When I start to get close enough to being able to compete, I get a bit impatient and, frankly, the training starts to get boring.
I need to find a competition, to assess how far away I am from where I want to be, and all the trundling up and down the pool is all well and good but it's not competing, and that's a whole different world - thankfully!
So yes I'm getting impatient to find out … so I'm going to try an e-mail to this competition on the 23rd at Tissot asking if I can compete “hors concours” as my approach to associate with a club has been rejected as “too complicated” … ??
You know there is nothing that brings you on in your fitness etc. more than competing. I swam a whole season once using the 'meets' as my workouts. The rest of the time I just paddled up and down at a local pool twice a week. But those 'meets' really worked for me.
OK today I did:
That was until I realized that there was no-one with a 'France' cap on in the pool, and so the pace clock was not switched on. Was quite worrying for a bit, cos 60 secs for a 25 m is not really going to cut it, is it?
Hope all in the US and England are warm and dry – terrible weather you are having. Here it has been a very mild (touch wood) winter with no days below 8 ºC or so. Today it is 13 ºC . So far we've been lucky.
Next pool day Monday, and I'll tell you as soon as I hear from Tissot, whether they'll let me swim.
Didn't really feel into it today, and that happens, and so I just let it roll on by, and do what I feel like.
That's the great thing about NOT having a coach. I get to choose when I put out, how much and what I will make my work-out up of.
Some guy, or gal, reading off a previously pondered script and sticking to it like it was written in stone … nah, don't think so. But for a few notable exceptions, there are not many coaches who win at swim meets … they get the swimmers to do that for them.
So I did:
Funny thing was that today this guy got the clock started AND he was swimming in that very lane with NO equipment - Mon Dieu!!
But there we are, he did have the France cap on … and on the pace clock he was averaging 46 secs for a 50 m Free, full stroke.
I did a little Google search on Starbucks, I was intrigued to know actually how much is the plainest cup of coffee there. Results came in at around $2.00 US.
I've been there once, and I think anyone could get more real coffee flavour out of just one of my short stories “Villa d'Este”, from my book, and that's only 99 cents for the whole thing … you can lead swimmers to the water, but you can't make 'em win.
Next workout day, Saturday.
I was thinking about what I had written yesterday, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should mention the other side, so to speak, of working out at the pool.
I do experience a fair amount of feedback from my body and, for example last night, now that I'm upping the intensity of effort and, as you may have noticed a little gradual increase in the yardage, I'm paying for that in a general way. Bit of stiffness, an amount of fatigue in the evening and a less than tranquil sleep; because I feel I want to keep stretching those stressed muscles – so a bit of tossing and turning.
Now the reason I'm mentioning this is that, normally, you hear all about what you should be doing, and all that wonderful stuff, from a source who is all positive, gung-ho, and never gets tired.
Well I do, I get tired; and if you do, it's 100% natural. It is also natural to get a bit fed-up with training, and that's why I keep mentioning the “just keep on, keeping on” because it is a way to kinda switch off mentally and just wait for the benefits to show up.
And remember, go just as far as is appropriate for your condition, right now – you can always move that up when you feel it's all getting too easy.
Yes I know you know the date, but I couldn't think of a title for today.
However, I will say that the “getting better”, and Saturday's reference to starting to sense a return of some of my faculties, is becoming more evident in how I'm feeling at the pool.
So here is the workout and then I will ramble on a bit afterwards:
OK, so that's pretty straight forward, but the encouraging thing is I am starting to get the feeling that the cavalry are about to arrive. It's a funny thing, but if you can catch just a hint, and then run with that positive, then the confidence grows and you will be suddenly enjoying workouts more, AND you will certainly enjoy competitions more.
Now let's be honest here – yes, it's nice to have the "friendship” element in one's Masters participation, but I always feel there is nothing more friendly than commiserating with an opponent, after you have just beaten his time by a handy second or more.
When I'm racing in competition, it's about winning; there's no other way to put it, it's about winning.
I mean it's about YOU, that's why you're working out, to get better and improve, or hold your own in your age category. Certainly for me, it's not about sitting around singing wine-induced songs over a lunch, as I have witnessed over here.
