Friday, January 29, 2016

The Viking Training Method Can Handle Speedbumps

In case you hadn't heard, the Viking swam pretty well at the KMSC Pro-Am in December.  I was actually only .11 away from my lifetime best from 1996 in the 100 breast with 57.13.  My 200 was also my best since college at 2:06.4, although that is still about 2.5 seconds away from my college PR of 2:03.8.  I made three A-finals and got to march out in my new costume so it was worth the trip to Texas for sure.  Yup, that's made from a full body mountain goat and a little bear.  The necklace has wolf teeth as well.  It don't get much more viking than that.
The meet director said "it looks downright satanic."

My swimming was a little spotty leading up to the meet, but honestly I just don't even pay much attention to that anymore.  Like I tell the kids, "it's all mental."

After the pro-am I made it a point to get back in the water as often as possible, which is always hard considering my insane work schedule.  This time though, I had a little help.  We recently started a Masters program through my club, and in an effort to promote it I offered a discount to a local triathlon group called Rufus Racing.  Rufus has a mileage contest that goes from January to March in which they have a spreadsheet set up online.  As you complete miles, you log them on the sheet to earn points for your team.  The entire Rufus crew is divided into several teams, with over 100 adults participating, and every biking mile is worth one point, compared to running miles at three points and swimming miles at ten points.  They have a lot of fun trash talking each other on the facebook and stuff, and it has really been a cool contest.

Since January 1st I have not had a single day without some kind of exercise.  Normally it is an awesome week if I get in a third workout.  This streak is by far the longest I have consistently got work in, even though some of it is pretty low quality just to log the points for Rufus.  I have been running with my wife to help her get past IT band issues, and some of the days are easy runs rather than swims.  I have also not been able to do as much USRPT as I would like, partly due to time constraints since if I only have 15 minutes I sometimes just jump in and do a warm up so I don't have a zero day on the Rufus spreadsheet.  The lack of USRPT is also due to the broken hand.  Some of you might have seen my tweet.  For reals-- I duct taped it and went a 59.7 and 2:09.0 breaststrokes unshaved.  Gotta set a good example for the kids, right?

The worst part about having a finger that plays dead like this is that it becomes a lot harder to cut into a steak.

My hand is still swollen after almost two weeks, the finger still hangs limp, and it is still really sore. It kind of flaps around when I swim so I sometimes tape it if I think I am gonna try to swim with any intensity at all.  It is hard to concentrate on technique when you have a rogue finger.  The x-rays made it look like I chipped a small piece from my knuckle, but I am starting to think I partially severed a tendon since it doesn't seem to be getting any better.  I thought I got off free with no surgery or cast, but that may change if I make a follow-up appointment.  I am debating waiting until after spring break but that may be too long depending on the true nature of the injury.

Breaking my hand finishing a relay lead-off 50 free is a great way to transition my team through the name change from Jasper County Killer Whales to BERZERKER Swimming.  You can't get more 'berserkergang' than that.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Blair Bish is Trying Something New to Get Race Ready



it somestimes goes straight to his butt, which helps keep his hips up.. haha.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Meet Carri Cook from TYR

In my last post I gushed about the TYR Avictor and now I want to gush a little more about the girl who let me give it a try.  Carri Cook covers a large part of the USA for TYR and hopefully after getting to know her a little in this interview you will want to seek her out to see what TYR can do for you and your team.




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I Prayed to Odin. He Sent TYR to help.

The Norse God of Warriors knows how to make a suit.

It is July 15 and I am at the first day of the Mizzou Sectional. My only athlete who was scheduled to swim today had to scratch so I ended up being the only race for my team. I have hardly been able to fit in much swimming, only getting in four very short swims since June 24th.  I had absolutely no reason to expect to swim well, but lately I have the mindset to never back out. I have surprised myself enough times that it is always worth racing to see what may happen. I shaved legs today but left the hair on my face, chest, and belly, which is a pretty significant furry layer at this age. I may shave more for Futures in West Lafayette but I am not sure. 

After warm ups, I decided it was time to look into finding a deal on a tech suit. I caught the TYR rep on deck and told her about my AP-12's being stolen. I was hoping she had one to sell for cheap since they are rumored to be discontinued. We talked a little about potentially signing my team with TYR since we have never committed to a brand, and then she offered to let me try on the Avictor. HELL YEAH!

