Off the Deep End

Off the Deep End

by W. Hodding Carter

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Hodding Carter dreamed of being an Olympian as a kid. He worshipped Mark Spitz, swam his heart out, and just missed qualifying for the Olympic trials in swimming as a college senior. Although he didn't qualify for the 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or 2004 Olympics, he never stopped believing he could make it. And despite past failures and the passage of time, Carter began his quest once more at the age of forty-two.

Maybe he's crazy. But then again, maybe he's onto something. He entered the Masters Championships. He swam three to four miles each day, six days a week. He pumped iron, trained with former Olympians, and consulted with swimming gurus and medical researchers who taught him that the body doesn't have to age. He swam with sharks (inadvertently) in the Virgin Islands, suffered hypothermia in a relay around Manhattan, and put on fifteen pounds of muscle. Amazingly, he discovered that his heartbeat could keep pace with the best of the younger swimmers'. And each day he felt stronger, swam faster, and became more convinced that he wasn't crazy.

This outrageous, courageous chronicle is much more than Carter's race with time to make it to the Olympics. It's the exhilarating story of a man who rebels against middle age the only way he can—by chasing a dream. His article in Outside magazine, on which this book is based, was the winner of a Lowell Thomas award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565126428
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 06/10/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 209
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

W. Hodding Carter was an NCAA Division III All-American and a national champion on his college swim team. He is a contributing writer for Outside magazine, has written for Esquire and Gourmet, and is the author of five previous books of nonfiction.

