On Swimming

As I am about to enter the pool I wonder, as I always do, how the water will feel.

Then: “Splash!”  I dive in at the deep end; it’s only 9 feet and I’m quickly at the bottom reaching it with my hands, I then quickly turn and place my feet where my hands were.   I am standing at the bottom and when I look up there are still bubbles surrounding my path of entrance.  I better get back up so  I bend my knees and push.   I get nice acceleration to help me back to the surface.  I will breach the surface and keep going until my shoulders break the surface also.  I wish I could keep going in to the air.  The rush of speed through the water and the distance covered so quickly makes me feel like I’m about to take completely into the air like Great White sharks do but it never happens;  it’s all over in mere seconds but those moments in the water make me feel and think like a kid but more on that later!

Back to the matter at hand: the water feels great; it’s not cold at all and I’m supposed to be doing laps so I swim from the diving area, a deep end cove of sorts, to the single lane that has been set up at my pool for laps.

The pool itself is a quit a bit short at 15m or so and it mean I’ll have to do more turns to reach my measly target of 600 to 800m.  I am slowly building up to doing at least 600m at a comfortable pace.   The next 200 meters to 800 will be added as time goes on.  Three summers ago I couldn’t even finish one lap without stopping or running out of breath and now shooting for 600m per session isn’t half bad.

So I check my goggles, stare down the lane and commit to a distance.  Six hundred meters sounds good; I submerge almost completely leaving the water line a little below eye-level.  I then extend my arms and point them forward, bend my knees and put my feet on the wall behind me and push against it and glide.

If I close my eyes for a second I feel like I’m flying freely, it’s the kid in me, again, telling me what to think.  Soon enough, reality kicks in: I need to take the first stroke.

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BBC’s “Life” vs. Discovery’s “Life”

I couldn’t never come to grips with the fact that BBC & Discovery decided to change the narrator of Life for the American broadcast.  The choice for the American version was Oprah.  Why Oprah? I don’t know.  I know she is extremely capable at a lot of things and her abilities have made her very rich.  Her vast experience as a TV host is not enough to justify her for the role, however, and the end result was a lack luster to say it nicely.  It’s not say Oprah didn’t do her best but her voice was hardly engaging and maybe even distracting from the drama unfolding before you.  David Attenborough’s narration is a story which you had been missing all your life; it’s interesting, timed with excellence and engaging. Oprah on the other hand is obviously just readying on cue.  The first thirty seconds of the clips below are more than enough evidence of what I’m talking about.  The question is why should I even care? The answer is simply that I stopped watching Life because I was too distracted by Oprah to pay attention at the mind boggling beauty before me.  The point is, that Discovery missed out on the the unmistakable and classic voice of Sir David Attenborough.  I will buy the BBC version of the documentary on DVD so I can finally enjoy it and I’m not alone.  I just noticed that the Amazon ratings and reviews reflect this very same criticism.

Watch the clips below and confirm what I’ve been saying all along.

David Attenborough’s narration
Original clip from BBC One located at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7eQKSf0LmY


Oprah’s narration
Original clip from Discovery channel located at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzILn3rWTwc


Bonus clip, just for fun: Oprah vs. Samuel L. Jackson!

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/AqigHN/ellen.warnerbros.com/2010/05/life_from_samuel_l_jacksons_perspective_vod_0506.php/r:t

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Documentary: Behind Taliban Lines

I just watched a PBS Frontline program that shows a day in the life of a Taliban fighter.  This kind of reporting always seemed like an impossible idea, as far as I could tell, but an Afghan reported was contacted by the Taliban to spend some time documenting the war as seen from their side.  I can’t do the program justice but I can tell you that it’s a must-see.  It confirms one of the reasons why this fight is so drawn-out and why it will continue to be that way: fighters come from all kinds of surrounding areas, local villagers will comply with Taliban rather than oppose them, the Taliban can still produce weapons from their previous war, there are muhajedin (bomb-makers and others) trained by al-Quaeda outside of Afghanistan, volunteers keep joining the Taliban ranks.  All of those facts and more can be clearly seen in the Frontline program.  It is a clear reminder that this war cannot continue.  The small victories in the field seem tenuous when the Taliban can produce allies with the locals and with the surrounding nations.

The full program can be seen online here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/talibanlines/view/

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I Want to be a Triathlete

I have told many friends that I want to do a triathlon soon.  The journey to becoming a triathlete is the main reason why I want to do this.  I’ve been out of shape for far too long and its not merely about being “skinny” and fitting into trim cut clothing.  I really am out of shape.  I can’t run for long during a soccer match and I have overall less stamina than I used to.  My life used to be surrounded by sports: soccer, roller skating and recreational biking.  That was almost ten years ago; and a slow but sure process began then of my body losing its ability to perform active sports at any high pace.  Enough of that.

Swimming, the first step

First of, this is not a plan I just came up with.  I’ve been at this for at least two years.  I’ve been slowly working on my swimming.  You have to start somewhere, after all.   When I started to swim at a recreational pool, I could hardly finish two laps.  There’s two reasons for this: I was not pacing my self and, the second is related, I didn’t have the stamina to do more than two laps at a time.  Once I slowed down to a more comfortable rhythm, I doubled my distance and was able to do 4 laps.  A very small increment but a very big victory.  Increasing the distance was the first step in the challenge to swim 800 meters in one session.  All this time I was swimming at my local pool—only 10 meters long at the most.  So my overall distance was merely approaching 100 meters in one session!

Persistence is key and form helps

Having set a goal was a lot help in the journey to reaching it.   The first summer was merely a taste of what was ahead: a very difficult, but attainable goal.  I did not swim after the summer was over but I longed for it and the very next summer I was back at the pool.  This time however I was learning to pace myself and to improve my form.  The need to improve my form came from noticing the swimmer in the lap next to me going a longer distance with less effort.  I was in the other lap rushing my arms into the water but not going any faster and getting more tired.  I looked up some videos and began to learn the proper ways to swim different strokes.  Everything began making sense and I got a morale boost out of knowing that I was becoming a better swimmer.

A bigger pool and

I swam last summer and once I felt that I had reached a nice consistent pace I found out the schedule for the local aquatic center.  I began going there more consistently and finally reached my goal of 800 meters!  That is not the end of my swimming adventures, however, since there are some things to work out.  First of all, I have been too busy over the past month to show any consistency in my training but I will be back at the pool within a week and work slowly back to my goal and beyond.

What needs work

I still take a few breaks during my swimming sessions and my pace is quite slow.  The fix for this of course is simply to keep swimming!  I also have to improve my nutrition to target this type of workout.  Without proper nutrition, the pace of progress slows down severely.  On future posts I will be looking for a decent bike to ride on once the weather warms up.

Stay tuned!

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