Tuesday, August 12. 2008
First things first: 10K swimming.
The prep for my race is going well. I did a pulling set yesterday:
1000 went 10:49
10 seconds rest
2000 went 21:15
20 seconds rest
3000 went 31:14 (last 1500 was a 15:32)
Other than that there isnít much to report. Iíll give you a pre-10k race analysis in a few days, but at this point itís simply maintenance work until the 21st.
If youíve been watching swimming on NBC hereís my take from the venue itself. The saddest part so far is that weíve been so spoiled by Michael Phelps breaking World Records that we have become desensitized to a certain extent. Donít get me wrong, we all cheer like crazy in the stands, but thereís always a feeling that the World Record time make sense, when in reality it makes no sense at all. Itís stupid how fast that guy swims. Today I saw him race the 200 Freestyle, a race that I used to consider my best event, in a time that is totally obnoxious, and the reaction in the team section was ďThatís a fast swim.Ē Weíve grown so accustomed to watching it that we start to take it for granted.
And hereís the part that proves the point - Phelpsí individual performances arenít even the highlight of the meet. The swim of the Olympics thus far was obviously the 4x100 Free Relay. Jason Lezak just put himself in a very special place historically. Itís a race that will go down in swimming lore as one of, if not THE greatest race of all-time. The USA National Team, watching from the stands, reacted the way that Oprah Winfrey audience guests typically act when Oprah starts giving things away. It was, by far, the most excited Iíve ever been as a spectator of anything.
Changing gears now, I want to give you the background story to the NBC piece that youíll see sometime in the next week.
The day after the Opening Ceremonies I was contacted by the same NBC producer that organized the ďMark Warkentin: Avocado FarmerĒ story. He wanted to film another story, this time with me doing something that is native to China. The original idea was to take me to get a Chinese massage. I liked this idea, but for some reason Mark Schubert (National Team Coach) did not share my enthusiasm, so NBC came up with a different idea Ė teach me how to do Tai Chi. And thatís what happened.
The next day I met the NBC television crew who were accompanied by a Tai Chi master, and we went of in search of a suitable place to do Tai Chi. We eventually came upon a grassy field with bamboo in the background and the Tai Chi master started demonstrating the moves of skill. He demonstrated the skill in slow-motion, all very elegantly, and it only took a few minutes to realize my preconceived fear that I was going to look very stupid when I tried the same moves.
Hereís where things got crazy. After about 10 minutes the guy was done showing me the general idea of Tai Chi, and I took my position about 4 feet behind him with the plan of shadowing his moves. The Tai Chi master had a different plan. He wanted to demonstrate the moves ON ME. He came up close to me, grabbed me by the arm, did something fast and crazy and I was on the ground. The scene was straight out of a movie: a Neanderthal bad guy (in this case me) gets dropped by the older, shorter Asian guy that is faster and smarter than anyone else alive.
I got up, brushed off the grass from my shirt, and prepared for whatever was going to happen next, which turned out to be him taking me down again. This time he wanted to SHOW me how he was going to take me down. There was a lot of Chinese grunting that I think I was supposed to understand, which I didnít, and then a few seconds later I was on the ground again. This scenario repeated itself about 10 times before the NBC people decided that it was time to stop the contest. I think the NBC producer was anticipating non-combat Tai Chi lessons rather than full contact Tai Chi so he told the guy to stop the beating and to teach me something that didnít involve me ending up on the ground.
So, I took a shadow position behind the Tai Chi master and started to mimic his moves for the NBC camera. Unfortunately, we didnít get very far into the lesson. The guy was a perfectionist and he kept stopping the demonstration to scold me for incorrect technique. He would scold me every 5 to 7 seconds for incorrect form such as not having my fingers relaxed enough. At one point the guy stopped trying to teach me proper form and went to have a word with the interpreter. I didnít know what was happening, but a few moments later the interpreter came over to me and told me that the Tai Chi master was upset that I wasnít learning Tai Chi fast enough. He told me, and I am not making this up, that I should ďtry harder.Ē
I realized that I had offended the guy so I told the interpreter to relay the message that I was an idiot and that my inability to learn Tai Chi was no reflection on his teaching. He liked hearing this and we were much better friends for the rest of the day.
I donít know when the piece is going to air on NBC, but I was told that it would probably be shown nationally. The attached picture tells the story.
(I'll be on the Hugh Hewitt show on Tuesday at 3:20 pacific)
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