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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Shower Thoughts- Why Free Will Is the Real Secret Behind American Swimming Dominance

Welcome to Shower thoughts, a who knows if I will keep it up series in which I post my swimming thoughts in a free flowing manner that is possibly best understood while medicated.

It seems like one of the biggest general fears of Americans these days in the post cold war era is China. Specifically, thinking of China as a monolith of massive proportions that will take over everything. In swimming, the fear is that China will somehow figure out how to harness their massive population and wrest the swimming dominance that the US has had in hand for the past few decades.

I'm here to tell you why that won't happen in the near future. Now you might say "WAIT, it already HAS happened" and point to this past summers World Aquatics Championship in Kazan where China led the overall medal count. However, in swimming China is still sitting well back in third, even at a World Championship where team USA submitted perhaps their worst performance ever.

Somehow, Australia, with not even 1/20th of China's population and quite frankly massive dysfunction in their swimming organization, also bested China. Why? Well I'm finally going to get to that.

Once you get to a certain level in elite swimming, it's a really big, fat, enormous advantage to have chosen that path. Both the United States and Australia have really high level athletes well past the age when their parents or a university is going to make it "easy" for them to continue in swimming. Better yet, they chose the sport at a young age and weren't forced to do it by some totalitarian talent selection procedure.

In fact, it appears China missed it's window all together while it was completely isolating itself from the world. They would have a had a much better chance at dominance in the 1970 or earlier, when the mean age for top international swimming stars was under 20 years old. At least at the younger ages some sort of "forced" program could have produced better results.

Another result of China's insular approach is that despite now having some elite international swimmers, they haven't been able to develop a single elite level coach within their own country. They've done a smart thing in farming out their best swimmers to Australia to get top level coaching, but it has to also be a huge cultural challenge for those athletes to see how different life is for top athletes in the free world.

Of course, the counter to all this is that China could just as well sponsor doping as fellow "non-free" nation Russia did/does. That would make up for the disadvantage of having athletes forced into performing rather than making the choice.

In the meantime, take a bet that despite all the challenges that come with not being able to "make" our best do whatever it takes, Rio will show that a nice big helping of freedom is still America's biggest advantage of all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

BREAKING: Gregg Troy's Mustache Named Italian Olympic Coach

In a startling and unprecedented development in swimming history, the Federazione Italiana Nuoto (Italian Swimming Federation) has named Gregg Troy's mustache their Olympic Team head coach in advance of the 2016 Rio games.

It is unclear how Troy's mustache, arguably the top mustache in swimming, will be able to carry out those coaching duties should Troy be selected to another Olympic staff. Given that Troy was selected to both the 2008 and 2012 American teams, that scenario is likely.

Still, FIN president Paolo Berelli was undeterred. In an official statement, he cited Troy's mustache's role in the "breathtaking development of Italian swimming star Mitch D'Arrigo". Berelli also referenced the Mark Spitz' mustache fueled domination of the 1972 Munich games: "History has shown that having the top mustache on your squad is a key indicator of Olympic success".

The move is considered risky by many, given Troy's promise to shave said mustache should Florida Gator's star sprinter Caeleb Dressel swim crazy fast this year.

With the news of a famed coaches body part making it's way into the Olympics, some smaller federations are rumored to be considering Mike Bottom's chin or Jacco Verhaeren's hair for a position on their staffs.