Photo Montage From Swimming Olympic Trials

[gallery link="file" orderby="post_date"] ROW ONE:

Photo one: This was one of the few times we saw Michael during the 10 days we were in Omaha.  When he's competing, we let him steer the ship, meaning we see him if he reaches out.  Otherwise, we let him do his job.  After all, the swimming pool is Michael's office - it's where he "goes to work"

Photo two: In the 100,000 square foot Aqua Zone, with the 10,000 square foot Speedo space behind us.

Photo three: Olympic Trials Chairs are a hot commodity! They support the athletes, by providing a seat before they head out to the blocks for their race and are given to high level sponsors upon the conclusion of the meet.

ROW TWO:

Photo one: This photo was taken from the competition pool deck, while standing behind lane 4, from where the fastest qualifier starts their race.  This is what it looks like to compete in the competition pool, plus 14,000 fans.

Photo two: The red photo booth that you see swimmers signing once they've made the Olympic Team.

Photo three: A close-up of the step and repeat.  This patterned board stands behind the swimmers during a press conference and also lines the media row, the swimmers walk through after they have finished their race.

ROW THREE:

Photo one: A group of local children made cards for the athletes, which lined a wall, near the warm-up pool.  USA Swimming provided a unique, behind the scenes tour, where a group of 10 were given a "behind the scenes" look at the swimmers area.  Complete with massage tables, bottles of water, and a warm-up pool, it provided the athletes a place to rest and prepare for their swim.

Photo two: Down to earth and real, one of my favorite people, Andrea Kremer.  Most often, our catch-up time is during these meets, so it was nice to spend a few days with her in Omaha.

Photo three: The cheering section! We had a large group with us at trials, which included family and several of Michael's friends.  Here, they donned wigs and t-shirts that spelled out "Happy B-Day", which were worn on June 30th, the day Michael celebrated his 27th birthday.

ROW FOUR:

Photo one: A statue outside the swimming arena.  At night, the ball in her hands lit up, reminding me of a crystal ball.

Photo two: Backstroke flags.  Used during backstroke races, so swimmers know where they are in the pool and knowing how many strokes they have to take before making a flip turn or touching at the end of the race.  When a backstroke or IM race isn't being swum, the flags are raised high above the pool and out-of-the-way.

Photo three: Speedo did some really fun shirts for the lead-up to the London Games.  This one, with an English Bulldog on the front, we called "Herman."  To Speedo, it was symbolic of the British/English bulldog, originally from the UK, but to us it depicted Michael's dog, Herman, who is an English bulldog.

ROW FIVE:

Photo one: One proud Mama! Mom, in the stands, holding the flowers Michael brought to her, after winning the 200 fly.

Photo two: We tried to take a photo together every night in the stands.  Here are four of the seven nights of photos.

Photo three: The pool, a temporary pool, built by Myrna Pools, sat inside an indoor arena.  Called a portable pool, Myrna can build an Olympic sized pool (50 meters in length) almost anywhere.  In previous years, one has been built-in a parking lot in Long Beach, CA and in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.  This one was filled by using a fire hose, attached to a fire truck, and took 1 million gallons of water!

ROW SIX:

Photo one: When winner of the event touched the wall, fire would shoot out along the side of the pool.  And boy, was it hot! You could feel the heat from the flames no matter where your seat was located.  This photo was taken during the final night, when the 2012 Olympic Team was announced.

Photo two: While I try to eat healthy on the road, an indulgence is needed every once and awhile.  These duck fat fries were a starter one afternoon, while we waited for our lunch.  The pub was cool and the food was delicious!

Photo three: At the conclusion of the meet, many were taking last-minute photos.  Here, I'm with Keenan Robinson, a trainer at NBAC and head trainer for the 2012 Olympic Swim Team and Kalyn Keller, a 2004 Olympic swimmer and a phenomenal open water competitor.