They call them competitions because that's what they're all about - competing, not socializing.
And if I can be just a little self-promoting – My Kindle Book “Bedtime Romance: Short Stories for Sweet Dreams” is on SALE, starting tomorrow on Amazon.com, for only 99cents for a few days, and I do have two stories in there that are based around swimming experiences, in fact one is centred around a major Games.
Today I started out with 200 metres legs-only Free without any stops. I was kinda pleased I could get that far, and in fact it was really more to do with the boredom of legs-only, than fatigue that persuaded me to stop. Then I did another 4 x 50 m legs-only Free.
I mean, I used to do 1000 metres legs-only without thinking about it, but nowadays I want to get on to something more interesting.
So I followed with 12 x 50 m doing a kind of mix and match. Sometimes legs-only on the first 25 m and then full stroke Free back. Next one ... if the lane looked like it would be possible, 25 m full stroke backstroke and then after the turn, legs-only Free home. And so on. So really mixing up the combinations any which way. But it got me to the end of the 12 x 50 m with a tad more interest. And I was starting to feel just a hint of a glimpse of something from fitter days.
But I think, and I hope that I am starting to see a shimmer. It becomes evident to me that I may be, ever too slowly, getting back to being able to swim competitively in my Group. Not good, but better.
For example: if I swim a 25 m Free at 90% and I'm feeling under pressure and 'for crying out loud' it's only a 25 m, then I'm pretty sure I'm not ready.
But If I swim the 25 m and I feel that I can move the water about at will, play with my stroke, lengthen, go bi-lateral, hold my breath, alter my posture in the water and alter my leg kick rhythm as I please, then I think we are getting somewhere. But then again …
I finished with 2 x 25 m Free sprints and 6 Fly sprints (4 the full 25 m with no traffic and 2 just 20 m).
So there we go, that's my incoherent ramble for today, but I do honestly believe that once you get a feeling of authority in the water, then things can progress more quickly. And I have also noticed that I am swimming with a bit more intensity and focus, and that is not by a 'consciously' thought-out design, it is just the gradual progression of the mechanisms one took so much for granted in one's youth.
Now that I'm slightly more adult, they arrive a little later … but they do arrive ... and when they do, it's “Gotcha!! Good night, competition, or should I say, au revoir!”
God, I'd better train a bit harder now … 'cos one must be able to walk the talk.
Next pool day Monday – oooh Paddles, y'know my biceps are twice the size of Stallone's now … well they look it to me.
And remember: keep going, keep showing up and it will come. Sometimes takes longer than we'd like but keep going, there ain't no other option !
Before I forget, I would like to thank the people who played the guessing game with me and, in particular, the first three correct respondents … well, it wasn't difficult, was it? Also, to the two who connected with me on Skype: I enjoyed chatting with you and hope you did as well. And thank you for the kind things you both had to say about my book, it's encouraging to know that someone, other than my wife, enjoys my writing!
AND before I get started on today's – Allow me to tell you, I am putting my other book, “Bedtime Romance: Short Stories for Sweet Dreams” on sale starting the 11th Feb, on Amazon Kindle, at 99 cents for a few days. I mean c'mon, 99 cents! But, you know, that reminds me of an interesting thing about Scott Fitzgerald. Did you know that in 1929 'The Great Gatsby' earned him total royalties of … wait for it ... $5.10 cents(*) and his books, all of them, earned him $31.77 cents. Imagine. For today's money multiply by 10. Now, his short stories were a different kettle of fish and earned him most of his money.
(*) Source: “The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald” published by Charles Scribner's Sons 1989.
Well I'm just back from the pool and that was interesting. There was a guy swimming with the full USA colours Speedo, and I had noticed him doing a fairly active and quite fast 400 metres or so with fairly big fins on, but nonetheless he was moving along pretty good, so today I notice he's not in the lane reserved for 'equipment' users, and he's got no fins on but is still moving along pretty good.
Now he's a young guy, but I thought, here's a way to gauge how I'm doing. That's one of the drawbacks of training all alone: you have no real idea of how you're moving through the water. Oh yeah, there is a pace clock, BUT that is reserved for proper competitive swimmers; those in the local club or such.