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Off the Deep End: The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way through a Midlife Crisis--and Qualify for the Olympics 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
tyroeternal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was sad to find that while funny, I did not enjoy Carter's writing all that much. Much of the story was spent switching wildly back and forth between hoping beyond all hope, and just as quickly turning around and deciding to give up on his quest. While the ups and downs of the story were to be expected it made for a long read. I really wanted to enjoy Off the Deep End, but I just could not get into it.
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Off the Deep End, by W. Hodding Carter, describes Carter's attempt - at age 45 - to make the US Olympic swimming team. The book describes the effect this attempt has on his life - he's a husband and father - and on his own psyche. There are several amusing anecdotes along with some musings on how aging affects performance.I was really hoping to enjoy this book. I am also in my mid-forties, and my husband is a former competitive swimmer. However, although I understand I read an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC), the book seems unfinished and very unpolished. A few of the chapters were originally articles in magazines, and those chapters jump out as having been carefully written and edited. The book was also fairly unfocused. It seems as if it needed a central theme - either more about how his training affected his family life or more about the relationship between age and athleticism. According to the publisher, another chapter will be added before the book is published, which may help round out the book. I also hope that an editor can get to it and really help Carter bring some focus to the book because, frankly, it needs it. The book's unevenness seemed to echo Carter's descriptions of his uneven training attempts over the past few years; however, I doubt very much this was intentional. I was really hoping to enjoy this book, and I definitely enjoyed a few parts of it, but overall - in the ARC edition - it was an uneven and ultimately unsatisfying read.
acornell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Off the Deep End by Hodding CarterLately memoirs take on this form: find something outrageous and nearly impossible (but not totally impossible) to do. Do it. Write about how hard it was to do it. I have read memoirs of families who gave up buying everything except basic necessities for one year, gave up using electricity for a year, gave up buying anything made in China for a year, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, walked across the country, and cooked all the recipes from Julia Child¿s The Art of French Cooking over the course of one year.Hodding Carter has the latest entry into the memoir-turns-daring-do saga, he is going to train for and compete in swimming at the 2008 summer Olympics at age 45. The advanced copy I read does not include the final chapter which will relate his encounter at the Olympic swimming trials. I can¿t really say if the final chapter would have made a difference in how I feel about his story.For much of the book I really did not like Mr. Carter. He struck me as a 43 year old frat boy who was having a hard time accepting middle age. The fact that he kept admitting his frat boy tendencies did nothing to endear me to him. The technical aspects of swimming were not interesting for me¿they may be for seasoned swimmers¿and a lot of the book seemed bogged down by details of stroke and times and races. It was hard to get through. There were a few interesting adventures most notably his swimming from island to island in the Caribbean in a sort of swimming trek adventure and also his relay swim around Manhattan Island. Even during these adventures he seemed like a puffed up school boy. The kind I mostly try to avoid.Just the same, being about 45 myself, I hope he is able to make the Olympics. I will watch for him, and I will pick up the book when it is out to see if I can find out his fate at the trials. I will also send this book to an old friend who is an avid swimmer. Perhaps she will understand some of the swimming-speak and relate to him a bit more.
bookgirl_Isaacson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as an advance reader copy. It was a very quick and easy read. Carter is witty and entertaining with a sarcastic sense of humor. The book follows his journey toward swimming at the Olympic Trials as a middle-aged man. My copy of the book did not contain the final chapter(s) so I cannot say whether or not he actually did make it to the trials. Guess, I'll have to big it pick at the bookstore to see the final result. The book details his training regime and goes through his initial embarrassment at not performing well and then eventually his growing success in competition. It also discusses his family life and relationship with his wife throughout his fanatical trip toward the Trials. While the book was interesting for me, a 30-something stay-at-home-mom, I think it would be a particularly good choice for anyone who was a competetive swimmer sometime in their life, or perhaps a middle-aged man who might be nearing a mid-life crisis. It is being published around Father's Day and I think it would make for a great Father's Day gift.
scofer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hodding Carter, a 45 year old struggling writer and father of four, is pursuing a place on the 2008 Olympic swim team. The book chronicles his journey, although my advance review copy did not include the last chapter which will let the reader know whether he achieved his goal. Off the Deep End is a quick and somewhat enjoyable read, filled with humor and self deprecation (which is very much deserved). Parts of the book were highly entertaining, including a chapter recounting a trip to the Virgin Islands as part of a story for Outside magazine where Hodding and a friend swim between the islands, carrying their gear by surfboard tethered to their feet. I am pulling for Hodding to secure a spot on the Olympic team despite the fact that the book makes it difficult to identify with or even like Hodding. I can¿t help but be honest that the book provides a little too much information that is, frankly, a turn off. For example, Hodding is enamored of his ¿buff¿ physique which he discusses quite a bit, including one annoying episode where he is flexing his muscles in the mirror for 15 minutes while Lisa (his wife, a lawyer and breadwinner of the family) is folding laundry nearby. At another point, Hodding is training at an exclusive and expensive swim camp, financed by his wife who is at home taking care of their four kids, and Hodding describes flirting with one of the staff. The mention of ogling women and flirting appears several times, in fact, which I find astonishing since he is honest about his marriage difficulties. But, most disappointing of all, while Hodding clearly loves to swim, it is evident that he is doing all of this in an attempt to secure endorsements. I wish I did not know that. In the end, I hope that Hodding achieves his goals ¿ and grows up along the way.[This book was reviewed as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers group]
verbafacio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Off the Deep End is Hodding Carter's first-person narrative of his trek towards qualifying for the Olympics. At base, this is not a very new story. The twist, though, is that Hodding is about 20 years older than the typical Olympian -- he will be 45 at the 2008 Olympics, if he makes it there. This book is a pretty entertaining read. Carter describes his plans for getting back into world-class shape. Though, really, he was never actually up to Olympic par as a younger man. A writer by day, Carter finds unique ways to be paid to train -- by writing about a trek island hopping through the British Virgin Islands or returning to Kenyon College to train with his college swim team. These episodes make for some captivating reading.As a whole, the book is a little spotty. The sections that Carter was paid to write about were well organized and interesting, but other chapters were sometimes poorly organized, and it was hard to really get a sense of his organized plan for victory. Carter's swimming career has been full of stops and starts, and it is hard to tell whether he stands a chance or not.Whether or not Hodding Carter makes it to the Olympics, this book is a fun, quick read, and it definitely makes you root for him. Only time will tell whether his work will pay off.
re_re_98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as an ARC and wasn't sure whether or not I would be able to "get into it". However, after I began reading, I found it quite addictive and was unable to put it down. I am interested to read the ending when it is published so I can find out whether or not he makes it to the Olympics.
