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 ....
Tomorrow the East End Film Festival starts in London, England. And who is in the short list of 6 soundtracks for “Best Soundtrack” …. well it's the Sonic Generals … and who is in the Sonic Generals ???
Oh c'mon you can get the names from their Facebook page but included in the line-up 'tis one Robertson Tait !
Now I must confess that on the particular track used in the movie “Hackney's Finest” (a gritty tale) I was not involved. However, Ashleigh Eymann and Ishkan-Adrian Cree did a knockout, stompingly good job.
Anyway, the festival starts tomorrow and it will be quite a big deal. It goes for two weeks, I think, and there are some heavy names from the movie biz involved.
Now book-wise, my “Kyle Harrison: Movie Star” has started out quite brightly on Amazon, but I always can use all the help I can get. So if you like dryish humour and a bit of romance-laced action, Kyle might be your cup of tea.
The book is only on Amazon Kindle (for now) and it is longer than their estimated 67 pages. Y'know, my “Riding a Strong Wind” they had estimated as 136 pages or so and the paperback proof version I am looking at is 210 pages …. So you can see the relationship to reality.
And before I leave that subject, I will say that it would help greatly if I could get some reviews on “Kyle” as it changes everything profile-wise on Amazon.
Swimming I have re-started, God is that a pain. I guess when you've been doing something for a long time it does eventually get a tad tedious. I mean, for me, and I'm sure most other competitive swimmers, there is no “go relax round a pool” or “just laze about in the pool”.
Can't be done ...wouldn't know what to do. If it's a pool, it's for swimming laps in, and if I'm swimming laps, then I have to do some legs-only, arms only, sprints, etc. etc. So being thus compelled, it is a pain in that I have to work when I get in there, and being vaingloriously lazy, 'tis tedious.
And then, of course, the recognition that one is slower than one wishes starts the whole “try harder” thing and before you know it, we're dissatisfied and planning on upping the intensity and the distance. Obsessive I call it, but it never returns my calls, so I just shrug.
“Kyle Harrison” is suitable for eighteens on up, and there is no graphic material or course language; it's a light, humorous, read with a touch of romance. I don't “pad” my writing or try to stretch it out to fill pages, so I hope and believe that the story moves along in a style compatible with the main character's personality, a charismatic young Scottish actor making his mark in Hollywood.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
~ Author of fiction