Monthly Archives: June 2017

Yesterday I had the worst swim I’ve had since the day that I squealed like a girl in May 2014.


(editor’s note – I’ve never done a straight post about IM/2 St George 2014, the day that I didn’t do the Half IM, and I don’t know why. Maybe I will soon). When I squealed like a girl, it was my first open-water swim (OWS) and it was water cold enough to cause the hyperventilation reflex (also known as Cold Shock Response ) and it resulted in me being, well, terrified, and I went home instead of doing the race.

That might even be a reasonable reaction to swimming out into the middle of a lake, and suddenly finding oneself unable to breathe. Prayer didn’t help, as it seems to be a reaction of the trigenimal nerve that requires adaptation for some folks (well, of course, prayer ALWAYS helps; in this case, it helped me to keep trying over and over again, and satisfy myself that it wasn’t going to work).

Well, for the last few months, I’ve been swimming with the Coach On Deck group at the Whitefish Wave, and Ive actually been getting faster; consistent, reasonable progress. It’s reached the point where I was doing three triathlon-distance single sets a week (two Olympics and one Half) all well below 2:00 pace (that’s 2 minutes per 100 yards).

I finished my last hard week of training on Sunday; yesterday morning I was supposed to go to the pool, but I couldn’t get my rear up and moving. So late yesterday, I decided to head to Whitefish City Beach to put on my wet suit and get some OWS time done.

It was awful.

I couldn’t seem to swim more than 50-60 yards at a stretch, then I would stop, hit my Garmin, and lay back and float on my swim buoy. Then, after I rested, I’d try again.

And again.

By the time I got out of there, I was pretty darn discouraged – rather than swimming 2000+ yards at 1:53, I was doing 50 yard segments at what my Garmin reported as 2:24 average pace.

As a result, I don’t even WANT to go to Couer d’Alene for the race.

Now, swimming slowly in open water while training for a triathlon is almost certainly classifiable as a “First World Problem” – it just ain’t important in any scheme of things. We’re healthy, sober, living happily and usefully whole while gainfully employed in a mountain paradise – who cares if I suddenly can’t swim fast? Trivial issue.

But therein lies the rub with ALL human endevours – in order to attempt something, you first have to make that something matter – and once it matters, it is hard to minimize it.

I heard a fellow in an NA meeting, back in the late 80s, say that whenever his truck got dirty, he started driving slower past car lots, looking at other trucks – and the dirtier the truck got, the most he was looking. He soon realized that, eventually, he was going to wash his truck, or trade it.

Now, I took that home with me and meditated on it, and realized that, for me, this expresses a general truth; I used to think that something got important to me, and so I put my effort into it. I have since realized that it’s the “putting in of effort” that MAKES it important. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart lie also” — Matthew 6:21.

So I put all of this effort into training – so how, now, do I minimize the importance? How do I just shrug it off and say “Oh, well, it’s a First World Problem?”

I suppose the Twelve Steps might get me there – they are, as I understand it, “a means of reducing our demands” (among many other things).  And, right now, I’ve got some demands.

If this is Sunday, then I must have done a two hour treadmill run.

But today, I did it slightly differently. But not, I fear, differently enough.


For a good while now, on normal weeks, I’ve done two hour treadmill runs and always did them the same – just a hair under 10:00 pace for the first hour, and then sped it up by 0.1 mph for the second hour. Since my Sunday run always follows a hard Saturday swim and bike, these runs give me all the fun I can stand.

Splitting the pace like that – about 10 seconds/mile faster for the second hour – gives me a slight “negative split” – i.e the second “split” (time/distance) is slightly less than the first. That’s always been the way that I’ve run my best races, speeding up slightly as I go. (There are sound physiological reasons why this is so).

But today I got this silly notion – why don’t I check out Zeno’s Paradox? (For the uninitiated, Zeno’s Paradox has a lot of descriptions, but the one that I first heard was this – if you’re going to walk a mile, then first you have to walk half of that distance – then you have to walk half of the second half, then you have to walk half of the last quarter, then half of the last eighth – thus, there will always be another half of whatever you have left, so you will never get there).

I decided to try, instead, Zeno’s Negative Splits – so I ran the first hour at the normal speed, and then I sped up 0.1 mph for the next half hour, then increasing 0.1 mph for the next fifteen minutes, then 0.1 mph for the next 7:30, then 0.1 mph for the next 3:45, then 0.1 mph for the next 1:52, then 0.1 mph for the next 56 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 28 seconds, then 0.1 for the next 14 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 7 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 3.5 seconds, and so on….

100:00.0 6
30:00.0 6.1
15:00.0 6.2
07:30.0 6.3
03:45.0 6.4
01:52.5 6.5
00:56.3 6.6
00:28.1 6.7
00:14.1 6.8
00:07.0 6.9
00:03.5 7
00:01.8 7.1
00:00.9 7.2
00:00.4 7.3
00:00.2 7.4
00:00.1 7.5
00:00.05 7.6

Now, if I could have done this correctly, I would have eventually been running at infinite speed, since I would always be increasing by a tenth of a mile an hour, always for the next 1/2 of the remaining period, all the way down to the picoseconds.

Unfortunately, there’s a quantum problem – that is that it takes a certain amount of time to press the up arrow on the speed control, so I can’t keep increasing the speed forever, because the time it takes to change the speed is longer than the period left in the run.

Oh, well. That’s why you don’t see the graph, above, going all the way to a vertical line at the end – it’s because the treadmill just doesn’t have the fine granularity of control it would take to keep speeding up. It’s not my fault – I tried!

(There’s another practical problem, that being that, once I hit the speed of light, I would have attained infinite mass, and the entire universe would have collapsed around me because I would have infinite gravitational attraction, and you’d all be dead, and not reading this anyway.)