Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

I woke up in Detroit at 7:20am which was 6:20am Wisconsin time. The day before I traveled to Detroit to be in their Thanksgiving day parade. Thanksgiving morning we were taken from the hotel to breakfast where Peter Vanderkay and I did a radio interview. The day got started off with lots of food. We were at this restaurant and the chef came out to ask what we wanted to eat. I said everything but eggs (I'm allergic to eggs). Two minutes later he came out with a plate that spelled heart attack...about a pound of bacon and sausage with huge rustic fried potatoes, donuts and bagels. Needless to say I didn't eat too much. I knew this day was going to be filled with eating and needed to pace myself.

From breakfast Peter and I were taken to a live TV interview with the local TV that was covering the parade. It was a very short interview that basically talked to us about our Olympic experience. The temperature was quite cold. Although I'm from Wisconsin, I have lived in Texas the past six years and am no longer fit for the cold...I'm a whimp now haha:)
Peter and I were placed on a float sponsored by Pepsi that was called the "Let Freedom Ring Float." We were accompanied by an Olympic soccor player named Lindsay as well as a Paralympic swimmer named Cheryl. The float had a huge bald eagle on the back with the statue of liberty and the liberty bell. It was quite the float! There were two huge speakers on the front that were blaring this up-beat song about America. The song actually had a really good ring to it. It was one of those songs that even if it is the first time you hear it you can sing along.

It was great to see all the people who came out to see the parade. As our float proceeded through the parade we got tons of cheers, USA chants, waves and smiles. People in the streets were even singing and dancing to the was hilarious! Although I had questioned whether or not to go to the parade on Thanksgiving was the right decision. Seeing the happiness on people's faces was really special!

At the conclusion, there was a car waiting to take me to the airport. They rushed so I could try to catch a 12:24 flight instead of my 3:40 flight. I made the early flight. Unfortunately, after we all loaded the plane they told us there was a hydraulic leak and we all had to get off. Northwest found us another plane and we were on our way back to Milwaukee! I got to Milwaukee at about 1:45. From the airport I proceeded to pick my grandma up and take her to our friends' house for Thanksgiving dinner.

As always, dinner was absolutely delicious. Aside from the food, I think my favorite part of the holidays is just being together with family and friends. To me, there is nothing better than family and close friends. I'm very thankful I got back safely to Milwaukee and got to have an amazing time:) I hope all ya'll had just as much fun.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cross Your Fingers

Garrett hopped off the Pepsi Olympic float in downtown Detroit and into a cab. He's on his way to the airport with high hopes of grabbing an earlier flight back to Milwaukee. Will he make it? We sure hope so. If not, he'll still make it for turkey. It sure would be nice to have him three hours earlier, though.

I'm sure he'll post an update by early tomorrow.

Enjoy your families and feasts, all.

Mark, Garrett's dad

Monday, November 24, 2008

Training in Wisconsin

I am currently back in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving break. I am continuing my training at both a YMCA near my house as well as a club team in the area. It's always fun to go swim with different swimmers and coaches to see how things differ from where I swim in Texas. I trained pretty hard tonight both in the pool and the weight-room. Although the level of training is not quite as difficult as it is in Texas...I am pushing myself to do the best I can.

One thing Eddie told me to do if it is difficult to get a lot of good work in, is to kick some of their swimming sets. My big weapon is my kick so it's essential I continue to work hard to make it better and better.

This morning I woke up and it seemed a bit brighter in my room than the morning before. I immediately thought to myself, "SNOW!" I yanked the cord to my blinds and there was about five inches of fluffy snow all over the place. The trees were all covered too. It's a good thing my Dad and I put up all our holiday lights yesterday. It continued to snow throughout the day. I absolutely love snow and am super happy to see the white gold:)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Questions I've Received

In the past week or so I have received several questions that relate to my swimming and lifestyle. I want to share the questions as well as my answers with all of ya'll.

Question 1: "How much time do you spend working on flexibility? And is it true that ankle flexibility is a huge aspect of swimming?"

