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Testing the waters

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Skills Test passed! And I was amongst 40, out of a pool (ha ha) of 60, who were selected to proceed to the next stage of training to become a certified swimming coach (that is, if you wanted to teach in a public pool). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the others ‘failed’ the test. As places for the technical course were limited, only the better swimmers would be selected. I would say however, that a handful certainly looked like they needed swimming lessons first!

The Skills Test required us to swim each of the 4 strokes for 25 m. I was confident about passing — I knew I could swim all 4 strokes fairly well (though I’m aware that there’s still some way to go to perfecting my technique). In the past year, I’ve been (and still am) honing my pet strokes, the breast and free, and I’ve also spent time on becoming more proficient in my weaker strokes, the fly and back.

We were split into 6 groups (or details) and assigned in alphabetical order based on our surnames; I was in Detail 5 and got to check out the level of competition in the earlier groups which were tested first. We swam the breast first, followed by the fly, free and back; we got a breather in between strokes while waiting for the rest of the group to complete their swims.

Several of the swimmers swam a strong breast and the fly leg was quite competitive too. Interestingly, some of the candidates floundered in the free and back; there were few all-rounders. I was feeling really glad that I had trained for versatility by including Individual Medley sets in the last few months. It meant being spread thin, since the time could have been spent on my racing strokes, but I sure am feeling thankful now! Plus I’m definitely motivated about working harder on my versatility!

The technical module just started on Monday and will run for 2 months, after which I will sit for a theory, as well as a practical test. Thereafter, arrangements will be made for my training attachment.

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I had teased him about being single and said something about a closet. (We tease each other quite a lot.) In response, he leaned in and put his face up against mine. Close, too close. And for those few seconds, as I studied his face and his mouth up close, I actually contemplated leaning in… But of course I didn’t — not in public; not in front of our friends; not in front of other people who knew me (even if barely).

Later, as the teasing continued, he curled his leg around mine and pulled me under. Testing the waters, literally. Heh. Well, he certainly passed the Proximity and Touch Test. I don’t know how I did. But, whatever. Shrug. It is interesting however, that he didn’t hold himself back even though Uncle was around for that lesson — I guess they have come to some kind of… understanding.

And so, just as I’m losing interest (for various reasons) and becoming less conscious of his presence, he decides to tug on the line. Sigh. Must it always be so? It’s not even like I was trying hard to begin with. I guess I’ll just continue to focus on doing my own thing and only pay him sporadic (but just enough) attention.

If nothing else, at least I’ll still get my own stuff done and be able to move on with my life.

Besides, it’s probably in my favour at the moment that we all take our time ;-)

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

September 11th, 2014 at 12:35 am

When it rains, it pours.

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It looks like the year-end dive trip cum New Year celebrations is going to be really interesting, if not entertaining. We might have 3 (or 4) new additions to the party. Am crossing my fingers that G will come along. Otherwise, rooming arrangements might get a little awkward with The Little Primate — or Cock Block, as G calls him. Laugh. Yeah, Cock Block is the term alright. Mutter darkly. AND, especially after his ridiculous tantrum at a recent outing. BOYS. Roll eyes. Sigh.

Invitations were sent to the other 2 during a casual conversation about holiday plans. Since Uncle was particularly interested in the make-up of the group and how the lone male was related to me, I thought, hey, you know what, why don’t you and the Swede come along to help me out with the awkward situation eh? Plus, Uncle clarified that the Swede wasn’t attached afterall. The territorial Chinese chick who showed up at the pool several weeks ago was just an interested party.

Anyway, we’ll see. Checking on the availability of extra rooms now, and in case something else starts biting at my line again. Grin.

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Have secured my housing loan from the bank and exercised my Option to Purchase. Am now gathering ideas for renovation and furnishings while waiting to meet (and evaluate) my first ID contractor next weekend, and to attend the first appointment with HDB in 3 weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, I’ve obtained my Lifesaving Award of Merit certification and my coaching course resumes in September with twice weekly sessions, ending November.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve not started serious training for the Masters swim in mid October. Oh well. It’s all for a good cause :-D

And oh yes, a dolphin (albeit a small one) has joined Club Ink ;-)

Changes are also afoot at work with yet another reorganisation, and this one will affect me somewhat. Waiting to receive more details at next week’s briefing but certainly, the workload will increase — hopefully, in a positive way.

So, the next 6 months will be crazy, and I’ll need to keep it all together!