tcrutch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Go Hoddo, Go! I am a twenty something professional woman and I have little in common with W. Hodding Carter. Despite this fact, I found Off the Deep End to be charming and inspirational. Off the Deep End brings back my memories of being on a swim team as a kid. I fondly remember the aroma of chlorine and the silky cool water gliding across my skin. Although I didn¿t have Olympic potential as a kid and I could careless about the Summer Olympics today, I can certainly relate to Carter¿s desire to beat the odds and make the cut for the Olympics. I am pullin` for ya Hoddo! I agree with other reviewers that this is no great work of literature and could be improved. However, having read the last few chapters improves my overall rating
Halieus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received my "Advance Reading Copy. (Not For Sale.)" of W. Hodding Carter's Off the Deep End on a Thursday. It just so happened that the months of February and March (and now April, too) have been some of the busiest weeks I've lived. I knew I needed to read the book and review it (that IS, after all, the reason they SENT it to ME), but I wasn't sure when I'd have the time. Late Friday night I decided to see how the first chapter started.Picking up Off the Deep End turned out to have been a bad idea (since I still had a lot of work to do that weekend). It was all I could do to put Carter's book down after the second chapter. All day Saturday, as I was attempting to finish up my work, all I could think about was finishing the book. Late Saturday night (when I should have been getting ready for bed) I picked up Carter's book once again -- and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.I find that I can identify quite well with the author: I'm passing my mid-thirties, but (even though they aren't very large) I haven't enjoyed discovering I'm now growing "love bumps" (which I'm told turn into "love handles" very quickly), that I've had to start purchasing my pants 1 to 2 inches larger in the waist (depending on the brand of course -- I could still squeeze into a 31" waist, but I wouldn't do it on the way to an all-you-can-eat-buffet), and that my lack of endurance is getting worse. It seems life, wife, children, and my own lack of commitment tend to erect numerous hurdles and hindrances to my desire of getting back into shape.Of course, "my" sport was never swimming (I do love the water though), it was cross-country jogging -- and I was never anywhere near world-class competition levels (I was happy when I wasn't running J.V.), but more often I'm noticing lingering thoughts creeping around in the back of my mind: if I would just commit to the effort... my body would respond to the challenge.Off the Deep End offered reassurance that I'm not crazy, it renewed my hope in myself, and has instilled a fresh desire to quit sitting around wishing I was in better shape and make the time to do it.I know footnotes and parenthetical statements annoy some people to no end, but that is exactly the way I think (and write), so I enjoyed Carter's style of writing immensely. The only thing I didn't like about the book was its length: I found myself wanting to know more -- and to be able to follow his monthly progress (or even weekly).I was initially disappointed that the last chapter wasn't included (actually, the very first disappointment was finding a card STAPLED TO THE FRONT COVER!! -- geez), but now I'm to the point that I'm looking forward to seeing what else he includes when Off the Deep End finally goes to press.
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hodding Carter wants to swim in the Olympics That's a lofty goal for any young champion swimmer. The problem is that Carter is in his forties and everyone it seems with the exception of Carter himself knows this. In fact almost everything he does in preparation for the Olympic trials seems to prove this point. Carter's trials and tribulations in trying to achieve this goal are very entertaining and a great read.I guess I was interested in this book becuase as an endurance athlete myself I'm also trying to make a comeback and achieve some goals that I left behind in my younger years. I can relate to Carter's struggles with finding the time, children's priorities and the marital strain that results. Ultimately, this book is about achieving unfulfilled dreams. It's about stopping the biological clock and recapturing youth. There is a time in everyone's life where they realize it's now or never.I was dissapointed that the ARC book was missing the final chapter. Carter comes from a family of writers and his book is good but not great. It's a quick read and it's entertaining with a nice mix of humor. While it would certainly appeal to the athlete I think anyone would enjoy Off the Deep End.
Jax450 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to dig into this book...being a former Masters Swimmer I thought it was a great adventure to chronicle in a book. And a 40+ man going for the Olympics...even better!But I was disappointed quite early on by Hodding's effort. It was hard to root for an "underdog" who thought so highly of himself. And his name dropping seems gratuitous to the extreme...a reader has no idea who these people are and putting their full names in the book with a laundry list of what they've accomplished seems like a way to boost their ego.I ended up laughing at Hodding Carter...but for all the wrong reasons. At least I was laughing and he does have a light attitude throughout the book. And I have to admit, I cheered a little when he got his. While the book left some to be desired, it's an OK summer read.
cammie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this ARC back in April as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. The description of the book sounding interesting: middle-aged man decides to train for the Olympic Swim team, in part as a way "through a midlife crisis". When the book arrived, there was a note that one chapter was missing and would be send later. The book was published 2 weeks ago, but I haven't received the pages yet. Since the Olympic swim trials were this week, I decided to read this without the remaining pages. I'm not sure what has been left out -- given the publication date, it doesn't seem likely to have been an epilogue stating whether Carter made the Olympic team -- but I'm not sure that the book would seem any more complete had the absent chapter been included. This book is very uneven: there doesn't seem to be a coherent arrangement to the chapters and the timeline is unclear. Some of the chapters were published previously. Those that haven't been appear less polished. I realize that this is an ARC, but it seems to me that more substantial editing would need to happen. I'm not involved in publishing, but I always thought that ARCs were 'almost ready' for publication and that any substantive editing would have already occurred. Perhaps I'm wrong with this book.Carter adopts a self-deprecating sense of humor in this book, but the book doesn't seem to have an overall consistent tone. The result of the humor, then, reads more like arrogance than self-deprecation. I think that Carter wants the reader to see that he did have a certain amount of arrogance to think that he even had a chance to make the Olympic team, but I was left wondering if that really was his point. The approach of the book is also unclear: parts of it are memoir, parts training guide, parts sports travelogue when he writes about swimming from on Virgin Island to the next, or participating in an 8 hour swim around Manhattan. The audience isn't clear. Is he writing to swimmers? If so, then he shouldn't have included some of the explications about the sport (pool size, standards, etc.). But, if he wasn't intending to target swim enthusiasts, why did he go into such detail (and assumption) about certain swim personalities, not just on an Olympic level that a casual observer of the sport might know, but on the region Masters level. Overall, I found the book disappointing. It could have been so much more. Carter did not qualify for the Olympic Swim Trials. Despite the flaws of the book, I wish that he had. Along with Dana Torres, it would have been quite the story for 2 40-something swimmers to leave younger contenders in their wake.
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Journalist Carter takes a fairly humorous and self-deprecating look at himself as a forty-something trying to qualify for the Olympics after a twenty year hiatus from any competitive swimming. He details his long and frequently embarrassing struggle, beginning in 2004, to get back to (and hopefully surpass) his former conditioning and glory days of college swimming and those details might only be of interest to those with a love of all things swimming, but his sarcastic tone and Dave Barry-esque asides will appeal to a wider audience. Hodding attends swim camp, takes a job as assistant aquatics director at the local Y (an experience almost as humbling as trying to qualify) and takes some hits to his marriage and finances along the way. By the end of the book he has improved his time and is within one-tenth of a second of his best time ever, but that¿s still a quantum leap from becoming an Olympian. The final chapter, where Carter reflects on the swimming enjoyment and success of his young children puts a feel-good finish to the tale.
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I laughed throughout this entire book. Carter bravely and honestly recounts his humbling experiences training for the Olympics at age 45. This is a great book about failure and dreaming big. I think this book will stick with me for awhile.

