Friday, February 27, 2009

Controlling My Excitement

The short taper I'm currently on is definitely making a difference. I'm starting to feel better in the water and somewhat refreshed when I wake up in the morning...minus the terrible allergies I'm experiencing here in Austin:(

Yesterday I swam outside in south Austin where Neil Walker coaches. Neil is a former teammate of mine and one of my closest and dearest friends. He is a two-time Olympian who will go down in history as being one of the best swimmers of his time. What's even more impressive than Neil's swimming career is his character. He is known on the team as the Godfather. I have always looked to Neil as a model of how I should act and carry myself on the pool deck and in life. He carries himself with a great sense of confidence while maintaining the most down to earth and humble attitude. Although we were great competitors he never shied away from helping me achieve my dreams and get better. Without a doubt Neil Walker has been a huge factor in my success as both a swimmer but also as a person.

I swam easy for about 45 minutes with his swimmers yesterday afternoon. The sun was beaming down on me and my emotions were taken to another level of happiness simply because I was outside enjoying the brilliant weather.

Currently around the US there are many conference swimming championships going on. Many people are swimming incredibly fast. I generally don't follow swimming or think about it much when I leave the pool. Although swimming is a big part of my life it does not consume me nor define who I am. One of the main reasons I don't follow results is because it's difficult for me to watch other people swim fast when I am not or when the opportunity is not there for me. This is true not because I'm not happy for them, quite the contrary. The truth of the matter is that I get anxious and want to be going fast too.

Imagine you are an archeologist and you study all year with your peers so that when the time comes you are prepared to make your most astounding discovery ever. Now imagine that they all go to some remote location in search of something more beautiful, more spectacular, more exciting than any of you ever thought imaginable. Here's the don't get to go. You have to stay at home and read about their discoveries, their triumphs, their record breaking finds and you get to experience none of it. Maybe you will get your chance in a week, maybe in two weeks, maybe not for another five months...who knows when? This is how I feel. I don't want to hear or read or watch other people go fast when I am not allowed to or at that point of my season yet. The excitement literally races through my veins and I don't know what to do with it. I try to keep myself calm and save it so when the time is right I just explode into a fury of speed, but it is hard.

Neil and I talked about it and he could see my excitement and a bit of frustration bottled up inside me. Here's where his wisdom comes in. He told me to be patient and wait for the right time. When the opportunity presents itself I will be ready to pounce...and pounce I will. He agreed with me that there is a lot left in my tank. The possibilities are endless. Essentially I just need to get ahold of myself and relax. I need to look at this as just another test. Challenging my mind makes me better, makes us all better. Seriously, I can't wait to swim fast again. I can't wait to be 100% ready. I can't wait to go a best time. I want to get that feeling again...that feeling where nothing else matters, where all the hard work all the sacrifice seems not only worth it but like the sweetest rhubarb pie my grandma ever made. I want to be on top of the world.

It is only a matter of time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lost Pines and New-Found Energy

When I first came to Texas I thought of the wide open spaces, the great outdoors with rolling tumbleweeds, lonely open ranges and livestock. Austin was a big surprise to me due to the fact that it is set in part of the Texas Hill Country. Most of Austin and the surrounding area is not flat land at all, rather it is rolling hills and valleys. Last week I was made aware of a park outside Austin called Lost Pines in Bastrop county. Lost Pines is set along part of the Colorado river. The trail winds its way up and down gentle slopes while being covered by a canopy of tall pine trees. Never did I think this would exist in Texas. Last Friday I went to explore Lost Pines for an afternoon and was delighted at the quiet and beautiful serenity of the forest.
My weekend was really relaxing and I feel as though finally my body is starting to regain some life. For a long time I was in a deep hole. Lifting four days a week was definitely taking it's toll on me. In the middle of last week I talked with a former coach of mine, Randy Reese. Randy is the younger brother of my current coach, Eddie Reese. I told Randy I was amazed at how big a difference lifting four days a week made on my energy level and the performance or lack there of I was able to create in the water. He told me that lifting four days a week was probably a bit too much and that my body needed some time to relax and regrow itself stronger.
The next two weeks will be much more calm and recovery based before I swim in the Austin Grand Prix. I can't wait to feel like I have some explosiveness back into my muscles. I generally always have some explosiveness in my mind because I'm such an excitable person but when my body is tired there can be absolutely nothing there. I will know I'm starting to be somewhat rested when I wake up in the morning actually feel somewhat refreshed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Set The Clock Back Six Years