Answer: Flexibility is a very important part of being an athlete. If you're flexible your muscles will be more resilient to injury as well as be able to perform at a higher level. I generally try to stretch my legs for five to ten minutes after I weight train. Every single night I do a routine of stretching for about 45 minutes. During this routine I mainly stretch my legs, hips and back. It is very important to work your way into this and warm your muscles up. Stretching cold muscles can be bad so I take time to warm up at the beginning of this routine. Some experts may say I shouldn't stretch at night when my muscles aren't as warm as they would be when I finish working out. My answer to this is that we must all do what works for us and what fits into our schedule. I stretch at night because it is both convenient for me and gets me relaxed to get a good night's sleep for the next day of work. In terms of ankle flexibility...this is very very important. There isn't a single good kicker in the world who does not have flexible ankles. This is essential to swimming fast. You can all take advantage of stretching your ankles. It is easy and can be done at anytime during the day.

Question 2: "What do you do when you are sick? Just tough it out? Are you expected to practice just short of a full blown flu? Inquiring swim fans want to know."

Answer: When I get sick, which I currently am, I am very careful about what I eat and do. I try to make sure I stay consistent with washing my hands and staying away from others who may also be sick (I generally do this anyway, but when I am sick I am much more careful). My diet becomes more focused around eating things that contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. Remember, everything we consume affects the way our body performs and feels. Being extra careful about what I eat and drink when I'm sick is very important. In terms of practicing and working out...I am expected by Eddie and Kris, and expect myself, to continue as normal. Although it is not fun to practice when you feel sick, it is important to continue becoming stronger and fitter. Eddie Reese always tells us that everyday we miss is a day we can never get back. There is also a mental aspect to training through sickness. I'm sure many of you have experienced competing through sickness or have heard of someone who has. It is important to train our minds to cope with the stress of being sick and let ourselves know that we can still perform at a high level, even if we may not be at our best. Of course if I'm really sick with, let's say the full-blown flu diagnosed by a doctor, I won't train.

Question 3: "I have been having some trouble with swimming my own race. Sometimes I worry too much about the time and what the outcome is. What are some of your methods of staying focused and swimming fast under pressure???"

Answer: I have had this problem many times in the past. This is something everyone deals with at some point in their career. It is very difficult to train yourself to focus solely on your own race. One of the ways I train myself to focus only on myself in a race, is by perfecting the technique in practice. It can be very difficult in practice to not look around and race other people but trust me, this will better prepare you for race day. Eventually you will realize that it does not do you any good to focus on your competitors. Through experience I know that if I even glance at a competitor or lose my focus, there is no way I can still go as fast as I may have gone. As for swimming fast under pressure...I'm not really sure how to answer that. Some swimmers are able to swim fast when they need to without exception, and some swimmers are not. I have seen tons of people train fast and when it comes to race day they buckle under the pressure. It sounds crazy but you may try and give yourself an ultimatum. I particularly remember doing this once when we raced in Florida. I told myself if I didn't go a certain time I would make myself go lift weights for two hours on Sunday...I didn't go the time...the next day I killed myself in the weight-room for two hours. This may not be your style but it seems to have worked for me...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Freestyle Technique and More

Garrett is grabbing a flight right after practice, so I'll post a quick update. He's going to make his 88-year-old grandma really happy later today when he and his sister show up at her place for dinner.

Swimmers have been emailing him through with specific swimming technique questions. He's been compiling those and plans to put together a post to summarize a number of them. So watch for that.
Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Golden Goggles

As many of you already know I was in New York City this past weekend for the Golden Goggle awards that were hosted last night November 17, 2008. I arrived in the city Saturday and had a wonderful night with my sister, Hillary, and her friends. We all went out to a bar on the lower east side called the Back Room. During the Prohibition Era it was a real Speakeasy and much of the decor and theme remains today.

Sunday my Mom and Dad arrived in the city. It was really wonderful to have the entire family together. As I get older I realize more and more how special it is to all be in the same place at the same time. When I was young I took it for granted and just thought that is always how it would be. My sister Hillary lives in NYC, my parents live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I live in Texas. I really cherish the time we spend as a family. No matter what, family will always be there, and there is nothing better in the world than sharing time with them! On Sunday night we went to Mario Batali's restaurant called Babbo. I will have a more extensive post about Babbo in a couple days. The restaurant was a great place to go and spend the night. Some of the food was simply outstanding:)

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the Golden Goggle awards. Everyone wore tuxedos and formal dresses. It was a very well done event. At 5pm all the athletes went to a VIP reception with the big donors of the USA Swimming Foundation. I really enjoyed meeting everyone. The beautiful thing about this event was that it brought people together that come from all walks of life, that were all unbelievably excited about the swimming in Beijing. As an athlete it is continually inspiring and invigorating to hear and see how excited people are/were about the Olympics.
I always tell everyone that the crazy thing about being in Beijing was that we had absolutely no idea of the impact we were making on the US. For two weeks we were living in a bubble. When I finally got back to the US I realized how excited people were/are. It makes me so proud to have represented the USA and to give so many people something to enjoy and get excited about.

