To all my U.S friends and fellow USMS members:
Tomorrow being the 4th of July, I have my kindle e-book “Kyle Harrison: Movie Star” on sale at $1.99.
The “blurb” says it's 67 pages or such but that really isn't quite true. For example, before I put my “Riding a Strong Wind” into paperback format, they said it was 137 pages on Kindle. Well now the paperback is out and I'm holding 210 pages in my hands. So you can almost double Kindle's count. Anyway, it's not a big deal.
The action is almost all Hollywood. In fact, so much so, you'd almost think I'd actually been there and been on a movie set …..
Would love to hear from anyone as to whether you're at all interested in the idea I had of videoing my “Stopwatch sprints workout”. I mean c'mon feed me back some encouragement here … that water is cold. Well actually it's around 31ºC but I like it Warm !!!
Happy Fourth !!
So I was thinking, and wondering, and I was wondering How.
How could I get a bit more interest in getting fitter? How could I re-ignite a smidgen of the interest I had as a younger (just a little) competitor, and I came up with this Brilliant idea: to use the Stopwatch!!!
Now probably, all you club swimmers have pace-clocks and coaches who time you on the occasional sprint in workouts. They (the coaches) probably also give you that invaluable bit of instruction when you're in a race; you know the bit where they walk alongside you, busting your gut there in the pool, and shout from their deck-side position the breakthrough concept, “Up, UP!!”
Bet you'd have never thought of that yourself, would you??
Anyway I digest ... no, I who have no-one ... no I ... I who have nothing … oh hang on, I'm off on a tangential frivolity.
Anyway (again) getting back to the Brilliant Stopwatch Diet or Training or whatever, I'm going to see if doing less but timing it, will work.
So here's the plan – Rather than swimming endlessly up and down and being bored out of my skull, I'm going to swim pretty much Just Sprints, apart from a little warm up, loosen up and all that usual jazz.
And I'm going to video it, Right here in River City … well actually Not right here in River City, but here at a small private pool, that I am allowed to use.
So maybe it will work and maybe not. But I will explain very briefly the concept when I do the video.
Will probably film it in mid-July, cos I like the water to be warm, and the weather to be warm and your welcome to be warm and … now I've run out of things to be warm ....
I started using the KlarFit Ellifit elliptical cross-trainer today and, man, that was harder than I thought it would be! I was all ready to be doing maybe twenty minutes for a first day … I mean, what's the problem? I'm in fairly good shape, swimming more towards the sharp end than the other, and here I am with a cold realization that after three minutes, my legs are singing.
So it's harder than it looks but, being serious, it's probably going to be great for developing my leg power. We shall see. If I don't post a blog tomorrow, you can take it that I couldn't get out of bed, for the tightness in my thighs !! I did persevere and totalled 7km on the machine in four sets.
Anyway, here is today's excerpt from my book (you've already heard me mention its title ad nauseum), and it's from the story “Barra” about an American movie actress seeking seclusion, away from the glare, in the Hebridean Isles of Scotland.
“As the shop emptied out, with the friendly groups leaving together, engrossed in excited conversation, Ruari took the opportunity to ask the shop mistress about the 'movie star'.
“Who is she then, Maggie? Is she really a movie star, and if she is, what's she doing on Barra?”
“Och she's hiding” - she busied herself organizing the display of the morning papers - “She's running away. Joseph at the bank says she's wanting to become a reckless.” And she nodded a knowing confidentiality.
“A reckless, are you sure you have that right, Maggie? Do you mean a recluse?”
“Aye, aye that's it, a reckless recluse, exactly … she's a bit odd y'know, and you mind now just how much you're tied up with her, that's all I'd say.” And she stood back relaxed, having ordered and tidied the papers to her satisfaction.”
I have decided to take a break from pool work and instead concentrate on my core fitness and my leg muscles by using an elliptical cross-trainer. So I spent the morning putting together my new KlarFit Ellifit elliptical cross-trainer and, from my brief test trial, I think it will substitute admirably for legs-only in the meantime and give me a good cardio workout. I hope to be back in the pool within the next two weeks, but sometimes variety can be the spice.
Now as today's excerpt relates to a major Games, this might be of interest to those who were swimming in the late sixties.
Today's story from my book “Riding a Strong Wind” is called “Santa Barbara” (on sale for 99 cents on Amazon.com, and 99 pence on Amazon UK).
"The teams lined into their respective placings for entry, they would be marshalled to enter alphabetically and hold position and decorum, until after the officials had made their closing speeches. There would be time for rejoicing, but that would be after all official ceremonies were concluded.