Garrett's high school coach took me along as an assistant yesterday for Wisconsin's state high school championship. I had not been in the natatorium in Madison for six years. The last time we were there, Garrett set a national high school record in the 100 free with a time of 43.49. It's a mark that still stands as a pool record.

It was interesting and odd roaming the deck. The first thing I noticed was that I could see, almost in slow motion, what various swimmers were doing wrong. One kid would have won the 50 instead of tying, for example, had he not had a hitch in his final stroke. He was looking at the wall and deciding whether to stroke or glide, I'm sure. A young guy in the second heat of the 200 probably had the best freestyle in the pool. He'll be one to watch. Backstroke starts are not a strong point here in Wisconsin. The winner of the 100 breast looked like he has potential to make the NCAA championship meet in college. Probably a third of the swimmers reach for the sky with their right arm when they breathe and run their fingers through the water during their recovery with their left.

It was curious to me that I could suddenly see so many subtle things. A friend observed, correctly I think, that I've had the privilege to spending the last six years watching the best swimmers on earth. It's now easy to see when others don't do what they do.
Finally, what was it like to be on deck after so much has happened in our family's swimming life? Not nearly as exciting as watching Garrett race but a heck of a lot more relaxing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Creating a Recipe for Success

Creating a recipe for success is not simple. It generally takes a lot of planning and adjustment to get it right. This past weekend when I was in Missouri I talked with a sports psychologist from the US Olympic committee about my experience in Beijing. Jim, the psychologist, and I discussed many things but one thing really stood out to to create a recipe for success based upon past triumph.

Jim knew I was really into food and cooking which is why he chose this particular example. He asked me to think of my favorite food recipe. We wrote down the ingredients, how much of each, the preparation and how to cook it. Then he asked me if the recipe will come out the same way every time. My answer was yes because I'm doing the same thing every time. He asked me how it could be different. Well it could be different if you didn't use the same amount of something, if you added something new, if you cooked it differently or maybe one of the ingredients was not as fresh as the last time you cooked it.

Once we finished the food recipe we went on and looked at my recipe for success at the Olympic trials. What were the ingredients? How had I prepared? What was my mental state like? Some of the ingredients included stretching, drinking electrolyte water, listening to my coaches Eddie and Kris, minimizing walking and staying strict to my diet. Jim and I discussed why or how I thought each of these things impacted my success. Another important aspect we evaluated was how I dealt with the thrill of going best times and winning in Omaha and how I kept my focus.

Now onto Beijing. What was the recipe? How did it differ from what I had done a month earlier? Here are some examples. My diet was a bit different because I was eating only what was available to me not what I made available to myself. My diet was still good but not quite the same level of consistency as it had been simply due to being in different environments and having different food. I walked a ton more leading up the Olympics and at the Olympics (this was just a part of life in and around the choice). Travel was much more extensive while including a couple huge time changes. I was no longer on only my schedule but the schedule of my team.

The difficulty is figuring out how these differences may have affected me. Without a doubt my recipe was different for Beijing than it was for Omaha. My question is how do I deal with this in the future? One of the beautiful things about cooking is changing a recipe a little and seeing if it comes out better than it was before. I'm not so sure this is the same for athletics. Either way, my plan is to go back and study the recipes I've created in the past that led me to my greatest successes. In my mind there is no choice but to figure out how to do it better next time. I need to prepare myself so that even if there are differences, my recipe has been made to accommodate those differences and still produce the same delicious and satisfying result as before.

