Heart transplant recipient Grotluschen swam for miles and miles and miles
By Denise O’Brien Van
Special to the Jefferson Herald
A new heart didn’t slow him down, only pushed him harder.
Greene County local Glenn Grotluschen swam 140.2 miles this summer, back and forth across the 25-yard width of Jefferson’s municipal outdoor pool.
Take that, you English Channel swimmers. They swim only 112 miles to get from England to France, which is the direction most of them choose to paddle. And forget that measly “26 miles across the sea” to Santa Catalina.
Grotluschen’s swim miles equal a round trip from Jefferson to the east edge of Des Moines.
Here’s the math on his 2022 aquatic feat:
• 246, 900 yards
• 9,876 times across the pool
• 124 laps a day
• 1.75 miles a day
Grotluschen pushed himself despite a relatively new heart.
Tall and lanky, with a long silver-gray pony tale and a deep suntan, he weighed 158.8 when he began this summer’s long-distance swim on June 1, and 151.6 on Sept. 1, the last day of the pool season. Grotluschen tries not to skip a day at the pool,— he missed only six this year— and swam every day in one five-week stretch during this year’s long, hot summer.
A cold fudge bar awaits him when he gets home after his swim. Then he eats a hearty lunch and takes a well-earned nap.
Grotluschen, 63, who is retired from the baking industry, has lived in Jefferson for 20 years. He endured a heart transplant in August 2018 at Omaha’s University of Nebraska Medical Center. He’d been swimming before the operation, but not as a serious lapper, he says. He took a hiatus from the water after the transplant, and was back in the pool in 2019, when he got serious about swimming.
Grotluschen credits another local lap swimmer, Wendi Smits, with providing him the impetus to step up his lapping.
“Wendi told me she swims a mile every day she’s at the pool,” Grotluschen said. “I’d never thought of doing that, and so I started.”
In the 90 minutes it takes to get that 1.75 miles a day, he swims at a leisurely pace — the side stroke, the breast stroke and the back stroke, assuring an even suntan.
“I’m like a rotisserie chicken,” he said. “You want to brown all sides.”
Grotluschen keeps track of those many laps with a waterproof digital “clicker” because of distractions — lifeguards, kids taking swim lessons, chatty fellow lappers — during his wet treks back and forth across the pool.
“I used to write it on the cement with a wet finger, but it kept drying up and I’d lose track,” he said.
During the nine months that the pool is closed while he awaits its usual late May opening day, “I exercise my patience,” Grotluschen said.
Asked he plans to swim next summer, Grotluschen said, “Oh, yeah!”
“That pool is a great asset for this town,” he said