Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Remember when I was down and out? Remember when I had no desire to be at the pool? This seems like a distant memory to me now. Its unbelievable how fleeting some emotions can be. It's like I was a rubber-band that was stretched to its max and about to snap. I felt like I was on the brink of coming completely apart. The amazing thing is that every bit of tension that gets released makes my spine seem to grow taller, my lungs feel like they breathe deeper and my mind actually feel like it becomes more confident and ready than it was just and day earlier.

I was talking to someone earlier today about the importance of finding ways to constantly gauge our progress. By finding ways to compare ourselves to what we were like yesterday, last month or last year we can gain confidence and momentum from seeing progress. Monday I benched more in the weight-room than I ever have. I weigh about 190lbs right now and benched 220lbs twice. I popped up from the bench, yelled and flexed all my muscles...I was so jacked up!!! This is my max ever. I was so excited about it because I am getting so much stronger! Getting stronger is going to be essential to my continued improvement in the pool.

I'm currently about seven pounds heavier than I was at the Olympics. In Omaha and Beijing I raced at around 183 or 184. I was without question one of the smallest if not the smallest guy at either event that was at the top level. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Now I weigh a consistent 190. I think I have put considerable muscle on since Beijing. In truth I really don't know what this means or how this will affect my racing ability. The way I look at it is that I can always lose the weight. For now I'm continuing to get stronger and still swimming pretty fast. Eddie seems to think the added weight will help me maintain my momentum off the start and turns as well as break through waves. Eddie has always guided me to success so I will trust him on this one too!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fresh Pasta

Saturday I made fresh pasta. In my mind there is really no comparison between fresh, home-made pasta and boxed pasta. The texture and flavor of what we can make at home far exceeds what would be possible to buy. The only thing I could think of as being remotely as good would be some type of specialty pasta that was in a vacuum container or something.

I have made fresh pasta a bunch in the past but not for many months. I always find that I loose my edge with making things like doughs when I haven't done it in a while. For instance, last year I was on a pizza kick and I would make fresh home-made pizza several nights a week. I included all types of healthy ingredients such as roasted chicken, red peppers, onions, spinach, mushrooms and artichoke hearts to name a few. When I first started to make the pizzas it was very difficult for me to get the consistency of the dough right. Every type of dough has to have a certain elasticity to it as well as the correct moisture level. I was so annoyed with the first few times I made the pizza dough that I told myself I was going to make pizza dough every night until I got it right. After a few weeks I could make a pizza dough to perfection.

In terms of pasta dough, I lost my touch. The pasta came out great but took some tinkering. I used a recipe of two cups Double Zero pasta flour and three eggs. if any of you have made fresh pasta I would love to hear what recipes you've used and if they worked. Let me know.

I tend to get a bit worked up and sometimes flustered when things don't go my way or as planned in the kitchen. By the time I was finished tinkering with the dough, pressing the pasta and creating the home-made Italian sausage tomato sauce I was a bit amped up. To make a long story short, I had lost my appetite, which put me even more on edge. I had gone to all this work and when I finally sat down to eat I was not even hungry. I forced myself to eat some of it anyways haha. The meal proved to be a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wisconsin Foodie Bit

Hi everyone I just wanted to let ya'll know I will be appearing on a TV show called "Wisconsin Foodie" this Saturday. Part of the segment will include time with me and Adam Siegel. Adam is an award winning chef in Milwaukee that I was fortunate enough to do a celebratory dinner with last October. He won the James Beard award last year for being voted the best chef in the Midwest!

The show will also feature me cooking a fabulous Bison recipe with Wisconsin Foodie resident chef, Brian Moran. The episode will be availbe for viewing on the Wisconsin Foodie website at some point after the show airs. I will let everyone know when it becomes available.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Creating Change Through Purpose

I recently talked with the Chief Operating Officer of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb. I'm interested in starting my own health food business that sells low-sodium products. Who better to talk to than the guru of all gurus, the main man of Whole Foods Market. We talked about many things from the Olympics to Austin to the economy. The one thing that left the biggest impression in my mind was when he told me, "Business is the greatest thing in the world because it gives us the opportunity to create change." Wow, I was shocked. The sentence sounded so perfect, so true.