This example holds true for anything in our lives whether it be writing a good paper, dealing with crisis or making a killer sale. Once we figure out how we were successful in the first place, we can duplicate this. Then, although the circumstances will be different, we have a better chance at success for the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Getting Better

Missouri is going better than the first day. Yesterday I swam the 50 free and the 100 back. I made both of them back to finals at night and was really happy about getting another chance to swim. I ended up going faster in both of them at night. I went from a 23.70 to a 23.67 in the 50 free and from 59.3 to a 59.0 in the 100 back.

I just tried to keep my head up and swim my own race. This morning I swam the 100 free and went 51.9. Going into finals I am ranked 14th. I look to swim faster tonight and end the meet on a good note.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Trying Day

Today was not the easiest day for me. I am currently in Missouri for a swim meet. The event I swam today was the 200 free. I warmed up and felt pretty descent. I don't really have much power in the water but thought I would be fine if I warmed up enough. I am very tired from swimming and lifting hard. Eddie and I talked about how I was going to swim the race and what we expected. I swam the 200 free in the prelims in the last heat next to Ryan Lochte. I got demolished by everyone. I went 1:58. Other swimmers in the heat went up to six seconds faster than me. Seriously there were probably 15 year old boys that beat me today. I think the fastest two girls in the finals beat my time too. I failed to qualify to swim at night. Wow. I had nothing. I tried to pick it up. There was nothing to go with.

My plan coming into the meet was to just wear a Speedo. I didn't want to wear a faster suit because I wanted to really be able to judge where I am in the season. Basically everyone else in the meet is wearing a suit. It was tempting to put on a suit...I have learned that it is generally best to stick to your plan.

Although I'm more mature and experienced now than I ever have been I sometimes get sucked back into my somewhat immature days when I perform poorly. For instance, when I swam that slow the first things that come to my mind are, am I fat? Am I less cut than I once was? Is my stroke different? Have I lost touch? Has my nutrition not been as good? I am very hard on myself and have difficulty accepting anything less that what I expect.

To make things worse I got crap from people surrouding me...even my friends, teammates and coaches. Some of the things said to me were, "dude you should be embarrased" "are you serious? 1:58" "Oh you don't need to see the heat sheet for's not like you made it back" In my younger years this would have completely enraged me. I can remember times like this in the past where I would literally want to fight someone I was so furious inside. When I was younger I drew a lot of motivation from the fact that I thought I always had to prove people wrong and shove it in their faces. As I got older I realized this mode of operating is way too strenous on my mind, not healthy and not the best way to prepare myself for success. When I heard these comments today a part of me was annoyed. However, a bigger part of me was disappointed in myself and somewhat hurt that people failed to realize how tired I am. I left by reminding myself that the only thing that matters is that I know the truth and stay confident in what I'm doing. This has been my mentality in my later years...I focus on myself and what I can do to prepare myself for success. I try not to worry about what others think or the end I'm the only one who can either make or take away the magic...I control me.

A guy I have known for many years named Sam could tell I was a bit down tonight. He has commentated tons of meets over years including the likes of Olympic Trials. He told me tonight that his favorite part of the entire Olympic Trials in Omaha was my reaction after I won the 50 free and in a frenzy of excitement and jubilation went over to hug Eddie and Kris. He told me how my emotion showed it all. He said he could remember how it was only 18 months earlier when I was telling him how I longed to get to the top and was on the road to success that hadn't yet been acheived. Sam told me that I need to remember that I have seen it all. I have been to the top of the top and the low of the low. He's right...what makes the top so beautiful and emotionally fulfilling is knowing how far you've come and how bad the bottom feels. Meets like this are humbling and make me really appreciate and feel thankful for all the succes I've been able to expereince. Sam told me to keep my head up and use this as a lesson and take something positive from it...he said I know you'll be back at the top!

I need to look at this situation from the right angle....hmmmm sounds familiar. Trust me I know it's hard to do sometimes. I felt terrible all day. I've found that sometimes it just takes something outside ourselves to grab us and give us a helping hand. Thankfully today Sam gave me that helping hand. I now realize I'm tired and need to judge the rest of this meet accordingly. I have a feeling things will only get better from here! I'll keep you updated.

