Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Feeling a 'Little' Like PRE

I got 'just a taste' of what Prefontaine must have felt today.

I went to Masters swimming like usual and after a 500m warmup (mixed stroke), Coach made a few announcements, described our workout for the day, and set us loose. The plan: 3 rounds of 50m, 100m, 150m, and 200m with 15 seconds rest between each and 15 seconds between rounds.

During the first 50m, I chose to go 2nd behind Ann. Although I had waited for her to get into stride before I kicked off, I caught up with her before we reached the turn at the wall (25m). For the last length, I drafted behind her to the finish. As the 100m got underway, I gave her a bigger lead off but still caught her. At the wall, I had to pause and wait for her to finish her turn and get out ahead before I headed back myself (bear in mind, I can not do flip turns... I actually have to touch the wall with my right hand and then lean out to my left and push off with my feet... therefore, my turns are slow). As I waited, Kathy, who followed me, asked if I wouldn't mind if she went ahead (of course, I knew this would mean Lee would jump in ahead as well - Lee loves to draft behind her). I'm proud to say that I actually spoke up and said, "I've been slowing up for Ann! I've been waiting for her!" "Uh oh," was their combined response. I was becoming frustrated with always having to slow up for others.

When I started swimming a year ago, I was the slowest of the slow. On the longer sets, I was routinely lapped (that is, the leader and occasionally a few others would pass me on his/her final length while I would have at least 1-2 lengths yet to finish). This bothered me only slightly. My form was terrible. I didn't know how to breathe properly. I must have looked like a fish desperately trying to get air in poorly oxygenated water. I've made gradual improvement, however. I feel much more comfortable in the pool.

We did one more length in the order we had set out, but switched it around after 50m, with me leading. It felt good to lead. When we started the 150m, I gladly went out first. I kept a pretty steady pace (at least I think so) and completed 6 lengths feeling a little fatigued but after the rest, I was ready to go again (granted, I think I did 20 sec rest rather than 15). At the conclusion of the 200m, just after all the swimmers touched the lane and I was about to begin the 2nd set, Ann said, "I just discovered drafting! I'm never leading again." We all chuckled. But as I went out, I couldn't help but think of Steve Prefontaine.

Pre's favorite article of Kenny Moore's was a 1972 profile of Australia's Ron Clarke (who broke 17 world records between 1963 and 1970) for Sports Ilustrated. Pre liked the article because Moore had quoted Clarke on the ordeal of the leader:

"The follower has only to match the leader's pace. He enjoys a comparative calm in which he can relax and conserve his emotional energy for a final, unanswerable assault. Given these realities, few men running at the head of a pack can avoid the feeling of sacrifice. Steve Prefontaine, explaining the savagery of his bursts to break contact with his followers, said, "I hate to have people back there sucking on me." [excerpt from Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore, pg 242-243]

For the first time in my life, I know exactly how he must have felt. I didn't like the idea that I was doing all the work and that those that followed were each drafting off my lead. As I was swimming, I kept playing in my mind the image of Pre running out in front of the pack, widening his lead. I tried to do the same... tried to get out far enough ahead of Kathy that she wouldn't be able to draft off of me.

As a result, I came within a meter or two of catching Mike, today's slower paced swimmer. Mike didn't do the 3rd set (he always leaves a little early to go back to work) and Ann left after the 3rd 100m. In the end, it was just Kathy, Lee and myself. "Great lead today. Good job!" they said to me. Even Coach gave me a little smile & nod. Very cool.
Total distance: 2000m

~ ~ ~

Yesterday, the kiddos and I went out for a casual run just before noon. I apparantly became so distracted by the beautiful weather that I failed to successfully navigate the space between a hedge and a mailbox. We hit the mailbox on the right side of the stroller and DD went flying forward (she generally doesn't buckle - and has always been great about staying back in her seat), landing on her knee. I felt awful! "I'm so sorry, Sweetie. Are you okay?" She got up slowly and lifted up her dress to look at the damage. Fortunately, there were only 2 areas that seemed scratched. I smothered each with magical mommy kisses. After a little water and a big hug, she said she was good to go... I gave them each a small package of Skittles. :)

I should have gone out earlier. I think summer is here. I had to stop a few times for water - not typical during this short loop. When we got back home, the temperature gauge read 81 degrees and I was dripping in sweat! I haven't ever perspired that much in the past... so I jumped into a cold shower to cool off. Total miles: ~4.8 (I cut it short just a tad as I was getting very hot/fatigued).


  1. I don't do flips either. I can do them, but I don't. There is no wall to push off of in a triathlon, and I'm not doing laps so I can go to the next swim meet :-)

    Ummmm. You hit a mailbox with your stroller? OMG! Women drivers! Hmmpph ;-)

  2. Good job at the pool. I should get into swimming as well since I can't reliably swim to save my life. Err, you probably didn't want to hear that before PPP :). Anyway, I'm thinking of the following pre-Phoenix schedule: Circle the Bay in August and Bellingham Bay (Half) Marathon on Oct 7. These races really prepare you for going strong at least for a half marathon. Then, with the time left until mid-Jan you can "coast" on 30 - 40 miles a week (you may have to use the treadmill or ellipticals a lot) to keep your gains up and push for a few 20 milers. I'm thinking that if we build a very strong base for the half marathon, we may stand a chance in Phoenix. We can check in with ourselves to see if we may come close to a qualifying time. It would be great if we could qualify in Phoenix and ... get Boston over with :). If you want, I can show you my training plan in a couple of weeks. -- Kong

  3. Wes ~ Yes... on Tues, I was the stereotypical woman driver. Thankfully it was with the stroller and not the car! :)

    Kong ~ I'd love to see your training plan and discuss race options. :)


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