SIDNEY — Rick Holly “got into the swim of things” at a very young age. For as long as he can remember he has loved the water and took advantage of every opportunity to go swimming.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Holly’s love of swimming was shared with his family and friends at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA as he completed a goal he set for himself three years ago — to swim 1,000 miles.
Holly’s father had a long career in the Army and their family moved around a lot, fortunately all the Army bases had a swimming pool, the one place he felt at home.
“It was a nice way for me to meet new friends, a place to have fun and get some exercise, most of the bases had swimming programs and offered lessons so I was always involved with swimming regardless of where we lived.”
As a young adult Holly joined the U.S. Navy mainly for its connection to the water.
“I figured I would get more chances to swim in the Navy,” said Holly, who was asked to try out for the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air And Land) a special branch of the Navy but declined and instead chose another direction that was less exciting but one he felt would be more profitable after leaving the service.
“As it turned out I chose to work with computers so in the end I did not get to swim as much but I guess it all worked out for the best,” he said.
After serving in the military he went to college, entered career in teaching, and taught school in Troy, Ohio, for 36 years. Along the way in 1982 at the age of 30 he entered a triathlon just to see how he would do in a long swim. In the competition he ran 13.1 miles, rode a bicycle 55 miles and swam for 1 1/8 miles.
“I didn’t win but fared well in the competition, the swimming was the easiest part for me and I think this inspired me to swim longer distances,” said Holly. Time passed and he continued to swim.
After his retirement from teaching Holly decided to join the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA to help stay in shape, when considering what to pursue for an activity Holly noted that was an easy decision to make, “I always enjoyed swimming so I headed to the pool!”
After swimming a while Holly realized he needed some kind of goal to help keep him motivated.” I decided my goal was to swim 1,000 miles” a goal he immediately shared with friends, family, and the staff at the YMCA swimming pool.
“Sharing a goal helps keep one accountable, when I set my goal it seamed a little lofty and I was scared about being able to pull it off, but I never backed down once I said I would do it. It’s the equivalent to swimming from Ohio to Key West Florida,” Holly said. “It’s a long way, but I knew I could never quit once I got started!”
“I always logged and recorded my exercises over the years so I came prepared with a swim watch to record my swim times and a swim lap counter ring to record the laps I swam each day.”
Holly swam Monday through Saturday every week as his schedule allowed. It took him a little over three years to swim the 1,000 miles.
“I had two rules I followed while achieving my goal; I had to stick with the “front crawl” style of swimming and I could not stop and rest once I started. I realized I had to swim a steady pace similar to a runner running a marathon, I could not sprint but had to swim at a steady pace … during a few swims I actually found myself falling asleep, there were times I dozed for approximately 20 minutes, I realized muscle memory took over as I dozed off in a half-sleep while I swam! I must admit swimming between an hour and two hours can get pretty boring under water so I decided to get a water-proof iPod to listen to while I swam, it certainly helped since I could not talk to other swimmers during my swims,” Holly said.
At first Holly swam only 30 minutes a day, but as time passed he increased the time in the water to 45 minutes and ultimately he was swimming 1 hour before stopping. As time passed he was logging more and more miles and eventually was swimming 2 ½ miles a day a feat that took about 2 hours and 10 minutes!
Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, was a bittersweet day as Holly came to the YMCA with only one-half mile to go. He was joined by friends and family along with several members of the YMCA staff who came to witness the completion of his monumental task.
With only 18 laps to go YMCA lifeguard Bridget Shepherd tallied the laps on a white board and held the numbers up for everyone on the outside of the pool area to see …. and Holly kept swimming! All in attendance clapped and broke into cries of celebration as Holly finished the final lap; as he tapped the wall and stood up he pulled up his goggles and gave the crowd a thumbs-up.
“We always kept lane No. 5 open for Rick and enjoyed his company, he has a very smooth and graceful swimming style and we often used him as a model to help other swimmers improve their technique,” said Shepherd.
Sonia Arar, the other lifeguard who was always present while Holly swam, said, “Nothing stopped Rick once he started swimming, he was always very dedicated to his challenge and his goal. Rick is a true gentleman, a very nice guy, in a way I hate to see this end but at the same time I am very happy for his success.”
After finishing his 1,000 miles Holly joined a host of others outside the pool area where refreshments were served and he was presented with a T-shirt with a figure of a swimmer and the words “1000 Miles Free Style.” Holly was also presented with a large framed portrait with his photograph with those in attendance writing words of congratulations on the glass.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.