Jan. 12, 2013
January 10, 2013
This week has definitely been one to remember. I talked some in the last blog about the sets we had lined up for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I can assure you that they were every bit as challenging as I made them sound. Maybe it was the just buildup of tough sets, but there was something about this Wednesday that I’ll probably remember the rest of my life. It might have been the most proud I’ve ever felt to call myself a Golden Gopher.
Wednesday was a single-practice day for the whole team, but each group had its own unique training time (the sprint groups went early in the morning, the IM group a bit after that, and our group right through the heat of the day from 11:30 to 2:30), and each group took on a set so challenging that our usual competitive arguments about which group worked harder were all but unwinnable.
The male sprinters did their yearly “banks” set – in theory, the set starts with 125s all out from the blocks and moves down to 75s and 25s as you go. But if you can’t hit your goal times… well, you can just get used to doing 125s, because you’ll be swimming them all day. (You can ask Carl Newenhouse all about that. The joys of a coach believing in you enough to set your goal time somewhere around your lifetime best are profound). Via Felix Samuels on Twitter, I heard some effusive praise for captain Derek Toomey, who really led by example on a set that he has some painful history with. As a teammate, it’s awesome to hear about guys standing up and taking charge in their groups.
The female sprinters, not to be outdone, did what is known as a Terry Nieszner kick set. I’ve experienced my fair share of them over the years swimming summers with Terry. My memories go something like this: kick up and down the pool a few times at a decently-fast clip. Rest for a few seconds. Repeat the first two steps, only kicking faster, and with less rest. Do that again. And then keep doing it again and again for roughly an hour until finally you’re sprinting as fast as your legs will move you, getting into the wall a split-second before Terry’s whistle screeches, sending you off for the next repeat. The sprinters all went home on wobbly legs, I’m sure, and I’m guessing their walking commute to the beach probably took twice as long.
The IM group might have done the most intimidating of the sets at first glance. They called it “Super Stand-ups,” and amounted to 1600 yards of all-out, off the blocks swimming that featured both a 500 free and a 400 IM. Their group motto for this trip has been “no regrets,” but I’m pretty certain they all left that practice regretting (at some level at least) choosing the 400 IM as one of their primary events. Brandon Hatanaka threw down a sub-four minute 400 IM at the end, which is mighty impressive. The IM group features three of the hardest workers I’ve ever met in my life – Brandon, Andrew Hartbarger, and Luke Bushman – and just imagining the kind of effort they put into that set inspires me.
By the time all of those groups were eating their post-practice feasts and getting a head start on their afternoons off, the mid-distance group was just arriving at the pool for one of our more-feared quality sets. The set consists of a bunch of all-out 50s starting from a push, all of which have to be under a goal time. Simple enough. But as the set moves on, the interval drops continually, forcing you to hit the same times with less and less rest. It’s a little like a Tilt-a-Whirl ride at an amusement park; you start circling slowly, methodically, but as the ride picks up steam things start to move awfully fast. By the time you finish, the interval has dropped to 40 seconds, and you hardly have time to catch your breath before taking off for another repeat. I’d consider it one of the most challenging sets I’ve ever done in my four years at Minnesota. We ended the practice with an hour of weights, doing battle with our nemesis: 5 rounds of single-leg squats.
After it all, most of us headed for Waikiki beach to catch the last few rays of sun the day had to offer, joining our teammates from other training groups. We swapped war stories, talked and joked. Sandy Whitaker had apparently recovered enough to covertly throw small rocks at the guys while they weren’t looking. His antics nearly provoked an irritated Danny Brebrick into putting his Batman-style fighting moves into action. As the sun began to set, Felix Samuels, Vince Radecke and Josh Hall headed over to the shoreline to take some silhouette glamour shots, presumably for their mySpace profiles.
As I watched the sun go down while tossing a football with Felix, Vince, Grant Alef, and Corey Mills, I couldn’t help but feel immensely grateful for the opportunity we’d all been given. We’d spent the day pushing ourselves to physical limits we’d never before explored, but we got to spend the evening playing catch on a Hawaiian beach as the sun set. And even the training is a gift – we’re getting the opportunity to chase our dreams playing the sport we love, and everyone at the University of Minnesota is giving us the opportunity to become better swimmers than we’d ever imagined. I found myself so grateful for the hard workers on the team who push me on, the coaches who pour so much time and energy into my training and performances, and the team of great men I get to be a part of. For everyone reading these blogs – fans, alumni, parents – we want to say “Thank you.” You’ve all been instrumental in giving us the privilege to swim for the Golden Gophers, and we can’t express how grateful we are.
We’re starting to gear up for our swim meet against the University of Hawaii this weekend. This dual meet is always a great chance to see who can perform well through two weeks’ worth of training trip fatigue. I’ll be back with another update after the meet, and a blog post that probably won’t be as sappy as this one was (although I can’t make any guarantees).
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