I warmed up a little more in the suit and then raced the prelim 200 breast with it. In my opinion, it is a fantastic suit. So many tech suits catch water at the waist and are hard to tie tight enough. That was one of the things I loved about the AP-12: the waist never caught water, even without the high waist model. The Avictor had a better string that didn't slip as much when trying to get it tight, and also had rubber at the waist which is something that has become more common in tech that the AP-12 didn't have.  The fabric on the Avictor also seemed to be a lot thinner but it didn't feel like they sacrificed any strength.

The fit on the Avictor was the same, but the compression was very different. I have tried a lot of suits, and there are many varying degrees of compression across the thighs and hips on the market. The Avictor had excellent compression at the hips but I worried that it felt less tight at the lower thighs than what I was used to. After racing the 200 breast though, I can understand why they changed the design. My kick felt much more free. It was like the best of both worlds, with effective stability and compression, but the freedom of movement that allowed me to get the most from my range of motion. I felt like my kick was less restricted and more efficient than with other compression suits I have tried.

My race went really well.  Even after the huge roadblock in my training this summer I was able to drop two more seconds from my best time with a 2:29.9.  Even better, my last 50 was by far the best split I have turned in at 38.8.  I had much less fade today than ever. As a matter of fact, the entire amount of time I improved over last summer's shave meet is covered by the difference in that last split. It is kind of mind-blowing when you consider that I was trying my best to overcome what should have been a lack of fitness due to my crazy schedule over the last three weeks.

These might be my best race splits ever for the LCM 200 breast.
The best part: I met one of my short term goals. The time I turned in officially lands me on the FINA Masters all-time top ten list for my age group. Take a look here... 2:29.94 lands me at the 8th fastest in history for age 40-44. Not bad for a guy who is just squeezing in short workouts in on the fly and didn't bother to shave anything higher than the knees. I turn 41 next week so I am really anxious to see if I can carve out enough training time over the next three years to move up on that list.  I wish I could get off work to go to Masters Nats!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Lesson on Intensity

One of the few difficulties I have run into with USRPT is that it seems to be very difficult for the average kid to have the mental will to do it correctly. To truly practice race pace there has to be a specific level of intensity involved, and many young swimmers are inclined to do as little hard work as they can get away with. The athletic mindset requires fighting human nature a little, and with a large team of kids who had grown up training in a way that allowed them to coast through a large percent of their time in the water, it seems almost as though many feel that they are doing enough by just showing up.  Sometimes it's like they think the comfort zone is an intentional training zone. Even worse, they can act as though a good day of training or racing is something that just randomly happens to them as though they are waiting their turn for the best time fairy and she just seems to like some kids more than others.


If I actually get a chance to fit a workout in myself, it is a completely different experience.  I start getting anxious hours in advance.  I get nervous that I might finally go hard enough to hurt myself, and I prepare myself to give the pain required it's time. I warm up with purpose, making sure I leave myself no excuse built in. I push during the set to make sure that any fail I have is caused by fatigue and not some other factor that implies a lack of focus. I can't always control my schedule, but I can control my own body and mind. I try to make the most of every minute. 

By the time I reach my third fail the lifeguards are wondering if they are going to need to call 911. 

I get pretty frustrated sometimes when my swimmers don't even look like they got their heart rate up on these sets. I can tell when the intensity is on or off. It is hard to watch when the majority of a large group just seems to be okay with mediocrity in training.  Often I make my swimmers continue beyond their third fail just so they aren't incentivized by free time as a reward for doing a lousy job.  

Last night at practice we did a set of 20x50 at 200 free pace. Only about three out of 35 swimmers made it past number 8 before their first fail. Over half took the 4 freebies easy and then failed number five. So after they finished I pulled them out. I explained that since these sets are based on their own best times, I know they weren't even trying. Many looked around as though I must be talking to someone else. It wasn't a fun moment. 

So we did the set again. I told them that if they made ten in a row with no fails (and no freebies) the set was over. If they failed any of the first ten, they had to continue all the way to twenty again. It changed the incentive. They had five minutes to swim a 200 easy if they want it before we started. Not much rest really. 

