Saturday, August 23, 2008

Finding Another Harry

Steve Hooker of Australia after a successful pole vault at the Olympics in Beijing last night. He not only got gold, only starting to jump when most other competitors had already been eliminated, but also broke the Olympic Record by clearing 5.96 meters on his last jump. While I seldom watch this sport, it was very entertaining watching the event unfold. I, for one, will miss the Olympics after they are over.

I have had a busy week workwise, plus a heavy cold, so my "Swim Camp" was cut somewhat short. Still, maybe I will do it again in a couple of weeks. Having covered 11,050 meters in the first two days (Tuesday and Wednesday), I did 4,100 meters on Thursday which culminated in a "relaxed and efficient" 200m in 3m 07s. On Friday, I got out of bed slightly earlier (though still lacking sleep) and covered 4,700 meters. At the end my friend and I raced the 200m and I again did it in 3m 07s, beating him by about 2 seconds, as opposed to 5 seconds the day before. This morning, while still feeling the effects of my cold, I covered 4,200 meters in all. Over the first 3k or so, I maintained a good steady pace (slightly faster than usual) in part because I was pulling two other swimmers and when the slower ones saw us coming they moved over to let us pass. At the end, however, I covered the 200m "race" in a slower 3m 14s, while my friend did a personal best of 3m 04s, equalling my best time of a couple or more weeks ago. I think I was a bit tired and maybe not motivated enough as I had not done any speedwork today.

When I lived and trained over a period of several years in Kona, I would often train with a friend called Harry, as we saw each other a lot and our speeds and desire for hard training on a regular basis were very similar. We also did most races together and so the Peaman or Mango race was as much a competition against each other as against anyone else. We also occasionally learned to work together which helped in the smaller races. While at times I beat him, on the whole he was the stronger athlete, and despite being younger and taller, somehow I never reached the stage where I could consistently beat him.

After returning to Taiwan last year, I did not feel very motivated to do anything. I no longer had a bike, and running alone on very steep inclines (around where we used to live) alone did not appeal to me, and I opted to walk instead and enjoy the scenery and also take some work along with me into the hills. Then, of course, I was particularly busy getting the old house ready for selling, and if I wasn't my doing the work myself, then I was paying huge sums of money having things done professionally.

When we moved down to Kaohsiung early this year, I had one or two opportunities to join a few members of the expatriate community to swim or to run. However, everything involved a lot of time just getting to a venue or else being forced to sit around drinking beer that I really looked forward to going back to Kona. Fortunately, I quickly found out about an indoor 25m pool nearby and while at first I went in the afternoons and swam some and did not talk to anyone, after I went in the early mornings, I met this guy who at the end of a workout challenged me to a 50m race. Well, a little race at the end of the pool session when the lanes became clear became a kind of ritual each day (we rarely miss a workout), and I now realize that I have found a new "Harry", or at least a swimming one. He is still faster than me over 100m, and now we share the same time for the 200m (freestyle). He thinks that I would beat him at anything longer because I cover roughly twice as much distance as him in our workouts. While he has trained as a swim coach and can swim all four strokes quite well, as with many people here he is not particularly motivated to increase his speed as there are few opportunities for him to race here. If people are not planning to go to the Olympics, or they are beyond the prime time of their youth (my coach friend's daughter will soon finish elementary school), they are considered to be "old" and there is nothing for them. This is a great pity. I looked at the qualifying times for US Nationals, and there is not much difference in times for people aged 25 and 55 in the longer freestyle swims. This goes to show that many Americans maintain their speed and fitness through most of their life. I think very few people in Taiwan realize that there is more to exercise than just swinging their arms to music in the park once they reach middle age.

So in a sense, while I don't think we are really trying to beat each other on these swims, I am getting good training and if we continue to improve in this way, then I will have a better chance of beating the real Harry when I make it back to Kona, even if just for a visit.

Meanwhile, I plan to run a marathon in early November in Taiwan (just try to go slowly without a lot of training), and I hope to at least have a bike by the end of the year so that I can consider applying for Ironman Japan next year. In that way, maybe I can just be part of something bigger as opposed to just seeing every day as just so many meters and a personal time for a specified distance. If anyone wants to race Ironman Japan next year, then hopefully we will meet there.

1 comment:

ShirleyPerly said...

Sorry you've been sick! But glad you found someone else to train/compete with. I used to have someone very similar to myself (Japanese-American, same AG, similar build, both triathletes) who pushed me to be better. Unfortunately, she moved to Utah earlier this year.

Cool that you're running the marathon in November. One time when I went to Japan for a business trip about 15 yrs ago, I noticed that I was the only woman who was out jogging. There were a few men, but NO Japanese women. Then again, would most women run or do any vigorous exercise if they were small and thin already? I doubt it, esp. in a modest Asian culture where everyday women do not usually want to appear muscular and fit or seem aggressive or competitive.