There were even two or three bands inside at their station ready to let it rip and entertain at the appointed hour, but first would be the serious business of sedately closing these Games with a touch of regret, a little sadness, and some hope for the future. Oh yes, they had their plans and protocol very well organized.
However ... however, one does not restrain 2,000 fit athletes on a warm night when - their tasks done, their business concluded, and their medals won - they are feeling good. Feeling good about the night, good about life and filled with athletic edge."
Yes, I did go to the Championnats Maîtres du Limousin and it was interesting from an informative point of view.
I mean, no matter how long you have been competing, there is always something to be gleaned from how one performs NOW. Things change, methods of training change, methods of stroke efficiency change, and so I am always open to any “valuable” change. Valuable to me, that is.
So it was a bright and sunny morning when I set off through the glorious wine country of the Gironde, and I was aspirant in my expectation that, after several weeks of fruitless searching, I would eventually find a gas station that had an air hose, so I could pump up my slowly deflating tires. I made my way through the hamlets and villages and finally burst forth onto the N10/141 to Angouleme.
Now I would get some air in my tires and some gas in my empty-signalling gas tank. First gas station I'd be over and in, like a shot. For sure on a national highway these gas stations would be equipped – definitely.
So I spied an Esso and over I pulled ... located the Air/Water station with a designated bay for such, all organized – yeah, here we go … Hang on – no, we don't. They've taken the hose connection away from the machine. Don't want folks wearing it out, y'see.
So Sod it – I'm not gassing up at Esso, if that's how it is.
And so I rejoin the highway looking for the next gas station.
Now I should first explain that my gas tank registers empty when I believe it has half a tank of gas. I once had the gas tank worked on and, when it came back, that's how it was. How they managed to screw it up I don't know, but when I gas-up I can hear the tank come to the top, and the auto kicks the pump off as well.
So I have never tested how far I can go showing empty but I imagine quite some way. However, I would like to remove any doubt and get some gas.
NO … no gas stations on the highway for over 160 km. I had to pull off the highway and find a supermarket in a nearby village, gas up – NO ... no air hose, you knew that by now, right ?!!
It always makes me think of the Dylan song “You got a lot of gall, to be so useless an' all”.
So anyway – I got there. Now getting back to the swimming and, as Frank would say, “and right now there really ain't no other place to go”. Great monologue that by Mr Sinatra from “Live at The Sands”. If you need a laugh you should give it a listen, Very very funny.
OK - so back to the swimming. I was saying, two or three blog rambles ago, that nothing brings you ON more than competition.
Well, in a pool with a flip-turning end of about two and a half foot depth, I managed a 29:37 sec for the 50 Free. 50 Breast was 39:29 – which was pretty pathetic, but it was the first breast-stroke swim for five years, so it's a start.
I didn't wait around for the medal handing out, as I had a long drive home, but I am now Champion du Limousin in my two events.
So the point is, if you recall, in the 50 Free I did 30:22 at the Aquitaine Champs on 23 Feb. And on Sunday, 9 March, I did 29:37. So there - .85 of a second off in two weeks ... due, I believe, to the simple act of competing. No extra training and, in fact, coming straight off a 240 km drive.
So, you see, something happens automatically to the body – signals or messages get passed. All you gotta do is get out there and let it happen. Cos if you show up ENOUGH, the improvement will show up.
Now I've scoured the Swim Agenda sites here and I can't see another competition in sight, but I will continue to search. Certainly my using competitions as training sure beats dragging up and down the pool, although I will continue with that also.
So I may post less frequently, as I'm sure you all have many work-out sources, although if I have some thoughts on other topics, I will put them here.
Now re my books – here's a very short, true story. When I was at school I got selected for the British Swim Team. Well, of course, a lot of guys at the school hated that (some teachers, too). It was an aggravation to them to see my name in the newspapers and me on TV.
Anyway, Thursdays were “Sports Days” and after four years of Rugby every week, we got the choice of Soccer OR Rugby – well, no-brainer right? I mean after four years of being tackled when I was in full flight as a Wing Three-quarter (I'm the last guy to get the ball as it comes out the line advancing, and expected to run for a TRY), I chose Soccer.
So in the Quad one morning we have the ceremony to choose the teams. Eleven guys each, in eight or so teams.
Well, I'll cut to the chase here. Who was the last guy chosen? Yeah you got it – 'twas me !!
“He couldn't be any good, he's a swimmer … etc. etc.”
