Seldom is a world record broken as nonchalantly as the one eclipsed earlier this month by Nancy Brown of Pasadena.
The 55-year-old member and coach of the Severna Park YMCA Masters swim team was having so much fun on her recent trip to Barbados that she nearly swapped herchance to compete for the opportunity to relax.
"I went to Barbados to have fun and to play, and to be honest, I never even thought of going for a world record," said Brown, who was accompanied to the International Short-Course Meters Masters SwimmingChampionships by her husband, Doug, and six teammates. "The whole thing was such a surprise."
On the eve of her record-setting mark, Brown and her entourage opted to sit out of the evening competition for more hedonistic pursuits.
While the group was busy enjoying the night life on the easternmost island of the Caribbean, Brown's husband was thumbing through a listing of world records in the tournament program, and he came across a 100-meter backstroke mark set by Flora Connolly of Scotland in 1989.
"I was glancing over his shoulder, and I saw it and I thought, 'maybe I have a shot at it'," said Brown. "My other teammates wanted to stay and party, but I decided to go backand go for it."
Brown's decision to return proved wise as she easily surpassed Connolly's time of 1 minute, 30.03 seconds and replacedit with a new best for the 55-59 age bracket of 1:28.79.
"I let the official know I was going for a world record and he announced it before the race," said Brown. "When I finished, thewhole place was applauding, so I knew I had done it. It was quite exciting."
Six people whose applause Brown did not hear when she emerged from the water were those of her teammates, who were back at the villa doing some celebrating of their own.
"When I got back to our place, they were well into their partying," said Brown, maintaining that she did not resent them for their absence. "I just thought to myself, 'those stinkers'."
More than 200 swimmers from eight countries competed in the four-day meet. Among the countries represented were the United States, Canada, England, Venezuela, Trinidad, Barbados, Curacao and Switzerland.
While setting a world record was the highlight of the voyage, Brown said it was her team's participation and unexpected success in the relays that made the trip complete.
Said Brown, "The neat thing about this trip was that I got my husband to go and swim on two relays."
The relay team, rounded out by Tom Levickas and Marge Burley, captured first place in the 200-plus mixed-medley relay. In the 200-plus bracket, the sum of the four swimmers' ages must exceed 200 years.
"Masters swimming is more for people who want to stay fit than ones who are seriously into the competition end of it," said Brown,whose goal is to complete the 4.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim. "I swim primarily for fitness and the social aspect of it.
"The competition gives you more of an incentive to train, but getting up at 5a.m. isn't always fun."
What is fun, however, is winning, something Brown has done a lot of since taking up the sport in 1973 at the age of 37.
At this year's YMCA National Masters Swimming Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., she competed in and won six individual events. In addition, Brown set YMCA national records in all of the events as well as two USMS national marks in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.
Brown's wins in the 500-meter freestyle, 400 intermediate medley, 200 backstroke, 200 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 50 backstrokeled to her appearance in Sports Illustrated's "Faces In The Crowd", putting added pressure on her to excel in next year's nationals slated for April 30 through May 3 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"I've gottenfaster as I've gotten older and that doesn't make sense," said Brown, who swims four days a week and lifts weights the other three. "It probably has a lot to do with the way I've trained in the last few years.
"I've always enjoyed it. There are periods of time when I get tired but I love it. I love the coaching and the camaraderie. I guessit's always been in my blood. I don't think I'll ever quit."