Journey to Olympic Trials: This Is One Of Those Moments

Commentary by Jeff Commings

OMAHA, Nebraska, June 25. I won't bury the lede: I swam a 1:04.16 in the 100 breast today, good enough for 68th place out of 139 participants. I was seeded 103rd, so I moved up!

I am extremely happy with the swim today. It will be an experience I will never, ever forget. Every minute of today will live in my mind forever. Unlike my previous two Trials experiences in 1992 and 1996, I am smiling and laughing. Not only did I beat my seed time of 1:04.42, but I raced very well, getting second in my heat. It was a tough race, but one that I will look back on and be happy with for the rest of my life. I definitely didn't have the perfect race — I think I've only had three or four of those in my life — but the mistakes are far outweighed by the triumphs.

I went out in 29.62, achieving one of my three goals for the race. Maybe it was a little too fast, but I needed to do that in order to be in the race. I think I turned second or third at the 50, and when I turned, I saw on my right two swimmers that were even with me. I was very tempted to glance to my left to see if there was anyone close on that side, but I didn't want to break my body line by turning my head.

After the pullout from the turn, I didn't want to start sprinting right away, as used to be my customary strategy. I used the third 25 to prep for the final 25, but I think the knowledge that those two swimmers to my right were even with me made me want to start my all-out sprint quicker than usual.

I don't know if turned out to be a hindrance, but I started feeling the lactate hitting right after the 80-meter mark. That's a few strokes earlier than usual, and I tried to ignore it — as much as one can ignore the feeling of lead coursing through your arms. My legs weren't too tired, so I turned my focus to them in order to keep forward momentum.

As I passed over the mark at the bottom of the pool signifying 15 meters left, I decided to not turn on the afterburners just yet. I was already feeling the lactate, and trying to crank up the stroke rate would have been disastrous. I stayed at the same rate until the final five meters, and though I wasn't sure if I was going to get to the wall, I got there.

I had a feeling that I didn't win the heat, but I also knew that I didn't get last in the heat, which was the second of my three goals for the swim. Turning around to the scoreboard, I saw “1:04.16″ and second place — actually, a tie for second place — and I was relieved. The guy to my left had won the heat in 1:03.6, and I didn't even know he was there! If I had turned my head to my left to look at him off the turn, I would have probably seen him, but I am glad I did not.

As far as my third goal for the race, I did not achieve that. This is the first time I am making this public, but I really wanted to go 1:03 today. I was upset by it for only five seconds when I saw my time on the scoreboard, but then happy that I beat my seed time of 1:04.42.

I want to give a shout to two people who were also in the 100 breast today: First, Steve West, who went 1:03.90 at 40 years old and will do incredible things in the 200 breast later this week at Trials. Steve and I have been racing each other since we were teenagers, and this is the first time ever he's beaten me in the 100 breast. Also, Stephen Estes was in a pretty bad car accident last October and I was moved to have him in my heat today. He was out of the pool recovering for three months, and to be able to be at Trials must have been a success in itself.

For the next 30 minutes after my swim, I was met with lots of words of encouragement from coaches and swimmers in the warm-down area. That made me feel awesome as well. My coaches, Mark Rankin and Coley Stickels, were very pleased with my swim. Mark was happy that I went under 30 for the first 50, and Coley was happy with my tenacity in the final 15 meters. I had a huge grin on my face for the rest of the afternoon.

I know this is being posted on the Internet and I have all the room I want, but it would take lots of space here to thank everyone that helped me through this journey to today's swim. Everyone who has interacted with me in some fashion in this past year has been a major source of fuel in training, and I had you all in my thoughts in the seconds before I dove into the water.

Though my journey to Olympic Trials is over, I've still got more racing coming up. I'm racing in the U.S. Masters nationals next week here in Omaha, so I still have to train this week. I'm flying blind here in terms of how much to train, how hard to train and how much to rest. But this will still be a fun experience, and I can't wait to race again in the Omaha pool!

You can go back and read about Jeff Commings' training to today's race by going to his blog at commings.blogspot.com.

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