So we start the season and there is dismay amongst the soccer aficionados … the tables are posted on the school noticeboard and there, sitting atop the Goal Scoring Chart, is … yes, Me.
However, flukes do not repeat, and next week the board is checked with anticipation. But, alas, the widening gap in number of goals atop the chart is attributed to … yes, Me.
And so it continued for several weeks until National Swim Team commitments and travel prevented my further attendance.
So, you see, it may be disadvantageous to be dismissive without assurance in one's deliberations. So, please read the “Look Inside” before you decide about the literary (and enjoyment) merit of my “Riding a Strong Wind”. You may be surprised.
Yes, I do have an inference in the title by using the word 'back', but now that I'm writing, I can't remember what it was … probably because I've been so involved with this book on 'memory retention' that I've been studying.
Anyway, back to the pool …. heavens, I've said that already, haven't I ?
Got to beware of repeating myself, although working out at the pool is basically about repeating oneself, isn't it? Up and Down, Back and Forth ad nauseum .... till we have amassed the prescribed daily diet of our own dictatorial dictum.
Oh yes, I've remembered what the 'back' reference thing was all about – my back ... it's slightly better. Knew you'd be riveted and somewhat excited.
So roll on the 9th March and then I can get on to Spring and the gloriousness of it … and dwell no more on 'winters of discontent' in a dark and sinister way.
My swim was just a loosen-up, and try the back, and I did, and it worked, so I did not stress it further by asking for anything of note, or effort, or import, or consequence …. I've run out of words.
Next pool day Thursday … well, at least that's the plan.
Off to listen to my fave female soul singer, Bonnie Raitt, in a great Youtube video on the Jools Holland programme 2013. If you don't think that's soul … Man, can she sing, what a voice!
OK … so I realise that all you thousands of folks have started to wonder, “Where is his latest blog??” Yes, I know, but I was just a trifle busy moving France slightly to the right, and some idiot was waving around green Kryptonite, it was most debilitating for a moment or two.
Anyway, I'm back all organized and rested … well, not exactly, because as I was tearing parts of Bretagne from its moorings, I pulled something in my back so I 'put it out' and, to pile a little pressure on, the Limousin Swim Association has just told me that I may enter their Championships on 9th March.
Now, with my back out, I went yesterday to the pool in a vain attempt to rectify whatever may be the root cause of my ailment. Doubled over like I was 145, and unable to straighten at all really.
Well, I've been down this road before and, if anyone out there does Eventing with horses, well you know you've just gotta keep on going.
So I swam a little. Very little in fact, cos if I move my legs or attempt any leg-kick, my lower back says, “NO!!” in a very definitive manner.
So I have one week till the Limousin Championnats and I can hardly swim at all … Ain't life grand?
But I also know that sometimes it is possible to rectify these problems … sometimes.
It was really quite embarrassing at the pool yesterday, as I had to creep hunched over to the deeper end and then 'fall' into the water, as if I meant it. There was no alternative to getting in, and once I was, I found out that any movement of my legs was extremely painful.
At this point, if I had a tissue I'd offer it through the computer screen, I mean this is all quite moving, isn't it ? No? What d'you mean, 'No' !!
Oh well “b*gg*r it” !! I'll just have to get fit enough to swim next Sunday, AND I have to drive two and a half hours to get there.
I'm going to swim 50 m Free and 50 m Breast-stroke and again I will post any time I manage to complete, on the Sunday night or Monday morning.
Oh yes ... and the points, if I find out, as it is somewhat pertinent in assessing the value of any performance to put it into the context of “Which age group?” ... I mean that's what masters is all about really. There's no great shakes to wandering up and down on a 50 m Free in 30 secs if you're in the 25-30 age category, is there?
But I'm not mentioning my age group, out of vanity, and anyway you Masters swimmers can work it out by way of the points I am awarded. And ... just as I'm on that sorta thing, if anyone were to search FINA's database of past Top Ten Masters Rankings – No, you will not find Robertson Tait in there, basically cos it ain't my real name … it's my 'artist name' for brilliant things what I write.
So c'mon, break out of the box … loosen up, believe just a little in possibilities ….
Like the possibilities in my short story “Tobago” in my Kindle book “Riding A Strong Wind”. Now did that really happen or not ?? …. Well, maybe it did … and just like I wrote it !
I thought I might find it strange after so long without a competition - and I did.
There was a certain surrealism about getting on those blocks, and sometimes you just feel things and you can just tell how they are going to be.
