Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Every picture tells a story, as it were. This little island in the lake where I did some of my work Monday is not just a little island in the middle of the lake. As the sign indicates, it has significance, and it has history. With the rapid advance of modern civilization, there is often a tendency to forget or debunk the past. However, things like this mean a lot to me as I have been interested in Taiwan for over 30 years now. Maybe people will disagree with some of what is written, but the important thing is to have the freedom to make your own judgments. Sports competitions are sports competitions, but history is history, and it is all about you and the people you identify with.
Today (Wednesday), as with yesterday, I just got up and went down the pool without any specific plan, and after getting in the water at about 6:30 am, just swam, swam and swam. I had to change lanes two or three times as the people sharing the lanes with me, caused me to have to stop at times or else slow down quite a lot which affected my rhythm. Also, I think I gave the others in my lane a hard time as one person often stopped at the wall to let me go by. I don't know if they will ban me from the pool for swimming too much. Or they may say that I am swimming too fast in the specially designated "fast lane" (still, that may be wishful thinking).
At around 3,200 meters I tried to pause for about a minute and then swam 400m moderately, though I was not very pumped up, and did it in 7m 07s. I think I need to do more speed work like 50s or 100s with rests between send offs, although that is difficult when the pool is busy. If someone sees you resting, they think you are done and jump in front of you.
After the swim I discovered a shortish but nice biking route starting near the swimming pool. Basically one has to go over a bridge across the nearby freeway, then ride around a huge trash incinerator about the size of a large hospital. Then there is at least another mile of windy and hilly narrow lanes next to graveyards, rice paddies and factories. This is another world compared to the city streets and perhaps not surprisingly you see very few people there. The road is also an alternative route to the huge lake I referred to the other day that is only another mile further on. I could even run the route, and a couple of months ago I in fact ran most of it with some hashers on a Hash run - in the dark! That was not much fun, but it is nice in the sunshine when you can look at the rice paddies. I wanted to take a picture this afternoon, but forgot to change the camera batteries. Maybe tomorrow.
At least now I am doing some biking as a way of relaxing after going swimming. It is only an MTB and not very fast, but the main thing is that I am spinning. I guess when I really get into training, the order of my training will be "run, swim, bike", as I can shower at the pool after the run, and then bike easy to enjoy the view after the swim. I am wondering. If I get to enjoy life so much here, then I may not want to leave this place. While this is probably not the case, I have to get used to living here, just in case I cannot leave this place.
Today's temperature in my study room: 31 Celsius. If it gets much hotter, I will need to switch on the new AC.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The guest house I stayed at in Chialeshui in early February. The roads are great for biking and running and the house had wireless so I could access the Internet on my laptop. This place is two hours' drive from our home in Kaohsiung, but closer to six hours' drive if you happen to live in Taipei.
Today, I did not really have a plan about how I was going to swim (no fax arrived from my coach!), but I got up and got ready and biked to the pool, entering the water at about 6:25 am, so that time was a little bit on my side today. Fortunately, in the middle lane of the pool, which has a sign in Chinese meaning the "fast lane", there was only one person and he was swimming freestyle. Since the sides of the pool where I usually go looked a bit crowded I opted for the middle lane. The other swimmer kept a steady pace and I was able to pass him about every 200m or so. After a few hundred meters another swimmer joined us, but he also swam freestyle, and when they got behind each other, I basically overtook the two in one go. That enabled me to increase the revs a bit. As my meters added up, people came and went, but generally speaking no one hindered my progress and having other people who could at least swim fairly well reminded me of masters swimming in Kona. Finally, I got up to 3,000m before I decided I just wanted to kick easy for a couple of hundred meters or so. After that I had the lane to myself and I swam 400m freestyle in exactly 7 minutes, feeling pretty relaxed the whole way, and only trying to work really hard on the last 50m. So that was an improvement. Finally, I finished with 400m using hand paddles and a moderate 100m and a cool down 50m. So it was a really good workout and one I did not expect.
After the swim I spent about 30 minutes riding my MTB easy (with a lot of spinning) around the paths that go back and forth around the sides of the Golden Lion Lake that I pass every day on my way to the pool. I was home at 9:00 am, and after my usual big bowl of muesli, I was able to get started on my work by 9:45am.
Tomorrow I will go to the pool, and see what happens when I get there. Anyway, I certainly felt good today. The swimming makes me feel relaxed, and at least I am improving.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Seeing something like this gives me some incentive to get back into running!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
View of the Pacific Ocean from the beach at Chialuoshui, in Southern Taiwan. The missing divers were rescued further along the coast here. Photo by Bruce Stewart.
