A teammate earlier expressed an interest I swam on my own in addition to our Hyack practices, but he shouldn’t think it that unusual. When you read about the top master swimmers they all swim mileage approaching if not matching competitive senior levels – the thrice-weekly practices Hyack Masters schedule not being close to enough for allowing proper competitive training regimes. Likely his puzzlement stems from the fact he can’t personally figure out, with a young family and all those obligations commensurate with being an adult himself, how or why anyone in Masters Swimming would want to swim more. An aside here: my teammate is an active blogger and one of his readers, a very good master swimmer from California, congratulates him on his race results in a most exuberant manner. After seeing the quality of Californian’s own posted times, however, I think I detect a little tongue-in-cheek in his generous accolades. To be fair, as a quiet Canadian I might just be misreading one very outgoing and gregarious American (there are a lot of them and frankly I find it irritating). Regardless, our Californian speedster would probably be impressed my teammate accomplishes what he does averaging just a couple of swims a week. Like my teammate most of us neither have the time nor the inclination to devote ourselves completely to our chosen activity in the way we need to achieve our ultimate best results. Living in today’s world, with all its wealth, fast transportation, and easily available information we have a virtually unlimited choice in what we do with our lives. Sometimes the sheer magnitude is overwhelming and finding the requisite balance difficult. Because I’m single and my swimming also provides needed therapeutic benefits I’m prepared to sacrifice a lot to continue with my present level of training, recognizing my own obligations make it unsustainable for very long. As I benefit from swimming I’ll persevere – at least for now. Intense athletics is best left to the young, not only because they are more physically able, but because they don’t have the host of commitments they’ll have later in life.
Years ago I took up running competitively precisely because I had nothing on my hands. Articling finished I was casting about for a new challenge and eventually settled on running, inspired by my father’s ability. So at twenty three years of age I started running competitively; well, not at first, as it takes time to get up to the mileage necessary for someone to compete in track. It took about a year for me to reach a hundred kilometers a week, a process much more difficult and prolonged than swimming, which likely will take less than half that time to reach a similar starting point. My original intentions were to compete in my father’s events; the 800 through to the mile, but unfortunately my talents were insufficient for this. I never came close to approaching four minutes for the 1,500 much less this magical time for the mile, and failing a sufficiency of pure speed I consequently found myself dabbling in the longer distance steeplechase and 5,000 meters. Later on, in an effort to improve my tactics for these same events, coach entered me into the only 10,000 meter event I’ve ever raced. I felt a little out of place there warming up on the track. At a hulking 6’4” and almost 170 lbs I rather stood out amongst the typical 10,000 meter man, even discounting at twenty six I was now noticeably older than my average competitor there. As I warmed up a young crew cut man, probably a freshman from the local university, started conversing with me. I’m not really sure why he did so. Perhaps because of his inexperience he mistook my age for ability, perhaps being new to track outside of a school setting he was simply trying to be sociable, but he did and we exchanged a few words which continued as the race was called and we headed to the start line. As a ‘no time’ I stopped in the second alley and the boy threw me a quizzical glance as he continued to his seeded position. I couldn’t help myself, his unasked question was so evident I had to blurt out, “my 10k time is 33:23” and here the reader needs to understand: in men’s 10,000 meters the world starts at thirty something and goes down from there. The 10k being a road race means times will invariably be slower, but not that much slower! He literally did a double take with eyes wide. It wasn’t hard to read what he was thinking, because written all over his face was “G*d are you slow! Why are you even running?” In the race itself my new acquaintance kept right up with the race leaders until about the final thousand meters, where he faded badly lacking the strength to compete with the more mature males at that level. But he was young and he would get stronger and better. As for myself I finished more than a minute faster than my 10k best, a better time being somewhat expected of course. But it did little to assuage the damage his shocked look had done to my ego. All my time and the effort spent, and for what – expressions of sympathy? If the race I had just run had included the world’s best 10,000 meter runners the leaders would have been crossed the line with me over two kilometers behind, two kilometers! The next week at practice I told my coach I was leaving track and thanked him for his efforts. As much as I wanted to run like my father I had to face the truth – I just couldn’t. I simply had no talent for it and there were clearly better things to do with my life.
Of course balance has two sides. If this particular post is about first looking after the priorities in your life: your spouse, family, friends and career; it’s also about not letting all those little pieces of yourself you dole out to everyone else add up to everything you are. Set aside some time to train, take along some of your favourite music, and for an hour or so take care of yourself … each and every day.
A great example of the physique of an international 10k runner