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Archive for November, 2013

Fish out of water

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Okayyy. So I just blew off another night of yoga/swimming to laze at home. Fine, so it’s only been 3 days in a row. Heck, some people — make that myself too, a long time ago — go for weeks without working out, right?!

Still, it feels a little strange to be not rushing off to the pool or the yoga studio after the last half a year of training. Instead, I just pigged out on a Magnum Black Expresso, Almond Chocolate Bun from Four Leaves, and some home-cooked food. And oooo, the Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream looks goooood too. Heh.

And when I’m done stuffing my face, I’m crawling into bed with Michael Phelps’ Beneath the Surface. I can’t believe I actually went through a third of the book last night — I, who can take a few months just to finish ONE BOOK. Ha. And oh yes, The Doggie is giving me The Walk-Me-Now Look. And I suppose after all that, I should get some work done. Bleargh.

But come to think of it, it’s a pretty great way to spend an evening after work too. I have to say I am enjoying myself being in this relaxed mode, sans the pressure of preparing for a race.

If nothing else, I think I’ve earned it. Grin.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

November 26th, 2013 at 8:34 pm

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Going the distance

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Another 5 km swim, almost a year later. Breaststroke again. Managed to go under 2 hours this time, though I hadn’t set that as a goal. I stopped the Garmin Swim watch at 1 h 57 m 35 s. I was averaging 1 m 10 s per lap, which is just 2-4 s slower than when I do my usual 20 to 30 lap swims, so that’s really good.

Rested on Thursday as I was feeling fatigued, but went for a fairly intensive Muay Thai session on Friday which gave me achey arms and shoulders. Still, this afternoon’s long swim was mostly effortless :-) It helped that it was cloudy and I didn’t have to fight a crowd and choppy waters.

The hardest part is always the first 10 to 20 laps. That’s when I have to set a pace, and settle into the swim mentally so that I would not be deterred when the inevitable soreness or pains set in — and they did. My ankles took turns; my lower back was sore; and with 30 laps remaining, fatigue did start to set in. I didn’t ignore the pain, but focused instead on swimming through it, and after a few laps, I was lost in The Zone again. After the initial laps, it was plain sailing and I just followed the blue lane markers at the bottom of the pool, or simply spaced out. Honestly, 2 hours felt more like less than an hour — I was that comfortable :-) My legs were wobbly after the swim but that’s fine since they did most of the work.

Rested an hour and then it was swim class. We went 2 full laps on the Fly and I surprised myself by making it all the way to the wall. The last 15 m was not very pretty though. Laugh. But I now have the confidence to work on a full lap — I do remember being able to do it as a teenager though I was told my stroke could be better. It’s still too early to tell if I would race the Back or Fly next year but I guess I should start taking initial times next week and then look at my progress in the next 1 to 2 months.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

November 23rd, 2013 at 10:57 pm

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“You lack the season of all natures, sleep.”

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“Eat, sleep and swim, that’s all I can do.”

~ Michael Phelps


My masseur was puzzled at my knotty shoulders and tight back — for someone who “exercised so much”.


I remembered that when I first started working out almost everyday — yoga 3 to 4 times a week, swimming, muay thai and roller-blading — I felt energised most of the time, and I felt really, really good about myself. Ahhh, endorphins.

As I got more serious about competitive swimming however, and increased pool time to 4 to 6 times a week, I felt my energy levels dipping steadily and ironically, I began to feel not as strong and ‘heavier’ all the time — even though I’ve lost about 2 kg in the last month, without actually trying to lose weight.

I thought it was just the increasing workload but I now realise that I’ve been sleeping less, and somewhat more fitfully in recent weeks. So, I haven’t compensated the increase in physical exertion with longer periods of recovery. Sigh.

While it’s not as if I’m spending hours a day swimming intensively — just 60 to 90 minutes at a mostly moderate pace — this sort of intensity does take its toll, especially at my age :-/ and because I do have a job.

No wonder elite competitors have to be full-timers in order to excel at their sport. But really, this kind of devotion and commitment is no different from someone else working towards a goal, any goal, whether it is to obtain an MBA, start a business or even find a husband (heh).

So yes, Sleep, Wonderful Sleep. I’ll have to work on getting more of that… or swimming less… NOT :-P


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November 23rd, 2013 at 1:20 am

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Last race of the year — improved my Personal Bests in both the 50 LC Breast and 50 LC Free, and picked up 2 Golds while I was at it :-D Win-win!

