Friday, August 8. 2008
A couple of days ago I was walking to the training pool here in Beijing and I saw my former coach Larry Liebowitz. Our first handshake here at the Olympics was one of the true highlights of the trip so far. Larry was my coach when I was a young swimmer in Santa Barbara back in 1993, and it was at that critical time in my life that Larry and I forged a life-long relationship. I can attribute a good portion of my success in this sport to Larry.
During my swim practice that day it occurred to me that many of the coaches that have had a huge impact on getting me to this point are going to be in Beijing for the Olympics. Following is a list of my personal coaches that are here in Beijing and the years they coached me:
Larry Liebowitz 1993-1995 (here coaching a Japanese swimmer)
Mark Schubert 1998-2003 (here as USA National Team Director)
Frank Busch 2003-2004 (here as USA National Team Coach)
Gregg Wilson 2004 to present (will be here to watch the 10K)
John Dussliere 2006 to present (here as USA Open Water Menís Head Coach)
I havenít said much about my current coach, John Dussliere, who is here as the Open Water Menís Head Coach for USA Swimming, but Johnís been with me for all of major events since 2007. Aside from the daily grind in Santa Barbara, John and I have gone to Brazil, Spain (twice), London, and all over America for 10k races. Johnís been with me through all the training camps up to the Olympics, and heíll be on the feeding dock during my race. In less than 2 years John has become one of the premier voices in the 10K Open Water community in America and around the world. I have a tremendous respect for Johnís knowledge in regards to race preparation, race strategy and race analysis. Having him as my personal coach and as the Olympic coach has been really beneficial and fun.
Report from the pool. Training is going fine. I had two bad practices in a row so I decided to go back to the training tool that got me here Ė pulling. I love pulling sets with a passion, and I would have quit this sport a long time ago if it werenít for paddles and a pull buoy. (Pulling, for those of you lost right now, builds upper-body strength in the water and is really much more enjoyable than swimming.)
Warning for those watching the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. So, hereís the story. A few months ago NBC wanted to get some footage of me in the new TYR swimsuit and interview me about all the new technology in the sport. During the interview I was asked what I do in between practices, and I responded ďIím an avocado farmer.Ē This wasnít a lie, but it also wasnít really the truth. The truth was that over the past 2 years I have planted about 50 avocado trees at my parentsí house. The trees were purchased at Home Depot in 3 gallon pots and, since Iím not very good at avocado farming, the trees havenít grown very much. Itís not like Iím enjoying avocados every night, let alone selling avocados by the pound. Well, when I told NBC that I was an avocado farmer they were interested in the story and the producer told me ďMark, weíre coming to Santa Barbara to film you on your avocado farm.Ē Thus, in the hour before the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night I will probably be on television. It may or may not be on nationally, but NBCís LA affiliate is almost certainly going to show footage of Mark Warkentin Ė 10k swimmer and avocado farmer.The funny part of the story is that some of the trees could still be mistaken for overgrown weeds, and the most prolific ones appear to be shrubs. Living in Santa Barbara with REAL avocado farmers, and the fact that Diana is from Fallbrook, the worldwide capital of avocado farming, I realize I am setting myself up for a great deal of ridicule at home. This e-mail is a warning.
Finally, Opening Ceremonies are just a few hours away. Iím getting my suit pressed as we speak, and at around 4 pm local time I will head over to the Birdís Nest for what may be the most elaborate performance ever. To put it in perspective, there are over 16,000 couples getting married in the Beijing area today (a Friday) because people wanted to start their marriage on the same day as the beginning of the Olympics. If thereís one thing to watch at this Olympics (besides the 10k swim race) itís the Opening Ceremonies. Hope all is well with all of you. I really appreciate the e-mails that Iíve gotten over the past few weeks during this trip.
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