Archive for May, 2007

May 28, 2007

New Old Things

I’ve had the chance over the last few weeks to encounter some old new things. Or maybe they are new old things – I think that’s probably better. At least one of them goes way back – Swimming.

I’m getting ready for my first triathlon, and have been swimming laps about three times a week. The first few times I wasn’t able to swim very far – but after some coaching from my twin brother, I slipped into a rhythm and am now swimming a bit more than a mile overtime I hit the pool  – that’s between 80 and 100 lengths (which I call laps, by they way – everyone else considers a lap from one end of the pool back to where you started. When I was first learning to swim, a lap and a length were the same thing – and this has caused no end of confusion amongst my friends – when I say 80 laps they think I’ve trundled up and down 160 times!).

In any case – the more laps (or lengths, I’m really not that picky) the more time I have to remember all of the swimming I did back in the day. My mom and dad had us start early – 5 or 6 years old – and during my summers from then until about 12 – we spent a LOT of time in the pool.

Mom would drop us off at 6:00 AM or so for swim team practice. She’d then head out for all of the errands required in a house with 5 kids – and then come back and get us – usually with a snack and a thermos of hot chocolate to help us warm up. On someday’s, we’d just wait around until the pool opened for the general public and spend the rest of the day there. Oh, I don’t mean to imply that mom stayed the whole time – she had too much to do – but we didn’t. We played tag, swam, dove, made friends with the lifeguards – you name it. It would startle my Seattle friends – but back in the day, I was tan!

And the swim meets were something else – Dad would usually help time, or start, or line kids up to get ready for the races. We’d be there all day, and maybe swim 3 or 4 races. Once, the coach insisted that I line up on the wrong end of the pool for a relay – and I was faced with an embarrassing attempt at swimming 25 yards butterfly – a stroke I still haven’t learned!

We’d sit around, smell like chlorine, squeeze honey onto our tongues right before a race, look around for goggles that didn’t appear to belong to anyone, practice changing into our suits while wrapped in a towel, and went home tired, hungry, a little more tan, and with hair with a bit more green in tint than when we’d started!

It was fun. I wasn’t a very good swimmer. My twin was a champ – he was a backstroke specialist, and made it look so easy. Kathleen was a good swimmer, and so was Matt. Frank and I were what they call "sinkers" – the water wasn’t terribly natural for us, and speed and efficiency were hard to come by.

But it was fun – the sun, the chlorine, the snap of a wet towel, the crack of the starter gun, the cards with your event written on them. And for awhile (despite me and Frank), we’d come home with a lot of ribbons – after all – with 5 kids swimming – it was hard not to win a few!

And I’ve been riding my bike a lot more, too – and while I rode a lot as a kid, it was kid type riding, if you get what I mean – no helmet, so lycra, no water bottles – it was just a way of getting around. But when I got out of college, and before I became a runner, I was a cyclist. A neighbor who was pretty hard core invited me to do a bit of riding, and before I knew it my "short" ride was 40 miles, and my long ride was easily 4 times that.

We’d get up early, eat pancakes until we were stuffed, glide into our fast looking short and jerseys and ride, ride, ride. I loved the sound of cleats clicking into pedals, of gears shifting up and down, the whine of a paceline.

Some mornings, we’d meet up with a bunch of other riders, and we’d snake our way through Redmond and out towards Snoqualmie Valley for long, fast rides. We’d get 15 or 20 guys in a paceline, and we’d crank it up to 25 miles and hour – fast enough so that if you were in front it was close to an all out effort for a mile  -but that was just under 3 minutes. You’d slide to the middle of the road and the next guy would take over – and all you had to do was be ready to jump back on the end of that line – because if you missed – you got dropped! It was fun, hard work. As the day warmed up, we’d steam – and from the back of the line, you’d hear the hum of skinny tires on pavement, smell the A and D ointment and Tri-Flow, and watch the steam rise from our warming bodies.

That year, I raced from Seattle to Portland, around Mt. Rainier, and all the way to Winthrop, without thinking twice. I spent more time on my bike than in my car, and I ate everything in sight – it was terrific. When I moved closer to downtown, though – it was harder and harder to get out for a ride, what with the traffic and the lights – so I took up running instead.

And now I’m doing all three. I’ll ride to work, and at lunch I’ll jog to the pool, and then ride home after – a mini-triathlon, completely in the wrong order! But the smell of chlorine, the click of my shoe into my pedal, and the tick of my running shoes on the pavement all remind me of the earlier days, when I was doing each of those things to the exclusion of the others. And there are new things, too:

I’m learning about swimming – I’m counting my strokes, I’m rolling, I’m trying to glide through the water. Back in the day – it was all about effort, and not finesse, and that is fun. And my bike now integrates with my heart rate monitor, and I’m relearning cadence counts and how to move through my gears, and experimenting with tire pressure – and bit by bit – am feeling my road handling skills come back.

And running? Well – that feels like home, too. Not much new save for the shoes and trying to figure out the right pattern of all three – swimming, cycling, running. The race is just about 6 weeks away – and I’m ready for all but the transition. And am having a great time putting all three of these old things together in a new way!

May 7, 2007

More Training!

My girl and I continue to train for our triathlon – and one of the hidden benefits is that we are driving less. It’s pretty great – cycle to work, to volleyball, to meet friends for a jog – as Earth Day came and went – I was thinking about things that I can do to reduce my consumption footprint.

One of the things I wonder, though, is about energy efficiency. If I cycle and run and swim a lot – I need to consume more calories! So – we have to buy more, eat more, cook more – and – I wonder if there is a trade-off? Would sitting in front of my TV be better for the environment than consuming an addition 800 calories a day? Enquiring minds would like to know!

In the meantime, I’ve just purchased the Total Immersion swimming video and book – I think I’m pretty inefficient in the water, and this program gets good reviews – so we’ll see!