Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting There

My "Speed Lab"

I'm getting faster. I'm getting stronger. And I'm getting smarter, at least when it comes to triathlon. And I have to admit I'm pleased about it.

Now this is not intended to be a "look how great I am" post, though it's going to be a bit hard to live down the first four sentences. Rather, it's a humble reminder of two things - First, you are never too old to learn. And second, good things come to those who wait (and work their asses off)

"A-ha!" moments seem to be something you have less of as you get older. I'm not sure why this happens. Maybe we are less reluctant to try new things. Maybe the circumstances of adult life makes it harder to experiment. Maybe we tend to become more anesthetized to them and don't even realize it when they happen. Whatever the reason is, it's too bad. Because "A-ha!" moments are pretty cool.

I had a pretty nice "A-ha!" last week at the pool. Anyone who has read my blog for more than a week knows that I have a big problem with swimming. I certainly have no fear of the water, and I have enough endurance to swim race distances. I'm just slow. I finally broke down and hired a swim coach. We met for the first time and within 15 minutes, he showed me some things that immediately made sense. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am developing a new set of tools in which to do it. File this experience under "why did I wait so long?" for sure.

Now I just operate: Go to my coaching sessions, re-learn the bits that I didn't retain the previous week, work at it, stay focused, work at it some more, stay positive, and then keep working at it.

Scene of the crime - a first degree "A-Ha!" moment

And I'll start on this swim endeavor knowing that time investments do work. I was looking at my training logs for the last 6 months. While looking at the numbers, it struck me how much faster I was running. I was obtusely aware that my speed was going up, because my elapsed times over normal routes where going down. And of course I can't go 100 yards without obsessing about my pace on the Garmin. But not until I had my training log graph it all out for me did I realize that I had shaved over a minute off of my average pace December. And this has been without any fanfare - no additional RPE or any of those brutal "I can't wait until this sh*t is over" miles. It just happened.

Did you ever hear of the "10,000 Hour Rule?". It's a hypothesis by English sociologist Malcolm Gladwell that says (and I am really simplifying this) if you put 10,000 hours into something you will come out a master.

Malcolm Gladwell - I truly dig his style but that hair is not at all aero.

Do I agree with it? I'm not sure, probably not. Mostly, because I don't live in a bubble and I can probably name 10,000 things that would get in the way of my pursuit for 10,000 hours of anything. But academically, it's pretty cool premise and just another way of saying the same we've all heard before: Practice makes perfect.

I'm probably not ever going to be an elite endurance athlete, at least in the sense of a Lance Armstrong or Chris McCormack. For one thing, I'm a big dude - Endurance athletes are lithe and lanky. I should have stuck with football. For another, I'm getting older. And I don't mean that as an excuse, I just mean I accept the physiological realities. That said, I'm not peaked yet and I have every intention of declining as slow as possible.

But that doesn't mean I can't be smart about what I do have. Actually, what I should say is that we can all be smart about what we have.

And we are.

When I read other blogs I'm always struck by how much work is being put into EVERYTHING, not just the sport of choice. As the author(s) of said blog(s), you are all training as much as you can while managing everything else in your lives. And you still find time to write about it, articulately and honestly. In every case, dedication is 100%. The attention to detail is 100%. And you are constantly striving for a little more speed, a little less weight, or whatever your goals are.

I would love to compete with any of you. It would be inspiring.

It's funny, at least for me. For the most part my training is a solitary pursuit. And I kind of like it that way, it's my alone time. But I come to the blogs for interaction. And to learn. This is where I really get my education.

So I'm getting there, and I thank you all for the help.


Barbie said...

I would be honoured to race with you too. And your right, we all do put alot of time and effort into reaching our goals - it is what makes us who we are. Strong, determined individuals :)

Matty O said...

I agree, the older you get the less you "experiment". Ultimately I think you are more afraid of the consequences of messing up.

We went to a swim clinic in Feb. Life changing. GREAT move getting a swim coach. Good luck un-learning the improper technique :)

Jennifer said...

Actually for me as I get older I am more prone to experiment and try out new things. I was such a pansy when I was younger. Maybe I feel like time is shorter now? I think it would be fun to race with you Patrick, but I am sure you would blow right by me. May you need to organize a Blogger race series.

shel said...

hmmmm... have i put 10,000 hours into running yet? now you are going to make me get out the calculator. i certainly hope the answer is 'no'. i have a hunch that as soon as i become an expert it will be no longer fun

wendy said...

Hello! I just found your blog! I am training for my first triathlon this summer and am trying to find as many mentors as I can : ) Congrats on increasing your running pace!

Christine Jensen said...

Congratulations on your success. I always enjoy reading about others who have been successful while training for events, but still living their everyday lives; fulfilling their family responsibilities; working a day job.

Thanks for the uplifting post. Seeing others succeed pushes me to be a success story as well.

Unknown said...

Damn you Malcolm Gladwell and your "science" ... 10,000 hours in the pool sounds like a real looooong time.

Unknown said...

ps ...
Patrick - thanks for the shirt! That is some great material, really like it, thanks!

KovasP said...

I vote we visit Barb in Australia for our race together! (Never been and would love an excuse, just have to convince my wife.) Patrick, it's very cool to follow your progress and, except for the "look how great I am" posts, always an enjoyable read. :)

Big Daddy Diesel said...

This sport, I truly believe, we get better with age, its not that we get faster, it is that we get more efficient in our ways. For example, Team Roll, my cycling team does nothing but charity rides and fitness promotion events, this team is made up of a bunch of ex-racers. The couple of us younger bucks that still race, have been handed our rears to us many times on trainiing rides. these guys have forgotten more about cycling then what we know. After a century ride, they all look fresh and strong, as others are glad to be off their bike. Its all about being efficient, getting the most power and speed with the littlest amount of energy used.

Barbie said...

Kovas and Patrick: How much fun would that be :)

Kathleen said...

Congrats on your successes! You should be pleased. Way to go!

Lindsay said...

nothing wrong with appreciating your successes and recognizing the progress you've made! maybe when you reach lance armstrong or michael phelps status... then i'll give you a hard time about your 'big head'.


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