 

Bedroom - Glass doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

August 17th, 2014 at 4:01 pm

In theory

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So, I’ve received news today that I’ve passed the theory component of the coaching programme. (But of course — it was easy.)

Unfortunately, I also found out yesterday that the second run of the technical course might not happen in September because of the launch of the new coaching syllabus this August. This means that I have to wait for the NEW technical course which will only be run in March next year, AND since it is based on the new syllabus, I might also have to re-take my theory. SIGH!!

I’m now waiting for the organisers to get back to me about their plans for my cohort. Twiddle thumbs.

Oh well. Guess I’ll have at least 6 months to concentrate on getting my own place. I’ve been distracted enough the first half of the year, and it’s time to get back on track!

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

July 10th, 2014 at 12:10 am

And the student becomes the teacher.

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The idea of being a teacher, or to teach, had never appealed to me. I couldn’t imagine myself standing before a class of 40 young faces and talking for hours, much less knowledgeably and confidently in front of an A U D I E N C E. Shudder!

I did however give tuition while I was in school — to earn extra pocket money. I didn’t enjoy it after the initial novelty and the realisation of the practical issues and realities, and it became a dreadful chore. I decided that teaching was just not for me.

When I started working and had to attend various training sessions, I would always feel a little annoyed when the trainer was incompetent, or just bad. I reckon my negative experiences reinforced my ambivalence about teaching. I’ll’d find myself enduring an ineffective trainer and run through the list of do’s and don’ts in my head. (Yes, I’m judgmental like that.)

 

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It started with me getting back into swimming and constantly looking for ways to improve. And — I didn’t realise this until later — my interest (and obsession, even) was evident to others whenever I talked about swimming. And not a few people suggested that I should teach.

I don’t know at which point my views towards teaching changed. Having more positive experiences helped — I remember going away from a few training courses thinking that was a well-spent break from work that I was sorry to see come to an end; and I was also inspired by great speeches and talks on YouTube and TED. (So, I’m always instinctively judging. Ha. Ha. But you know what? Critique is essential to coaching!) And I thought how nice it would be if I could engage my class the same way.

And over the past decade, I’ve changed as a person. I became less shy about speaking up and sometimes even enjoyed expressing myself, particularly when I saw a ‘wrong’ and just had to make it a ‘right’. While this is certainly a positive change, I think I also need to know when to zip it (ha. ha.) and remember that listening is just as, if not more important. As an aside, I’m working on tempering my eagerness and zeal. While I don’t consciously and intentionally set out to upstage anyone, it can seem insensitive to interrupt another person and make them look lesser, or worse, feel bad about themselves. And I ought not to assume or impose my viewpoint on others especially in situations where it really isn’t about getting things ‘right’ — who’s to say who’s ‘right’ anyway, eh?

I also realised that my ambivalence about teaching was because my thinking processes tended to focus on the negative (my glass was always half-empty) — the inconveniences and difficulties (perceived or otherwise) of teaching, like managing students/strangers, having to spend all my free time preparing for classes, and self-confidence issues.

These negative thoughts still come to me — perhaps it’s just how I’m wired. But I now make an effort to challenge them. And then I think about how to get what I want; the process of planning takes me farther away from my doubts and closer to my goals. I’m enjoying being able to be so passionate about something because I’m not held back by my doubts; I’d rarely been passionate about something (do crushes count? ha. ha.). It’s just wonderful to feel so alive, and to look forward to each day.

Come to think of it, having gone through this process of overcoming my doubts and challenges systematically, was already a form of coaching — with myself as student! It’s funny how life works out.

So, I signed up for a sports coaching programme, hoping not only to become a certified swimming coach, but also to improve my own swimming at the same time. Preparations began late last year — looking up the requirements, planning what needed to be done and how and when, sorting through a few hiccups, getting re-certified in CPR, going back to lifesaving training, working on refining and perfecting my swimming strokes, and registering for the actual coaching programme. I’ve been attending twice-weekly 3-hour lectures after work the past month and will be taking the theory examination this coming Tuesday. Mid-July, I’ll be going for my lifesaving Award of Merit. Sometime in August, there’ll be a selection process in the form of a swimming skills test, to determine who would be accepted into the September intake of the technical programme. And all this is just to attain Level 1 certification, which would enable me to coach sports novices in the community. At the higher levels, coaching would include managing competitive athletes.

It’s keeping me really busy but I’m learning a lot of useful stuff that’s also applicable to other parts of my life, and enjoying myself while I’m at it. And each day, I’m getting closer to my goal :-D

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

June 22nd, 2014 at 2:02 am

Downsizing

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Some months ago, I had to do a wardrobe resize for my Uniqlo chino shorts. The first batch was starting to fall dangerously low and they no longer sat well on my hips.

