Thursday, March 4, 2010

No problem at all

Elaine Brown didn't blow out 70 candles Wednesday on her 70th birthday. But she did swim 70 50-yard laps as she had hoped to in celebration of her next decade.

Before about 18 watching at Gold's Gym, including son Kevin and granddaughter Haley, and three cameras to record the moment, Brown was impressive in the pool as I knew she would be.

"She doesn't have an 'off switch,'" said her friend, Janda Raker.

Brown, as I chronicled in a Friday column, is an inspiration. She lost her left leg when hit by a drunk driver outside Panhandle in 1988. In 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through chemo and became a survivor.

An active swimmer for more than 15 years, Brown's plan was to swim 70 laps and help raise money for the local chapter of the Red Cross. She did so -- with two arms, one leg and an immeasurable amount of determination -- like a metronome. Consistent, back and forth, back and forth. Most of her laps were around 1 minute, 10 seconds. She did her 70th lap in 1:15 to cheers and applause. Afterward, soaking in the water and the adulation, she was serenaded with "Happy Birthday!"

Her extra lap for the two miles was in 1:27 before she finally called it quits. Her actual 70-lap time was 1 hour, 26 minutes, and 16 seconds after she started.

"Oh, I was going to do another lap," said a beaming Brown. "This is a good thing. I really did better than I thought I would do."

The most laps Brown had gone before Wednesday was 50 in training a few weeks ago.

"I'm really excited about the time," she said. "I was hoping for 1:30. I figured 1:30 to 1:40, so I swam better than I thought."

And so how was the rest of her birthday going to be spent?


Elaine didn't argue.

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