Built For Speed

Built For Speed

Post by Larry Chapm » Wed, 18 Sep 1991 07:13:57

"Built For Speed" By Larry Chapman

Some things just naturally go fast:  money,  turbos, jets, and light.  I'm
not one of those  things.  Any "speed" I've attained has come through a lot
of time and effort.  During these years I've learned quite a bit.  Not only
things  about  myself,  but about  athletes  and  people in  general.  This
article is meant to tell a story.  Hopefully,  some of you can relate to my
experiences and learn from them.

July 22, 1957

   This was the day I was  born.  My  mother  tells me it was a very  quick
   labor,  being  that I was her first  child.  I'm not sure  whether  that
   means I was fast, or she was.  Anyway, it goes downhill from here.

Fall 1965 -- Age 8

   I decided it was time to try Little League  football.  I actually wanted
   to play the year  before but my mother  thought I was too young.  I also
   suspect  the fact that I was the next to  smallest  kid in my class  had
   something  to do with  it!  You may ask why a  short,  chubby,  slow kid
   would  want to play  football.  Good  question!  But, I threw my  better
   judgement  to the wind and signed  up.  Have you ever  watched  25 eight
   year olds in full pads do a 1/4 mile  "wind  sprint"  around  the  field
   after  practice?  A lot of the kids  wanted to win that  sprint.  I knew
   better.  My goal was not to be last!  Thank  God there  was  always  one
   very  round  clumsy  lineman  (or  should I say  "rounder  and  clumsier
   lineman"?)  who I could just nip at the  finish.  How come some of these
   guys who never ran any more than I did could  finish in 1/2 the time?  I
   wrote it off to short legs.

Spring 1971 -- Age 14

   High  school P.E.  class, what a concept.  All the guys are busy  trying
   to impress  the girls, when in fact,  puberty is busy  contorting  their
   bodies  so  that  some of them  can  hardly  walk!  Besides  gymnastics,
   soccer,  ***oline,  Playboy,  and all the other  activities  we fondly
   remember  from those days, our  particular  teacher  made us run a timed
   mile twice a year.  The "training"  for this event started well ahead of
   time and  consisted  of  running a 1/4 mile on Monday, a 1/2 mile on the
   next  Wednesday,  and you  guessed it -- a full mile on Friday.  And me,
   the picture of  consistency,  could only beat one other kid in class.  I
   turned in a  scorching  11:50!  How come all these kids that  didn't run
   anymore  than I did were so much  faster?  I also was  taking a  biology
   class that year and learned about genetics.  Hmmmmmmm.

Spring 1973 -- Age 16

   Our progressive  high school let us choose our P.E.  courses.  Since I'd
   been swimming  (slowly!)  since age five I decided to take a course that
   involved  learning  to teach young kids from  elementary  schools in the
   district to swim.  Before each class we had to swim anywhere from 1/4 to
   1/2 a mile  depending  on how  motivated  the  instructor  was that day.
   Also,  twice a semester  we had to swim a timed mile.  Well, at least we
   got more than a week to train!  In this  case all the guys in the  class
   could  beat me, but I could  just beat a few of the girls in the  class.
   I'm a firm  believer in equal rights.  I have just as much right to beat
   the  girls, as I have to beat the guys.  Where  were  these  girls in my
   younger  years!?  I'd  complain to the coach about my speed and he would
   say "Don't  worry  Larry, you have  beautiful  form."  Gee, thanks.  How
   come all these kids who swim the exact workouts I do are so much faster?

1975  -- Age 18

  During my senior year of high  school  running had caught  fire.  I was a
  bit over  weight  and  thought  running  would be a good way to lose some
  excess  poundage.  That "round & clumsy lineman" still lived .  .  .  The
  wimpy  looking  kid from across the street told me that he had run around
  the park near our  house.  I was a macho  senior,  so I  certainly  could
  match that!  As it turned out that first workout was 3.5 miles.  I ran at
  a comfortable pace (read:  "didn't puke") and finished without injury (18
  year old bodies can do amazing  things!).  Looking back that was a pretty
  amazing/stupid  feat.  I hadn't  run at all, but was  able to jump  right
  into a 3.5 mile jaunt.  Hmmmm, no speed but maybe some natural endurance.
  The other thing I did was only run once or twice a month.  You betcha, no
  weight loss.