The past few weeks, I again found myself pulling up my shorts more often, and they barely hug my thighs now.

Time to make another trip to Uniqlo. Not that I’m complaining ;-)

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Managed a 90-minute 40-lap session tonight, with a mix of anaerobic and aerobic work. 20 laps is not going to cut it anymore.

It was more willpower than anything else to keep going. The initial laps felt tough but as I did the third and fourth sets, my breathing was not as laboured and it felt like my body had adapted to the physical exertion.

Gotta be disciplined about clocking the mileage so I can improve my fitness and resting heart rate.

 

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May 25th, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I, Me and Myself

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Had a lovely 6D5N diving holiday in Brunei. Went with only one other friend as the others weren’t interested; and I lost interest in getting the Tulamben gang *and* the Swede to come along after the latter’s sulky girlfriend showed up at the pool and practically stood guard over her possession. Ha. Ha. Ok. Ok. You can have him all to yourself.

As we went after Vesak Day, the dive centre was off-peak and there were not as many divers; most of whom were not staying at the centre in any case as some were locals or expats based in Brunei. My friend and I also had our own rooms.

I therefore got to enjoy a lot of ‘me’ time and more rest/sleep. Bliss :-)

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“I’ve seen your breast. It’s quite good.”

O_o

Only at the pool can a guy say this to me and not get Xena-Warrior-Princessed. But I think it’s high time FINA renames the breaststroke. Gah!!

Anyway, I now have a pacing partner at the pool :-) This, when I started training for the recent meet and he found out that I’m into competitive swimming. He asked to train together so he could get back into shape as well — he was a former national swimmer back in his own country. So, he’ll be providing the training programme and also helping to fine-tune my technique. Cool :-) And erm, he appears to be the hands-on type. Haha. We’ll see where this goes….

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 19th, 2014 at 11:27 pm

The other way around

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I’d thought that the yoga (especially) and Muay Thai would give me the extra edge in the pool. And they did help with the swimming — better flexibility and breathing rhythm — when I was building up my aerobic fitness several months back so I could swim more laps without stopping.

But it was really when I pushed myself and included a few mini 100 m Individual Medley in my swims that I saw significant improvements — completing a 50 m Fly and better anaerobic fitness. I was also surprised when I found myself holding yoga poses almost effortlessly, and skipping faster for my Muay Thai warm-ups.

And then I started serious anaerobic training in the pool in preparation for the recent swim meet.

When I returned to Muay Thai post-competition and after a 8-week hiatus, the aerobic warm-ups were a breeze and I barely huffed through 4 rounds of pad work. Wow.

My legs and knuckles didn’t cramp and weren’t sore. My punches and kicks were faster and a lot easier and I didn’t feel lactic build-up. My reaction time was faster too.

Certainly the stronger arms and legs helped. But I reckoned that the painful tui na sessions I endured made a huge difference too.

I’m feeling so chuffed with the results from this new combination of intense pool work and physical therapy. Can’t wait to start strength training and see how the trio performs. Excited!

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 10th, 2014 at 1:51 am

Power

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I’m back at the pool and getting my groove back.

So I’ve got a reasonable foundation in technique, stamina and sprinting. But of course, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, and I’ll have to continue to work on these areas.

What’s more important in the next phase of training, and which I’ve also realised is sorely missing, is strength and power. Sure, my arms look a lot more toned now but they don’t feel powerful in the water. And that’s what’s holding me back from building up on my speed.

Time to go pick up weights.

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 6th, 2014 at 11:36 pm

2 Golds and a Best Performer :-)

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The key to a positive swim meet experience is to be both focused and relaxed… Coach Jim goes to a swim meet with a plan for the entire event, including when and how he warms up, what and when he eats, and what he packs in his bag. A detailed plan for the day leaves fewer unknowns and allows Jim to relax and confidently swim the races he has prepared for. Your training plan has given you the physical conditioning and the confidence to swim your race, and now your swim-meet plan will carry you through the event successfully.

~ Mastering Swimming by Jim Montgomery and Mo Chambers

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One year later and I was back where it all started. I’d prepared, trained and waited a whole year for this. I should also add that Lady Luck was smiling widely ;-)

And I’m happy with the loot – 2 Golds from the 50 Free and 50 Breast, and a bonus Best Performance trophy for my division which is super cool :-D Wonder how many NTUC vouchers that gets me. Laugh. Last year’s Silver earned a $40 NTUC voucher and a token $10 cash allowance just for competing.

