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Tom’s bemusement about people wanting to sign up for shorter races reminded me of something. And because Shaw can’t maintain their routers properly, I’m only able to post about it now.

Back when I was a swimmer, there was always a bit of irrational jealousy for the sprinters. Even if they did train as often as the distance swimmers, they didn’t train for nearly as long. Add to that that their training typically involved all sorts of fun gimmicks: power-racks, power-reel — if it was ever working, and it’s safe to conclude that their day-to-day training was probably a bit more entertaining than that of the milers.

It got even more ridiculous during taper time. The sprinters would do one of two things: either stretch out a 1,200 yard/meter workout to take almost 90-minutes, or be done so fast we couldn’t be sure if they had even gotten in the pool. One of Tom’s old roommates would tease me by saying that for pure sprinters (loonies that do the 50) merely walking on deck was probably enough pool time in the week leading up to a big meet.

So the distance guys ended up a little envious of the way the sprinters trained and tapered. In retrospect, what was really going on in our heads was we were combining what we saw the sprinters doing with our own endurance-oriented world view which was along the lines of “anything less than 4,000 yards/meters isn’t worth going down to the pool for”. Therefore we would conclude we could be sprinters by staying in bed all day. I think we’ve all heard legends of sprinters who successfully trained this way.

More so, as Tom points out, you wouldn’t even be tired after a race! Hell, the race probably wouldn’t hurt! A mile is like getting roasted over hot coals. It’s a slow, gradual, painful way to race. On the other hand, a 50.. well, as one of my training partners said so succinctly: “My orgasms last longer than that!” (and he did not have a fast 50 time)

So we all had dreams of becoming lazy sprinters. But could you do it? Could a distance swimmer just decide “Fuck it, I’m tired of doing turns”? One man did, and he was our hero.

Ryk Neethling started out as a distance swimmer. But after being disappointed at finishing 5th in the 1500 at the Sydney Olympics, he decided to switch to the 50 and 100. If this was anyone else in history, we wouldn’t have heard anything more about him. But Ryk was made of pure distance-swimmer’s-hope and pulled it off. At the 2004 Olympics he finished 4th in the 100 and was on the winning 4×100 relay. And if it’s any indication of how much he inspired me to become a lazy sprinter, that relay is the only race I actually remember seeing on TV during the 2004 Olympics.

But with age comes maturity. And acceptance. I can’t imagine life revolving around a 20-second “race” (let’s be honest, it’s not so much a race as a time-trial). It’s long been apparent that I’m not much built for short bursts of speed, but rather for long sustained efforts. Long, painful efforts that expose how well you prepared. Drawn out suffer sessions that give you a chance to quit and thus test your mental endurance as much or more as aerobic endurance. These days an 8km road race seems uncomfortably short, I’m much more excited for the soul-wringing exhaustion from 42.2km.

Evidence that I’m built for distance hasn’t exactly been scarce. Some where I have a photo (which I will post if I can find it, a quick search yielded nothing) taken about 0.7 seconds after the starting gun of the 2003 NCAA 500 final. I’m still firmly planted on the blocks where as my competitors are mid-flight. How did they move so quickly? It didn’t look like the odds of me successfully pulling off a “Ryk” were ever very good. It’s like I just wasn’t wired for quick reactions.

And, it looks like I’m probably not. I sent a saliva sample to 23andme.com and of the zillions of things they discovered from their analysis of my DNA (and I’m no geneticist but I’m guessing Tom’s is pretty similar), my favorite so far is that I am indeed wired for distance:

Screenshot from 2013-03-16 14:34:05

And on that note, I just bought a new road bike as a means to train more without running more and I need to go spend a few hours getting to know it 🙂

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