When our 400 Free Relay was chosen as the best relay performance, the four of us marched up to the stage and all gave little speeches. I was the first to go. I was thinking later that night about something I wish I had said. I will tell ya'll so you know because it holds true for many of you too...

A dear friend told me last week that the US athlete's pursuit for Gold in Beijing represented the Hopes and Dreams of America. When he told me this I almost lost my breath and felt the most unbelievable sense of pride and dedication to America. What I think people really need to know is that all the Americans who have been there to support us and make our dream of going to the Olympics and competing possible, are really the ones deserving of the praise. I was able to go to the Olympics and do what I love to do best, compete. However, without the help of my family, friends, coaches, teachers, USA Swimming staff members etc. fulfilling my dream would never have been possible. The Golden Goggle I won is really a testament to all the support I have been given. My support staff is who really deserves this award!
In addition to the thrill and honor of the award, I met some really notable people as well. I got a chance to meet former NY Giants running back Tiki Barber. World famous magician David Blaine did some unbelievable card tricks with me and Dara.
I met and talked with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. It was super interesting and unique to meet someone of such high stature. He is a man who really influences the laws that govern this nation. However, I have to say I met someone who, for me, literally Trumped Justice was 'The Big D' aka 'The Donald' aka Donald Trump. I have read all of his books and have admired him as being an unbelievable businessman for many years. He presented the final award which was the male athlete of the year award. After he presented the award the festivities were over. I made my way over to the area I knew he would be coming out of. I got my picture with him and actually talked to him for about five to seven minutes. I was really surprised by how friendly and interested he was. He was asking me all about my experience in Beijing, and congratulating me on my award and my successes, it was great! He introduced me to his wife Melania. Wow she is even more gorgeous in person than she is in pictures.
This was definitely a night to remember:)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Plenty of Heat in the Kitchen

Almost two years ago, I bought the book HEAT by Bill Buford for Garrett. Much of the story is centered around Buford becoming a kitchen slave at Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo in New York. I have tried to get reservations on several occasions. Garrett finally got them last night. He'll tell the story later. It was lots of fun.--Posted by Garrett's dad

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bang Bang Bang

Tuesday morning my mom came down to Texas to visit me for a few days.

Thursday morning I'm sleeping in my bed, all of a sudden I hear Bang Bang Bang. I was half asleep when I heard the noise, I didn't really think anything of it. The next thing I know my Mom comes in my room and says, "Garrett, wake up, there are two guys from USADA (the US Anti-Doping Association) downstairs that are here to drug test you." I barely believe her. I look over at my clock and it shows 6:34am. I throw on some shorts and a shirt and go downstairs to greet two guys with bright smiles on their faces ready to take a urine sample from me... To say the least, I was not too enthused that on my morning to sleep in I was woken up at 6:34am to drug test. However, these guys are just doing their job and I appreciate the work they do, so I was very friendly!

It turns out these guys drove in from Houston just to drug test me...can you believe that? About 20 minutes after they arrived, they were gone. My mom had gone out walking and I was sitting at my dining room table by myself. I was wishing they had come an hour earlier so I could have at least gone to practice. Oh well, I guess this is the life of an Olympic Athlete...

The second Bang of the day was after practice in the evening. This one actually hurt... I ride my bike to practice everyday and was on my way home when I found myself in the air over my handlebars. I have absolutely no idea what happened...I just remember flying over the handlebars and in mid-air I locked in on the ground I was about to hit and yelled, "Oh #$%@." Luckily I was wearing my helmet. I scraped up my hands and knee but otherwise walked away without serious injury.