This year’s swim meet was surprisingly enjoyable — the 3 competitions last year were nerve-wrecking though the experience gained was certainly invaluable. On the day of the meet, I woke up slightly past 6 am feeling prepared and ready to race. I’d already done my training and knew my times; I’d checked out my racing gear, the meet venue and the start list; I’d tolerated painful sessions of physical therapy to work out the kinks all over my body; I’d tapered as planned and ensured I got enough rest — which was ironical because I came down with a fever and very worrying body aches (dengue alert!) just before I started tapering; I’d packed my bag and planned for the day. I was relaxed and psyched.

Breakfast was homemade (the best!) and hearty — picnic ham, scrambled egg and melted cheese on toasted tomato-herb focaccia, and some watermelon. It sustained me the whole morning and I barely snacked :-)

I showed up early for the meet, took my time to settle in and had an unhurried and thorough warm-up, including practice starts and finishes. Then I wiped down and changed into my racing suit — sadly, it was the TYR back-up instead of the Speedo Fastsuit3 which I was still trying to get right. Notwithstanding our tropical weather and that most people covered up with only a T-shirt and/or shorts, I had to be sure that all my bits were kept warm. So I zipped up with a light jacket, track pants and covered shoes. I already had a good feel of the place from last year and my recent recces, and felt right at home — that I belonged here.

I watched a few of the races and made a note of the starter’s timing from the series of short whistles, to the long whistle signalling our approach to the blocks, his long drawn out “On your mark” and the all-important jump-NOW-or-be-left-behind sounding of the horn 1 to 2 seconds later. While I mentally ran through my races a few times, I didn’t dwell on them — I already knew what I needed to do. Nor did I obsess about the other women. I didn’t need to stress myself more and I was resolved that this was going to be all about me and no one else. Except for a momentary surge of anxiety which dissipated quickly, my heart rate felt stable throughout and I didn’t feel the need to munch which would have messed with my stomach. I massaged my arms and legs to stay “loose”. I kept myself well-hydrated.

Being distracted also helped. Entertainment was provided by the company of the BFF/ bag-watcher/ photographer/ cheerleader and my 2 team mates. I even caught up with a former colleague from more than a decade ago (!!) whom I’ve also seen at other Masters level meets. Turns out that the latter will be working with my colleagues on a new project. Small world.

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My first race, the 50 Free, started more than 2 hours later. I didn’t swim this event when I returned to competitive swimming a  year ago — I could hardly finish a lap at more than a minute without being breathless and my arms cramping up; I was that out-of-shape.

Again, I headed over to the holding area early and took my time to gear up — a soft cap to manage the long hair, followed by spit-defogged racing goggles and then my racing cap. When we got to the blocks, I stepped out of my pants; positioned my goggles over my eyes and checked my cap; “roughed up” the skin on my forearms by rubbing them against the block to sensitise my arms; and splashed a little water on my face and body. Though chairs were provided, I chose to stand and move around a little.

As my event was announced, I tuned out everything else and moved only in response to the starter’s series of verbal signals. (I’d noted his timing earlier and did not need to keep looking at him for cues, which I noted some swimmers did, from post-event photos.)

Quick whistles: Approach block.

Long whistle: Mount block and bend over. Hang loose.

“On your mark!”: Press chest into thighs and count off 1 second. I am ready to go any moment.

The horn sounds: I fly off the block and hit the water; initiate 4-5 dolphin kicks and transit to flutter kicks and an arm-pull to break the surface for the actual sprint.

Swimming in the first final of 2, unseeded and relegated to Lane 3 in a field of 4, I don’t see anyone in front or creeping up to my right. (The other 3 were 10 to 20 seconds behind.) I am swimming in “clean water”. I breathe every 4 to 6 strokes, and occasionally 1 every stroke as I pass the 25 m mark and start to fatigue. I entrust my legs to auto-pilot and focus all my willpower on pulling my arms through to my hips and maintaining stroke integrity as my arms start to tire and my strokes threaten to fall apart. I espy the home stretch coming up and keep my head down as I charge to the finish.

I touched the wall and came up breathing hard. But I felt good and in control; I wasn’t hurting from lactic acid build-up and I didn’t feel like I was falling apart as with previous races. (Which only means that I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough! Ha!) I didn’t know yet if I had won the event. But I had my chance to perform my best in the span of half a minute, and that was that.