This also ties in very closely to a book I'm currently reading called "It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For." The author is named Roy Spence who is the CEO and founder of GSD&M, one of America's top Ad agencies that is here in Austin. Truly this book is one of the best reads I've ever picked up. It isn't because it's written with such grace or in such a unique writing style. This book is so good because it stresses the importance of doing something for a purpose that will help people and make a difference, not because you could make money doing it. Roy impresses upon the reader to find your purpose, define it, make it concise, and make it a reality. He realizes that not everyone has a purpose just yet but that we must all be working to find ours. Southwest airlines is mentioned a lot in the book. Roy elaborates about how Southwest really came into its own when they decided they were going to be 'Freedom Fighters.' Their goal was to give average Americans the freedom to fly in a time when only the elite could travel by plane. This purpose and staying true to this purpose has guided them to be one of the greatest companies of all time.

I get so excited thinking about starting a business and making a difference. Seriously, when I read this book my heart rate sometimes gets elevated just learning about all the innovative ways people have made a difference in the world through business and how I too will someday do this.

As many of you already know, I have battled high blood pressure for over three years. A big focus of mine since being diagnosed is to live a low-sodium lifestyle. It is very difficult to find good tasting, low-sodium products in grocery stores, therefore I make a lot of my own. I plan to create low-sodium products and help fill this void so other people will have an easier time following a low-sodium diet. Truthfully I have no idea how all of this will work out, nor do I worry about it. What I do know is that my purpose in business will be to help people with high blood pressure find better and easier ways to live a low-sodium diet.

It's so exciting and fulfilling to do something we're passionate about. Swimming has been my passion for many years and has given and taught me things I could have never dreamed possible. I realize swimming will not last forever, nor do I want it to, that is why I'm working on finding my purpose and passion beyond swimming now.

A wise woman I once knew always left by telling me, "do something nice that will help someone today, you'll both feel better." It's really true!

Let's create change!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obviously Feeling Better

A few weeks back, Garrett wrote about how he sort of closes down when training hits maximum intensity. I know he's feeling better when his thoughts stray beyond swimming and I receive a midday call with him on the other end chattering a mile a minute about food or football or boats...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Taking Away More than Vitamin D

This past week in Florida was great. I had an uplifting time training with Randy Reese and getting a break from Texas. I definitely learned a few things or was reminded of a some things while I was down there.

1. Randy told me emotional and mental stress is twice as taxing as physical stress. I never thought about it in these terms but it makes a lot of sense. We were talking about the Olympics and he was telling me how much travel, changing times zones, being in a new place and doing new things can all take a much bigger toll on your mind than you realize. I have thought a lot about the Olympics since they finished but never did I attribute being emotionally drained to my poor individual performance. I'm not saying this is the reason for the not so great swims....I still don't know. In any case, it is something I will most definitely give some thought to and consider for next time.

2. We must always remember where we came from and help those coming up behind us. Sometimes it is easy to forget what it was like to be an age-group swimmer, a kid, or an aspiring athlete. While in Florida I was surrounded by more kids than I have been in a long time. The kids ranged anywhere from 4-17. Seeing them made me think about all the hopes and dreams I had when I was that age. I got the chance to do a clinic for the Clearwater team and talk to everyone about my experiences as a student at the University of Texas, as an athlete, and as an Athletic Foodie. It is amazing how influential we can all be to our younger generations. I was reminded just how powerful a compliment can be to an 11-year-old girl who was swimming really good butterfly, or how thankful a 15-year-old boy was when I took time to talk to him about nutrition and maintaining his health. I think it is of the utmost importance to help nurture their hopes and dreams just as our older generations did for us. There were literally hundreds of times when I asked my role models for help or guidance and they were there for me. I love being able to help and hopefully inspire others as well.

