Journey to Olympic Trials: I See the Light

Commentary by Jeff Commings, SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 28. FOR the past three months, I've been swimming in darkness, and now I'm starting to see the light.

Swimming in the early morning hours in the Arizona winter means you're swimming outdoors well before the sun comes up. But I've been noticing the sun starting to peek through the tree line a lot earlier in the past few days, meaning that spring is just around the corner!

That also means summer is almost here and – oh my gosh – that means the Olympic Trials is swiftly approaching! I've tried not to get nervous about it, but I have been going through this winter comfortably knowing that Trials is so far away that it's pointless to start thinking about it. But yesterday marked the four-month countdown, and it's impossible to ignore.

I'm sure a few people out there have countdowns to either the Olympics or Olympic Trials in their daily routine. The folks at the University of Michigan have a digital clock counting down the days to London. I'm sure they've been ignoring it for the past three years, but each virtual tick of the clock is getting louder and louder.

I know I have no chance of making the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 breaststroke. I'm glad that I'm going to Omaha with that expectation. But, I don't want to swim slow, and in that vein, I've been training like a maniac for the past seven months. Each week, I visit J.R. Rosania, the trainer who helped Gary Hall Jr., Anthony Ervin and Misty Hyman win gold medals in 2000. I also swim with the gold group at Phoenix Swim Club once a week, usually on breaststroke day but sometimes during lactate day. I haven't worked this hard in many years, but for the first time in a long time, I'm able to smile through it all, because I'm enjoying swimming more and more each day.

The amount of sprint training I do each week is steadily increasing. By early April, I will be completely focused on training for the 100 breast — with some brief detours to backstroke, since I am planning on swimming in the Masters nationals the following week. If you think sprinters have it easy, just check out some workouts on my blog and see that's not always true!

It's time to get serious now. It's time to get race ready. This is the part of the season I like the most. No more "garbage yardage"! I'm going to the western sectionals next week, and that will be my final test before Trials, to see if all is going as planned. I'm not tapering for the meet. Just three days rest at most. I don't need to shave and taper just to see 'where I'm at' because I know where I am. I'm on the list of people swimming in Olympic Trials!

At age 38, Jeff Commings will be the oldest competitor in the men's 100 breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials. This will be his third Olympic Trials. Read about his journey in his book 'Odd Man Out' and in his blog.

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