PHOENIX, Arizona, June 1. BEFORE she traveled to compete in this weekend's Santa Clara International Grand Prix, Erika Braun talked to Jeff Commings for today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
The 40-year-old sprinter talked about qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle, the training regimen she has implemented to make it work and how the camaraderie in Masters swimming helped improve her times over the years. She also talks about an issue very common to Masters swimmers: The importance of balancing life and swimming to make sure all work evenly. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Friday, June 1st, 2012. I am your host Jeff Commings. Erika Braun will join us in the FINIS monitor in a little bit to talk about qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle at 40 years old, becoming the third woman in her 40's to make the meet. Erika joins us right now from Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi Erika welcome to the Morning Swim Show, how are you today?
Erika Braun: I am great. Thanks for having me Jeff.
Jeff Commings: So 26.32 in the 50 freestyle a few weeks ago in Chapel Hill. I understand you weren't even trying for the Olympic Trials cut at that meet.
Erika Braun: Well I had actually been on vacation the week before with my family in Jamaica, and my coach was a little leery about me doing the meet that weekend, and my husband was as well … just they didn't want me to take a step back, but I just knew that I wanted to keep trying and I only have a couple more shots it before the trials in June so I wanted to do the meet and I think we are all just kind of relaxed and just pleasantly surprised that it happened at that meet and especially being in North Carolina.
Jeff Commings: Well, we are showing people some footage of that race. Tell us what do you think enabled you to go 26.3?
Erika Braun: Well I actually had been racing quite a bit this past days in long course meets and about 7 or 8 times I would actually been at 26.48, 26.42 and so I was getting down to the 26.3 mark, but I was just trying to push a little bit further and just kind of gritted my teeth at the end to try to drive to the wall. I have been really focusing on my start to my finishes so that was really the focus for that race.
Jeff Commings: Well it is only a 50 so you know a tenth you know it is just you can't really I guess quantify what it is. It is probably just you know one stroke was just harder this time than the last time.
Erika Braun: Exactly, just everything kind of has to be perfect in the 50 so you just keep practicing, keep you know persevering and you know just focusing on every little thing that you can do. I have been focusing a lot of my stroke techniques. I have had a fast turnover, but I just wanted to try and make my stroke more efficient to be able to hit the wall at that time.
Jeff Commings: Well a lot of our viewers may not know is that 26.32 is your lifetime best. It is the fastest you have ever swum. Now being 40 years old, that is not something that happens all the time. I mean tell me how you have been able to swim faster you have ever gone in your life which is no small feat because you swam for 1988 trials, went 27:1 there so what has been the key for you this time around?
Erika Braun: You know I think I just trained a lot smarter and, you know, I think just continuing to focus on strength training and stroke technique is really key, you know I started swimming with Raleigh-Durham Masters, and this past December started working Coach Paul Silver with Marlins of Raleigh, and he has really helped me focus on technique. So you know, just train smarter eating a lot smarter than I have ever done before and I have to thank my husband for that because he cooks meals for me every night.
Jeff Commings: So you kind of got your own little entourage helping you along with this.
Erika Braun: It is definitely a team effort for sure you know. I have to thanks Masters swimming for getting me back excited to swim in the water again and just you know the thrill of competition and Masters swimming has been wonderful to get back into and it's just a huge family.
Jeff Commings: We'll talk about, how did you find yourself back into Masters swimming?
Erika Braun: I had always take action after a leading UGA and whether it is running and biking and a friend of mine had actually suggest that I might want to triathlon and had not been in the water for 12 years so decided to look up online and found Raleigh Area Masters and started swimming with them and with then the first month and a half I did my first meet in Charlotte and I have never looked back, actually never ended up doing that triathlon and have just fell back in love with swimming again.
Jeff Commings: Well I don't blame you. No offense to tri-athletes I am not a big fan of triathlon either. So has it evolved since you got back into Master Swimming mentally and physically? I mean would you — has it really been kind of a change in focus for you?
Erika Braun: It has just been kind of a continued focus on my competition The past couple of years been doing work, more meets, some more competitions and started going to more of the Master's nationals meets where previously I was attending some of our local meets in North Carolina and I guess it was probably back at the Georgia Nationals meet in 2010 where my times started to actually surpass where I was at school and as a teenager and it just kind of motivated me to realize that I might be able to continue dropping those times and obviously the times have gotten a little tougher over the years to qualify for Trials, but a friend of mine suggested it might be a goal and you know just getting down to that. And it is just you know something fun to work for, you know. I do this part-time as I work full-time so it has just been a fun goal to work toward.
Jeff Commings: How does it feel to know that you will be swimming the 50 free at the Olympic trials at 40 years old?
Erika Braun: Yeah, I never in a million years would have dreamt that I would be here at 40 after my career with you know my high school team and my college team. It is just an honor to be able to represent you know Masters swimmers and being my age and you know reinforcing that you know it is really not about how old you are, but your mentality and your spirit and I am just excited to be there.
Jeff Commings: Now you are swimming this weekend at the Santa Clara International Meet, correct?
Erika Braun: Yes, that is correct. We head out tomorrow morning.
Jeff Commings: Is there a plan to go faster in the 50 free or are you going to now train through this meet?
Erika Braun: Well I have been training really hard since Chapel Hill, lifting pretty heavy with my weight coach and training in the water pretty hard so I am definitely not rested for Santa Clara, but I would love to go faster and ideally I love to go under 26, but you know I don't know if that would — is possible, but my goal is just to continue to get faster in the Trials to have another lifetime best. I love to possibly qualify in the 100 if that is you know, an option for me so I am really trying to go out as fast as I can just to try to get that time down, but you know that would just be extra icing on the cake because I have another and then to add to it.
Jeff Commings: Are you going to stick around Omaha after Olympic Trials to swim at Masters nationals?
Erika Braun: I would love to do that because that is one of my favorite things is Masters nationals, the camaraderie and just the atmosphere I have been taking a little bit of time off for all my travels from my employer Golden Corral. I just don't think I can take another week off but I would love to, though.
Jeff Commings: Yes, speaking of being a full time member of the work force you said you work in Golden Corral — what has it been like to juggle a full time job with what is pretty much a full time demand of you know trying to swim at this level?
Erika Braun: It has been challenging at times, but it is just a matter of balancing your schedule and I do miss out on my 9 hours of sleep that usually like to get as I have been getting up at 4 a.m. to train with Paul's team but it is just a matter of balancing. You know as I mentioned earlier I think I am training a lot smarter so I try to make sure that I have got you know some down time to recover in between workouts and you know just manage the workouts before work and then you know getting in and focusing on my work and then you may be doing something different in the evening like weight training. But diet is definitely key to make sure that I am fueled and energized as much as possible to be able to maintain that kind of schedule.
Jeff Commings: Well it is working for you Erika congratulations on making the 50. We will be watching you in Omaha even more down the road as you continue to impress us all in Masters swimming.
Erika Braun: Thank you so much I appreciate it.
Jeff Commings: And good luck this weekend at the Santa Clara meet.
Erika Braun: Thank you.
Jeff Commings: All right, that is Erika Bruan joining us in the FINIS Monitor. She is going to be swimming at the Santa Clara International Meet, so watch out for her in the 50 and 100 freestyles. I am Jeff Commings, thanks for watching.
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