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.
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 !
... so here are the official times:
I never really know what the points are all about – I guess if in a Club it goes towards determining which is the top club. But for Individuals like me, it's the time, and that alone, that is the marker.
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!
Well, here are some of the good points:
Hardly any traffic on the roads. Wide open and a pleasure to drive through. Hardly any people when you get out into the countryside, and it's a huge piece of real estate, so there's loads of room for all. Generally, spotless sidewalks and roads, and well-kept properties, and a minimum of graffiti evident and that only in the larger urban areas. So it is clean, fresh and charmingly decorative. A drive through the area around St Emilion did make me feel, at the time, that for anyone it would be food for the soul.
A fantastic Health Care system – Seriously, I think it may be the best in the world. Doctors are actually interested in helping solve 'whatever' you perceive as a problem. There is no dismissive, superior attitude about minor complaints and each is dealt with comprehensively and thoroughly. Their mission seems to be to find an answer, however trifling some other systems may consider your complaint.
And they have all the gear! The state sees to it that even outlying areas are equipped with the latest and, for example, on the roof of our local hospital serving a very limited rural population (although they have the latest gear, too) is a Helipad from which to convey serious cases to Bordeaux Hospital in about 7 minutes, I believe.
It really is something, their system, and one has to give credit where due. And here's an example: Dentist last week – two of us, full check up, 4 or 5 X-rays just to be sure, full cleaning and he took over 1 hour and a half. Cost 81 Euros, yes that is eighty one Euros, and the Health System refunded 70% of that.
He's the best dentist I've ever had. On a crown he took over 7 hours over 5 appointments, and he can do a root canal without any pain!! Total cost 480 Euros including the porcelain crown.
On Medical: Doctor's visits and such, they refund 90%. Prescriptions are similar but I forget exactly how much.
But the main thing is they 'care', they really want to solve the problem and will refer to specialists at the drop of a hat. Cost for roughly 1 hour with a specialist has been between 23-60 Euros depending on the issue. But that is refunded at around 70%.
So the health system is outstanding, as is their other pride and joy, La Poste.
A letter mailed today, even this afternoon from Bordeaux (in fact anywhere in France) will be delivered tomorrow morning. It is amazing. However, it might be explained by the fact that I think about 30% of the population work for La Poste, but nonetheless it is impressive.
And finally, I don't want to tempt fate but I'll just say that there is a more relaxed acceptance that not all goes their way and so serious arguments or aggression are rare. It is laid back, it is true – just have a watch of Russell Crowe's 'A Good Year' – it's not far from the truth, in fact the director living here in Provence has captured the feel of the place pretty accurately. Ridley Scott.
I'm waiting to conclude the farce of my entry for the 23 Feb competition, but we'll leave that for another day, and I'll leave you by referring you to some nice photos my wife took of our place.
Spring and summer are coming … I can feel it. 14ºC today and clear.
Here's the link: http://frenchcountryproperty.weebly.com/
Pool day tomorrow. Bonne soirée.
~ Author of fiction