Although the English newspapers this morning said that the 8 divers who had been missing off the southernmost tip of Taiwan for 30 hours had still not been found (which was causing me to lose hope), the Chinese press early this morning reported that they had been found and rescued in the early hours of this morning.
After staying together holding hands in groups of four, one of the stronger male swimmers decided to swim towards the shore (Taiwan is pretty mountainous), leaving the others after midday and swimming and drifting until well after dark. Upon reaching land he was able to alert authorities and based on the information he provided the search and rescue helicopters were able to locate and rescue all the others. Apparently they are all well. So that is a really good piece of news, especially considering one of the two women had children in the local international school and therefore many people I know would know her.
The Chinese report is as follows:
更新日期:2008/04/28 04:09 (Source: Independence Morning Post)
I think the last two weeks I have focused mainly on what I am putting into training rather than on seeing what times I am doing. Basically, I think most of us being human are much the same. It is consistent and sensible training that will enable us to reach our goals. For swimming I am not wearing some flashy expensive swimsuit with no drag - just a cheap nylon/lycra one that people would laugh at were I anywhere but Taiwan. I may of course wear a still unused "Kona Aquatics" suit if I really want to do a good time, but it won't necessarily cause me to swim better.
Today I also rode my MTB to church and back, about 25 minutes each way, and along a huge, beautiful lake somewhere in the middle of the ride. I live in a huge, polluted city, but it is nice to realize that there is some nice scenery fairly near my house.
As I write this, I realize that for the pros at least, the St. Anthony's Triathlon is over. If news comes up on the web, I will digest it and comment on it in my write up tomorrow. I think Bree will do very well, as usual, though quite how well is hard to say. Again, it should not be that easy as she is racing against some who have been around the top of their sport for a long time.
Yesterday, a triathlete was killed by a shark near San Diego, and today I learned that eight scuba divers went missing yesterday off the southern coast of Taiwan. That hit a little more home. My wife had gone to stay with several women from our church at a hotel on land in that area the last two days and when the pastor announced something happened to either scuba divers or snorkelers and I hadn't spoken to my wife since yesterday, I immediately felt a little worried, in case they might have decided to go in the ocean. It turned out that the people who went and still are (as of an hour ago) missing were not part of our group but one had kids in the foreign school that several in our church attend, so it's still a small world. In early February, I showed up for triathlon training in the southern part of Taiwan and went for a swim with 6 others where I swam for over 40 minutes about 150 yards offshore in a pretty big swell, wearing a black wetsuit. One of our group unfortunately drowned on that swim. It's not something one forgets easily.
Goals for this week. I will continue to swim each morning, although I also need to work at my job these last few days of the month in particular, so I can finish the month fairly well, although it won't have been such a busy or lucrative month work wise as in March. At least, I think I have been able to relax more this month and apart from my lingering cold, I feel really great, although I am a little tired and should also get a good sleep starting fairly soon.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Tomorrow, I will most likely just have to race against myself over 400m, so may not have a lot of incentive. However, I want to gauge how I am doing without half killing myself in the process.
Were I living in a more ideal environment, I would like to do more biking. My little second-hand MTB has been running really good since I put on a new front tire and added some oil to the chain. It is amazing how one can get by training without spending much money. By contrast, we have arranged to have several air conditioners installed in our new house. It is really hot here a lot of the time. So, with all these major house-related expenses, I have to be really careful not to spend much on my hobbies. I am fortunate that swimming currently costs me about US$0.5 per week (for admission), not counting "time" lost through sleeping when I might be working. Still, there is surely more to life than just work.
I'll be following (via the Internet) what goes on at the St. Anthony's triathlon in Florida this Sunday, and the Wildflower in California the week after (I believe).
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Early in the swim today I was not going fast, but I was taking fairly big and long strokes, often doing the length in 15 or 16 strokes or even 14 on occasion with little of a push off the wall. It just tended to feel comfortable. I was kinda cruising as it were. I need to do more strengthening and flexibility exercises. I tend to have a slow turnover (as in running with a longer stride), but I go further than a lot of people on each stroke.
As a child, it was hard for me to buy long-sleeved shirts (even in the UK) as my arms were longer than normal (perhaps not surprisingly since I was taller than normal as well). If I stretch my arms across a wall, the distance from fingertip to fingertip is at least a couple of inches greater than my height. I don't know if this can be used to my advantage in swimming, and so I am trying to find out.
