As I’ve gotten older — yes, I know, I’m only 23 so “older” is a relative term — I’ve definitely become more analytical, and this project has given me the opportunity to step back and try to read what I think my coach is doing and why he’s doing it.
After racing yesterday and looking at my splits, I didn’t need to guess what was coming. And this morning, my suspicions were confirmed. It was all about endurance.
Every time I’ve timed a 100, my final 25 split has been way behind my first, second and third 25. That’s a pretty good indication that I lack endurance.
Over the past few weeks, my coach, Jeff King, has taken his time re-introducing me to the pool. Everything we’ve done has been about technique, about breathing, about flip turns, about remembering the little things. That’s done. Now, let’s get down to business.
As much pain as that may cause me — and trust me, it has already — I know it was necessary.
Today’s practice started off relatively normal — the warm up was 20 25s done with breath control (three breaths per lap). After I was done with that, though, things changed from what they had normally been. No more splitting stuff up into 50s with 15 or 20 seconds rest.
I saw the smile creep across Jeff’s face.
Here’s how it broke down: 10 minutes of swim, 25 sprint, rest. Eight minutes of swim, 25 sprint, rest. Six minutes of swim, 25 sprint, rest. Four minutes of swim, 25 sprint, rest. Two minutes of swim, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (just kidding).
The 10 minutes of swim was broken into 50 swim, 50 kick with no rests. The eight minutes was broken into 50 swim, 25 kick no rest. The four minutes was swim with with catch-up on the way and swim on the way back. The finale was just two minutes of swim.
Let’s just say I was sucking wind. Or water. Or both. My arms were dead, I was breathing every stroke a lot and I was losing any semblance of form on my flip turns and in my strokes. This was what it was all about. It was time to learn how to stay focused despite being tired. Not only had I practiced every day this week for the first time, I was also trying out new endurance workouts. Whew.
I was really learning to push myself even though I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. You have no idea how long 10 minutes feels…or even how long four minutes feels when you’ve already pushed yourself through 18 minutes of a workout you’ve never done before. As much as it was a physical battle it was a mental one.
I understand why Jeff is doing this and I know that it means I’ve moved on from Chapter One of this book to Chapter Two. From “Welcome Back” to “Let’s Do Work.” I may not be the “new guy” anymore — I am still the “old” guy — and that means I get treated the same as anyone else. I expect to hear Jeff say “Paul, today I’m going to kill you,” at the start of practices a lot more. Before I’d only cringe when he said it to other people.
My buddy Corey Inglee also showed up to practice but he didn’t get to race me. When I finished my two minutes of swim I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make it the final 10 meters of the last lap, so the idea of racing was out of the question.
Jeff goes on vacation next week so it’ll all be up to me to push myself. He left me three written workouts and all I can do is sigh. These are going to be brutal. It’s time to start putting in more work all the way around (I’ll be adding dry land workouts in the evening to pair with my work in the pool) and I’m hopeful it means I keep seeing improvements in all areas.
For now, I’m taking a break and resting for the rest of the day. My body is exhausted from pairing all these workouts with long days of work. I am working Saturday and Sunday, too, so the rest of Friday will be about recovering.
But then, back to work.
Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio will train with a swim club over the next few months and chronicle his journey as he attempts to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer — everything from his waistline to his best times.