Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Training is for Kids"-- or, How the Viking Perfected the Old-Man Taper

Yup.  I am a professional athlete now.  I filled out a W9 and everything.  Haha.

I am sure that some of you out there saw that SwimSwam gave me a little love this December for my race at the Chesapeake Pro-Am.  I think it is time for me to tell the story.  (Sorry, Chris and I have both been a little absent lately.  Busy!  Bzzzy Beeezzzz!)  First, I have to say that Chesapeake is my favorite meet ever, not just because the prize money brings in the pro's, but because they run their operation with creativity and precision.  When the hotshots come to OKC, the host club really takes care of them and they plan cool events like visiting a children's hospital, autograph sessions and more.  The meet was huge this year and they had no timeline or operation issues.  An absolute class act.  This is why it surprised me that I was invited to declare myself a "professional athlete."

The meet director, Paul Thompson, saw me fill in on a relay at Sectionals for a swimmer who didn't show and we chatted a bit.  This was a couple of years ago and he asked me if I was training.  I hadn't been doing more than an occasional warm up with the kids in a morning practice.  Maybe once or twice a month. (I did a 1:01 LCM 100 free.) I told him I would like to train... I had this fantasy that I could get under 1:00 in the 100 SCY breast again.  I had tried a few times at alumni meets and such and was never able to do it, even with a full body rubber suit.

This year I had lost some weight.  I emailed Paul and asked him if the offer was still open and he said sure...  I explained that I might swim pretty slow and I don't want to tarnish the idea of being a "pro" and he was nothing but encouraging.  I even explained that I would only be doing it as a gag and that I just wanted something cool to write about and he still encouraged me...

So I really did it.  Here is my bio, mixed right in with Dax Hill, Josh Schneider, and all the rest:

It was amazing.  I was invited to be a part of all the pro activities and was allowed to use the pro warm up lanes and crash area.  Of course, I was there as a coach first and had to take care of the 18 athletes on my roster, but it still was a blast and the real professionals were nothing but friendly as I invaded their space.  The thing is, it all went from "gag" to "serious" real quick when I actually swam pretty damn fast:  I went 58.92 in the prelims and scored a spot in the B final for the 100 breast!

That's me in the silver cap in lane two.

What the hell?!  My lifetime best 18 years ago was only 57.0 and that was with a hell of a lot more muscle and hardcore training...  Right now I am 39 years old and I don't do anything even remotely close to the what I would call "training."  How did I do this?

Well, I think I am on to something.  I might have started the new masters swimming philosophy.  Here is the outline for you to follow if you want to pull a fast swim out of your butt on command like the Viking:

1.  Replace beer with scotch and replace wheat with meat.  Last April I didn't just go paleo... I took it a step further and went full keto/LCHF.  I also started running on occasional mornings when I don't offer a swim practice.  I plan to write a little more on this later, but I am telling you that you have been lied to your entire life about food.  At my worst I was 215.  Right now I weigh 170.  I have never felt better in my life, and even though I typically start running every spring for a few months, I have never had a year where it went as well as it has since cutting out carbs and optimizing my body to use fat as fuel.
Seriously, Homer is a more qualified nutritionist than most of the idiots out there giving advice.
2.  When you actually have time to swim, be 100% race specific.  When I swim 1000 yards, it is with absolutely no waste whatsoever.  As a coach I can work up to 15 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week.  I refuse to give up family time for training, but at the same time I decided that I am sick of always having an excuse for not taking care of myself.  So I occasionally swim morning practice with the kids...  usually just the warm up and one more set, and typically only once or twice a week if I swim at all.  I just make sure it is all with a purpose, including the warm up.  More on that later as well.
3.  No matter how little training you do, if anyone asks you, tell them you are gonna swim really freekin fast.  One of my club parents who was a swimmer at Navy back in the day asked me often if I am really gonna be ready for this.  "Hell yeah.  I am gonna kill this."  The she would ask me how my last workout went.  "I don't remember.  That was three weeks ago.  Training is for kids.  I don't waste my time with that stuff."  For reals...  when you are 39, my best advice for taper is: don't do any exercise of any kind for the last month before you race.  The meet started December 19, and if you look up my runkeeper stats you would see that I my last run was November 15th, and I swam November 19-21 with about 4000 yards spread over three days, I swam 1000 yards on December 12, and I swam less than 1000 yards each on four of the five days before the meet started.  The rest was mental training.  It's all in your head, people.
4.  Don't stress about making a plan.  Enjoy it.  Sick?  No big deal.  No time to work out?  No big deal.  Broke your leg?  No big deal.  Stress reduction is a part of taking care of your health, and that part is all about perception.  There is no deadline.  There are no risks.  Exercise for fun and fitness or don't exercise at all.

I hope to swim again next December, but if I can't... who cares?  I don't really have the time or cash to pursue Masters Swimming even though SwimSwam says I would rank pretty well for my age group.  I loved the experience of getting up and going fast again.  I especially appreciated all of the people who had nice things to say at the meet and since.  Swimming is a cool sport that way.  And hey, I got a cool picture while I was there as well:

The oldest pro and the youngest pro there... 39 and 14.

I hope to write a bit more about the details of how I have changed my relationship with food in the future because I think a lot of coaches will be interested.  Watch for it.  This last year has been very eye-opening and well... I am pissed that I didn't discover it a long time ago.


  1. HAHA I love this! As a swimmers, and then later a coach, I loved the Chesapeake Pro Am. They meet was a ton of fun, and they hosts did an amazing job with everything (something I didn't realize until I coached!). My swimmers loved watching the pro's swim and it was a huge learning experience for them. Gratz on the 58.9, and I love all the advice to go with the story. It's amazing what you can do when there is no pressure and you're just out there swimming for fun.

  2. I love this!! thank you for the keto notes!