I did have a small reservation about competing in a race which was a ‘family event’, and because it was more for family bonding then serious racing, would be dominated by kids and only a handful of adult *leisure* swimmers — most likely parents of the kids. But I decided to sign up to gain more competition experience, and very importantly, to work on my performance anxiety which created some serious problems like poor stroke control and breathlessness. My goals were to go for Gold *and* improve my PBs; it was really more of a race against myself. I certainly felt capable of swimming faster considering that the hiccups from the last meet had most certainly slowed me down.

When the Start List was generated, I was pleasantly surprised, but also relieved, that there would be exactly 3 swimmers each for both my events — we would all be assured of a medal! Ha. Ha. But seriously, there would at least be a proper competition which was what I had hoped for. Interestingly, as with the Masters meet, even events with only one swimmer would have gone ahead. In the interest of time, similarly under-subscribed events in the same stroke and distance would be combined, but medals would be awarded accordingly to the different age groups.

As before, I conducted ‘background checks’ on the women to try and ascertain the level of competition. Heh. Heh. There was a regular biathlete in her early 40s who clocked really fast times in the swimming leg — equivalent pace of 56s per lap for 30 laps, or 1.5 km. Talk about endurance! Another younger woman in her 30s was a former national rower and had also signed up for the 50 LC Butterfly! Wah! I can barely complete half a lap! So much for easy pickings! The last was an ‘unknown’ — you can’t do much with a common name. Shrug. Anyway, she was a No Show.

This time, I swam more comfortably. Afterall, the last meet was just 3 weeks ago and so, I was more prepared. I focused on relaxing during the breaks and telling myself to just swim my best and not worry about how fast the others would go — if they were really fast, I couldn’t out-swim them anyway. And I had bigger problems — myself! The pool also felt less intimidating as the depth profile was similar to my regular training pool. The pool for the Masters meet was deeper and the water felt ‘heavier’ and somehow, more resistant. Shrug.

I felt good during the 50 Breast. It was my first event and I was fresh. I was in more control, though I did notice some lapses — at times forgetting to snap my legs back in completely for the propulsive phase, maintaining a more streamlined glide, and having a tighter in-sweep and shoulder shrug. I knew I had the Gold when I couldn’t see the biathlete in my peripheral. I finished in 46.02s with a comfortable 7.4s lead, and 1.24s faster than 3 weeks ago — oh, the difference of having goggles that stay on. Laugh. Thank you, Speedo Fastskin Elite! Heh. The Mirror version is uber cool, by the way!

The 50 Free started about 90 minutes later — but I still felt fatigued. As I climbed onto the starting block, the power pack felt empty and I lost some confidence there :-/ I guess the ‘light’ swim the day before was not such a good idea (note to self).

From the start, it was a close race with the Iron Woman who swam a strong race. I started to fade halfway and lost a lot of power in my kick, but I stretched out and managed to touch the wall first, a mere 0.17s faster in 34.81s. Phew! This was a 28s improvement since the Masters. The ex-national rower was less than 10s behind the both of us. I was bemused to read her laments on Facebook about competing against ‘pros’ at a family event. (But it is still a race, yes?) While she was pleased that she could still manage a respectable time at 36, she was amazed that “ladies in their 40s” were finishing at 34s. Heh. Strut.

So, that’s a nice wrap to the year, and I’ll be swimming — just a little — less for the rest of the year so I can practise more yoga and build on my flexibility.

In the meantime, there’s a lot to work on, and not just the physical aspect.

Mentally, there’s my performance anxiety and confidence issues. During the last 2 meets, I had allowed myself to pull back instead of giving my all during critical moments; giving in too quickly to fatigue instead of pushing myself over that mere 5-10 m stretch to the wall; backing down from a head-to-head instead of issuing a strong challenge.

I’m convinced that I’m capable of improving my PBs, and perhaps, I might also find the time to train for the 50 Fly? ;-)

Indeed, I’m already planning for 4 possible races in 2014, including the PS Star, PA CG, SNG (a biennial event that started in 2012) and Masters. Information is sparse but I’ve done some online research and talked to people.

I’m enjoying myself a lot, actually :-) Haven’t felt this passionate, and sustained over an extended period, about something.

Feeling excited :-D


Written by The Intimate Stranger

November 21st, 2013 at 9:49 pm

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Here we go again!

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A book about a former world champion’s return to competitive swimming — picked up at the airport because I thought I’d forgotten to bring a book to read for the weekender in Bali. I hadn’t, by the way.

But all’s well. It’s apt reading as this unexpectedly, very busy year comes to an end.

Just one more event to swim this Sunday. Two medals are guaranteed as there will be exactly 3 swimmers each for the 50 Breast and 50 Free. Heh. I’ll be going for Gold and new Personal Bests.

Written by The Intimate Stranger

November 14th, 2013 at 12:03 am

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