ROY -- This has been a prime year for Annabel Hofer: She turned 70 and has notched 7,000 lifetime miles of swimming at the Roy Complex.
As Hofer was nearing her mark around 5:45 a.m. Oct. 19, the lifeguards turned on Olympic music as she quietly turned lap after lap. Employees at the complex made the day extra special, giving her a portioned-off lane lined with balloons and a sign that read, "Congratulations Annabel! 7000 mile swimmer."
"Seven thousand miles is triple what most people ever accomplish as swimmers," said Cindy Taylor, assistant program supervisor at the Roy Complex.
Taylor has watched Hofer's dedication over the nearly 30 years she has been swimming at the complex.
"She's here five days a week," Taylor said.
A die-hard group of swimmers visits the complex in the early morning hours. Most come every other day, but Hofer comes every day unless she is traveling. Even recovering from surgery doesn't slow her down.
When Hofer was in her early 30s, she was diagnosed with arthritis and chronic joint disease.
"My doctor told me I had the joints of an 80-year-old," Hofer said as she relaxed in the water. Her doctor told her to hit the water to help her joint pain, and she took that to heart.
Hofer has had two knee replacements, three back fusions and her thumbs rebuilt, but the pool has been her best therapy.
"I just swim," she said.
Happiness is a mantle Hofer wears well.
"She is always happy, always smiling," said Tammy Hill, secretary at the complex.
"She walks in here at 10 (minutes) to 5 (in the morning) and is happy as a clam," Taylor said.
Many of her fellow swimmers also attested to that as they tried to find empty space to sign a congratulatory card for Hofer.
Hofer admits that some mornings she would like to stay in bed, but says she is always happy when she gets up. She is a retired schoolteacher who continued to work at her family's foundation. Now she works as a substitute teacher many days, which is her reason for the early morning swimming. Besides, the water puts her joints in a good place for the rest of the day, she said.
When she started swimming at the complex in the early 1980s she had several teacher friends who joined her. Many have gone in different directions and she misses them, but she still enjoys many of the friendships she has formed.
"You know how locker rooms are. We're just like high school when we get in there," she joked with fellow swimmer Karen Trenholm. Trenholm started swimming with Hofer in the 1980s, but now swims only a few days a week and admits she's not as faithful as her good friend.
"She is just fantastic. I am so proud of her," Trenholm said.
Both she and Hofer feel that swimming is what keeps them going and feeling good in life.
"It keeps the body oiled," Hofer said.
She doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon. She wants to reach 8,000 miles by the time she is 74 and thinks she could near 10,000 by the time she is 83 or 84.
Taylor believes she will do it because of her positive attitude and determination.
Hofer tries to share her enthusiasm for swimming because of the happiness being in the water has brought to her life.
"I put my grandkids in the water when they are babies. I like to get them going," she said. She is proud that one of her grandsons, now in his 20s, still carries the card the complex staff gave him when she reached 5,000 miles.
"His friends didn't believe his grandma actually swam all those miles, so they gave him a card to prove it," Hofer said. "He told me now he needs a new one to carry around in his wallet."