1976-1979  -- Age 19-21

  Off to college to get smart.  Not only did I learn a lot about computers,
  but  during  this time I started  to take  running  seriously.  I started
  running a mile five days a week.  I always  wore a watch to keep track of
  my times and  pulse.  When that got too easy I went to 1.5 miles,  then 2
  miles, and  finally  3.5 miles five days a week.  One day I got crazy and
  ran 6 miles in 54 minutes.  After that run I thought  about  training for
  the  "M-Mountain  9-miler",  a race that the school put on each year.  By
  this time I was beginning to get some respect as a "runner" from peers at
  school.  I ran the race and  averaged  exactly 9 minutes per mile.  I was
  still slow, but 30% of the people  finished  after me.  Including a bunch
  of guys!  As soon as I started  running  regularly my resting  heart rate
  fell like a rock.  It went  from 70 to 45 beats  per  minute  in just two
  months.  After 10 more years of  training,  including  the last five very
  intense ones, my resting rate has only dropped  another 3 beats.  Another
  thing I now can correlate  with some of my success is that I could always
  swim the  longest  underwater,  and  hold my  breath  longer  than all my
  buddies at summer camps.  Some more hints from my body .  .  .

1983 -- Age 25

  My wife's employer was the co-sponsor of a mini-triathlon.  It included a
  6.2 mile run, a 18 mile  bike, and a 1/2 mile swim.  Since I was  already
  running daily,  swimming once a week, and cycling to work, it didn't take
  much  convincing  to  get me to  try  it.  Hell,  I'll  try  anything.  I
  finished the race in fine form, and about 30% of the folks finished after
  me.  The ***ion had begun .  .  .  .

Since 1983 I have done 39 triathlons  including three 1/2-Ironman  distance
races, Ironman Canada, four eight hour winter  triathlons, a full marathon,
a  50  mile   mountain   ultra-marathon,   and   three  35  mile   mountain
ultra-marathons.  I have progressively gotten faster at all three sports (I
ran my first full  marathon at a pace 20 seconds per mile faster  than that
first 9 mile  race),  however, I still  only  finish in the top 30% (nope I
said  the  top  30%,  not  the  bottom  30%!).  I read  all  the  triathlon
magazines, I get reprints from sports medicine journals on training topics,
I listen to all the top athletes.  I love this sport!  Recently, because of
my experience,  I've taken on a "coaching"  role with some friends at work.
It's  frustrating to see folks that I'm coaching end up beating me within a
very short  period of time.  But I can write it off to good  coaching,  and
they're just built for speed!

There is a wide spread belief in the  triathlon  world today that the right
type of quality  training  will make you a winner.  Sorry  folks, it's just
not true!  What everyone needs to realize is that we all do certain  things
well.  Some  people can hardly walk but can invent new high speed  circuits
for computers.  Some people are naturally fast.  Some people, like me, have
natural  endurance.  Some  people  are fast  AND  have  natural  endurance,
they're the ones that win races!  I've talked to many  triathlon  age group
winners about their training and it's un-canny how many of them say "I just
entered my first triathlon for fun last year and ended up finishing  third.
So I figured  with a little  training  .  .  ."  As I see it there are only
two reasons to race.  The first one is to make money by winning, the second
one is to have fun -- to be with  friends, to get  outside, to see yourself
improve,  to stay fit.  In fact, if you're not  having  fun, even the money
probably won't be enough for long.

Take some time,  look back on your  life.  What  things  come easy for you?
What things come  harder?  If you want to focus on the hard  things you can
move from an "almost  didn't  finisher" to a "middle of the packer"; if you
want to focus on the easy things you can move from a top 30%er to a winner!
In any case, the good feelings you'll get from seeing yourself  improve are
worth  every bit of effort!  You may find it makes life easier to gain some
of this insight into yourself.  It has for me.

I am a 34 year old  computer  scientist  working as a project  manager  for
Hewlett-Packard  in Fort  Collins,  CO.  I race  about 5 times per year and
train about 12 hours per week (Run 25 miles/week, Bike 120 miles/week, swim
3.5 miles/week).

-- LSC