Journey to Olympic Trials: Forever Young

Commentary by Jeff Commings, SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 14. WITH less than four weeks until my taper meet – the short course meters Masters meet in Phoenix – I am starting to feel that twinge of excitement that comes with the impending arrival of the chance to swim fast.

This meet will be a great way to see how the additions to my training regimen have affected me in the past few months since qualifying for the Olympic Trials. When you are in your teens and 20s, changes to the way you train are usually easy to handle. But now that I am 37, I have been worried that the constant soreness is a sign that maybe I'm taking on more than I can handle.

My weekly session with JR Rosania have made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in the pool, but am I overloading my muscles? And how about those semi-regular workouts with Coley Stickels, the head coach of Phoenix Swim Club? My body hasn't endured this much breaststroke in a single workout since my days at the Olympic Training Center in the late 1990s.

It's only natural to have concerns about training progressions, especially on days when your coaches yells out times that you don't want to hear. Last week, I was the most sore I've been this season, but the times during sprint sets didn't reflect a body in turmoil. On Friday, I almost broke 27 seconds for a 50-yard breaststroke from a dive, something I have never done in Masters swimming. That was one of the highlights of the week.

Another highlight was watching the webcast of the Minnesota Grand Prix and seeing Brian Jacobson qualify for the Olympic Trials at the age of 37 in the 50 free. Yep, another 37-year-old has made the Olympic Trials. Brian is nine months older than me, so he now stands as the second-oldest male to qualify for Trials, and to be honest, I'm not upset that he's bumped me down to the third-oldest man in history to qualify. Steve West set the standard as the oldest qualifier when he made the 200 breast this summer at age 39.

Brian and I were on the national junior team in 1990 and 1991. Brian was a great swimmer then, and he's kept that going in Masters. In 2002, we raced together for the first time in 10 years at the Gay Games in Sydney, and I was amazed that he was still so fast. He broke the Masters world record in the 50 LCM breast in 2004, a record that I worked very hard to break two years later. Like me, Brian continues to get faster as he gets older. He was in the 50 free at the 2008 Trials, and wouldn't it be great to see him go under 23 seconds next year and beat all the teenagers in his heat?

Seeing Brian swim so fast on Saturday motivated me in my Sunday workout. Though the water was a slightly balmy 82 degrees, I did well in my main sprint set. Since I don't do short course meters training very often, I didn't have much of a barometer of how the times measure up to what should be fast, but everything felt like it should.

This Saturday, I'm going to race in Mesa, Ariz., in a short course meters meet that will be a good indicator of how training is going. At my last meet, I swam five events in 90 minutes, which made for a good training meet, but didn't tell me much in terms of how well I can do when I'm fresh. This Saturday, I will officially know how all these additions to training are affecting me, and I can make any necessary adjustments in time for taper, which begins Dec. 1.

You can follow my workouts and more thoughts on training on my blog at commings.blogspot.com.

Jeff Commings will be the third-oldest man to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials next summer. He also holds Masters world records in the 50 and 100 breaststrokes.

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