t h e i n t i m a t e s t r a n g e r

Archive for February, 2014


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As in High-Definition, but in Real Life. Heh.

Slowly but surely, am seeing the beginnings of definition in my arms, back, abs and legs. Yeah! And stretch marks on my legs??? Wa. The weight is also holding steady at 60 kg, which I haven’t been for a year or thereabouts.

It’s certainly from the cumulative swimming over the past year, but I felt a real difference in my physical conditioning after I started training all 4 strokes the past few months. Not only did this give my body a more thorough and intensive workout, I was also pushing several limits — working parts of my body that I hadn’t before, building strength and stamina in order to get through the more intensive work-outs.

But I’ve also been feeling more tired and in need of sleep :-/ Naps have become regular on weekends. Oh well. Shrug. Sleep is always nice to have :-)

Feeling chuffed :-)

2 more months :-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 26th, 2014 at 12:25 am

No limits

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I’ve had 2 lessons of free-diving (2 more to go) from a former competitive free-diver who is now based in Singapore. I’m hoping it’ll help with my breathing, or rather, breath-holding, during sprints. It’s been an interesting experience so far, including learning (or rather, being reminded) that the urge to breathe is due to a build-up of carbon dioxide and not so much (sometimes anyway) the lack of oxygen. And how does this help me? Because I now have a clearer picture of what’s happening with my body, it gives me the ability and confidence to do what I need to do, and to push myself harder, for that extra edge during sprints. And once again, I am struck by how one of the take-home messages always goes back to pushing my limits — you never know what you can do until you try. Obviously, it’s a lesson I’m still learning.

In preparation for renewing my lifesaving certification to qualify for the NCAP, I’ve also done my time trials for the timed tows, and all within less than an hour: Bronze Medallion 2:30 (0:37, 1:53) (non-contact with flotation device); Award of Merit 4:30 (1:35, 2:55) (non-contact with clothes); Distinction Award 5:48 (1:36, 4:12) (contact). I completed the items within the time limits; but I was more pleased about the times I did for the 50 m and 100 m sprints at only about 85% effort, and how I still had enough steam left for the tows. My breathing is much improved for the freestyle and my general endurance (with the consecutive BM, AM and DA sets) is better.

2 more months to go before the swim meet :-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 22nd, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Be prepared

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I get asked all the time what I think about when I’m up on the blocks, in the instant before the starter says, take your marks.


There’s nothing I can change, nothing I can do to get faster. I’ve done all the training. All I can do it listen for the beep, dive in the water and swim.

~ Michael Phelps

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Went under 0:34 for my 50 free this afternoon, with a dive start from the poolside. I didn’t even think I was pushing 100%; 85% maybe —  my pulls could be a lot more efficient. But my arms didn’t feel as fatigued in the last 15 m and I could complete most of my pull-throughs.

With a proper dive start from the blocks, and 100% effort, making 0:32-something should be within sight :-)

I’ve been working on my strokes for a month and the work is showing — better technique and endurance. I’m also waiting to see how freediving training can enhance my anaerobic stamina — the lesser I have to breathe, the more I can keep my body streamlined for the charge down the lane.

As they say, once you are on the blocks, there is nothing to think. Just trust your training. And swim for your life.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 8th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Round 2!

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The annual inter-agency meet — and my first race for 2014 — will be on 26 April. Woohoo!! And I’m feeling chuffed that I’ve gotten myself 3 months’ notice this time around — went to ask the sports convenor instead of just sitting around and waiting for the usual event announcement. I had only a month to prepare last year and I didn’t have the benefit of a whole year of serious swimming and additional race experience.

Oooo, so much to do in the meantime! Goal sheets and training plans to draw up, physical conditioning, diet adjustments, racing gear to put together (still waiting for the initial fast suit to be exchanged for a bigger size), and of course more swimming!!! :-D

Also, I now can start scheduling my other plans for the year ahead and set some of them in motion.

Go, me!


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 3rd, 2014 at 11:19 pm

What do you have to lose?

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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; I don’t care if someone is twenty times better, or one-tenth better. I want to race the best.

I hate to lose. But I was not afraid to lose. I am never afraid to lose.

~ No Limits: The Will to Succeed. Michael Phelps on why he wanted to race in the 200 free in the 2004 Athens Olympics, against world-record holder Ian Thorpe and defending champion Pieter van den Hoogenband. It was not his best event and would jeopardise his quest to win 7 golds.

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I will miss the breezy days and cooler temperatures when the Northeast Monsoon ends. Already, the nights have gotten a little warmer and I no longer need to pull on an additional sweater (or 2, at times!) to sleep at night. And the last few days have been gorgeous — blue skies, sunny weather and lovely, oh so lovely, breezes.

But I’m really glad I no longer have to swim in cold water :-P

Yesterday’s swim was a welcome return to more tolerable temperatures after a couple of sunny days. The pool was relatively empty; it was Day 2 of the Chinese New Year and there was maybe slightly more than 10 people there to tan or swim.

And I got paced during my set of 1000 m freestyle.

I had started my set about half a lap behind him. Shortly after, he changed his pace and caught up from behind; he stayed just slightly ahead, and at the turns, he would pause a while underwater, feet planted on the wall and facing my way, eyeballing me before he pushed off. He increased his pace after a few laps and widened our gap to a body length, and then two.

It’s not unusual for stronger swimmers or regulars to get paced by (or pace) strangers at the pool. Swimming is largely a solitary sport and it can get dull at times, especially if you don’t incorporate variety, or some kind of challenge, into your work-outs. Sometimes though, it’s just nice to have some ‘company’ or something else to focus on during long swims.

I’ve seen him around in the evenings, doing laps. His strokes could be neater, his streamline and kick could be improved, and he’s not in the best shape, but he’s strong, and he’s tried pacing me before.

I didn’t meet his challenge yesterday. My right palm was starting to cramp (??!!!) and my back was stiff and sore. And I didn’t want to lose. 

So, I chose not to pull harder and faster, or to increase the tempo of my kicks. I chose to swim at my pace and he gave up trying to pace me.

I conceded, by assuming defeat. However, to me, it would never be a definitive loss. Or so I’ll’d like to convince myself. You can say I’ve already lost by not even trying but in my warped psyche, an alternative reality in which I triumph remains to be proven otherwise. I hate losing. But more than that, I fear losing. I am afraid of facing failure — my failure, proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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When I got home and downloaded the swim data from my Garmin watch, I saw that I had swum each lap more than 2 seconds slower than my usual pace. Hmmm. I reckoned that my strokes and streamline must have been off. And I also realised that I could have kept up with the stranger.

And even if he had then cranked up the pace, which he seems to have the capacity for, so what if I lost?

What is there to lose? Indeed.

This was just an inconsequential, impromptu race at a swimming pool. But it is a symptom of something much bigger — my fear of losing, and not knowing how to deal with failure. I take myself too seriously. (Burden of the first-born?)

As I look back at the many times in my life that I’ve backed off from a challenge, or anything at all, I realise that I really had little, if not nothing to lose. There is no shame in losing. There is however, regret in never knowing for sure, and how far I can go. The loss is not (always) an end in itself.

There are certainly worse things than losing. It’s not seeing and realising my ability to rise up to a challenge, the courage to dream and dare, and belief in myself — that a loss does not define me but it is how I respond to it that does; and more importantly, that I can win, for real.


Written by The Intimate Stranger

February 2nd, 2014 at 4:13 pm