Monday, January 16, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Date: Monday, January 16, 2012
161 days to Olympic Trials

Times at the Austin Grand Prix (long course meters):
100 breast: 1:07.11
200 IM: 2:14.80

I had a lot of fun in Austin, Texas, despite what the official results from the meet show. I had hopes for swimming very fast at the meet, but I was not upset by the times on the scoreboard. Well, maybe for about five minutes. I was only upset because I knew I could have done better, that external circumstances hindered me from doing my best, that I had come all that way (from Phoenix to Austin) only to swim slower than expected and that I wasn't going to be able to swim in finals. But in the end, it was a very valuable learning experience that I could not have gotten if I had, say, swum those races in a Masters meet or local meet in Arizona.

What I learned is that my racing skills are very rough around the edges. I got the opportunity to watch my 100 breast on video a few hours later, and I saw lots of things that were not only rookie mistakes, but were easily fixable with some concentration during workout.

Sitting down with Coley Stickels after my 100 breast, he told me I had surfaced from the pullout after the start about a body length behind. That's a lot of ground to make up in a 100-meter race, and it's a lot to lose in the first15 meters. What we both believed (and was confirmed by me when I watched the video) was that when I recover my arms after the pulldown, I am very slow, which in turn slows me down quicker. By recovering my arms faster, I can keep my velocity on the pullout high and not work so hard to get up to racing speed. In fact, I would likely be at racing speed if I did it correctly. Also, my first stroke after the pullout is taken too long after the first kick. These were things that I was doing in a race, because I was probably doing them in workout. When you're tired, the first thing to go is speed, and when you're doing long repeats, the little things get dropped, and sometimes you or your coach don't notice that it's happening. No offense to my coach, Mark Rankin, but he probably didn't notice these issues either, and he sees me doing breaststroke a lot during the week. There are many things coaches miss when standing on deck. Making a video of my technique helps everyone see the mistakes, but they are highlighted the most in races.

Another reason I was glad to swim int he Grand Prix was because I was racing people of the caliber I will be racing in Omaha. No offense to my wonderful Masters friends, teammates and most competitors, but the mistakes I made yesterday in the 100 breast would not have been as easy to see in a Masters meet, because I would already be ahead after the start.

As I had mentioned earlier, a few external things conspired to cause me to swim a little slower than expected, though I will place no blame on them. First, I had a bad cold the weekend before, and I don't think I was fully over it. Second, I didn't sleep well the night  before. I woke up at 4:30, and could not get back to sleep until about 5:45, which was 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I did feel a little groggy in warmup yesterday, and did have a hard time getting my brain amped to race. Finally, I spent Saturday afternoon with one of my best friends in the world, who I met in college, and after a great lunch, he sowed me around one of the big malls in Austin. I did not know he was going to do that until we were halfway through the mall, and by then, I think we had walked half a mile! My legs didn't feel awesome in warmup Sunday morning, though they had felt pretty good in my brief "workout" on Saturday.

Going forward, I have to make sure everything I do in and out of the pool has a focus on making my 100 breast the best it can be for Trials. I think I'm going to move up my training schedule a bit to start my race pace training a few weeks early, like the middle of February. I need to get my fast-twitch muscles primed to race, even in in-season meets, and I need to race plenty of times to hone those flaws I was making yesterday. Before this weekend, I was on the fence about going to sectionals in March, but I am going to try to make that happen. Like Austin, I probably won't have any time goals, but to be able to race people who are as fast as me will be invaluable come June 25.

As for tomorrow, I might be doing a lot of breaststroke pullouts!


  1. Jeff, this is great post-race analysis. It must have been fun (and humbling) to race against swimmers of the caliber who were there. Videos are awesome (and even more humbling) tools. Will you hit another Grand Prix event before Omaha -- Santa Clara, maybe?

  2. Patrick, I won't do another Grand Prix, but I'd like to swim in another "big" meet before Trials. Have to find a good one...

  3. Jeff -- does the PSC USAS team head up to Federal Way for Sectionals in early March? Not sure if the competition will be fast enough, but it's all LCM this year; at summer Sectionals, most / many events were won by people under Trials cuts.

    1. Yes, the team is going to sectionals in Federal Way. I'm 90 percent sure I can make it there, too. It would be another great meet to race guys my speed.