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Off the Deep End
The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis - and Qualify for the Olympics

by W. Hodding Carter

      Off the Deep End seems to be a very apt title for W. Hodding Carter's account of his preparations for trying to qualify for the upcoming summer Olympics in China.

In his attempt to be the oldest man to ever swim in the trials, the 45 year old, as of last December, was the fastest swimmer for his age group in the country. Whether that means he can successfully compete with athletes half his age remains to be seen, but Carter soon will find out.

A former NCAA Division III All-American and a national champion on his college swim team, Carter decided, after a 17 year hiatus, to return to competitive swimming. In what he subtitles "The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis", the father of four children invites the reader along as he trains to get back into shape and resumes competitive swimming.

From swim-trekking in the British Virgin Islands and participating in a relay around Manhattan Island, to returning to his alma mater, Kenyon College, to train with his former coach, Carter shares the step-by-step preparations that commenced in earnest about two years ago.

Some readers may find it ironic that in 1990 Carter, who is a writer by trade, published a controversial article in which he mocked Mark Spitz's attempt to return to the Olympics many years after his prime. In light of that bit of journalistic fluff, one might think the author's decision to "go for the gold" is simply a means to generate some interest for a book about dealing with male menopause.

Whether you see this as just an amusing memoir or as the epic story of one man's refusal to accept the limitations of middle age is probably of little consequence. The bottom line is that Off the Deep End is a well written, engaging book that offers a few chuckles and a couple of hours of reading pleasure.

The Book

Algonquin Books
June 10, 2008
Memoir / Swimming
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The Reviewer

Bob Walch
Reviewed 2008
© 2008