Welcome to my blog which focuses on my life in Taiwan.
(Photo: Cheng Ching Lake (澄清湖), Kaohsiung)
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Impossible Dream
50 meters of outdoor pool open all year round
As I have been going to swim each morning, or at least most mornings, I have looked down the 50m pool and wondered just how fast I could swim a length if I especially trained for it. I remember in 1997 not long after recovering from illness that, at the end of a life-saving training session, I dived in another 50m outdoor pool in Taipei and swam the length in about 50 seconds. At the time, I told one of the instructors about it and he said that for us ordinary folk that was quite good, although of course for good swimmers it was really slow.
Now I can swim the same distance with a dive into the pool in about 40 seconds, and I often will have a go as I finish a 3,000 m workout and am warmed up for it. The world record is somewhere around 21 seconds (20.94 if Frederick Bousquet's recent record in France holds). For my age group, the qualifying time for USMS Nationals is apparently around 32 seconds. So getting my time down from about 40 seconds to about 32 seconds may be impossible or possible depending on which way you look at it.
I would really like to have the chance to qualify in some freestyle distance for the USMS Nationals. I think one of the main reasons is that there is a tendency for people to think that if you were not a good and fast swimmer when young, then you will never be able to become one when you are older. In my case, I did not break 50 seconds for this distance (LCM) until I was "over the hill" in my forties. In addition, in life I have had my share of setbacks and negative feedback, etc. and so to accomplish something, even if only small, will be all the more worthwhile.
So what have I got going for me? Besides having a pool to practice in (even though it is probably not a "fast" one), I have the advantage of height (1m 92s). While I still look like a shrimp compared with some of the "big boys" (who are often almost two meters and much more strongly built), at least I can get stronger through training, although I cannot make myself any taller. I also have fairly big feet and hands, which while a curse when one goes to a shoe shop, may possibly help if I can learn to use them to my advantage.
Currently, I am not very well coordinated on my 50m training "sprints". I can usually do a fairly good dive, but I am still experimenting with the dolphin kick (like they do in the big races) to get further up the pool before actually using my arms. Then I am not sure whether to take short, rapid strokes with my arms, or to fully extend them and take longer strokes with more glide. My breathing seems to be erratic, like 10 strokes then one breath, then 6 strokes, then 2 strokes, etc., etc. I can feel myself slowing down and struggling half way through the swim.
Well, all these things can be overcome, just as can flip turns. When swimming 100 meters where I need to turn, I can flip over so that I lie on my back as I push off the wall. However, often my push is so weak that I must have almost come to a complete stop.
Anyway, there are plenty of things I can work on, and it is well worth the effort. It is a great feeling to go down the pool and find out that a second was knocked off one's previous best time. Another reason for focusing on the short distances is because in the past I have always tended to train for much longer distances. While I have developed a lot of stamina, I have always tended to be slow, and I could rarely pick up the pace in a short race (like a short Peaman or Mango sprint). So even if in the end I cannot reach the USMS qualifying standard, my overall performance in a "short" race with a swim of up to half a mile should be improved.
I was born and grew up in the south-east of England, and as a child was a keen golfer. During my first year at university as an economics student, I became very drawn to Asian students and their respective countries. This led to further studies in the economics of developing countries and later the study of the Chinese language in Taiwan. In 1985 I married Hsiu-chin, and while we made Taiwan our home, we also lived for several years in Hawaii. It was there that I took up triathlon, completed the Hawaii Ironman in 2004 and took part in many smaller races. While I have gained much experience as a translator of Chinese, over the years I have developed a passion for other East Asian languages and cultures, including, but not limited to, Thai and Japanese, as well as other Chinese dialects. We currently reside in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where I continue with language learning and triathlon training.