming in the Pac-10 Conference in Seattle.  When you click on this (fourth photo in), you can see a picture of the 200 medley relay team, Hailey DeGolia, Annie Chandler, Lara Jackson and Lindsey Kelly.  Click here for UofA Pac-10 coverage.

If you’re very excited about Lara swimming, or if you don’t have anything else to do, you can watch live streaming of Lara’s best event, the 50 freestyle.  Just go to this website, and a screen will appear during the meet at the bottom right-hand corner.  Lara’s 50-free will begin at approximately 10 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 26.

Here’s what my parents’  Thursday will look like:

Early in the a.m., Mom will gather with other swim parents to assemble gift bags for all the doing goodie bags.jpggirls.  Parents collect little things like headbands, worry stones, removable tatoos, other goodies.  Anything in school colors is highly valuable.The parents leave the gift bags outside the girls’ hotel rooms.  This is a picture of me and the swim moms.

Mom and Dad will go to preliminaries and sit through many many heats.

From this glossary I found on the USA Swimming site:

 

 

Heats 

After preliminaries, Mom and Dad will go out to lunch.  Sometimes Lara goes too, but she won’t on Thursday.  So my parents will get food and bring it to her at the hotel.  During a meet, the swimmer’s needs come first.  I didn’t realize this when I went to NCAAs.  I didn’t realize that I would have no access to any food until Lara had everything she needed.  This year, I’m bringing a stash of Kashi bars.

Afternoon is rest time.

 In the evening, all the parents wait for the swimmers to come down to go warm up before finals. Parents cheering.jpg

 To the right is a picture of U of A parents cheering, waiting for that first swimmer to step off the elevator.

 The parents sing the Arizona fight song, wave pom-poms and generally try to embarrass their daughters.

 Finals will begin at 6 p.m. in Seattle, on Thursday.  They may continue until after 9 p.m.  Then my parents will congratulate Lara and the other swimmers and parents, collect Lara’s first place trophy, and only then can anyone who’s not a swimmer get dinner.

I’m bringing lots of Kashi bars.

– the division of an event in which there are too many swimmers to compete at one time. For example, an event with thirty swimmers in a six-lane pool would require five heats.In other words: there are eight lanes in a pool.  An event is the stroke and length (e.g. 50 meter freestyle).  A heat is a round of eight swimmers within an event.  The fastest 16 swimmers will swim in finals that evening.

 

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Out in the West Texas town of El Paso

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 12, 2009

cristo rey el paso from citydatadotcom.jpgEl Paso, Texas.  The Sun City.  Imagine the state of Texas in your mind.  See that far left pointy bit? That’s El Paso, squished between New Mexico and old Mexico.
Famous El Pasoans:

Don Haskins led the first basketball team with five black starters to NCAA victory, and then they made a movie about it.

Lee Trevino got his start at a golf tournament in El Paso.

Debbie Reynolds was born in El Paso.

And don’t forget Marty Robbins:

Though technically within Texas borders, El Paso does not, like every other major Texas city, claim to be home to the only “True Texans.”
Fun facts about El Paso:
It has a slightly larger population than Boston.
It is the fourth largest city in Texas.
It is the home of Chico’s Tacos.  NOT for the amateur.
Most El Paso residents are of Mexican descent.

When we were little babies, my parents put Lara and me in the care of a Mexican lady, Toni.  Toni weaned us on refried beans and Spanish rice and homemade tortillas, and menudo.  Mmm menudo, and I don’t mean the Ricky Martin band.  Here’s a site with more information than you will ever need about menudo.
desert pic el paso planetwaredotcom.jpgDespite four years each in her care, Lara and I do not speak Spanish.  It’s probably the biggest shame in my life.
Lara has not forgotten her home town — she mentions it whenever the press ask where she’s from.  And her home town has not forgotten her.

Lara was nominated to the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame on February 18, 2009.  Flip Lyle, triathlete and Hall of Fame treasurer, nominated her.  In Lara’s category three out of 10 to 15 athletes are chosen per year.

“I was excited and delighted to nominate Lara,” Lyle said over the phone.  “She is obviously an extraordinary swimmer.”
Three people must speak on the nominee’s behalf.  Lara’s high school coaches, including Wright Stanton, spoke for her and my parents assembled a resume of her achievements.
view from franklins.jpgLara still finds it “surreal” to think that so many people pay attention to her career.  Lara doesn’t think of herself as bigtime yet, but she said, “It feels good to be supported by your hometown.”

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The Great Black Suit Debate

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on March 11, 2009

LZR design.jpg

In the past year, Speedo introduced the LZR Racer suit, a full-body, technologically constructed super swim suit. (pictured left)

Speedo has one of my favorite websites, because you just feel cooler after you look at it.

 There now, don’t you feel cooler? 

This past week, the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) met with suit manufacturers to clarify the restrictions on competition suits.  You can read all the intricate details here

Speedo is not the only manufacturer of full-body, high-tech suits.  Lara wore a Blue Seventy at Olympic Trials, and a TYR— oops, no I meant this TYR — at the international meet in Japan.

The team suits at 2008 NCAAs were Nike.  Below, Annie Chandler, Hailey DeGolia, and Lara celebrate their 200 medley relay victory.  Notice the Nike. 

NCAA 2008 celebration.jpg How we know there’s a suit issue:

Over 100 world records were broken in the past year, and most of the record breakers were wearing one of these high-tech suits.

Studies determined that the suits help stocky swimmers more than tall swimmers.

At over 500 dollars, the suits are not accessible to every swimmer.  Lara said her team and coaches had to jump through hoops to get suits for all the swimmers who qualified for Olympic Trials.

In Lara’s words, “The suit thing turned out to be kind of a mess.”  She said the records have been broken, so what would happen to the records if the suits are declared to be “technological doping”?

She said, “How do you undo letting go floodgates?”

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