Sunday, September 7, 2008

Review of the Past Year: Triathlon

Riding a bicycle in Taiwan is in many ways a lot different from in Hawai'i. There is so much more to see here. The sun is also very strong and, in an effort to protect my face (which is already very red as it is), I have bought myself a new hat (US$3) which is actually very cool when riding. I am riding a mountain bike. The emphasis is not so much on speed, but just on relaxed riding. I get my workouts at the swimming pool.

Before I get into the main focus of today's blog, let me quickly recap on my swimming for this week. In the previous post, I noted that I had covered a total of 12,350 meters for Tues, Wed and Thurs of this last week. On Friday I did 4,050m, Saturday 3,600m (I woke up late, obviously tired from the trip to Taipei on Friday), and this morning (Sunday) I swam a total of 4,150m. That means that for the week as a whole (Mondays the pool is closed) I swam a total of 24,150 meters. In each workout this week, I had several 25 meter "blasts" sometimes followed by 75 meters of "easy" swimming without a rest, and sometimes I just rested and then did another fast 25. While the workouts have been fun, I tend to get quite tired during the day and am forced to sleep for at least one hour some time close to the middle of the day. Fortunately, I have a nice comfortable bed, but I also find that I am a little slow at getting down to doing my work. However, without a rest, I just cannot do any work.

I would like to briefly write down some thoughts on my training over the past year. My training in Kona, Hawai'i ended with the Hapuna Roughwater Swim on July 1, 2007. We flew on July 2 and returned to our home just outside Taipei. Although it was summer and the community pool was open, I decided to give it a miss last year. I had quite a lot of work to keep me busy during the day, and I decided to go for walks in the hills behind our community. When going for walks I would often carry work with me. Our old apartment needed quite a lot of work done, and so it made sense to concentrate on trying to make a little extra money. I occasionally ran in the hills (despite the steepness of the roads and the relatively sudden change in elevation). I was surprised that I could run fairly well, both uphill and downhill without suffering knee discomfort.

However, the runs were very few. I missed the way I trained in Kona, with friends and over familiar ground. I tried to get involved in some organized activities, one being the Taipei (and later Kaohsiung) hash runs, having done quite a bit of that in the early part of the 1990s in the Taipei area. However, the lack of a car in Taipei made it virtually impossible to reach the venues for some runs, so I ended up only doing one such run there (although it was a really good workout). In Kaohsiung, by the time I had reached the run start, and had had a few beers and sat through the formalities afterwards, too many hours in my opinion had passsed. The actual running time was little more than an hour. So I wondered if I should really get involved in that. In the end, apart from showing up once, I did not. Maybe I will if I have more time, but that is unlikely.

Early this year, I met up with some foreign acquantances in the very south of Taiwan for what was to be several days of triathlon training. Unfortunately, I did not have a bike, but I figured I could at least swim and run. I was advised to take a wetsuit, which meant ordering one and having it Fedexed from the US, so more money. I could have managed without it. The water where we were in early February (although very rough) was no cooler in my opinion than Kona. The camp was suddenly cut short on the first day when a participant unfortunately had a fatal heart attack on the first group swim. I had already felt a little scared on the swim as it was my first in half a year.

With the decision being made to move down to Kaohsiung as early as August last year (when we actually saw the house and expressed an intention to buy it), followed by meetings with bankers and the construction company, etc., we moved down south in late January this year. While the troubles associated with the major repairs on our old apartment and all the packing (which was mainly my job as it turned out that I am a lot more gifted at doing that than significant others in our family) and the moving of all our things down south were now in the past, the new house had its own set of issues, mostly financial, as it needed new furniture, kitchen and bathroom fittings, air-conditioning, windows to wrap around on some of the lanais (balconies), solar water heating panels, etc. Fortunately, for us, much was done before we actually moved down, since we gained possession of the new home in mid-October, but kept finding things to do that made us want to stay in Taipei. Most of the things that we had planned to have done have been finished now, which means that we will soon no longer have to pay relatively large sums of money for a sofa, or several air conditioners. The list of things seems endless. I now agree with the statement that it is a lot cheaper to rent in Taiwan than to buy. However, living in a place like the one we have now is a lot more relaxing and comfortable in my opinion.

After moving to Kaohsiung, I started to ride an old mountain bike by following the cycle paths along the river that runs through the city. Then I went to check out a fairly nearby swimming pool that I had heard about, and that gradually changed my approach to training.

Given the circumstances I am in, I feel that any training program that I seek to follow must fulfill certain criteria if it is to be meaningful and worthwhile: (1) It must be such that most of the time devoted to the training is actually spent training (i.e., no one hour drives just to get to the start of the run, and no obligatory one hour waits to drink a watered down beer as part of the formalities); (2) It must be local enough that I actually get to make friends with people in the local community (i.e., not large events where one is just lost in the crowd, or where people are too transient (often the case with the foreign community here); (3) It must not involve a lot of expenses (such as having to keep up with the Joneses by driving to events in swanky cars, having to pay for the beer that the others drink, high subscription/ attendance fees, etc.; and (4) It must encourage the development of wholesome relationships. By this I mean that events should be about fun, friends and families as the Peaman races were. I am a bit over events that end up with a lot of beer drinking or cross-dressing, etc. I know I would like to have a good laugh sometimes, but maybe some things might lead me astray, too.

I am pleased to say that the local swimming pool I have been attending nearly every day for the last six months meets all the above criteria. That is a big part of the reason why I have mainly just been swimming. I have found a factory that can make me a carbon tri-bike frame that actually fits me, but I have kept putting off the purchase decision until a few further expenses in relation to the new house have been met. Besides, if I just want to bike easy for the time being, I can use the bike I have at present. As for running, I have been rather tired with swimming and also have not found someone with whom to train. I probably won't find anyone with whom to train unless I go out and run, and so I guess I should get started. However, I still feel too busy with work and too tired from swimming for the time being.

I have not been able to take part in any competitions so far here in Taiwan, not that the competitions don't exist, only that they have usually been far away from where I live. Step by step, I guess. I am thinking of trying to do Ironman Japan next year (to experience Japan as well as try to complete another Ironman), and hope I will also be able to get over to Hawai'i at some point to see if the swimming training I have been doing has really been making a difference.

In another article I plan to write a little about an equally important part of my life (and which I have already referred to quite a lot in this article) and that is work. It is probably a common experience for many, that when we have a lot of work to do, we never have enough time to enjoy the money that we earn. However, when we do not have enough work, we often cannot afford to do the things we would like to do. It is clearly important to achieve a right balance between the two, something that I will write more about later.

1 comment:

BreeWee said...

BALANCE! You got it! Hey, Bruce, thank you for always leaving such good wisdom on my posts, I am so thankful for you! We still miss you around here, the crazy races are about to wrap up the season...

Keep enjoying your new life out there, even though the biking is totally different :)