Sam, if you're reading this...thanks for giving me the helping hand I needed!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


A swimmer named Alex wrote me this. My response follows.

Original Note:
hello Garrett,
you dont know me im just a fan but i read your blog and being a young swimmer i am just now learning these lessons. but my regional meet is this weekend and after that state at your pool... i worked so hard over the span of this past summer and the school year to achieve my goals but then i got very sick with a 104 fever last week and missed most of taper.. now im rushing to get it all back. how can i look at this as a positve and hopefully succeed this weekend?

My Response:
Great question! First off, don't rush to try and get anything back. After we get sick it is important that we ease our way back into the water especially right before a big meet. It seems you have put in the hard work necessary to have some fast swims in your upcoming meet. Now is not the time for hard work. If you truly worked hard then your body is ready to it is up to your mind. You need to ease yourself back into the water and get the feel back for the water. Don't forget to do plenty of speed work before your meet because you probably got a bit sluggish and out of synch with your stroke while you were sick. You will be fine if you believe you can do it.

In terms of looking at it from the right angle: maybe you got sick at the perfect time to give you some extra rest you actually needed. Sometimes our bodies tell us things in interesting ways. If you got sick it was probably because your body was broken down and exhausted. Have confidence in the fact that you got more rest and recovery from being sick than you would have being in the water. In essence, this is your only choice.

My dad has always tells me three things that have always given me the confidence to perform and swim fast. Remember these three things and you will be much better off than your competitors.
1. Trust in your stroke
2. Trust in your coach
3. Swim your own race.

I hope this helps.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Finding the Good in the Bad

Feeling bad can be a good thing if we look at it from the right angle.

Today my freestyle stroke felt really good in the water but my legs literally felt terrible. I had no idea what was going on??? In the weight-room they were super weak as well. This is unusual for me because my legs are probably my strongest and best asset as a swimmer. Eddie always tells me my gift is my kick...let me tell you, today it wasn't.

Just like all of you, I've had some things in my life that have made me very upset, disappointed, angry etc. Thankfully swimming and the people who have supported me in swimming have taught me something that has made a huge difference in my life. I have learned to take those feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, fear whatever they may be and spin them to my advantage.

When I missed the Olympic team in 2004 by one place that was the biggest disappointment of my life. Up to that point in my swimming career there had never been anything I worked for or wanted that I hadn't achieved. I was literally shocked and in utter disbelief. I was crying my eyes out on the pool deck when Kris Kubik, the assistant coach at Texas, came up to me and said these words I will never forget..."Garrett, I want you to look at that scoreboard and always remember how you feel right now and promise yourself you will never let yourself feel this bad ever again." That instant I promised myself I would work harder and sacrifice almost anything to get where I wanted to be. I never wanted to feel that bad ever again. I have no idea how things would have been different if I had made that Olympic team in 2004. What I do know is I would have missed out on learning a super important lesson. It was a blessing in disguise.

Now when I get into situations that are not the most desirable I'm better able to find the bright side or the positives. There is no sense dwelling on the negatives and making ourselves miserable. We can always learn something or draw some kind of happiness or contentment from most situations. Ask yourself how you can use this situation to your benefit, figure out how your tears can turn into laughter or future success, never give in and simply accept that a situation is all bad...there's no way that's true. Just make sure to look at all the may be surprised what you find!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Riding High, Good Food, Lot's of Laughs!

This weekend was a ton of fun! Several reasons why...

1. I'm still riding a high from the relay meet on Thursday when I swam really fast. I'm very excited about that 50 free split I had that was 18.80. This solidifies the training I've done and gives my mind more power and confidence that I'm going to swim really fast both this spring and this summer.

2. I watched a hilarious movie called "Pineapple Express."

3. Went to dinner at a restaurant in Austin called Vespaio. I had this appetizer that was a triangular shaped pasta shell filled with a butternut squash that was spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a sage brown butter sauce, crisp sage leaves on top and candied walnuts.

