I enjoy watching Lionel Sanders triathlon training videos on YouTube. I dig his honesty and no-nonsense competitiveness. He said something in a recent one that was particularly insightful. Tying his shoes before a track workout, he said, “If you’re not looking forward to it (meaning workouts generally), you’re doing it wrong.”
Great advice for any walker, hiker, tennis player, yoga aficionado, swimmer, cyclist, runner. Whether you’re looking forward to your activity is a great litmus test of whether you’re overtrained or just going through the motions out of habit. What would it be like to be fully present and genuinely appreciative each time you lace em’ up?
Last night, before expiring, my final thought was, “I’m fortunate I get to swim tomorrow morning.”
This Tuesday afternoon I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with Brett near the very end of the “Mostly Retired Lunch Hour” ride. Brett is the Presiding Judge at our County’s Courthouse and one of two regulars on the ride still working full-time (I’m half-time). In his mid-60’s, I asked him if he has an “end-date” in mind. He said he’s up for re-election in a year and a half and he’ll have another four-year term. Groovy confidence, but what I most digged was how much he enjoys his work. I told him it was really refreshing to hear since it seems to me that 8 to 9 out of every 10 of my peers are counting down the days until they can stop working.
Brett talked about the Court’s ‘rona inspired virtual proceedings and how engaging the associated intellectual challenges were. And about how much he enjoys working with young attorneys and other people. And about how no one will give a damn about what he thinks as soon as he unplugs. Irrespective of his age and all his peers exiting the stage, he looks forward to what the next several years of work will bring.
He also acknowledged that “we live in a beautiful spot” and that he can enjoy playing outdoors when not working. Because of that, he said he doesn’t feel compelled to move anywhere.
As we approached his Courthouse’s start and end point, he said to me, “It was great riding with you again Professor. It was nice to have a little infusion of intellect.” I think he emphasized little, but still, I’m concerned his judgement may be lacking.
- A sentence I never thought I’d write. The Phoenix Suns are seven wins away from winning the NBA Championship.
- In the US Open, the 36 and 54 hole leaders are meaningless.
- Louis Oostuhizen is as down-to-earth and classy as they come.
- The Seattle Mariners own the Tampa Bay Rays.
- Minor sports have feelings too. US Track and Field and US Swimming deserve more and better coverage. Imagine swimming 1500 meters in 14:46. “Okay, we’re gonna do 15 100’s on the 59.” LOL.
- I did not qualify for the Olympics, but the next trials are only three years away.
A week ago and lost bigly. The saddest part, it was the fourth time I went into our green space to trim bushes and weed underneath them ignorant of the poison oak lying in wait. For 48 hours I was fine, and then, not so much. I will spare you the pictures which I should sell to a medical textbook publisher.
The poison oak plague is just one of repeated health challenges I’ve been struggling with this spring. Challenges that have left me with less energy to read, think, and write.
I’ve been reminded that control is elusive and life is fragile. Eating well, running, swimming, and cycling doesn’t guarantee anything.
If I come out the other side more appreciative of my health and whatever time I have left, my travails will have been worth it.
This spring I’m working my way through a laundry list of medical issues. Meaning I’m unable to run or cycle or swim right now. So I walk at Priest Point Park or Woodard Bay or Capitol Lake or closer to home. One cool thing about slowing down to 3-4 miles per hour is seeing A LOT more.
It’s nice to notice things. Sometimes. The trash on the side of Woodard Bay Road—decidedly not nice. Reuniting with Rudi yesterday morn—very nice. As was making two new friends. I’ve run and cycled past my new friends’ house several times, but since they’re natural camouflagers, I’ve never come close to noticing them.
A little research reveals they’re socially inquisitive which explains their walking to the road to introduce themselves. And they can run up to 31 mph at which speed they prob don’t notice much at all.
To run a faster 10k or half marathon or marathon, a person needs to increase their weekly mileage. Full stop. Interval training can help, along with improved nutrition and sleep, and resistance training; but the most important variable by far is increasing one’s weekly mileage.
Same with cycling. To improve one’s average speed, or to ride a faster 40k or century, improved positioning and aerodynamics help, along with training with faster people (aka intervals), and a lighter bicycle especially if climbing; but the most important variable by far is increasing one’s weekly mileage. “Ass time”.
I swim about 6-8 kilometers most weeks. Sometimes, when I can’t run or cycle due to injury or weather, I increase that. For a month or two. And the increase in volume has almost no effect. Instead of swimming 1:32/100 yards, I swim 1:31.
