I recently posted a review of Overachiever's Diary, a new book by Louis Tharp. The book is comprised of emails and practice outlines Tharp, as swim coach for the West Point Triathlon Club, sent to his cadets. While the review hits upon the major points of my feelings toward Overachiever's Diary, a few things have stuck with me since I published the article.
I realize now that as I was reading it, I was slowly being humbled. It's not that I think I'm such a great swimmer, but that I always figured I had hit my peak in college and that was that.
Tharp writes on page 196: "Your potential for continuous improvement is decreased when your pacing is erratic because you use too much energy."
That hit me where I was living, swimming wise.
As a 50 and 100 freestyler, my pacing was always "as fast as possible but don't die" and my energy output was "as much as possible but don't die." Needless to say, I tended to die at the end of a 100.
Reading how Tharp challenges his cadets-some good swimmers, others not as good but getting better-to latch on to their potential and continually improve did more for me than any How-to-Swim book ever could. It made me realize that even now, without being an in-season swimmer, I can still work to become faster.
As a budding triathlete, I usually see myself as a swimmer who then bikes and runs. I constantly try to be one of the leaders of my wave out of the water because that's where I think I belong. The problem has always been, however, that I'd be pretty beat going into T1. If the jog to the transition area was longer than 100 yards, I'd be toast before I even hopped on the bike.
Tharp explains that good triathletes know how to pace themselves to swim fast while using as little energy as possible. He then explains the how and why of doing exactly that. Most importantly, however, he reiterates something that should be pretty obvious: It's a triathlon. Not a swimming race. Just because I'm nearing shore doesn't mean I need to give it all I got. I don't need to be first, fifth or tenth out of the water. Again, brings me back to the humble-thing.
One more thing...another part of the book I loved was his section titled: Where Are Your Toys Henry Ford? There's a line in there, "Toys are aquatic crack," that made me laugh out loud. Tharp's view is that certain swimming equipment-pull buoys, kick boards, find-are used as crutches rather than as aids to become better. It definitely gave me something to thing about.
I plan to return to this book in June or so, when I'm in the middle of the summer tri season but before the open water swims of I Saw, I Swam, I Swimmed Again. I recognize that its value isn't so much in simply teaching me how to swim, but in preparing me to become a swimmer who is constantly improving.
Sometimes I get the feeling I embarrass drivers while I'm commuting by bike--mainly people with young kids in their car.
This morning I was riding toward a stop sign on a residential street and could hear a car speeding up behind me (because that's what people do here in California, speed up to stop signs). I signaled with my arm that I was turning left, then stopped at the line.
The driver honked once and then pulled his black SUV up next to me on my right. I looked over at him. "What's the problem?" I said, holding my hands out. Not so much confrontational as much as an is-my-backpack-open kind of question. He neglected to look at me at all. He peered around mecoffee in one handchecked the traffic, then peeled out, making a dangerous left-hand turn between traffic (and around me). The whole time, his doe-eyed son was sitting in the front passenger seat staring right at me.
I can hear it now, "Daddy, why did you honk at that guy on the bike?"
"Because he was slowing us down, son. We're in a SUV. He should have pulled over to the sidewalk and waited until I was past before getting back on my road. Don't grow up to be a cyclist son, you'll only have drivers hating you."
"But dad, you gave me a bike for my birthday. And you're always telling me to go ride my bike when you're watching tv."
"Well, you can ride your bike until you're 16, then I'll buy you a car. That way I can spend even more time ignoring your needs."
A similar thing happened to me not ten minutes later. I pulled up to an intersection and watched as a woman rolled through it, completely ignoring me while her two kids in the car stared in awe at the fact that I can ride my bike whenever I want.
To be fair, there are as many people who wave me through an intersection or go out of their way to give me space as there are that ignore me or try to see how close they can drive by without actually touching my bike. But parents with kids in the car seem to try especially hard to pretend I'm not there. Reminds me of the woman in the mini-van who used to drive 35 mph around the residential neighborhood where I used to live in Boston.
Parents: I'm just trying to get to work alive. I know you're trying to get your kids to school on time. And that the line at Starbucks was longer than usual so you're running late, but please: if you want your kids to have safe streets to ride their bikes on, you have to set an example.
That's been the question concerning training since Thanksgiving. Should I get up at dawn on my day off to run a 5K turkey trot? I could just run the same route later.... I went. Had fun. Good decision.
That weekend, though, was a different story. I'm trying to stick to Gale Bernhardt's half-marathon training plan in preparation for the OC half-marathon on January 6. But the Sunday after Thanksgiving I just wasn't feeling it. So I stayed inside, watched football and read comic books. Oh well.
Then Tuesday came along and with it, Arch's ActiveX training ( Welcome to ActiveX). Should I join up, even though it wasn't really built in to the training? I did. It hurt. But it was fun. It's significantly easier to stay motivated while working out in a group setting. Plus, I look damn good in those videos, huh? Haha!
But one workout an athlete doesn't make (does sense that make?), and when the time for ActiveX workout no. 2 came along on Friday, there was another stay or go decision to ponder. It was raining and Arch was promising an outdoor workout. But shoot, if Luke's Active Blog and Michelle are going then I gotta go, too, yeah? Can't wait to see the video for that one.
Now it's Saturday afternoon. The training plan calls for a 2-hour run--the longest I will have ever done. But UConn plays Gonzaga on ESPN soon. And then the Ironman World Championships is on. And then it'll almost be dark, and then...