Anyway, I try not to make it obvious but I set off just ahead of this guy at the turn, and I allow him to catch me so that now we're level. I can now gauge that a fairly slow, relaxed free is sufficient to stay ahead of him, and I can also get an idea of my turn efficiency – he's two metres back after the push off, so that's encouraging. So anyway, I'm not in the kind of shape where I want to keep going and I have my assessment made so I shut it down after 150 metres. And that was my warm-up.
So here's a case to illustrate a point about swimming alone without a club. It can get boring, and it can be very easy to cut yourself too much slack. Not that I am a proponent of the 'tough guy, demanding coach' rubbish. All that ego stuff is just a bore.
No, the point I'm getting laboriously to is: to liven up the interest in the training grind, find someone who can swim a bit and then tailor your depart to allow for them being either faster or slower, BUT use them as a tow or a rabbit you must catch. You can get pretty good at judging – I'll give them 15 metres and then aim to catch them by the 50 m or, if they ain't so fast, aim to catch 'em by the 25 m mark.
Right I explained that brilliantly, didn't I? … No?
OK, today's workout was:
On a side note, I have not heard back from the French club I intended associating with so I could compete in Feb … so, if nothing changes, I will look further afield for a competition that allows US Masters members, which I am.
Next pool day: Saturday
It's strange but it is true that even when one doesn't really feel the most all-fired up enthusiastic, about going to the pool, after you have completed your workout, you almost invariably feel better. So as I have said before it's that 'just showing up' that makes the big difference.
I would say for sure that if you allow 'reasons' for not going to the pool to gain traction in your deliberations, you're on a slippery slope where the next workout becomes a 'decision' rather than an assumed, automatically scheduled 'show up' day.
One time deciding not to go is a start, but two days deciding not to go is a pattern and three days deciding not to go is a movement … I'm cutting to the chase there, and if you are not following my ramble, then I guess you don't know the classic “Alice's Restaurant” by the wonderful Arlo Guthrie.
God, wouldn't that one just fly over the heads of our modern music aficionados.
Anyway, I digest … no, that's not right, I dissect … no not right either, “digress” Yes !! Digress. Now what was I on about ... oh yes, the Workout. Here it is, uncut, uncensored and probably uninteresting … it's a Workout for God's sake, gimme a break:
Next pool day Thursday.
So I'm in the pool, and I get to the end of about a 200 metre loosen up, and I'm bobbing at the end with the other 'nageurs' when this fella leans over and slaps his hand on the surface of the water.
“This is what you're doing and it's all wrong,” he says in almost perfect French – well, I mean he is French, but - anyway, “No, he says … see you're swimming like this, but you should be swimming more at this angle.” And he gives me a sympathetic, knowing look to show he understands and empathises with my inability.
Now there's not a lot you can say at times like these but, “What?”
I had a similar occurrence once in Libourne when the lifeguard commiserated with my attempt at backstroke. Now, in relative terms she would have had a point, but we're not talking that level here; so I listen politely and then at the end of this long instructional diatribe, I say, “No, don't think so.” And carry on with my workout.
Now, I don't swim backstroke BUT, when the Meet program is such that it interferes with my working with and riding my horse, I adjust.
So two weeks later I adjusted and swam backstroke – and won a Sleeping Bag and a 2nd or 3rd ranking in France's Masters. Might have done better but for the 1½ foot deep turn area (was a kiddies-biased pool). Jeeez ... I almost broke a fingernail!
So, there we are, I'm sorted re my Freestyle and all thanks to a generously critical Frenchman who has put me right.
I saw him swimming and I think he would be good for a 50-52 sec 50metres. He was swimming side-stroke when I left – here they call it 'educatif' - oh please!!!
The arrogance and the ignorance are stellar.
But then again, without that all-consuming patriotic arrogance, how could they sell any wine at those ridiculously inflated prices when a bottle of Italian Bardolino will knock spots off them.