So I did win the 50 Free, in 34.19, 3 seconds ahead of the second swimmer who came in at 37.06. It was also a new Personal Best since the 34.81 I swam last November. But it wasn’t my target. I know I can do a sub-34, if not a sub-33 even. The fever took too much — I didn’t feel the power in my pulls. And when I touched the wall, I knew it. The swim had felt like my 34+ training sprints.

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We got a 15-minute break shortly after, during which the pool was available again for warm-up. I worked on my breaststroke and did more practice starts and finishes.

An hour or so later, I swam the 50 Breast in 0:46.22. I was seeded first in a field of 8 with my second-placed 0:49.10 last year; unseeded last year, I was also assigned one of the outermost lanes. As with the 50 Free, I found myself swimming in “clean water” — it wasn’t until the results were put up that I realised how close the race was. Looking at the photos of the start, I reckon my faster reaction off the blocks helped. The runner-up in Lane 2 finished just 0.31 seconds behind me. Both of us led the field, with the other women finishing at least 6 seconds later.

I didn’t manage a new Personal Best, which still stands at 0:46.02 from last November. I had wanted to go under 46 seconds.

The 50 Breast felt relatively easy — particularly when I recall how I struggled to finish it at last year’ meet and the OMG-awlful pain! But in my haste, I didn’t maximise my glides. At about 15 m, my strokes started to shorten so much that I didn’t even glide before starting the next stroke :-/ And again, since I finished without hurting from lactic acid build-up, I must not have pushed myself hard enough in my second race as well. Laugh!

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Many Wood (Dragon, Cow, Rat) gather in this month. Wood becomes much stronger. Something related to your reputation, helpers, parents or health might happen during this period. Something related to your reputation might happen during this period. For some reason, your words, behaviors or achievements will surprise people in a big way. Through good reputation, your fame will increase. You will win the race, award, honor, title or prize, if you are in a competition. Because of your astonishing performance, you will be totally relaxed and happy during this time. But no strong money luck is found during this period.

~ chinesefortunecalendar.com

 

Like I said, I was very, very lucky this year :-)

Signing up for the meet, I was almost certain I would medal, and I would have been happy with second or third place. But when the start list was generated a couple of weeks before the race, I began to seriously think about Gold(s) and even a divisional Best Performance award if I could win both my events. This was because the ex-national swimmer in my division was swimming in the Open division instead, and I knew I could swim faster than the rest of the field (except for a few new names). Her decision was strategic and for the greater good, so as to maximise team points for her agency because none of the younger women swimmers were available this year. Even then, she managed to medal in all 3 individual events she swam in — and she clocked much faster times this year! Formidable, this one.

Anyway, I’m really chuffed :-D And it’s not just about the Golds. It’s also about the planning, the training, all the other preparations, and just as important, the experiences and lessons I learnt, as I worked towards my goal. The entire journey has been amazing and I didn’t always travel alone, what with support from friends and even help from the observant lifeguards at the public pool :-) And of course, seeing all the work put in bear fruit and attaining my goal (and more!) was just fantastic :-D

I can’t wait to do this all over again!

In the meantime, some well-deserved rest and recovery while I think about new swimming programmes (yes! already!) for the next 1-2 months. And very soon, I’ll be training and counting down to the Masters and the National Games in November :-D

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

May 3rd, 2014 at 1:25 am

2 more weeks

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The point of competition is to compete. It’s to take on the biggest challenge. When you compete against the very best, it makes you better.

~ Michael Phelps

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The start list is out — I won’t be swimming against last year’s winner :-/ It’s good news for my medal goals, but I was really hoping to swim against J this year after a whole year of preparations. She’s swimming in the Open category instead. Shrug. Anyway, there are a few new faces amongst the Veterans, so that is providing enough excitement as I suss out the competition and unknowns ;-)

1 more week to train before I start tapering and allowing my body to recover and rest for the big day.

My trial times are OK — I haven’t swum the times I’ve hoped for but they’re decent for competing, given my late start with the really intensive training. I still feel ‘off’ on some days but I guess I’m just tired from training and not getting as much sleep as I should with the additional demands on my body.

I’m looking at swimming PBs of 32-33 seconds for the Free and 45-ish for the Breast. I’ll need a fast and great start, push through the pain in the last 25 m, and ram the wall like I really, REALLY, want to win.

I’ll need to rest well these 2 weeks, and keep it together on the day itself.

 

Written by The Intimate Stranger

April 13th, 2014 at 1:28 pm