This Sunday there is a big Olympic distance race on in Florida (the St. Anthony's Triathlon), and many big names (Andy Potts, Macca, Greg Bennett, etc.) and many famous women (including at least one I am in contact with) have entered. It will take place in the late afternoon Taiwan time, which means that if there is any live coverage, I can at least watch it at a time when I should not either be in the pool or in bed. Good luck to anyone doing the race who reads this!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Other than that, I spent time doing my work, resting a little, and helping our younger son with some of his schoolwork (home schooled). If this can be a "normal" day, at least I will log some distance swimming over a period of time.
As I get over my cold, I will try to add a little spice to my swim workouts. There are not a lot of things here to get the adrenalin flowing. I'll just have to set myself a time for a distance that I might think I have a chance of beating and then go for it.
I hope I can get a slightly earlier start at the pool tomorrow morning. Getting to bed a little earlier will be helpful here.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I don't know whether all this swimming is going to make me any better, as many workouts others do that I read about are usually full of gut-wrenching sprints using all four strokes at Olympic level send-offs. Still, I guess I'd better not try to get into all that too quickly. At least I am not feeling much muscular discomfort at present.
In the future, if I want to significantly increase my daily distance, I will need to go to the pool twice a day. It is not that the swimming takes such a long time to do, but the issue is whether I am sufficiently awake to actually get some work done during the rest of the day.
I rode about 5 miles this morning, for apart from going to and from the pool, I also went to a large supermarket to buy some things. That seems to be the limit of my biking at present.
Monday, April 21, 2008
So this morning, I was starting working on the revised version, and then as I was going through various websites looking for various kinds of information (and peeking at a few blogs), a news headline in Chinese caught my attention. The person whose paper I was translating had just been promoted to a very senior position in the Cabinet. Recently, Taiwan had a presidential election, and since the other party won, a new Cabinet is being formed, and so a lot of changes are taking place at the top of several major government departments. Not just this person, but also another I have regularly helped with polishing papers for publication was promoted from being a university professor to a Cabinet member and head of a pretty big department.
I have known and associated with both of these people on and off for over 20 years, from when I was a relatively young newly-married person with a few years of living in Taiwan, to later times when my life was threatened by illness, to subsequent times when I received phone calls and emails to help when in Hawaii (and hence was able to defray some of the living costs there), and to nowadays as we make our home in the south of Taiwan. In whatever we do, it is always good to feel valued and useful. There are many times when I have felt quite the opposite. Of course, in life we have to try out various things and often have to learn the hard way in this regard, but at least I am glad that there are at least a few groups of friends where we at least kind of continue to stick together.
In sports it is much the same. Not all of us can always have good days or always be getting better. In Kona, several of my seniors who did well at Ironman in the past eventually had to "retire" due to injury or old age, and perhaps to settle for one sport instead of three. However, it was feeling part of and receiving from and contributing to the community that kept them going. If we just feel people are trying to use us or do not value us, we will just move on.
I guess all of our have some purpose in life, and there are times when we have a strong sense of what that purpose is. I remember that the day after I first arrived in Taiwan, an elderly lady that I had previously corresponded with agreed to take me to a second-hand bookshop, as I wanted to look at books. Since I had learned to recognize a lot of characters while still in the U.K., I stumbled across an old Chinese textbook on economics, and bought it for the equivalent of 25 cents, my intention being to learn to read about things on economics in Chinese. Little did I realize in those early years, when renewing a visa was quite troublesome and also uncertain, that within a few years of arriving in Taiwan I would get a job with the leading government economic research institute and basically meet most of the leading people in the country in that field.
Work and sports training go hand in hand. Without money you can only go so far. You have to be really good (like winning the Ironman a couple of times) to get a sponsor who says "Just train, and I'll take care of the rest." From the other blogs, I've even noticed that some really good triathletes are having to fix their beat-up cars with their own money. That's just life.
So while I miss Hawaii (although my job does not force me to stay in Taiwan), I am glad how I have so much freedom, to go swim and prepare for some imaginary race in the future, to do work in my own home and according to my own schedule, and to have a reasonable amount of job satisfaction as I see many of the people I help becoming more successful.
I won't have a faxed printout of a swim workout tomorrow with me. I'll wake up, go down to the pool, see how I feel and the number of people in the pool, etc. and go from there. Hopefully I'll get some meters in.
In closing, I was impressed by Tim Marr's third place finish at Ironman China on Hainan Island. Triathlete Magazine wrote that he was struggling late in the run, for which the conditions were particularly hot. It is good that he managed to hang in there, and many others really suffered on the run. A New Zealand friend of mine based in Taiwan, Craig, got 31st position (around 10hr 52m), which was also an excellent performance. Taiwan is not the easiest place to train.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Yesterday, when I was wondering how I might get a little faster on my swims of around 100m in the pool, I came across the following footage of a 200m race including Thorpe, Van den Hoogenband and Phelps. I realized that I had trouble coming off the wall when trying to race against my friends, and now I see more clearly what they are doing. This is not a long video, but it does show some underwater footage. In particular watch Thorpe's underwater dolphin kick after he comes off the wall and the big sweeping strokes down the home stretch.