Aqua Zone {Video}

The US Swimming Trials in Omaha have officially ended and the team headed to London has been named.  An action packed eight days, filled with fast swims, eating and exploring what the Old Market in Omaha had to offer the swimming fans that descended upon Nebraska's capital.  Similar to the weather back home on the East Coast, Omaha experienced highs of 100 degrees, with the heat index reaching 115.  Thankfully for the attendees, a Fan Experience area called the Aqua Zone was created.  Let's take a look!

It's About the Little Things - Tapering

So far, we have looked at what it takes to make the Olympic Trials, and how a swimmer then advances from the Trials to the Olympic Games. But what about the last-minute preparation that each athlete undertakes in the final days leading up to the Trials or the Games? If this is the biggest test of their athletic life, can they really cram as if it were a college exam? The answer? It depends.

There are many variables that go into race day preparation for athletes in general and in this case, swimmers. Weight training, technique, yardage, turns, starts and end of race touches. Yet with all that work, how does a swimmer go from high intensity training to delivering a fast time at the Olympic Trials?

Tapering.

In the literal sense, “tapering” means decreasing the intensity and volume of an athlete’s training regiment as you get closer to a specific date. Whether it’s Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, NCAA or the Olympic Trials, all swimmers have one big swim meet every year for which they taper. So in simplest form, what’s the reason behind tapering? So you show up as fit and as fresh as possible. Too much taper and you’re flat, too little and you show up over cooked.  It’s equal parts art and science and behind every great performance, is a perfect taper, which is a direct byproduct of a close athlete/coach relationship. This isn’t tealeaves, this is precision, and in a sport where thousandths of a second determine medals, a taper is often the difference maker in going home versus going for gold.

While the Taper might be the most important component from a physiological standpoint, another part of a swimmer’s race preparation is the annual leg shaving.  Yes, I said annual, and yes, both men and women will shave their legs around this time.  For female swimmers, it is the one time of year that we have smooth legs. While there have been different performance analysts who can site drag coefficient variables—between smooth leg and hairy leg swimmers—the real benefit to the athlete, is probably more psychological than physiological.

Aside from the common physical and mental components that all swimmers have in common, it’s important to remember that outside of those common core practices, every swimmer who has or will make the Olympic team, took a different path to get there.

Some swimmers will have fully tapered and rested for this swim meet, in an effort to simply make the team, while other swimmers show up to Trials and are only partially rested.

Swimmers like Michael Phelps have gone through a minimal taper leading up to Trials, and will improve their times between now and London, after doing some small tweaks in their training, followed by a full-on taper. Why would he show up to Trials without a fully rested body? It’s simple…swimmers who are fully tapered for the Trials will usually post about the same times, or possibly slower, at the London Olympics—a place where the competition is even more intense and the podium times are most assuredly faster.

Now, with the London Olympics merely 28 days away, the athletes will focus on starts, turns and making small tweaks, that can account for a few tenths—or even hundredths—of a second, which sometimes amounts to the difference between winning a gold, silver, bronze or no medal at all.

So what does a taper feel like?

When the three Phelps children would taper for our big, year-end swim meet, it would drive Mom crazy.  The swimming pool was the place where we left most of our energy, but during a taper, we came home with a full body of steam.  In addition to the extra sleep, imperative to a taper, we were 100% rest-less! When athletes taper, it’s a number of contrasting and conflicting feelings going on inside of their body. Imagine downing two espressos and an energy drink before laying down for a nap. That’s what the push/pull feeling of a taper feels like to a swimmer’s body.

Sitting still feels impossible, you want to move (but you’re supposed to be off your feet and resting), you are alert, awake and almost feel “twitchy.”  Mentally, you’re ready to compete.  When swimmers can zone in and harness the energy, THEN they are ready to swim… and swim fast!