Taa-daa!  Every one of them made a better score to first fail than they did on the first round. All but two made it to ten with zero fails.  Amazingly, when I looked through the notebook, ten was the best x score of the season for almost all of them. 

So then, I got to ask them, "WHY?"

It was a rhetorical question, obviously.  I felt like I got the answer from the looks on their faces. They finally looked like they had just finished a hard race. They were breathing hard enough that there were no conversations happening.  A couple of them were sprawled on the deck like warriors wounded in battle.  

It was beautiful.

I can only hope that the message came across in a way that makes them value their time enough to not waste it.   When they get their next chance to make the most of an opportunity, I hope they remember it is a matter of choice. I would choose to take pain rather than waste time any day. 

I guess maybe a big part of my job as a coach, no matter the type of training, has always been to convince others that it's a good trade. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dr Noakes, Spreading the Word on LCHF

Viking has made it pretty clear he is a Dr Noakes groupie over the course of writing the Manifesto and beyond.  I stumbled across a couple of videos of his that I thought were worth sharing with anyone who checks in at the Brief because they are considering the low-carb/high-fat lifestyle.  I had to at least make a few people pay attention, right?

Take a look and let me know what you think...  It was nice that he mentioned Cameron VanDerBurgh.  Now I am waiting for a world class distance swimmer to admit they do this, you know, because us breaststrokers are freaks and whatnot.






Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Play the cards you are dealt

Lately, circumstances have been standing in the way of my training, and I am not sure it is going to get any better in the foreseeable future. The Viking Experiment just may come to an end if something doesn't change.

First, summer is just plain busy.  I was looking forward to the summer practice schedule getting into full swing because I knew that I could get more swims in but it didn’t work out that way.  I typically swim the warm up and one USRPT set with my team before getting out of the water to coach the rest of the practice.  The deal from day one though, was that if my swimming became perceived as a negative for my team I would stop.  After over a year of swimming with the kids I had my first parent complaint about it, so that part of my swimming comeback is officially over.  If I am going to keep training, I will have to fit it into the nooks and cranny’s between duties.  That is pretty darn hard for a teacher/HS coach/USA coach and administrator whose in-water groups tend to overlap for 12-15 hours straight every day.  I still hold fast to the rule that my swimming will not take away from my family time, so that leaves me very little options.  I plan to plug away the best I can, but I am not sure this is an obstacle I can overcome.  My swims have been reduced to usually less than twenty minutes each and have become fewer and further between. Also struggling to get more than five hours of sleep at night which certainly doesn't help.


Second, I have less racing opportunities this summer, and this is the first summer in a while that I have ever found a way to take a real vacation!  Trust me, I am not disappointed that I will be able to get out of town for a week this year.  My family and I desperately need the break… but it means that I will be out of training for 10 days straight until about 8 days before sectionals.  Again, that’s okay… I have nothing on the line.  I will have fun racing anyway and I still think I will swim faster than last year.  It’s not like I would be training much if I were staying home anyway, right?  Most of my target sets have been lagging lately, and my push times after USRPT sets haven’t been great either, but once in a while I bust out a gem like the 2:44 LCM 200 breast last Thursday evening.  I have never been that fast in practice before, especially in a brief with hair on my legs and no dive.  I think that swimming fast at sectionals will be more of a matter of being “race ready” than “in shape” this year.  Also, I feel like my Viking Method for some reason helps hold the de-training effect off for longer.

The thing that might redeem my summer?... I plan to swim at the Futures meet at Purdue in early August.  That gives me a few extra weeks to get on top of it before the summer comes to a close.  I am considering not even shaving for sectionals and putting all of my eggs in one basket for Futures.  We’ll see how this evolves.

This is the bonus and curse of being an adult athlete.  I have nothing at stake except my pride, and I honestly don’t have that much pride invested.  My goal is to enjoy my swimming.  Of course, I enjoy it more when I see improvement, but if there is a bigger picture here, it is that I want the kids to see that swimming doesn’t have to be a chore.  This is truly a lifetime sport and it is meant to be fun, and not enough of us live that example.  Of course, it is hard to keep that in perspective as a self-improvement junkie who still thinks he has a lifetime best in him, but I will manage the best I can.