September 10, 2012 - Tiburon Mile: 8 years pass, but now I am back
The 13 annual RCP Tiburon Mile in beautiful San Francisco went off with a shot gun start on Sunday with the most elite open-water swimming field in the world.
Twenty countries represented in a field of over 800 swimmers and I was once again in the mix.
Just two minutes behind the leaders, I splashed out of the water to run across the finish line 26th overall and the 9th female in 23 minutes and 47 seconds.
Enjoying the moment
It was a last minute call on my part to swim the race, the original plan was to head out and assist in the TV broadcast as I did last year. But with my return to the water last July, the question of me swimming this year came up in a couple months ago when I was out for the Trans Tahoe Relay Swim.
After some thought and implementation of a strategic plan, eight years after I had last swam the Tiburon Mile, I decided to jump back into the frigid 56 degree water.
Rubbing elbows (literally) with the top open water swimmers of the world, my strategy was to get a good start and settle into a challenging comfort zone.
But if you want to be in the race, you have to be ready to battle for your position. Safe to say, the Tiburon Mile is the most aggressive and competitive race from start to finish. Nearly every year swimmers have battle stories to tell of bumps, bruises and scrapes.
I myself have had a few to tell, including a mid -race run in with a swimmer clearly superior to me - a California sea lion.
Flying under the radar
In times past it was ALL on the line, $10,000 to be exact. The top male and female winners CASH prize. And to this day I am still the only one to have won the race four times (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003). The other two times (2001 and 2004) I finished second.
But this year, as I approached the half way point of the race (sandwiched between a group of the Cal Berkeley Men's Team swimmers, being bounced around like a rag doll), I paused in thought and smiled...
I can without a doubt say, it was the first time in my six years of doing the Tiburon Mile that swimming the race was a brilliant feeling.
As I swam stroke for stroke with the men, nearing the sea wall with big orange buoy that marked the 200-meter-point to the finish line, I felt strong.
My feel for the water with each stroke, my breathing never let up and I never drifted back. In fact when one fellow swimmer thought he was going to put a move on my position by swimming over me instead of around I threw in some strong kicks. It was my way of saying, 'no way buddy are you passing me' ... I'm no delicate little rose pedal out there on the open seas. Conversely, my thorns come out.
Confidence in the right direction
Just six months out of retirement and over a year of gradually getting back into "swimmer" shape, this tells me exactly where I am and exactly where I need to go.
With my team in place -- training with Clearwater Aquatics Team and Randy Reese, 1441 training with Raphael Ruiz and Strength Coach Jake Peacock -- it's good to go back to them and report our progress and set the next stage to climb.
Next year it's time to race for a 5th Tiburon Mile win.
2012 Elite Race Results
1st place Melissa Gorman AUS, 21:46 (3-time Champion)
2nd place Christine Jennings USA, 21:51
3rd place Ashely Twichell USA, 22:09/Becca Mann USA, 22:09 (14 years old from Clearwater Aquatic Team)
1st place Kane Radford, New Zealand, 21:34 (3-time Champion)
2nd place Ridge Grimsey AUS, 21:45
3rd place Codie Grimsey AUS, 21:47
August 27, 2012 - The Cleanse
After a pretty rigorous summer schedule of travel, training and work hours, I wanted to find a way to replenish myself heading into my busy fall schedule. It wasn’t like I’d been eating terrible, but I wasn’t on my normal “clean” routine. A lot of eating out and a lot of late meals just had me feeling a little blasé.
So nothing extreme, but for five days I ate only eat fruits, veggies and protein powder mixed with water.
Here’s how it went.
Monday - Started rough…
Struggled all day with a headache and nothing seemed to kick it. Good thing swim practice wasn’t more than a stretch-out.
NOTE: Most times when doing a cleanse, I advise very limited workouts, but for me this was light for my standards, so I kept with my training routine for the week.
Tuesday - Looking better…
Not sick of oranges, watermelon and strawberries yet, but I had the time to get creative in the kitchen by whipping up a stir-fry masterpiece. Delicious!!!
