Phil Simpson, a True Ironman

Rodger Bivens

Former two-term president of the SaddleBrooke Swim Club, Phil Simpson, has had a remarkable swimming career at SaddleBrooke. Just recently, he achieved a highlight in this career when he won his age group at the Arizona Winter Distance Invitational Swim Meet held at the Oro Valley Aquatic Center on Feb. 25 and 26 for the second consecutive year. This competition is unique in that it consists of three long-distance events over two days. On the morning of the first day (Saturday), competitors must swim a 1,650-yard event. After a break, they must then swim a 1,000-yard event, thus completing the day’s races. The next morning (Sunday), the pool lanes are reset for 50-meter lengths, and in the early morning, the competitors had to swim a 1,500-meter event. You may recall that the morning of Sunday, Feb. 26, was a “snow” morning for SaddleBrooke. As a result of the cold, there was so much steam coming off the surface of the pool that one could not see from one end to the other.

For Phil, the journey to compete in this difficult swimming meet has been an arduous one. He has had to conquer many health issues, starting as far back as January 2011. At that time, he began radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Shoulder surgery followed in November 2013. However, in early 2018, Phil did complete the same Winter Distance Swim Meet. Then an Afib-caused stroke put him in the hospital in July 2018. Open heart surgery, to include double bypass and valve repair, was necessary in August 2018, and a pacemaker was inserted in January 2019. During this time, Phil was able to keep his spirits high and remain confident that he could soon return to his swimming.

But in March 2019, he was hospitalized for a month when it was discovered he had bleeding in his urinary tract. Following the hospital stay, Phil’s treatment for this condition included a series of 30 Hyperbaric Chamber sessions. Then, after discovery of bladder cancer, Phil had to have surgery in January 2020, followed by chemo treatments and then more bladder surgery in July 2020, followed by more chemo treatments. At this time, Phil was determined to return to his swimming, so he began to climb back into the pool and gradually swim laps once again. In early 2022, as proof to himself, he again swam the Winter Distance competition, even while his chemo treatments, along with further testing, were continuing well into 2022.

Phil’s fortitude, morale, and positive outlook never wavered during his incredible health battle. His age group victories in this and last year’s Winter Distance Meet are a testimony to his spirit and desire. He has made such an impact on so many of us that I view him as a true Ironman in all respects.