This day had a bit too much Bang in it for me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boggy Creek Farm

Today I ventured to a very unique spot in Austin called Boggy Creek Farm. If you are looking for a classic Austin spot this is definitely it. This farm/market is located on the east side of Austin and is literally in the middle of a residential community, it's a weird spot for a farm. Boggy Creek grows all of its own fruits, veggies and herbs. They harvest whatever the season brings and sell it every Wednesday and Saturday. They also sell things such as local honey, grass fed lamb, bison, locally made cheeses and a unique smoke-dried heirloom tomato. The tomatoes are really intense!

I totally love these kind of places. Everyone that works there knows all about the produce. They are all happy to share their experiences and stories of the farm as well as their knowledge of gardening. If you want to cook incredible dishes you need fresh ingredients. I'm so happy I found out about Boggy Creek so I can get fresh, hand picked goods to prepare for my meals. If you live in Austin I definitely recommend you check it out, if not...sorry.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Motivation in Unique Ways

I took this picture of the scoreboard during the final of the 50 Freestyle of the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately I was in the stands taking this picture because I failed to qualify for the final of the 50 free just as I did for the 100 free. Both were huge disappointments for me not only because I had high expectations of winning medals, but because I felt like I let America down in not representing better. It wasn't until I actually got to the Olympics that I realized how meaningful it was to wear the American flag on my cap. Unfortunately this time around I was not able to wear that flag for what would have been the two most important individual swims of my life:(

As I snapped this picture I had an empty feeling inside me. A feeling of disarray that I still don't know how to best describe or make sense of. There have been few times in my swimming career when I honestly have no idea what happened at a particular meet. Generally I can always pinpoint things that went wrong, reasons why I didn't perform like I wanted to, or reasons why I swam unbelievable. Watching that 50 free final and even today I don't know what happened in my individual races at the Olympics? I wasn't nervous, I was well prepared, I stayed on my strict diet as best I could, I wasn't sick, my races were swum to the best of my ability at that time...I just didn't have it, what I had just wasn't enough. It's crazy for me to say that because that's one of the few times, if not the only time, I can say I did everything right I possibly could and just didn't have what it took to get the job done.

The interesting thing about swimming and I think life in general, is that we don't need to know all the answers, at least not right away. I'm content for right now not knowing what went wrong. I know in time, like everything else, I will figure this out and do it better next time. My mom always tells me, "everything happens for a reason." I completely believe this. For now, I just don't know the reason.

I didn't know specifically what I would use this picture for at the time, but I needed to take it because somehow down the road it would fuel my fire. I knew I was going to look at it in the future and become motivated by it. Last night I was preparing for my first morning practice of this new season. I hate morning practice. It isn't the swimming I hate, it isn't event he early wake-up I hate. I hate diving into that cold water. If you tell me to wake up at 5:45am and lift weights or run or bike I would say, great. However, that cold water does something to my mind that is just not good.

So last night I knew what I had to do. I hung this picture of the 50 free final in my bathroom. I understand this is a bit more detail than might be needed but I need to tell you the truth. The bathroom is the point during every early morning when I say to myself, "I hate morning practice." This is when I need the motivation. This morning I looked to my right and instead of saying, "I hate morning practice," I said, "%#@* that, I don't ever want to miss another final again." It was just what I needed to wake myself up and get my mind ready and excited for the morning practice I had ahead of me. I urge all of you to motivate yourself in unique ways. Do something different, find things that work for you. I find the best motivation comes in little instances I know I will need a helping hand!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'm a Godfather

I am now officially a Godfather. My Godson, Joe Roy Stapleton was baptized today at the United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. I was a bit surprised at how short the ceremony was, five minutes. I really didn't know quite what to expect but it was very nice.

After the baptism we all went to the most amazing brunch at Fonda Son Miguel. This restaurant has a historic Sunday brunch that the New York Times once called one of the top 10 best brunches in American! The items consist of everything from different types of traditional Moles to corn pudding, pickled vegetables, guacamole, ceviche, and several wonderful desserts including the best tres leches cake I have ever had. I'm sure some of you are thinking, "he's eating dessert?" Yes I do eat desserts from time to time. Remember, the key to a healthy lifestyle is moderation and being consistent in both your diet and in exercise.

Tomorrow morning I will be getting up dark and early to head to my first morning practice of this new season. I'm not particularly looking forward to it but understand its importance in helping me get in the kind of shape that will help me succeed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Ft. Lauderdale Boat Extravaganza!