3. I was reminded that it isn't always about swimming fast or doing our best job every time. The key is to give our best effort and focus in on improving something we're doing. In comparison to what I've done in the past, I swam very slow this weekend. However, this weekend was successful because I realized where I am in my training and where I need to go from here. Getting faster, smarter, stronger, more efficient...really about realizing where we have been, where we are, how we got there, and strategically planning where we want to go and the changes we will make to reach our goal. Along the way I constantly assess where I am in my training and if I'm on the right path. This weekend was a good showing of how tired I am and that the hard work I've been putting in is helping me get where I want to go.

4. I was reminded how funny kids are. Like I said, I am not really around kids very often but this weekend was a humorous treat. Here are a couple examples...One kid came up to me and said, "I saw that you went 46 in the 100 free." I said, "yeah I did." The kid responded by saying, "well that's not very good, that's like five seconds off your best time isn't it?" I couldn't help but laugh and say, "dang you're right it is!" The next one was by a six year old who is also named Garrett. I was talking with him and his mom and his mom told him I had won a Gold medal in the Olympics. He smiled and said wow. Garrett proceeded by asking me if I won my race that day. I said yes. He then asked me if I always win. I told him no not always. He looked at me with a surprised face and said, "you mean you have a Gold medal and you don't always win?" I said with a bewildered kind of smile that was part laughter and part sadness, "no." Hahaha! Kids really are very comical...the great thing is that most of the time they don't even realize it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Florida Update

I'm still here enjoying my time in Florida. I trained with Randy from Tuesday afternoon until Thursday afternoon. I gave a clinic to his team on Thursday. I loved speaking to his team and demonstrating some swimming techniques in the water. It is extremely fulfilling to share my experiences with others and help them better understand proper stroke technique.

One thing I always wonder after I give a talk is whether or not I touched on the subjects people really wanted to hear about. I try to tailor each of my speeches to the specific audience I'm dealing with but I feel as though it's hard to ever know for sure if I was successful. My guess is that there will always be people who would have liked to have heard more about something and less about another...and vice versa. Either way, lots of people told me they really enjoyed it so I was happy.

I swam the 50 free last night and swam pretty slow. I went 20.89. Actually that is very slow. At this point of the season I'm just coming off really hard winter training and still continuing to beat myself up in the water. However, the way I look at it is the slower I swim and the more tired I am now...the faster I will go this summer. There are only so many times per year I can swim fast and be totally ready to perform at my max. For now, I am simply busting my butt in the water and in the weight-room so those awesome swims come when they really matter...this summer.

I will be swimming the 100 Freestyle today and the 200 Freestyle tomorrow. I'm thinking about going to St. Pete today after the meet and checking out the ocean down there. It should be fun. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crazy Video!

My Dad sent this video to me a few days ago and I could barely believe my eyes... Seriously, you must check this out! It is only 3:42 and totally worth every second. As crazy as it sounds...I want to do this someday.... I guess we'll see haha ;)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hello Sunshine State

Well I successfully got through the tough parts of winter training here in Texas. There were most definitely some trying times but it was good for me. I'm leaving tomorrow to head down to Clearwater, Florida. I can't wait to leave Austin behind me for a week to experience something new.

I'm going to visit the Clearwater Aquatic Team to swim for a week with Randy Reese. Randy is the younger brother of my current coach Eddie Reese. I actually swam for Randy when I was younger. I went to Austin to swim for Randy the summer after my junior year of high school. I got so much better that summer that my Mom and I continued to live in Austin for the first semester of my senior year of high school. I went back to Wisconsin for my second semester of my senior year so that I could swim the high school season and graduate. After graduation I returned to Austin to swim with Randy for my final summer before college.

