Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Evening with Crowie

Elle launches her competitive swimming career and then the team meets up with many more triathletes to hear Craig Alexander speak.

Saturday was going to be a big day for us. Elle was going to swim in her first swim meet ever and then we were going to see Craig Alexander speak about his new book.

The Swim Meet

Elle's 100m Freestyle Heat
Elle: After countless suggestions that I improve my swimming by joining a Masters Swim group, I finally gave in and joined the Cambridge Masters Swim Club. I was nervous to go, but luckily one of the swim coaches is a triathlete, and has been helping me along. But after only a week, he strongly encouraged me to compete in a swim meet that was only one week away! I've never even been to a swim meet as a spectator. I thought he was crazy, but since I'm prone to doing things that scare the crap out of me, I found myself signing up! I was terrified. It would be one of the scariest thing I did all year.

Webb: Jealous. Envious. I was 100% in support of Elle racing at the meet. Once there, I totally got into it. Even though I had no feelings of regret or desire to grab some jammers and jump in, I definitely want to take part in a meet. One of the swimmers was in total domination mode. She set the World Record for Masters Women 55-59 in the 200 IM and then set the National Record in the 100 BR. I was wowed by her butterfly efficiency during the IM and her age! She looked maybe 40, strong and lean without being wiry. I may need to swim more.

Elle looked great. Even though she has only been swimming with the masters for a short time, there is real improvement in her ability. She looks more relaxed, smoother and she is gliding farther with each pull. I was on the fence about joining the program. After seeing her improvement, I don't see how I cannot join.

Nerves? What nerves?
Elle: Since it was my first ever swim meet, I only signed up for one event - the 100 meter freestyle. I figured just showing up and doing anything would be a success. But apparently everyone on the team who comes to the meet also gets added to a relay team. Crap. There were a lot of rules and protocols that I wasn't familiar with, so the night before I was furiously Googling "swim meet for first timers." Long story short, I got to the meet, stood up on the starter block for my swim heat (shaking!), and raced. My goal was to not come in last. And out of 10 lanes, I came in 4th. It was one of the slower heats, but I didn't care. I did it.

When the time came for the relay I was equally nervous - there are more rules for that - if you jump off the block before your teammate touches the wall, all 4 people get disqualified for that heat. Since I was swimming Freestyle, I went last of the group. And because I was with an equally slow group, I saw that our third swimmer was finishing her 4 laps when all of the other teams were finishing up their entire set. That meant that when I jumped in, I'd be the only person swimming in the pool. All eyes would be on me. Arrgghh! Needless to say, my form went to crap in my efforts to just get it over with. But it was nice to hear everyone cheering for me.

Crowie Talks about his Book and Answers Questions

Crowie (Craig Alexander)
Webb: Later that day 3-Time Ironman World Champion and 2-Time 70.3 World Champion, Craig "Crowie" Alexander stopped in Boston to promote his new book "As the Crow Flies: My Journey to Ironman World Champion." We arrived at The W Hotel with more than 75 other triathletes to learn about the book and maybe ask him a question or two. I can't really say how many people where in attendance. More than 200? (I think there were more than 20 rows of 10 chairs with even more people standing in the back.) The publisher provided the organizers with 75 copies of the book, which sold out quickly. (We got one.)

Elle: It's always fun to be at an event surrounded by a bunch of people with the same interest as you. Some people were wearing Ironman shirts, or other garments that advertised a race they had done. But that's what triathletes do, and it's cool by me. It's a big deal deal to finish an Ironman, so go ahead, wear your stuff proudly. I was looking around for people I recognized, and there was Greg, of Zoom MultiSport. Nice. We went to the room where Crowie would be speaking and sat in the front row.

Webb: At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was the GREATEST EVENT EVER!!!!!!! Just kidding. A little. Seriously though, I was grateful how thoroughly Crowie answered the audience questions. His answers were complete, candid (without being inappropriate) and showed a lot of respect for the person asking the question. He epitomized professionalism. I think my favorite question-answer moment was when someone asked him how he balanced humility (he is clearly humble) and the competitiveness it takes to be a world champion. Crowie's response "Hey, you have to be an ass to win." He went onto to make it more clear that you can still be close friends with your competitors off the race course. 

The inevitable question about Lance Armstrong came up. I bet people were surprised by his answer, but accepted it as a well-considered, reasonable opinion refreshingly devoid of the drama found with most of Armstrong's champions and detractors. The other inevitable question asked him his thoughts on Chrissie's retirement. Again, his expressions were honest in his disappointment that she would no longer be racing and in his admiration and support for her making such a gutsy decision.

Elle: What Webb said. Crowie is a real professional.

Webb: While waiting in the autograph line, I began reading the book. It is different. In a good way. It is a cross between a coffee table book and training summary. First, the photographs are wonderful. (I had more than a bit of envy looking at photos of people lap swimming outdoors. I guess people really do that.) Second, and I've only glimpsed at the book, there are examples of his workouts and short descriptions of how his training and life balance. Based on the Q&A, it is sort of like him: professional, efficient and no B.S. It is a very clean book in both appearance and content. 

World Ironman champ,
Craig Alexander
The night rounded out with a raffle and autograph line. I won a RoadID, which is good because I have one of the original ankle bands that is now in near tatters. Buying a new one has been on my to-do list for too long. Every time we went open water swimming I would curse myself for not having one of the new silicone wrist bands.

As it happened, I was the last person in the autograph line. It took a long, long time to get our book autographed. When the line got down to about 10 of us, the PR team decided to give a signed promotional poster board to whoever could answer a trivia question: What was Crowie's time at IM Melbourne? Crowie said he didn't think he even knew. I immediately thought 7:58, but had no real desire to take home a poster board. After hearing a couple of wrong guesses, my trivia-competitiveness compelled me to speak up. As the words left my mouth Crowie looked at me with a look of half- "Wow, you know that?" and half- "What is wrong with you that you know that?"

When I finally reached him for the autograph he apologized to me for the wait. I of course didn't care, otherwise I would have bailed. More than anything I wanted to tell him that I have found one of his bits of training advice to be invaluable and people with whom I have shared it have also claimed it has helped them: Always start the workout. Once you are out there you will likely find that you are ready to do it, and if not, then you can change it.

Final thoughts: Elle pointed out a door to me that I had never noticed in function rooms: The "Talent Only" door. (Yes, I rolled my eyes.) Crowie entered the room from the same doors we did: The Plebeian Doors.

ElleCrowie entered through the back like everyone else. He then sat down in front of us in the row of chairs that had been put up last minute, that no one was sitting in. He casually said to no one, "Is anyone sitting here?", to which I replied, "Actually, that seat's taken...", and without skipping a beat, Crowie got up and moved the the next chair over. What a guy...