Ingredients: Pre-packaged fresh stir-fry mix, 1 Cup of chick peas, 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, 1 tsp. sea salt, olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon
Cook: On stove top, pour olive oil in deep dish skillet and throw in the mushrooms. Allow them to fully cook before adding your stir-fry mix and chick peas. Once you add the rest of the ingredients, squeeze lemon juice over the top and sea salt. Give a stir. Cover and cook on medium-low for 5-10 minutes, depending on how tender you like your veggies.
Wednesday - Dip in energy…
After two full days of work and workouts, all I wanted to do was be at one with my couch by the end of this day.
But there was light at the end of the tunnel, only two more days!!! All in the mind at this point.
Thursday - Seriously craving red meat…
A nice juicy medium-rare steak is all I could think about. No workouts today and my body had the chance to get up to speed.
P.S. What was I thinking? Do I really always have to push myself outside of my comfort zone?
The answer is yes! There is always a reward, you just have to search for it sometimes.
Friday - The finish line...
My inner-being felt well; my outer-being not so much.
I really did feel the effects of the week-day cleanse. Good digestion, and other then just the fatigue of workouts, I knew the outcome would be just what I was looking for.
Saturday - I got my STEAK!!!
It was better than one could imagine!
Final note: Overall, I am happy I did it.
It takes a simple mind and body check every now and again to realize just how much one controls the other. But how you can control what you are capable of.
Monday - Back to normal eating…
And a strong 4:45 A.M. morning workout to get the week started off right!
August 21, 2012 - Diana Nyad Still Pondering "The Impossible Dream"
You can't argue the fact that marathon swimmer Diana Nyad is in every way possible the extremist.
For the third time this year and her fourth attempt in 30-plus years, Nyad dove into the deep waters off the coast of Havana, Cuba, to attempt the "extreme dream"; to swim 103 miles and land on the shores of Key West, Florida.
It's just as simple to ask, why not?
Nyad is one day shy of her 63rd birthday and has lived for this moment her entire life. It's a dream she has had since her 30th birthday, and to most, she probably can't describe.
But as a distance swimmer and an Olympian, I don't need her to explain it to me. I just get it and respect it. So, maybe I can give a better insight on just how incredible this journey is.
But let me be clear, for those that want to ask...I have NO desire to attempt such a swim.
On her 4th attempt, Nyad fell short of her dream yet again. The dream of standing on the shores of Key West will have to wait for another day.
But this attempt would be record setting.
Nyad swam more than 40 hours, roughly 50 miles from her destination, which is the furthest on any past attempt.
The Challenge? Is it the distance? It's tough, but not the biggest challenge.
What about the sea creatures? Sharks? And jellyfish?
Tougher, but still not her biggest challenge.
That leaves mother nature. A power no one has control over. Florida's gulf stream always give Nyad her biggest challenge. In her third night into the swim, it was too much. For the safety of her team and Nyad herself, the attempt was called off in the early morning hours.
According to reports, Nyad shook her head in frustration and asked numerous times when she could get back in, but the seas never let up.
And this leaves me with the question? Is this swim possible?
But not because I don't believe Nyad isn't capable of it. She has proven four times that she is mentally and physically able to make this 103 mile swim.
It's forces beyond her control.
I applaud Nyad's persistence to strive for something that has never been done before. I cheered her on and prayed that the fourth attempt was the one. And if Nyad decides to dive in for a 5th attempt, I will be on board the "extreme dream."
Is the impossible, possible?
August 17, 2012 -- Inspiring the Next Generation of Swimmers
The honor of winning an Olympic medal goes well beyond the national anthem and standing on top of the medal podium.
It is about reliving that moment with the newest members of the sport.
On Thursday evening at the Longcenter Aquatic Complex in Clearwater, more than 150 kids raced 25 yards in all four strokes, some for the first time.
Each swimmer left with a ribbon. But more than that, it was the sparkle in their eye, of having that dream of being the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin.
And to finish off the summer junior competitive swim team season, swimmers and families filed into the gym across the hall for pizza and dessert.
But they didn't know there was another treat in store.
It was time meet a 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the night couldn't be complete with an autograph and picture.
