Journey to Olympic Trials: All Star

Commentary by Jeff Commings, SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer

PHOENIX, Arizona, April 3. I haven't swum since last Wednesday. When you are an adult with a full-time job, you have to work with what you have when you travel for business. I've been happy and fortunate that my travels in March before last week took me to meets that gave me the opportunity to do full workouts, but that was not the case last week. Despite my job taking me to the Far Western championships in Morgan Hill, California, I was not able to do a workout, because the way the meet is run, the pool is only open for about 30 minutes between sessions.

Sure, I could have jumped in and “splashed around” for 30 minutes just to stay in swimming shape, but I felt it would have been useless. It would have begun to feel like a taper workout, because I would have only been able to do a warm-up and a very brief set. If I would have been able to get in more than 2,000 yards in 30 minutes, it would have been a miracle. So, I decided not swimming was the best choice. I did get to the gym on Friday, thanks to my membership at 24 Hour Fitness that is good anywhere in the country! I did 30 minutes on the treadmill and another 30 minutes working primarily on upper body.

I did not expect to do much today in the water. Here's a look at my workout:

400 warmup

4×200 on 3:30
25 back/25 free

4x(4×25 on :30) IM order

24×50 on :50
1-8 back (averaged :41)
9-16 50 IM (12.5 fly/12.5 back/12.5 breast/12.5 free) (averaged :41)
17-24 free (averaged :38)

400 breast kick easy with board, working on technique

4×100 back on 2:15, descend 1-4
(1:25, 1:20, 1:15, 1:11)

200 easy

Total: 3,800 meters (85 minutes)

I certainly was not expecting 3,800 meters, nor did I expect to be able to handle those 50s on :50. I thought my body would crash at the halfway point, but I was able to keep going through it, despite only nine seconds rest on the first 16 of them. My heart rate was about 160 after the set, which is aerobic for me. With this being my first workout after six days away, added to getting only six hours of sleep and the fact that it was long course (not easy to adjust to after a brief break), I was happy with how my body held up this morning.

I didn't put too high of a goal for myself in the last set of 100s. I did not feel much like a sprinter today, and my muscles did not want to move very fast. I said a 1:10 on the last 100 would be fine, and I was only one second slower. I couldn't hold my arm tempo for the entire 100, and my legs weren't kicking strong. By this time next week, things should be back to normal.

Earlier today, I was searching the United States Masters Swimming website for any news on what was going on in the Masters community. I remembered then that the list of people who made the USMS All-Star team is usually released in April. I went to that part of the site listing the All-Stars, and there was my name! For those who are not a part of the Masters swimming community, being an All-Star is a big accomplishment. It means you are ranked number one in the most events across all three swimming courses (short course yards, long course meters and short course meters) in a calendar year. For some people, it's not difficult to get this honor, as they completely dominate in their age groups. I've won this five previous times, and every year I was never sure I would get it until the list was released, because as a breaststroker, I do not swim as many events as a freestyler, who has many more racing options than I do. This year, I was in a close battle with Tyler Blessing, who won the All-Star for the 35-39 age group in 2010. Tyler was very fast in 2010, getting 12 #1 rankings to my seven. In 2011, I was worried that Tyler would put up a lot of long course and short course meters swims, but he did not do that, enabling me to get the honor this year.

The All-Star award is one of the highest honors a Masters swimmer can get. It rewards you for competing all year, and for being consistently fast all year. Obviously, 2011 was a big year for me in the pool, and this is just one honor that is proving all the hard work I put in was worth it. I'm not sure if I am going for the 2012 All-Star honor. I haven't done any short course yards racing, and with the yards season ending May 31, I have no plans to do so. It means I'll have to accumulate a lot of meters swims in the next eight months. I plan on taking a nice break after July, but we'll see how things shake out.

For now, I'm just glad to be back in Arizona, and back in the pool. My life is going to be very normal from now until Trials, and I'm very thankful for that. I do not plan to leave Arizona until I board the plane for Omaha, and I'll only swim in local meets before then. No need to travel to, say, the Santa Clara Grand Prix to “test things out,” when I can just race the really fast Arizona swimmers in early May, and sleep in my own bed!

Reprinted from Jeff Commings' blog at

At 38 years old, Jeff Commings will be the oldest competitor at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100-meter breaststroke. He previously competed at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Trials and was a member of the USA Swimming national team.