You might be wondering why I went to swim with Randy? Simply put, he is the best club coach in the United States. He has coached many Olympians and is very knowledgeable. He transformed me from being a good high school swimmer to believing that I could make the Olympic team. His coaching style is unique. It is a combination of a toughness and straight-forward brusqueness that is uniquely Randy. Yet he is also more supportive and thoughtful than almost any other coach I've ever been around. He is just like Eddie and Kris in that he cares about more than just your swimming. He cared about me as a person and my maturity into adulthood. He recognized my abilities as a freestyler and was the perfect coach for my formative years.

One thing I've always loved about Randy is that he will tell you exactly what you need to do in order to get better no matter how it may make you feel. For some people this can be hard to deal with. For me, I loved his blunt honesty and took what he told me to heart. I distinctly remember times when he would tell me to stop doing something with my stroke or in practice or else I would never make the Olympic team. He would tell me when he thought I could do better or should have been better but would always be the first to congratulate me when I did something right!

I will be down training with him for three days before I swim in a meet he is hosting at his pool. It is going to be a great mental release for me to go somewhere else after grinding it out for three and a half straight months in Austin.

On a different note, I had a great weekend. I believe it is the simple pleasures in life that truly make me happy and content. For instance, I saw my godson Joe. He is awesome. He is just learning to walk while holding on to things and that is an amazing step in his life. For some reason I was craving fresh figs on Saturday so I went to Whole Foods and got some. They were sooooo good and it put a huge smile on my face. One of my best friends is two time Olympian and former training partner Neil Walker. I spent a lot of time with him on Saturday which was a blast! I can already tell...this week is going to be great:)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Words From a Wise Man

Lately I have definitely been in a rut both physically and mentally. Training has pushed me to my limit. There are times throughout the year when I simply don't want to do the set that is given because it is really hard. I do it anyways and generally I always have a good time at practice. However, for some reason I feel as though this week I just don't want to be at the pool. It's not even that I don't want to do the sets...I just don't want to be at the pool. I haven't quite figured out exactly why this is? I have no idea where I'd rather be either. I just don't want to be training. I do it anyways because I know this is what makes me better and it is expected of me.

This morning I was in the weight-room after practice and I was talking to Bubba Thorton. Bubba is the head track and field coach at Texas and was also the head US Olympic Track coach. He is an incredibly relaxed and calm guy who always says things that make perfect sense. Bubba was a great football player and track athlete as well. We were talking about training and about being tired physically and mentally. He said being tired is a good thing. It's healthy, and added that you need to be tired for a while so when you do feel better it is because you worked hard. I told him how I feel as though I'm in a rut mentally but that I'm just trying to stay focused and keep my mind right. Although I did acknowledge that I have been somewhat negative and down about my training lately. He told me it's ok to get down sometimes, but, what really separates the winners from the loosers is being able to stay focused when your mind and body are literally at the breaking point. Bubba added, if you can do this you will be way ahead of your competitors.

It made perfect sense. I think I pretty much knew this to be true but hearing him say it made me realize it and put it into focus. I feel truly blessed and thankful that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by great coaches and athletes here at the University of Texas. I could most definitely not do this alone. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me through everything! Your support means more to me than you could ever know:)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb

Tonight I made a wonderful leg of Lamb. I found the recipe in a cookbook I have that is filled with over 2000 authentic Italian recipes, "The Silver Spoon".

The herbs that were included were Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary and Flat-Leaf Parsley. I then mixed these with bread crumbs and olive oil. I covered the leg of Lamb in the mixture and let it sit in the roasting pan to come more to room temperature.

I had two guys on the team over for dinner and was also making Brussel Sprouts and mashed potatoes. They were in charge of bringing dessert, store bought chocolate cake with ice-cream!