So this morning, I went down the pool as normal, first at 6:30 am, but after seeing many motor scooters parked outside, I decided to return home and get some work done first. On Saturdays, the pool also opens again at 9:00 am for a second morning session. It so turned out that there weren't many people then. After a 400m warm up, I started to do shorter swims (like 50m) with about 15 seconds rest in between each one. After doing a variety of different things, I got up to 2,400m. Although I felt I was anything but swimming like the people I had watched on the video, I decided to end up with a few 50m swims like this. I pushed off the wall but more underwater and did a kind of dolphin kick for a few strokes until I hit the surface, I then took fairly big controlled strokes down to the end of the 25m pool and tried to flip turn so at least I could get a push off the wall. I then did more dolphin kicks coming off the wall and, although I needed quite a bit of air on the first breath, I started to push it down the back stretch, though at the same time trying not to lose my stroke. It is kind of fun. After the dolphin kicking, once you come up you can more or less make it back in about 13 or 14 strokes instead of about 16 or 17.
After doing 4 x 50m like that, I felt I was pau and went down to the jacuzzi for a few minutes to massage my shoulders. Then I saw another space open up in the main pool and I got my hand paddles and swam easy and relaxed to bring my workout up to the 3,100m mark. I could have continued, but after about 1hr 20 min in the water, decided to call it a day. It felt a good workout. My cold felt better this morning, although quite a bit worse this afternoon and evening. The weather here is very hot, and so it is uncomfortable having a cold. At least in the pool I feel more comfortable.
Although I did not spend such a lot of time on swimming today, leaving me a lot of time to do work and other things, maybe because of my cold, I did not get that much done the rest of the time. However, this morning I did finish one short but tricky legal translation and I am about half way through another translation that will be used at a high-level government conference. So life is not all just swimming and sleeping, and I am getting on with other things at the same time.
Tomorrow (Sunday) I plan to have a fairly short and light workout. I will have to go early and the pool may have a lot of people. Besides, if I do too much, I will probably fall asleep at church later in the morning.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Later at home I looked at a few races with Michael Phelps on YouTube, in particular freestyle. Then later today, I watched a few clips on a site recommended by a fellow blogger (thanks), where I looked at the freestyle flip-turn. What I will try to work on for the time being is to try not to have my hands swinging all over the place in the middle of my turn.
Other than that, today was not particularly exciting. I rested some and I also got a reasonable amount of work done.
It feels strange at my age spending my early mornings swimming and striving to get better at it. Shouldn't I be frantically working in an office trying to keep a boss happy and a company (not mine) afloat, instead of just sitting around at home waiting for something to show up on my computer screen? Ought I not to be dressing in some three-piece suit and black leather shoes each day, instead of just the same old Hawai'i Tee shirt and the same shorts and tattered training shoes I usually wore while there? Should I pick a hobby similar to what everyone else does (whatever that is), instead of reading a textbook on "Elementary Japanese" (is this an oxymoron?) in my spare moments? These are just some of the questions that go through my mind as I wonder about what I am doing with life at present.
At least I am glad I am not so busy at the moment and have a little time to make a few plans and adjustments in daily life.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday night I felt tired, and a little run down with signs of a slight cold (not that it is at all cold here, but quite the opposite). However, I got up as usual early Tuesday, slowly biked to the pool and got a 3,000 meter workout in by 8 a.m. when the pool closes for the rest of the morning. Nothing spectacular, and in some ways I was just going through the motions of swimming. Maybe one fairly fast 200m near the end, and a few hundred yards of hand paddles to finish off, to focus more carefully on pushing through to the end of the stroke. I felt better after the swim and cycled slowly along various trails around the lake featured in the blog before returning home.
Later this morning, I had a blood test. My wife had arranged for a nurse to visit our house to draw samples of blood from us. This is covered by the health insurance here and will let us know our cholesterol levels among other things. I hope nothing is seriously amiss. I always worry about such things. However, it is probably better to know than to try not to know. A couple of years ago in Kona I had such a blood test and I think my cholesterol was something like 135, which was apparently a good figure. Nevertheless, I need to eat more healthy food than I am now.
