There have been plenty of moments since I jumped back into the pool when I’ve been proud of myself for something I’ve done in a workout or in a race.
Today I got a chance to step back and be proud of someone else for what they did when sharing a lane with me.
Today’s workout was all about sprinting. We did what amounted to 12 100s, broken down into six 100s and six 4x25s. On my right was my usual sprint buddy, Pat Sullivan. On my left was another lane with a CUBU swimmer, Jake, and my kick buddy Jill King.
Here’s how the workout went:
1st 100 – 80 percent
4 x 25 – sprint w/ one or no breath
2nd 100 – 90 percent
4 x 25 sprint w/ one or no breath
3rd 100 – 100 percent
4 x 25 sprint w/ one or no breath
We would rotate in the lane, so I would swim my 100 and that would be Pat’s rest, and vice-versa.
I wore fins mostly so I could try to keep up but also to try to keep all the stress off my shoulder as I still struggle to get it feeling 100 percent again. I felt like, with the number of 100s we were doing, it would be a good way to make sure I could still put in my full effort and get everything out of the workout.
In each 100 I felt as though I was doing a pretty good job of working my butt off and hitting the times I wanted to hit. I stay at about the 57-56-55 mark on my 80, 90 and 100 percent swims, which is about where I wanted to be. Pat, meanwhile, was swimming at about 55-54-53 (of course without fins) and was really cruising.
It’s always impressive to watch people that are way faster than you are and to see them and how they workout, and to me I always try to push Pat however I can, even if that means I’m just going all out with fins on and bringing it back really fast on my 50 splits or whatever, something that makes Pat recognize that I’m working hard and maybe it’ll help motivate him a bit, too.
As we got to the final 100 of the day, Coach Jeff King walked over with a challenge. If Pat didn’t go a 53, he was going to have a hellish final 15 minutes of practice. I was going to get a two-second head start and try to beat him or hold him off.
Now, keep in mind we were on our 12th 100 sprint, coming off of zero breath 25s and the burn was setting in. Pat had already said a couple sprints ago that he felt the Chewy bars he ate last night coming up, I was sucking wind hardcore.
Still, from the moment the gauntlet was laid down it was gameface time for Sullivan.
I tried joking with him. He stared ahead. I tried to trash talk him. He stared ahead.
When we went, I got my head start. I felt pretty good going into the wall at the 50-yard mark, and I’m pretty sure I was about a half-body length ahead.
I tried to really push the third lap, but as I approached the wall and flipped I saw that Pat and I were pushing off at the exact same time. I didn’t get a good push off the wall and suddenly Pat was ahead of me. I tried to make up for it with an underwater fly kick and instead came up a bit too slow.
I stayed right on Pat’s tail the whole time, and I came in at about 55. I think it might’ve been 54. Pat finished in 51. Pretty awesome.
After hitting the wall it was time to finish with four 25s of sprint again, but Pat first jumped out of the pool and headed over to puke at the trash can by the girls’ bathroom.
A lot of times you might look at that as a weakness — we used to joke when the goalies would throw up during soccer workouts. But I admire it, and so did Jeff. I mean, Pat needed to do that. He needed to work his butt off to the point that he was puking. And he did. He seriously kicked it on that last 100 and pushed himself as hard as Jeff wanted him too.
Being in the lane next to him, I had to acknowledge that.
Said Pat of the race: “When we got to the second wall and I saw you were ahead of me by about half a body I thought, ‘No way is he going to beat me.’ We were even at the third wall and I wasn’t going to let it happen.”
Said Jeff afterwards, “that’s the level you push yourself every day,” and it was great to see Pat hit that level and really push himself as hard as he can go. I want him to remember that.
“You’re never going to know what it’s like to beat Pat,” Jeff said. “But that wasn’t the point.”
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other people in the pool around me going just as hard and working their tails off to the point of exhaustion. It’s a little different because Pat and I work out together so often as the only sprinters in the group and we’ve developed a bond, so you puff your chest out a bit more when something like that happens. For me, what Jeff was saying is exactly how I felt: It’s that sense that maybe you played a role in pushing someone to give the best they’ve got at that moment. To hit the point of exhaustion and go one step further.
What a great, great practice.
(By the way, I weighed in today for fun at about midday and was at 175. I’m pretty pumped about that.)
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.