At my age, 59, almost every runner, cyclist, and swimmer is slowing down. The rare exception is the former burner who fell way out of shape and returned to the road or pool in their 40’s or early 50’s. I’m the opposite of that person. I’ve never been a burner, but I compensate for my lack of speed with a very deep cardiovascular base, the result of three decades of consistent training.
Because of my pedestrian starting point, I’m slowing down more slowly than my active peers. But I digress, back to swimming.
I actually defied the aging process a few years ago and got a touch faster in open water. How? By buying a better wetsuit. Free speed. Well, not exactly free, but you get the point.
Fast forward to my March 2021 Miracle of getting faster in the pool. Some context. I usually do 100 yard intervals in 1:29-1:33 depending on whether I’m doing them alone or with others and when in the workout I’m doing them. It literally takes me about 2,000 yards to “warm up” or the majority of my workout. A month ago, without my fast female friends pushing me in Masters, I was churning out sluggish 1:32 after 1:32 on 1:40 or 1:45.
Right now, I’m limited to 45 minutes at my local YMCA because of some sort of virus. I’ve gotten good at jamming as much as I can into the 45 minutes. Here’s today’s workout:
400y—6:15. 200y x 2—3:05, 3:04. 100y x 4—1:30, 1:30, 1:29, 1:28.
Paddles/bouy. 400y—5:50. 200y x 2—2:50, 2:50.
100y x 4 im, 1:41s on 2m.
Then, in the last 5-6 minutes, I did some easy 50’s and one final 100 concentrating on what I’ve been learning from YouTube stroke analysis tutorials. The easy 50’s were 43 on 1:00 and the easy final 100 was 1:26. Yes please, may I have another.
Mid or late workout, I can now do 1:28’s (on 1:40) all day long with the same effort I have been swimming 1:32s the last few years. That, in short, is the March Miracle.
From a running and cycling perspective that sudden improvement makes no sense, but swimming is a different animal. Especially when compared to running and cycling, swimming is super technical, if your stroke is flawed, no amount of volume is going to make much difference. It’s like golf, if your clubface is way open at impact, you’re going to hit a slice no matter how many balls you beat on the range.
Long story short, I’ve been watching a lot of stroke analysis vids on YouTube and finally some of the lessons are taking. Historically, bad muscle memory has blunted coaches’ occasional efforts to improve my stroke.
Somehow, a few stroke improvements have suddenly clicked. Primarily, truly finishing my stroke by gently rubbing my thumbs against my hips, rotating more by lengthening my stroke, and maintaining high elbows through the “catch”. Well, not really the last one. Yet. I’m still a serial elbow dropper. Which is kinda cool because that means there’s still more seconds to be found. And now I have more confidence I can integrate that change too.
In a few years I’ll report back on whether I have higher elbows. Or just tune in to the Olympic Trials in Omaha to see if I’m competing. Your choice.
Tyler Cowen’s “My days as a teenage chess teacher” is interesting on a lot of levels. For instance, take lesson learned #6 of 7.
“6. The younger chess prodigy I taught was quite bright and also likable. But he had no real interest in improving his chess game. Instead, hanging out with me was more fun for him than either doing homework or watching TV, and I suspect his parents understood that. In any case, early on I was thinking keenly about talent and the determinants of ultimate success, and obsessiveness seemed quite important. All of the really good chess players had it, and without it you couldn’t get far above expert level.”
I often envy people who are obsessive about anything even remotely socially redeemable—whether being a grand master in chess, or cycling 12,000 miles/year, or knowing more about Mormon history than anyone except a few dozen Mormon scholars. Why do I envy obsessive people? Because I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly obsessive about anything. It seems like it would be fun to be so immersed in an activity that time stops.
And yet, when I take stock of my life, I can’t help but wonder if my lack of obsessiveness about any one thing may be one of my most positive attributes. If it’s not a positive attribute, splitting the difference between similarly compelling forces, is my essence. It’s who I am.
To the best of my ability, I seek balance. Between work and family life. Between intellectual pursuits and physical ones. Between running, swimming, and cycling more specifically. Between listening and talking. Between teaching and learning. Between friends. Between being silly and serious.
I wonder, should I stop idealizing obsessiveness?
Fastest indoor time of all time. Third fastest all time.
15 m.p.h. I ran a 3:57 as a high schooler too. For 800 meters.
Ignore if you’ve mastered self-compassion.
A 34-minute podcast seemingly for female yoga adherents but really for anyone that struggles with body-shaming.
Took me forever to decide on my Christmas—New Administration—Birthday gravel bike. The Gal Pal says people are going to make fun of me. I’m not sure why. And that’s assuming they can catch me. Fly Warbird, fly!