August 16, 2012 -- Post-Olympic Workouts for Olympians
It's a lifetime in the making for Olympians to achieve their dreams and it's all for that one moment to compete on sports' biggest stage, the Olympic Games
But what happens to those firm, fit bodies after four years of intense training?
All of a sudden, no one is telling you what to do every second of the day. You can wake up when you want to and eat whatever you want.
As long as you don't fear putting on the post-Olympic 20 pounds.
It happens to must of us.
Even the greatest Olympic athlete of all time, Michael Phelps, claimed he put on a good 30 pounds, following his success in 2008 at Beijing.
I myself didn't touch a pool for more than two months, following my Olympic success in 2000. In my eyes, I was seriously out of shape, but to the average person, I was still in "world-class" athletic shape.
Take a bit of information from Raphael Ruiz, Director of 1Forty-Four1, a training group in Tampa.
Ruiz has worked with 2012 Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones, Davis Tarwater, Nick Thoman and myself, as I make my venture back into the water.
"The key to post-Olympic training is built well before the games begin," says Ruiz. "It is always a great practice to introduce activities outside of their sport and to take note of what they like and love to do."
After the games, it is about stepping away from the spotlight. During this down time, it is time for us, as athletes, to restore the nervous system and heal any injuries.
But mostly, regain sanity.
It's now time for Olympians to have "fun".
If it's yoga, fight training, adventure runs and races? It's time to explore new ground.
Take Olympic gold and silver medalist Cullen Jones, who will take the rest of the year off from the pool, but will be hitting the boxing gym to remain in shape. Jones has hinted he will compete in four years in Rio.
World record holder in the 100 fly, Dana Vollmer, tweeted on Wednesday, "Getting in some morning cardio, which makes me feel better the rest of the day. Feels good to push myself again."
And Australian swimming icon Stephanie Rice also tackled her first post-Olympic workout saying, "Oh dear, going to be sore tomorrow. But loved getting the sweat up. #cleansing #health #exercise."
To say the least, the majority of people will never understand the intensive training that one must endure to reach reach the Olympic Games. In fact, less than one percent of athletes will ever reach the Olympics and less than half a percent will win a gold medal.
Success does not happen overnight.
"It goes beyond the countless hours of training, strength and conditioning, diet and nutrition and rest," said Ruiz. "You have to take into account the intense scrutiny and the impending feeling that you've got to take in over four, eight, twelve years of your life to get there."
Although Olympians make it look so easy to win gold medals, think about the character that it takes to stay that focused and devote your life to each and every stroke.
So, now in post-Olympic glory, this is the time to celebrate what everyone just worked so hard for. But for many, it will soon be time to repeat the next four years.
The athletic mind is an amazing creature.
I'd never pass up the chance I had or to take the challenge to do it one more time.
June 1, 2012 -- Ice is Nice: Treating Sore Muscles and Injuries
Being an athlete comes with a lot of perks—victory, pride, sense of accomplishment—but all that comes a cost. Time, dedication and focus are a part of that sacrifice; but on regular occasion, so are sore muscles, aches and pains, sometimes even injury. The key to success in that department is to stay healthy and to seek help when something doesn’t feel right.
DON’T BE FOOLISH!!! The most important injury advice I have is what NOT to do-and that’s say nothing at all when something hurts. Hey we all want to play, want to compete…but you’re young and you’ve got lots of time to do that. You only have one body. So speak up when it hurts!!!
Temperature extremes are what heal injuries. Think hot and cold when it hurts. Here are a few tips on when to apply when:
The first 24 hours – This is the MOST critical time when the body starts the internal healing process. To aid the body in recovery and the role of the MD, PT or athletic trainer.
Ice it: Swelling means time to reach for a cold pack or an ice bag. Swelling is the collecting of fluid within a joint area of soft tissue. It is the result of initial bleeding caused by the trauma of injury, as well as an influx of fluid due to the inflammatory response of your body. A swollen joint can be an indicator of the severity of an injury, and an indicator you may need to seek medical attention.