A Day in the Life of a Swimmer

In the first installment, we talked about what it took to qualify for the US Olympic Trials and how the various rounds progress from Prelims to being named to the Olympic team, but what the cameras don’t cover—and what we’re going to discuss today—is exactly what a typical day is like for any one of these swimmers at the Trials, from the time they wake up in the morning, until the time they hit the sheets at the end of the night. The Prelim session of Olympic Trials begins at 10am, so the swimmer needs to arrive a few hours beforehand to wake up, fuel and warm-up.  With the longer Prelim sessions, resulting from the large number of swimmers who have qualified in each individual event, the arrival time for each swimmer is determined by what event he has that day.

Swimming the first event? It’s best to arrive early, around 8am, to allow time to warm-up, stretch and mentally prepare for the race.  Just because the swimmers have early morning practice, doesn’t mean they are all “morning people.” If you take longer to wake-up, then an earlier wake-up call is needed to get ready for the day.  Swimmers who are not racing that day will wake-up, eat breakfast and get in a 1000-3000 meter swim each day.  This allows the swimmer to keep the muscles ready for the day when he will swim his event.

Regardless of whether the swimmer is entered in 1 race or 10, they will still spend each day at the pool, both getting in a swim as well as supporting their teammates.  The teams present at Olympic Trials are either club teams or college teams, but either way, the swimmers clock a lot of time together while training and traveling, and supporting one another is important.

So how does this schedule actually breakdown on paper? Here you go:

6:30am Wake-up call

7:00am Breakfast (Most swimmers pack foods they are accustomed to eating while in training.)

7:40am Leave for the pool

8:00am Begin warm-up, stretch, change into race suit, meditate, relax, listen to music

10:00am Swim race

10:30am Cool down, change and return to the hotel

11:45am Eat, hydrate, nap; Video games, cards, reading are also viable options between prelims and finals

4:00pm Wake from nap, hydrate and eat

5:00pm Travel to pool

5:30pm Begin warm-up

6:45pm Finals begin

7:15pm Swim race(s)

8:30pm Finals conclude

8:45pm Eat dinner

10:00pm Wind down for the day, watch TV and go to sleep.

Your sample Day One is complete.  Swimmers competing in multiple races maintain the same schedule for the entire seven days of Trials.  If there is a time difference from their hometown to the meet location, swimmers will travel to the destination ahead of time to acclimate to the time difference.

The day(s) that a swimmer has off, is spent off their feet and resting, especially if they have another race the following day.  It’s important to go into each morning swim as rested as possible.

For nutrition, each swimmer is different.  Some carbo load and eat pasta; some eat the same foods they eat when training and some are expending so many calories that they are just trying to put in as many calories as they are rapidly using up. Some eat with their families, some eat with their teams and some prefer to eat alone.

In our case, we rarely see Michael at the meets, as it is his time to focus on what he needs to accomplish in the pool – equate this to walking into an important business presentation every day.  His office is (quite literally) the pool and his job is determined 50 meters at a time. In the end, however, even though swimming accounts for a large part of each of athlete’s life, it is not who they are, it’s just what they do.

Lap after lap. Day after day.

And then there were three...

Only three workouts left in the 30 for 30... how quickly the time flies!

Yesterday, I ran the same route as the day before, during the first part of a long cardio workout.  I ran outside and then came inside to jump on the bike trainer. My legs are sore and heavy, and I'm convinced it's because I'm getting stronger.  It's all a process.

I decided to take the route yesterday that has the 1.4 mile climb back towards home.  I have a love/hate relationship with that hill.  I dread it the whole time, but then see it as a personal challenge that I revisit as often as possible.  My first thought in my mind, after the climb, is always "It wasn't that bad.  I will do faster next time!"

The course that I chose was the first course that Doug and I ran together in the winter of 2009.  When I was running yesterday, I was thinking of all of the tips I've learned and picked up that make my running more efficient, such as how to best run up hills, how to best run down hills, the positioning of my body.   Such small tricks, make huge differences!

Today is cardio and strength and tomorrow is a swim workout.  After spending nearly half of my life in a pool, I often have no desire to climb back in, but I know that I feel strong after the workout and I know that it's great exercise.

Until tomorrow....