Today, I was also not too focused on my work and in fact almost ran out of things to do. It made me think of the US economy being on the brink of a recession. If things get worse there, it can affect all of us. What if I ran out of work, etc.? All these thoughts went through my mind. Fortunately, some more work came in today, so I expect to be able to stay busy this week. At least I am glad I had the opportunity to think about the possible effects of an economic recession. To end on a more positive note, though, the recent elections in Taiwan will probably help me with my work, as people always tend to get busy with a change in government, which creates more work opportunities at least for people like me. Then it seems that the Chinese are making more and more money these days. When I started to be interested in Chinese in the mid 1970s, Taiwan was still relatively undeveloped and China was pretty much closed up. I thought by learning Chinese I would just be engaging in a time-consuming hobby, and that I would have to find employment in another profession just to support that hobby. At the time, I never realized that there would later be so much economic integration and globalization and new technology, etc. In England 25 years ago, you were considered to be pretty weird if you spoke three languages. Now I think that to speak three languages and have experience of living in at least three cultures is the ways to go. The past is not the future. Think of the future.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As a golf fanatic at the age of 17, I skipped school to watch the best golfers in the world prepare for the World Match Play championship in Wentworth, Surrey. After seeing several of them putting, I went with a relatively small group of people along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as they together played a practice round. The sight of Nicklaus' ball going up and up and up before eventually landing an astronomical distance away near the hole left me awestruck. Although I was a shy high-school kid, I did get to talk to Gary Player as he walked down the fairway. I think he may have asked me how old I was. He appeared very confident and very positive about life, but not arrogant, as he was how he appeared in real life. He was also extremely fit. By contrast, I was lanky and did little exercise apart from swinging a club (although often for hours on end on most days). Player at that time was about 35 and I remember reading at the time that he intended to be able to do 50 finger-tip push ups at the age of 50. Now he is around 72 and he still regularly works out, and is careful about his diet. He is described as having the physique of a person half his age.
Over the years, my exercise regimen has had its ups and downs. I exercised a lot during my 20s, and my early 30s, but my busyness with career and family and financial responsibilities got the better of me for a period of about ten years. Then I started again in my mid-40s and completed my first (and only) full Hawaii Ironman after just turning 51. While I currently still have many things to do besides training, at least I am trying to achieve a balance in life, learning to eat healthy food and seeking to reduce stress. As I contemplate the future, I am thankful for the influence that people like Gary Player have had on my life. If only there could be more role models like him.
Yes, that's my bike for getting around. This is the Golden Lion Lake which is very close to our house. During the daytime, it is possible to find one or two quiet spots in the shade with a good view, which can serve as a good place for doing some work, like finalizing a translation.
This is the year of the mouse, and there are plenty of reminders of this here.
The lake is a nice change from the roads and high rises almost everywhere else.
I made a new friend the other day. I need to do some research, but it is possible this turtle has been around quite a long time. It gave me quite a lot of inspiration, mainly its unhurried approach to life and giving plenty of time to reflect on things.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The last week has been a special one for me, since I have swum about 9 miles in the last seven days (Monday the pool is closed, so I am forced to rest that day). I did two miles today. I am swimming more relaxed and consistently and breathing easily. As I am getting more consistent and a little stronger, I am getting more feel for the water (and hand paddles near the end of the workouts are particularly good for this). Maybe one day I will purchase Karlyn's instructional DVD. While I am not overly concerned with how fast I am going, I did start off today (as I warmed up) with a 400m in 7m 12s. So there is a slight improvement, and generally I still felt fairly fresh around the 3,000m mark and even beyond that.
I also do not feel so tired the rest of the day. Of course, I need to take a little more rest, but my mind seems fairly clear and I have managed to get through my translation work reasonably well. I just figure that the exercise helps blood flow and so my mind is fairly alert when I am trying to decipher some obscure sentence in Chinese.
The other morning as I was taking a final look through a research paper I had edited, as I sat by the lake a few minutes from our home, I saw a turtle basking in the sunshine on a large log of wood floating in the water. Its shell was about 12 inches from end to end. It sat there for over two hours while I was there and finally disappeared into the water. The turtle gave me a lot of inspiration. Maybe some of us are slow or appear to be dumb, but we still have a lot of good qualities. The turtle did not seem to be in a hurry, unlike the birds I usually see, and that may be a secret of the reptile's long life. I will post a picture of my new found friend one of these days.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I feel quite tired with all this swimming. It affects my work, as when I should be working I am either in the pool or lying on my bed. However, it may help me live longer, so I will still get my work done. The last three days I have swum just over 4 miles.
I will miss the Lavaman on the Big Island of Hawaii. But I will read the new reports and some of the blogs after the race. So even though I can't be there, at least I will feel almost as if I was. Hope you guys out there have a great race there.