Thursday, July 24. 2008
Over the past few posts I’ve written about what’s been going on in my life here at Stanford, but I haven’t really explained the process of how I actually got here. If you’ve heard this before you can leave now, but if you’re interested in staying……here goes.
Part 1 2006-2007
Leading up to 2006 I was a good swimmer but I couldn’t get over the hump - there were too many great swimmers that stood in the way of making it to the top. I failed to make the Olympic team in 2004 (after failing to make the Olympics in 1996 and 2000 as well) and nearly gave up the sport, but my mom encouraged me to stick with it. In the summer of 2005 the UCSB assistant coach, Jeremy Kipp (now at USC), encouraged me to do an ocean race in Santa Barbara. The race was against local fitness enthusiasts mostly in their 40’s and 50’s that swim primarily to stay healthy.
Fortunately I won the race, and even though it was against marginal swimmers, it was a big confidence boost. I still wanted to be a top level pool swimmer, but I could see the writing on the wall. Open water swimming had started as a novelty, but the curiosity quickly grew. The following year, 2006, I decided to abandon any hope at a career in the pool and devoted myself full-time to open water swimming. My original goal was simple: make the USA National Team in the 25 kilometer race. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the Olympics were a possibility.
The USA Open Water National Championships for the 25k would be in May of 2006 in Fort Myers, Florida. That March I changed my training regime. Even though I was already a distance swimmer that had logged many miles in the pool, I increased my practice distance total from 70,000 meters a week to about 100,000 meters per week. The goal at the time was to focus on the 25 Kilometer race because there was a very limited number of swimmers in America willing to swim a 5 hour race. I realized that all I needed to do was to be able to swim for 5 hours at a reasonably fast pace and I could win the battle of attrition. I figured “Heck, I’m spending 20 hours a week training for a 4 minute race and I’m not finding success, but if I train 30 hours a week for a 5 hour race I can be on the National Team.” It seemed pretty basic at that point.
So, I went to Fort Myers and I decided to enter the 5K and 10K races that were held a couple of days before the 25K. (Coincidentally, the largest hammerhead shark every caught was reeled in less than 2 miles from the race course – one week before the competition). To my surprise I got 3rd in both the 5K and 10K races and beat quite a few accomplished swimmers. Then, in the 25K, I won the race by 15 minutes and put myself on the National Team.
That week in Fort Myers in 2006 was the beginning of my open water swimming career. As a National Team member I qualified for the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia and I spent the remainder of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 training for that competition. I went to Melbourne with high hopes (I would race the 5K, 10K and 25K over a week long period) but quickly realized that the rest of the world is really good at open water swimming. In the 5K I got 17st and in the 10K I got 20th. The water was freezing, my confidence was shot, and I was miserable. Fortunately the final race of the week, the 25K, was my best race and I got 4th place. My overall performance was still a bit disheartening, but I reminded myself that 4th place in the world is better than I’d ever been before in any race.
After Melbourne I came home to Santa Barbara and started to focus on the USA Olympic Trials that would be held in October of 2007. (Next post: USA Olympic Trials 2007 and World Olympic Trials 200
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