Anyway, here's the workout what I did today. Who else has used that (bad grammar) phraseology in a very famous book … clue Ketchum? Mostly tried to take advantage of fewer bodies in the way:
And I hate to admit it but that was about it, – now you're thinking, “He's not doing much here, and I'm not getting much out of reading this blog.” But remember it's not how far you swim each workout. It's HOW you swim, certainly for sprinters. Quality. Stroke technique quality, not necessarily speed, but quality, precise, totally adjustable stroke.
Well yeah, you might be right, but it's the consistency of showing up that makes a huge difference and the even-greater difference is the mental game. Tougher and tougher into the countdown.
Next pool day Monday.
Yes working out at the pool can be a bit boring. I mean, it is a grind to get through the yardage sometimes, and as necessary and beneficial as it is, it does get a bit BORING !!
So I'll run through the workout quickly and then I'll tell you about an idea I had to make things a bit more interesting on this here blog.
So I did:
Now, having filled you in on that, I wanted to tell you about my whizz-bang new idea to lift the boredom quotient in this preparation phase.
I am going to offer to the first three respondents, who can answer a simple question from my Amazon Kindle book, “Riding A Strong Wind,” a 15 minute “question and answer” session on my training, diet, fitness – you choose it, LIVE via Skype. I do not want to farm any contacts, or any of that rubbish, and anyone who participates will do so knowing it will all be confidential. So Gwyneth ... it's OK you can ask and I won't tell.
No, you don't have to buy the book, you don't have to buy anything.
OK the question is:
What's the name of the man (who looks like an Italian movie star) that John Bentley has a meeting with in Rome directly after his meeting Angelica ?
That's it, and it's right there in Amazon's “Look Inside” so ... EASY !! And no, it's not at the end of the “Look Inside,” we're not playing that game.
So just send me your answer via the Contact Form on my Website where, of course, my Blog is posted.
OK, it's Saturday 25 January and the pool is not an option today because of the kids competition … SO let's ramble on, but in a little less flippant vein, and try to touch on some things that might be of interest and use to you, and then again they might not.
Well now, cos we are all different ... “Are we paying attention, Coaches?” We are all different and we all respond differently to our swim workload. Obviously all the distance guys and I.M. swimmers are going to need a really good foundation of mileage put in, BUT for 200 metres on down to the 50 m, life is very different.
So coaches can't just do a “write up the same workout for all on a blackboard and then sit back posing with the whistle.” No, they have to “individualize” the workout to the talent they are working with, AND I believe the good ones do.
Anyway, what I'm getting to for those on their own, is that you need to listen to your own body's response and adjust and sometimes accommodate. So right now I'm struggling on some of those 25 metre sprints, because I'm not really “flying fit” and by that I mean that on a 50 m the first 25 metres should be “no effort required”, it should come by nature; just fly down the first 25 without even having to think about it, then all I have to do is swim a 25 metres - the one coming back.
So, if I can get that “flying easy no effort” feeling, then on the return 25 m I should avoid the tying-up, and that dreaded moment when you start “thinking your stroke to yourself”. Once you're in that territory you want to hope you're only 5 metres max from home. So you see, I'm on a lot about “feeling” here, and that's not really the body and the workouts , it's from the mind.
Now of course without the workouts you aren't going to get the luxury of “self-psyching”, but if you're close, fitness-wise, then you can max the mind quotient in your performance.
So when I'm at the pool and I finish my workout, I dry off, and I look down the pool concentrating, imagining and playing the movie of my competition swim in my mind. Never swim slow in your movie, no ... you are just eating up the distance no sweat. Try it, you never know !!
So to the weights – No Heavy Weights ... No, dumbbells/barbells will do and 15 kilos is fine.
Reps are dependant on the movement – we are not leaving the door open to rotator injuries, anyway, we don't need to, it's just a case of doing more reps. Safer.
Anyone out there reading, I'd love to know I'm not just talking to myself (mostly cos I've heard all my own rubbish before). So do let me know with a comment or such, and for all you Canadian Masters, do give a listen to that track on my Facebook page “Down to Business”. It's by two artists from Victoria BC, Ashleigh Eymann and Ishkan and, of course, my stellar favourite, Mamma Freedom from Manchester - and the track is great to get you pumped.
~ Author of fiction