“Wanna run a version of that 500 free set tomorrow? Or wait a few weeks?” Coach Brett, one of my awesome swim coaches, posed the question Monday night. We had just driven 10+ hours home from Chicago, I was jacked up on caffeine and it was past my bedtime. My first reaction was oh shit, a test set and I am going to feel like ass in the morning.
“Let’s do it.” I responded before I could think. The easy way would be to postpone. “If it’s ugly, it’s ugly.”
You can’t wait for the stars to align for test sets and races. You have to just do them. If I can gut through it feeling like shit on overcaffinated lack of sleep and everything that comes along with travel, then imagine what I can do on race day. Put me in, beat me up, let me fail before I succeed. Even race day is never perfect, it’s about working with what you have and being able to rise above.
I arrived to the pool in the morning tired but eager. I again told myself… if you can hit the times tired then when the day of the big dance comes you can handle anything.
It felt good to be back in the water after a few days in Chicago and in the open water. My teammates were there and game for the set. One of the things I love about swimming is that… it’s a solo endeavor yet it’s a team effort. It’s the best of both worlds.
I knew my time from a few weeks ago when we first did the set. It’s a set of 50’s that progresses throughout the season. Now… I don’t like to share workouts that my coaches write, whether it’s a triathlon coach, swim coach, or strength coach. I don’t know why. I feel that it’s their work, it’s their art. There is a certain way Brett designed this set and it’s his. So just know it was a set of 50’s.
Last time I swam this I was one second off what I would need to hit my goal 500 time next April. Being one second off was promising, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be ten seconds off. I don’t know if my goal is a pipe dream or something I am knocking on the door of.
This time I was dead on and for a few, under. My effort wasn’t all out. I loved how it felt. I kept hearing my teammates say something in between each one. Hold this one back. Surge on the second 25. Clean up the walls. Brett’s starts and stops us and gives us our splits to the tenth. I don’t know how he does it. His subtle way of coaching gets you to reach though. The set is designed to progress through the season in a certain way so that on the day of the big dance we are ready.
So I reached. I didn’t see the green room. I didn’t go too hard. And it was right there. One second that eluded me last time. Can I take it under? I do. I hold it. I am smiling. If I can do this today, then on the big day this just may actually come together.
We can’t shy away even when given the opportunity. We have to look it in the face and accept the outcome. My times are not connected to my self esteem. If I had been slower I would have put the card in the deck and worked with it. As the months come there will be times I am way off. I have to have faith that when the day comes the work will show it’s own result.
Monday morning I as I stood in Lake Michigan in Chicago…. I had the city on one side of me and the world it seemed, on the other. I felt it. I felt the line draw itself. As I have been preparing for this swim focus I have been sort of easy on myself. The goals were to get in some consistent swimming, work on strength, bike and run at will. I knew the day when I needed to announce to myself that it’s game on … would come. I just needed it to come on its own.
Monday was that day.
As I switch to my swim focus I have a lot to figure out. We are slowly increasing yardage. After a few weeks off running to heal from my surgery I am back to running. I think it’s crucial for swimmers to develop their aerobic base on land, by biking or running or whatever they love. My years in triathlon have afforded me the time to develop a big aerobic base and I need to continue to hold that through this swim focus.
I am a distance swimmer. My 500 splits in my 1000 freestyles were always faster than my stand alone 500. The thought of swimming the 500, 1000, 1650 and 400 IM may seem daunting but to someone who has done races that last 2-12 hours…. it’s not daunting. Can I use that to my advantage and do well in all of those events?
I don’t know. Time will tell. One or more of those may get dropped or I may find myself in the 200 fly again. I don’t know. I know that I get faster as I go longer, and running helps that fitness develop. Biking will be in there as well, but those disciplines are there to build the base. In the pool is where the priority is.
So the line is drawn in the sand. Systems are in place. I will outline those as we go along.
The easy road would have been to tell Coach Brett .. let’s wait a few weeks. But if we wait until the day where everything feels great, then where will that get us? Jump in. Get dirty. Let it be ugly. Understand that times are separate from who you are as a person. If you aren’t happy with results, use that to raise your bar. If you are happy with the results, pat yourself on the back… and then set a new bar.
That perfect day is once in a lifetime. Wait for that, and you’ll learn nothing.