Here's where it got tricky. My leg of Lamb was 4.5 pounds. The recipe said to bake it in the oven at 475 for 15 minutes. Pour 2/3 cup of water in the pan and reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes. Take the Lamb out of the oven and put it on a cutting board and cover with foil for ten minutes. I did what it said. Before I was about to take it out of the oven I used my meat thermometer to check the temperature. The thermometer read a chilling 78 degrees. I cursed and put it back in the oven. I turned the heat up to 425 and began to cook it more. Meanwhile everyone was getting hungry and the meat was simply not cooking...or very slowly rather. About 45 minutes went by and the meat was still at 125. I was planning on taking it out when it got to about 155 so it would sit for a bit and be about medium when we were going to eat it. More than an hour after it was supposed to come out of the oven the Lamb was finally at the correct temperature.

What did I do wrong? This was the first time I had ever cooked a leg of Lamb. I followed the directions but it just didn't work:( Either way the meat tasted fantastic when it was finally ready to was well worth the wait.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

One Week Down

Aaahhhhh I finished the first week of winter training with success. The week was very challenging both mentally and physically. Training can be very emotional at times depending on the set Eddie has given us and how I am performing. I can either be super happy and positive with the work I'm doing or with how I'm perfoming or making progress...or I can feel disappointed or annoyed by the set we are doing or with how poorly I'm performing. Generally if I'm disappointed it is because I am giving all I have and it just isn't good enough to meet the expectations Eddie has set for me.

At the first practice, we did 20, 50s of the butterfly on 35 seconds. This is a test set we usually try to do once a year. I made 10 of them. When you miss you take a 50 off and start back up at 40 seconds. Without a doubt it was a good way to start the week off...with a big BANG!

Not only has my training in the pool been really good but I have been really making improvements in the weight room. I know getting stronger will be a huge factor in my development throughout the rest of my career. I focus a great deal of my energy on doing just this...getting stronger. I have always had difficulty gaining strength but now that I am getting older and more mature I have been able to see more improvements.

My Dad was definitely right about his last post...I was exhausted this past week. I don't know what it is but when I get super tired I almost go into a different mode of thinking. I try to protect myself and my emotions at all costs.

There is a great sport's psychologist named Jim who worked with Team USA at the Olympics. I have worked with him in the past at other meets and he has been a tremendous asset to the USA Swimming staff. He talked to me one time about how we all try to protect ourselves much more when we think we are vulnerable. I realize this seems obvious but protection comes in different ways than we might ordinarily think. For instance, when I look back at times when I have been super fatigued mentally and physically, I realize that I don't talk to as many people on the phone, I don't answer emails or phone calls as quickly, I make my schedule tighter so I am much less committed or available. These are just a few examples of things I've noticed. You might be asking yourself what does not talking to as many people on the phone have to do with protecting yourself? Jim told me that one of the ways athletes protect themselves is by trying to keep themselves away from anything that may be negative or become negative. So the example of not talking on the phone deals as much with the fact that subconsciously I am trying to keep myself away from anything that could be negative and weigh on me even more.

This may sound selfish to some of you and maybe it is, but it is something I've realized I do after looking back on past situations. For me, protecting myself is of the utmost importance right now because I am so consumed by my training that I can't afford to have anything else bring me down or add any additional stress.

I'm actually really looking forward to more training this week because I feel like I'm finally getting fit. It takes a really long time for me to get into the kind of shape I think I need to be in. The past few days my body has shown my mind signs that it is reaching the point of fitness I have been working towards. Now I just need to try and exceed that level! Sounds fun, right...haha!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Through the Wringer Six Times

As a parent, you can tell things from hearing your kids' voices, even when those kids aren't so little any more. This week, I can hear just how tired Garrett is. I know the same goes for the rest of the team. This is the sixth year Garrett has run the post-holiday training gauntlet. Eddie and Kris pretty much own the Texas swimmers for these few weeks. Campus is largely shut down and no meets are scheduled. Train, eat, recover, repeat.

Texas has a bit of a reputation for intensity. If you can stand it, though, good things result.

Take the picture below. It's from the NCAA Championship in the spring following Garrett's first killer training season at Texas. The medley relay team set a world record in the SCM 400. Ian Crocker, Garrett Weber-Gale, Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen. Each went on to earn Olympic gold.

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