Journey to Olympic Trials: It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

Commentary by Jeff Commings

PHOENIX, Arizona, June 6. MANY of the swimmers competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials are starting the much-anticipated taper phases of their season — everyone but me.

Because I only do 3,500 yards/meters on average per workout, it would be silly for me to start tapering now. I don't have that far to go down in yardage! I plan to do my usual 10-day taper, but I'll be stopping my dryland work a couple of days before that.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been feeling very sluggish in the pool. It's been very difficult to make my body swim fast, and as such, I have not been putting up consistently fast times or being consistent with the type of effort I put into certain sets. If my body didn't want to swim fast, I backed off instead of pushing through. Twenty years ago (or even 10 years ago), that's the way I would have gotten through those tough times. But I don't know if it's wisdom or wimpiness that's made me put on the brakes.

Now, I feel like I'm starting to turn a corner, even though the quantity of my workouts hasn't changed much, and I'm still putting in some decent quality in and out of the pool. On Tuesday, I did two 50s breast fast from a push, with about three minutes or so rest in between each. I went 33.2 on the first one, 33.6 on the second one. I haven't been able to go under 34 for two straight 50s since … well, in a very, very, very long time.

When I have good sets like this, I try not to get too excited about it and put higher expectations on myself. This is because the following day I'm usually put back in my place by a disastrous performance on a particular set. I'm doing my best to not do cartwheels about those 33-second 50s, because it's extremely encouraging. I'm just enjoying that result, and continuing to take each day as it comes.

Since I did so well yesterday in breaststroke, I figured I deserved a day off from breaststroke. Remember that I am also training for the U.S. Masters nationals the week after I swim the 100 breast at Trials. I'm excited to be able to swim fast more than once in that pool, especially the 100 free! I don't know who I will be racing in that event in Omaha, but I did see the roster of swimmers signed up in the 35-39 age group, and I don't think I can beat Matt Eisenhuth, Brian Jacobson and Scott Greenwood in a 100 freestyle! As such, I need to do some sprint freestyle work to make sure I can compete with them. Not only was it a nice physical break from breaststroke, but a mental one as well.

I was starting to feel the snap in my strokes come back to me today. It's still feeling a little forced, but not as forced as it was on Sunday, or even yesterday!

Today was probably the final truly tough dryland workout I'll do this season. During the session, I thought back to the very first weeks with J.R. Rosania, when I was gasping after some of the sets he was giving me. I'm still gasping a little bit and sweating a lot, but I'm not coming home tied in knots like a pretzel and forgoing dinner for 10 hours of sleep. (I'm not kidding about that last statement. I did come home from working out with J.R. once and fell asleep almost instantly.)

The point of today's workout was explosive speed. Here you can see me doing some ball throwdowns with a 15-pound ball, which was five pounds heavier than I usually use!

And here I am doing push-ups with hand claps on every repetition. I had been progressing to this exercise, and today was the first day I did claps on every rep.

I do wish I had been able to compete this weekend. This would have been a great weekend to do so, but my brother is being ordained as a minister on Sunday, so I'm going to attend his ceremony in St. Louis. I am so happy for him and the journey he's taken to this moment! The only downside to the trip is that I might not be able to swim on Saturday or Sunday, but I should be back in the groove Monday, ready for the final days of hard training!

If you haven't been following Jeff Commings' blog as he prepares to compete in his third Olympic Trials, you better have a very good excuse! He's competing in the 100 breaststroke on June 25.