on a side note, he's from Greenville, MS in the delta where we lived for 5 years (one town over). We saw him speak at the YMCA in 2005 when he was beginning to train for the Olympics. (I'm pretty sure I remember him mentioning it at the time, but I think he made it sound like a joke).
Mmccullough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hodding's dream has always been to qualify for and compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming. An engaging non-fiction book for sports lovers and those who don't believe in putting age limits on what they can accomplish. Hodding shares deep personal emotions, family issues and internal struggles of whether this quest is worth pursuing.
mckait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of a man who somehow never managed to grow into his own life. As a youth he had a dream of swimming in the Olympics, but his father did not support the idea.Giving up his pursuit of Olympic fame and joining the Peace Corps did not give him the satisfaction or the notoriety that he craved. Year followed excruciating year, college, marriage and children. Still he swam, but never seemed to derive any pleasure from the activity. At the age of forty one, his dream revived and he once again began to train to be an Olympic swimmer. Maybe it helps if the reader is a middle aged man. As I turned page after page searching for a reason to continue reading, I became more angry with this man. He had a somewhat stable and successful career, but could have achieved so much more if he could focus on reality and be a man with a family who loves to swim. Even a man who enjoys competing. To me, he comes off as a selfish, self centered individual who ignores the responsibility he took on when he became a husband and father. He leaves his wife with an unfair share of responsibility for finances and family, while he jumps into various bodies of water and paddles his way to nowhere. A soggy Peter Pan, no more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
An easy read, very entertaining. W. Hodding Carter is a nice guy, even though he made the unfortunate choice to attend college in Gambier Ohio. With tongue fimrmly planted in cheek, he recounts his efforts to qualify for the 2008 (oops, let's make that 2012) Olympics as a sprinter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a twenty something, professional woman and I have little in common with W. Hodding Carter. Despite this fact, I found Off the Deep End to be charming and inspirational. Although it is no great work of literature, Off the Deep End brings back fond memories of being on a swim team as a kid. I warmly remember the aroma of chlorine and the silky cool water gliding across my skin. Although I didn¿t have Olympic potential as a kid and I could care less about the Summer Olympics today, I can certainly relate to Carter¿s desire to beat the odds and make the cut for the Olympics. I am pullin` for ya Hoddo - make your readers proud!