Time it: ICE should be applied for 15 minutes and then off for 2 hours. Repeat that throughout the day. But use caution: prolonged use of ice (longer than 15 minutes) can lead to tissue damage.
R-I-C-E method: Rest: stay away from activity. For simple sprains and strains use 72 hours as a guide. For further guidance allow the injury to be monitored by an MD, PT or athletic trainer. Ice: 15 minutes every 2 hours. Compression: best achieved by an ACE wrap. If you feel throbbing in the area that is wrapped it means it is too tight. Re-wrap it with less pressure. Elevation: allows blood to flow smoothly to location of injury.
If you don’t have a lot of time…DO NOT skip treatment: instead opt for an ICE massage. Keep styrofoam cups filled 1/2 way with water in your freezer. Peel away the edges to reveal top of the ice, in a circle motion massage the affected area for about 5 minutes or until that area becomes numb.
And when muscle fatigue sets in from those long grueling workouts, draw up an ICE Bath and soak for 10-15 minutes!! The cold water will stimulate muscle cells and start repairing muscle tears. It will also help eliminate lactic acid build-up after games or a race. (very popular with swimmers and runners)
Ice, however, is not always the answer; sometimes your injury requires heat. This is true for chronic pain . . . if you have a pulled or tight muscle, arthritis, neck or back pain or overuse injuries (more details below) -- apply heat for up to 20 minutes at a time, every couple of hours. DO NOT overheat . . . and, of course, never leave heating pads or hot towels on for extended periods of time.
Finally, sometimes your injury will call for both, ice and heat . . . this is called a contrast bath and best used for an injury like an ankle sprain. A contrast bath is a combination of ICE to close the vessel and HEAT to release. Always start with ice and switch back and forth between the two every 2 minutes for a maximum of 20 minutes. This can be repeated every 2 hours.
Remember to always train smart, work hard, DREAM BIG and stay healthy!!!
May 10, 2012 -- A Stroke in the Right Direction
After more than four years away from the world of competitive swimming, my day to once again don race suit and goggles finally arrived! But this time instead of the pool (my comfort spot for so many years) I’m attempting something new…. I walked on to the sand at Miromar Lake, Fort Myers last Sunday to race in the 2012 Open Water Festival.
Master’s Open Water 5k
Since open water swimming was introduced in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics it has slowly become the new wave for the endurance swimmer and I like it . . . it’s completely new and kind of ‘outside the box’ for me. But as I grew up in this sport, I was never one to shy away from the longer events . . . funny how, now that I’m older, I like the even longer ones.
Chatting With Champions
I arrived early, not only to give myself plenty of time before my race, but to see the men and women’s elite division 5k. I got there just in time to catch the tail end of the men’s race.
In the field was 2012 US Open Water Olympian, Alex Meyer. After his finish he and I caught up beachside for a bit. I was curious about his recovery after he broke his collarbone last spring in a bicycling accident.
Can you believe… after swimming the 10k on Friday and the 5K Saturday, Meyer actually joked about still being out of shape. Elite athletes’ expectations always seem to exceed the norm.
All kidding aside, Meyer’s coach Tim Murphy feels he is on target with his training heading into London this summer.
Boy did the ladies put on a show!!! 10k champion Ashley Twichell and 7th place finisher Emily Brunemann swam the entire race side by side. As the two rounded the final buoy, both found another gear, with Twichell outstroking her rival. It was amazing.
This was my “pump-up”, I was ready to race!!
Get into my head
I knew this would be a race against the clock…the only thing I had to push myself was me!!
Well that and trying to chase down the men who started five minutes in front in me. But by the halfway point I was out in front . . . and all alone with my thoughts. I’m still relearning the ability to totally feel my pace. So, I turned my focus to what I knew I could control. I thought about each turnover of my stroke. I wanted to get as much distance per stroke as possible when the wind was at my face. Also, use my legs as I turned the buoy and had the wind at my back…long and smooth.
And as I rounded the final buoy for the “home shoot”, the finish line… a felt a little smile cross my submerged cheeks. (think any fish saw that??) I was feeling good, but happy to be done.
