Hard Drive

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2004

Deb Walker can swim the 100-meter breaststroke in about a minute and a half-1:27:07 to be precise-and she has the national championship to prove it. In the U.S. Masters rankings of the 2003 long-course season, she was No. 1, besting her nearest competitor (her twin sister, Dot Munger, of Philadelphia) by 31 hundredths of a second. Last year, Walker also earned the national title for the 200-meter breaststroke.

Not bad for the 52-year-old DOS Computers technician, who, under contract with Sarasota County government, spends her days fixing the computers at branch libraries and other government facilities.

Walker moved to Sarasota in 1973 right out of Penn State University, where she was a competitive swimmer, and quickly joined the Suncoast Masters. (The group has since merged with a Fort Myers team to become Swim Florida Masters.) You can find her six days a week at Arlington Park pool, doing an hour-and-a-half workout that includes 4,000 to 5,000 yards of aerobic training, sprint training and what she calls "meet preparation." The Sarasota group has 40 members age 24 to 77; among the core group of eight who train together everyday are several physicians, a landscape architect and the director of the Sarasota Housing Authority.

"It's painful," she says. "Sometimes it's just not fun. I have to tell myself I'm going to be miserable."

So what keeps her in the swim? Fitness for one thing. And a hard competitive drive. "Its not so much winning. When I had those number-one places in 2003 I was not happy with my times. It's really about goals," she says. "There's nothing better than working harder and seeing a number one."

And she's not happy than in 2002, an English swimmer beat her world record in long course meters. "I'll have to get that back," she says.

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