I had to make a deliberate consideration of my start and getting into the 50 metres Free, whereas in days of old, all that would have been automatic. But I concentrated on NOT 'forcing', and thus tying up. So I suppose on later reflection, I was a bit too easy and relaxed off the block, and then I had a bit of a shock when I saw that a fellow, two lanes over, was not that much behind me. Now we were in with the slower entries, (yes you may call it 'sandbagging', but I call it 'having clear water to work with'), and that didn't exactly fill me with positive thoughts about my own pace.
So cutting a long, sad recount to the bottom line – I won, but the time was rather woeful. We will need to do more competitions to shake off some rust.
Certainly, as I said before this lame showing, nothing brings you on like competitions.
Only problem here for me is I have to find them, where I can compete as a US Master.
Having gone out the first 25 m so lazily, thankfully I did not 'die', as I feared I might, on the return 25 m (I didn't burn, down there either but I didn't die).
As I touched, my opponent in that other lane seemed some body lengths distant now but 'mental note' to self was, “more competitions needed for sure!!” I was unaware that there was an electronic display board, as it was something they had wheeled into place after I had swum the warm-up, so in honesty I don't really know what my time was, although someone said later they thought 30 something, so I will not make any excuses, I was just very slow and it may have been 30.99 for all I know. Need to get back around 28 or so, to feel right.
The 100 IM was as taxing as I had feared, and again I had an uncomfortable reality check when I turned onto backstroke and saw someone's leg-kick matching mine, level with me – oh dear !
The Breast-stroke was just an opportunity to get my breath a little, and the final 25 m Free was a bit of forced endeavour where one has the definite feeling one is going very slowly but just trying to hang on.
The time on that was 1:20:77 I think I recall accurately, but this one was really more a bit of 'training' and I knew it would be a good guide to my general fitness, and how much I need to do to get in shape – Plenty was the reply !!
So there you go – now I must look for another meet cos hopefully the more I do, the sooner I'll get back to some pace – fingers crossed.
Anyway, two entries, two medals.
Champion d'Aquitaine 2014, yo!
But, sadly, no “free shit” ... sorry, Alex!
Replies from MasterNatation advise that I can swim Sunday with my US Masters licence.
Now I'm in trouble … after all that 'saying what I'd do', given the chance, well they've bin and gone and dun exactly that.
But, we are Scottish and, having said I would swim, I will swim – nervousness after 4 years away notwithstanding, I shall show up and swim a 50 Free and a 100 I.M. and hang the consequences !!
So I only found out when I got back from the pool today, BUT I did swim today with the possibility in mind and, therefore, it was a leisurely loosening up session with very little order to it.
Obviously we're not trying for a 'taper', but any excuse to take it even easier than I normally do is A-OK with me.
So I believe I mentioned I entered times of 36 secs for the 50 Free and 1:28 for the 100 I.M. I will risk stating that I will post whatever times I record on Sunday, however embarrassing.
Saturday's session at my local pool will be very much a paddle around with one or two 95% efforts and, sooner or later, I will have to try a Fly to Back turn – I haven't done one for about 6 years.
Oh dear !
The French swim associations, Comité Aquitaine Natation and Master Natation (national, I think) – well, they're responding – sort of.
But never mind, in the meantime let's talk about a different kind of meet prep, and here's mine.
I listen to these guys from Manchester to get pumped, and they can play a bit.
I like to start off with something kinda mellow to ease into it, like “This Is The Time” and then I go to “All This Conflict” and then “Stranger's Hands” cos that's kinda how I am over here, competing with the French. But all the tracks are class; just click the “all songs”.
Seriously, DO LISTEN ALL THE WAY THROUGH, cos I am trying to help Dave, who may be reading - you remember Dave from my short story “Santa Barbara” - … well, late night show or not, he's kinda always behind the curve on sounds. So let's see if we can't get him out in front, for a change, with these guys on his show. I'll even play piano with them, if he wants.
The link here is absolutely safe, it's Reverbnation a portal for guys and ladies 'what' play music.
And if you're into Jazz/Blues smooth Soul, well the frontman, JV Johnston, has a killer solo album out, called “Knockturns”.
Now the swim folks have said, if I send them a copy of my licence, I can swim cos it's “open” - BUT I think they mean “a copy of my French” licence … we'll see.
And tomorrow I'm going to tell you all the positive things about living in France … yes, I am. And you may be surprised but there are many. So much so, that the relaxed and comfortably unstressed life here makes former worries and concerns a forgotten memory.
But, on contemplation, I can recall some, if not all.
A demain … the group is Mamma Freedom, on iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and working on their second, and double album right now, Listen … you will like.
~ Author of fiction