Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The 5,000 Barrier & Some Biking

A sign next to the entrance to the Mass Rapid Transit system in Kaohsiung. Bicycles are allowed to ride on the (pink) sidewalk, thus making getting around this city a less intimidating experience. Kaohsiung boasts a fairly lengthy system of cycle paths. While there are still many "gaps" in the system (where one has to risk life and limb contending with the motor scooters and other vehicles), what has been done so far is at least a major step in the right direction.

I got to bed slightly earlier last night as my mind got too tired to work on my computer even before 10 pm. This morning I entered the pool at 6:10 am, which left me 1hr 50m. Within a couple of hundred meters, my crawl stroke felt very comfortable and I focused on the underwater pull towards the end of the stroke. In fact I got a little overconfident and slightly overstretched my right arm, so I was a little sore, at least from the 3,000m mark. So I focused more on relaxed controlled swimming, and no heroics. I reached 5,000m at 7:55 am. At that point, several friends were lined up, each having one lane to himself, and they wanted to do a 100m race. So the lifeguard started us off, but I was never really in contention. I guess I did not really have the energy to push it, so I just tried to swim smoothly and just kick harder (and not aggravate my shoulder). The swimming coach friend apparently finished in about 1:26, with me a distant second about 1:30 or 1:31, and the other two a few seconds further back.

During my first 1,000m today, I particularly sensed that I was gliding in the water, by getting a good follow through at the end of the stroke. My right hand still has trouble getting into the right trajectory when I push late in the stroke, but I am trying to work on this. Smooth, relaxed swimming, with a good feel for the water, is a great help here.

After changing and drinking my ensure and briefly chatting with the other swimmers, I set off on my (mountain) bike planning to ride for 30 mins, but I ended up riding one hour. Besides going past the graveyards and rice paddies in the lane behind the trash incinerator, I continued on and did one loop of the Cheng Ching Lake, the huge lake next to which I plan to do some running later on. The sun was shining and the color of the water (either sapphire, turquoise or aquamarine or a mixture of them all), as I rode along the edge and looked out from one end of the lake, was breathtaking. I did not have a camera with me today, but I am sure there will be many more equally sunny days in the weeks to come. Riding round the lake is quite hilly, because, while the water is of course flat, the road is about 200 feet above the lake at the top end, and at the water's level at the other. Riding around it is quite therapeutic for me. I can enjoy Dr. Sunshine for an hour (which you can't in an indoor swimming pool), and after 8:00 am here in Kaohsiung there is usually much less commuter traffic (i.e., far fewer dangerous and smoke-belching motor scooters).

In spite of all the training today, I stopped at the local outdoor market and bought some potatoes and tomatos as I neared home and reached the house at around 9:30 am. So it is not as if my training has taken all day, although I have yet to see if I can still concentrate properly on my work.

In many ways, I kind of like living in Kaohsiung. The weather is like that in Hawaii, only a bit warmer, and the lifestyle is pretty laid back and people are generally friendly, and you can get just about everything you need here. I even have swimming friends at the pool who go surfing in the ocean only on the other side of town from where we live.

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