Today was my "off" day from training, and apart from a few stretching exercises I mainly got on with my work, while also learning some valuable things from others' blogs. One thing that stood out in particular was an 8-minute clip featuring Dara Torres, the 41-year-old Olympic swimmer (she's phenomenal), courtesy of Rachel's blog. What struck me was that she spends a lot of time (apart from swimming) with trainers just stretching and working various muscles. Her trainers cost her (and/or her sponsors) some $100k per year, so the stretching appears to be an indispensable part of her overall training. She says that the stretching/conditioning and so on is particularly important for someone her age. So then how much more important is it for someone of my age?
In addition, after seeing a "widget" on Marit's blog (bless her!), I managed to successfully install a "Countdown to Hapuna 2009" counter on my blog, and I have 404 days or so until that race (I cannot make this year's race). So you may wonder, why be bothered about something 404 days away? Well, the Hapuna Roughwater Swim on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i means a lot to me, and I have swum it 4 or 5 times. I greatly admire its founder (Mo Mathews, I believe) and its director/co-founder (Sean "Peaman" Pagett). Sean represents the true spirit of "aloha" in triathlon and has selflessly dedicated himself for over 20 years to inspiring several generations of up-and-coming swimmers and triathletes. So besides the beautiful beach and exhilarating one-mile course, and the approximately 300 swimmers I can compete against, it is out of great respect for the Peaman that I want to fly across a large portion of the Pacific Ocean to take part in a race such as this one. And like all of Peaman's races, it is free.
Having said that, I still have over 13 months to prepare (not such a lot when some people are already training for the 2012 Olympics and beyond). So a few missed training sessions here and there probably won't matter, and I can focus on making steady improvements and learning a lot of new things over that time period. I will also make a special effort to avoid unnecessary injury, as too much of that will set me back. And I will learn from people like Dara and others whose blogs I read to train sensibly, although with purpose and measured progress.
The Chinese have a saying: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step" (「千里之行，始於足下」 ). Once that step is made, there are many other steps that must be made. The snail must keep climbing the wall if it is to get to the top. If it stops making the effort, it will probably slide backwards, which will mean that reaching its goal will become more and more difficult. So I am not going out to do my fastest 400m ever next week, but through consistent and methodical training, I believe I will see times like that gradually dropping without having to get all worked up about them. Then I will start to think about race strategy....
Pictures from top-to-bottom (Theme: "The Taiwanese Countryside"): Rice growing in a small field by the side of the road, about 20 minutes by bicycle from our home. But this is another world from the big city in which we live. A red flower blooms along a hedgerow. A pineapple not quite ready for harvesting. A huge tree burdened with lychees (荔 枝 - "litchi chinensis") - these will taste delicious within a few weeks when they turn red.