As many of you already know, I went to Ft. Lauderdale last weekend to visit an old coach of mine named Jack Nelson. It was wonderful to see coach Nelson and his wife and stay with them at their home. They have a beautiful house right on the intra-coastal waterway. His house is directly across from the Hall of Fame pool where he coached. This area is also where the Ft. Lauderdale International boat show was held.
This is me standing in Jack's front lawn with the boat show super-yachts in the background.
Coach Nelson and I played bumper pool and watched Texas football until was a Blast!!!

The boat show was amazing. I probably went on over 30 boats of all types. I went on sport-fishers, trawlers, super-yachts, and weekend-cruisers. You name it, the Ft. Lauderdale show has it. Literally they have every kind of boat imagineable. It is the largest boat show in the world!

As I stated in my previous blog post about the boat show, my dream is to one day own a long-range trawler that I can cross oceans on. The specific brand I want to own is called a Nordhavn. I thought they were awesome just reading about them and seeing them in videos. When I actually got on three of them at the show I fell in love, literally. The most amazing thing about these boats is that everything serves a purpose. Nordhavns are specifically designed with crossing oceans in mind. Everything from the layout of the engine room, storage compartments and the location of the state-rooms are taken into account before the designs are finished. I boarded these boats and was just blown away. The capability and livability of these vessels is what really enthralls me. Me in the pilot-house of the Nordhavn 76. It's crazy how many electronics these things have...Checking out the engine room of the 76. It would take me a long time to learn all this machinery.I'm currently on lookout on the bridge of my favorite, the Nordhavn 62 YAAAAAYYYYY!
This is the 152 foot, 30 million dollar super-yacht I got a private tour of. Gorgeous.
I'm sure this solid gold sink and faucet have something to do with the 30 million dollar price tag.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Every Little Bit Makes a Difference

Getting back in shape is a tough challenge. I've really enjoyed my time in the weight room and the pool since I've been back in Austin. It's exciting for me to see my body become more fit as time goes on. Although I am not anywhere near the shape I will be in at the height of my training, I enjoy the struggle in getting there.

Today when I was in the weight room I did a dry-land routine that consisted of push-ups, dips, pull-ups, jumping rope, and a bunch of core work. One thing I like to do in dry-land is to get out of breath. I try and go from exercise to exercise with little rest in between. This gets my heart rate elevated and keeps it elevated. My thought process in doing this is that I am getting more and more aerobically in shape as well as training my muscles and mind to perform at a high exertion level for extended periods of time.

Although I am a sprint freestyle specialist there is no substitute for having a good aerobic base and becoming fit enough to perform for extended time intervals. Not only does this level of increased fitness put me in a better position physically to finish races, it makes my mind tougher as well. I know everything I do in workout makes me stronger, tougher and better prepared to achieve my goals.

Monday, November 3, 2008 is reborn!

As of this morning is a brand new website. Over the past month my Dad, Mom, our web guy, Chris, and I have been working to make the updated version. Not only does the site have a totally new face, there is more expansive content as well as never before seen pictures. Check out the new and improved!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I just got back to Coach Nelson's house after spending the entire day at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show. I was super excited the whole day. Imagine one of those guys you see walking around with a huge smile on his face--that was me. I thought I was in heaven.

The fun really started Friday when coach Nelson picked me up at the airport and we drove by the marinas. My eyes directly locked onto the Nordhavn 62. Literally the first boat I saw at the boat show was the 62. It must be a sign.

This morning, I started off by going directly to the Nordhavns. I toured all three: the 55, 62 and 76. After that I toured and talked to the makers of other long-range trawlers such as Krogen, Selene and Grand Banks. I really talked to everyone as if I were a prospective buyer. Truthfully I think I am. Without a doubt I will buy a boat in time. I guess now you know one of my long-range goals.

The most expensive boat I went on was a 152 foot Tri-deck made by Northern Marine. Talk about beautiful. This thing was gorgeous. It should be with a sale price of $30 million. I will have more details on the boat show along with a bunch of pictures after I get home to Texas.

Meanwhile staying with coach Nelson is great. He has tons of great stories about back in the day when he won gold and then made a huge impact on the sport as a coach.

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