My time? 1:06.57, with consistent lap splits of 21:24, 22:43, and 22:50. But I still wondered…if I was in the pack of elite swimmers, would I have been able to shave some time off?
I answered (to myself) . . . of course! I’m an athlete and I love to race!
Click the video link to go inside the goggles of my race day.
April 30, 2012 -- The Rules for Refueling
OK . . . you’re worn out from working out. Muscles fatigued, heart pumping, sweating like crazy . . . time to rest. And recover.
Part of that recovery is refueling – and the key opportunity to build strength and recover is a thirty-minute window RIGHT after you’re done.
That’s right -- from the time your coach blows that whistle to end the workout, the clock starts ticking to replenish. And that means a lot more than just quenching your thirst.
Here are my 5 Refueling Rules to fuel your bodies to better perform-
Refueling Rule #1 – NEVER GO WITHOUT!! When you give your body nothing after all your hard work, eventually that’s what it will give you back -- nothing.
Refueling Rule #2 – START SLOW. I'm sure in the past you've completed a workout and you're so spent you feel as though anything you put in your stomach will come right back up. Been there. A couple things can cause that; high heat (hey, we live in Florida, right?) and elevated heart rate.
Give yourself time to slow down and cool off. Start by drinking some fluids. In hotter temperatures, reach for something more than water. Two of my personal favorites are coconut water or an electrolyte solution (like Pedialyte) that act quickly to counteract your body’s dehydration.
But that's not enough. Now the target is the muscles you've just broken down. Now your body needs protein.
Refueling Rule #3 – POUR IN PROTEIN. This is where that window of thirty minutes means all. Your body will consume the most protein two times a day; upon waking up and after a workout.
So I ask you -- Got Milk?
Chocolate milk, to be precise. It’s the perfect carb/protein mix; a fast burning carbohydrate, that your body will burn through to stave off a post-workout crash. The milk’s protein will feed your muscles and start the replenishing process.
Lactose intolerant? Not to worry. Look for a whey protein powder that has about twenty grams of protein per scoop, with no more than ten grams of carbohydrates. Protein powders are easy to mix in a shaker, just add water.
Refueling Rule #4 – KEEP CARBING. You still need to ingest fast burning carbohydrates, to keep the body going. One of the best choices is fruit. Bananas, strawberries and orange slices are some of the best selections and easy to eat on-the-go.
If you're still feeling a little empty, a safe (and easy) choice is the old standby -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Let me know if you need the recipe. A PB&J in your gym bag or book bag, or even a granola bar or some mixed nuts, are great whenever you need that little extra boost of energy throughout your day.
Refueling Rule #5 – DITCH THE DRIVE-THROUGH. Stay clear of high fat and processed foods. Eating fast food, chips, sodas, etc. after a workout will actually slow the body’s recovery down!
Keep these rules in mind and you’ll maximize that recovery every time. Never refuse to refuel!
April 19, 2012 - Introduction
High school athletes have access to a wealth of information on sports and nutrition. With so much out there, does it ever seem overwhelming?
You’re not alone.
I have three Olympic gold medals – the result of hard work, determination, and yes, detailed attention to fitness and nutrition. Now that I’m back in the pool swimming competitively, I want to pass on some of that hard-won knowledge and experience. So I’m starting a blog for high school athletes, and their parents and coaches.
Helping you will help me....that's a win-win in my book.
Within my blog I will only speak on things I know, it is advice. It's not intended to be the ‘right way’ – or only way – to go about maximizing your athletic performance. Some topics you may like, others you may question. I'm ok with that. But I’m counting on you, through your comments and questions, to point this blog in the direction it will do the most good.
I’ll touch on keeping your body well tuned through workouts, recovery and nutrition. I’ll also relate my experience in training to be mentally tough, and how to create a bond between coach and athlete.
No way to sugar coat it; if want to be good at what you do, at some point it does become a job. But know if you learn the right approach early, you can prolong your career.
I swam competitively for over two decades. After four years of retirement, I want more. Now I train smarter, not harder -- but my work ethic hasn't changed. I demand excellence every day. I’ll be sharing that with you.
I'd love to hear from you -- leave a comment below or send me an email through this page.