For the Troy Daily News
SIDNEY — Retired Troy teacher Rick Holly swam a victory lap for all baby boomers Wednesday morning when he completed the final leg of a 1,000 mile swimming marathon at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA pool. Over the past three years the YMCA staff encouraged Holly, age 65, and charted his progress on a poster in the lobby.
An exhilarated Holly joked, “My glass, I mean, my pool is not half full, but completely full.”
Holly says he swam the distance from Ohio to Key West Florida in the Sidney pool. It took me a little over three years, and this morning I swam a relaxing one-half mine to complete the journey.”
Holly said while he was still teaching reading and math to sixth-graders at Troy at the Hook and Van Cleve buildings, he did not have large blocks of free time. After he retired in June 2012 and joined the Sidney YMCA, he realized he had ample time to devote to physical fitness. The Y gave me the opportunity to use my free time in a new way.
He tried various workout activities, but eventually decided to focus on swimming.
“I basically splashed around the pool until I could physically do a lap,” smiled Holly. “I finally completed one mile in the pool and remembered the old saying; a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Holly admits the idea of swimming 999 more miles was overwhelming, but … “That was three years ago!”
“I decided my goal was to swim 1000 miles, the distance between Ohio and Florida. 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,” he explained. “I decided to swim Monday through Saturday, if my schedule allowed, and to swim only the front crawl.”
“The first few weeks I swam the front crawl thirty minutes without stopping carefully logging my mileage. Then I moved the time up to forty-five minutes, then an hour without stopping. I was recording good, long distances. I was slowly logging more and more miles.”
“As I got closer to the 1000 mile mark, I wanted to increase my daily mileage. So the last three months I decided to increase my daily swims to 2 1/2 miles a day. That took me about two hours and ten minutes a day to swim. I did that five days a week and swam 1 1/4 miles on Saturdays. My miles started to really add up, but it did tear my body up,” he acknowledged.
Holly is no stranger to arduous endeavors. He taught math and reading to Troy sixth graders for 36 years. During recess and gym he also taught them line dancing.
Several former staff members from Troy drove up Wednesday to support Holly.
“Before school when the kids could get into all kinds of mischief, the office would pipe music outside so the kids could dance the electric slide and other dances. It helped keep them out of trouble,” said former Troy assistant football coach Mike Salupo, who taught with Holly.
Holly says physical fitness is a life-long value he’s held dear and put to use in various ways. At Sidney High School he played varsity football and was a member of the victorious 30-0 Yellow Jacket team in the late 1960s. He and four team members also played football the following four years at Georgetown College in central Kentucky. The other Sidney players were Greg Helman, Bob Olson, Tom Callahan, and Tom Cramer.
After college Holly joined the U.S. Navy where he served four years and became an Operation Specialist Third Class.
Holly, a 1969 graduate of Sidney High School, grew up on military bases across the U.S. moving with his father and family. He said the physical fitness activities and organized swim instruction he witnessed on the bases probably inspired his own marathon journey.
“Long after my dad, a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army, retired from active duty he was still army-strong. I admired that. He was still cutting down trees at age 94.”
Holly will probably be cutting down some new challenges in his life as well. Holly and his wife Mary Lou live in Sidney and enjoy spending time with family and friends.