4. A friend of mine named Abbey came in town to visit. She is one of those people who embraces humor in every aspect of the word and finds it in everything. Abbey is full of energy...literally a trip!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Swim Meet of the Year!

Yesterday we had something called class relays at the pool. This is literally the most intense meet of the year for the University of Texas swim team. The race is a 200 freestyle relay. There is so much pride involved and some trash talking. The trash talking is all in good fun and no one gets serious about it...(unlike the French) haha jk:)

I have always had really good swims at the relay meet. I'm dead serious when I say I get more excited and intense for this meet than I do at NCAA's. My sophomore year I went 19.4, junior year I went 18.91, senior year I went 18.98. Yesterday I was on a professional relay with Dale Rogers, Matt Lowe and Eric Shanteau. We weren't allowed to swim in the heat with all the college guys but swam in the heat after. Dale led off in 19.5...before I tell you what I went I must tell you what I think is the key to having a dominant relay split at the class relays.

During this part of the season I'm just coming off super hard winter training. We are starting to do a little less yardage in practice and focus more on some speed work. Generally the weight-room turns into more explosive work with lower reps and higher weight. Both my junior and senior years I lifted really hard in the weight room before the relay meet. These sessions consisted of a good warm-up with my shoulders and core and then did some heavy explosive exercises. Yesterday for instance I did bench press (along with many other exercises) and did a warm-up set of six, then a set of four, three and two. On each set I went up in weight and on the last set of two I equalled my max bench of 220 lbs. I feel like the key is getting all the blood flowing to your muscles and get your mind and body in the POWER mode before heading to the pool. I made sure to do a lot of little core exercises along the way like crunches, sit-ups and back exercises to get my core ready to rock. Our core ties everything in our body together and allows us to maximize all the power from both our arms and legs. The best swimmers in the world are not always the strongest swimmers. However, the best swimmers in the world are able to combine both the power from their legs and arms together through the use of their core. By having a strong core and becoming aware of how to use it properly through lots of practice we will be in a better position to succeed.

I'm an extremely excitable and high strung person sometimes. I can get so excited about something in a matter of an instant that I will jump in the air or want to bust through a wall. Yesterday, as I walked from the weight room to the pool, I was so focused on how ridiculous this swim was about to be that I had some type of adrenaline rush or something that exploded through my body. I just about yelled and flexed all my muscles and had to restrain myself from exploding into a full sprint to the pool. This happens when I warm up a lot. I will literally just be swimming along and all of a sudden I get so excited about something that is about to happen that a switch immediately flips and I pop off into a sprint. Generally this only lasts for about two or three seconds and then I'm back down to earth. It's really weird haha! As I'm sure you can tell...I was ready to bust a cap at the relay meet.

I got to the pool and warmed up. I could feel the power. I was ready to go. I put my suit on and got ready to race.

....So Dale led off in 19.5. I sprung off the block into action. My dive felt good but I didn't feel like I really slipped through the perfect hole on my entry. Nonetheless I was off and sprinting. Going into the turn I shorted my last stroke a little bit (taking an extra stroke into the turn that wasn't a full freestyle stroke, this can sometimes slow you down). I fly-kicked off the wall and headed for home. With about 15 meters to go I was focused on blasting my kick. I took a breath and could tell I was going really fast because the wave against my face was really strong. I touched the wall and ended up splitting 18.80 with a 0.23 relay start. The relay start was pretty slow...I was 0.07 at the Olympics on the 400 free relay. You want to be at about 0.1 so you are in control. This race gives me a really good idea about where I am in my training as well as gives me a lot of confidence moving forward. I'm stronger than I ever have been and know I have many fast swims left in me!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hope You Like the New Look

You'll notice a new masthead and intro graphic starting this morning. It was time for a new look that did a better job of providing more information on Garrett. We hope you like it. I'm sure he will be posting soon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Daniel Awarded Four Stars

Back in September my sister and I dined at a restaurant in NYC called Daniel. This was truly an 'experience' more than a dinner. Daniel was just awarded four stars from the New York Times! Four stars is the highest you can get in the culinary world.

I met Daniel Boulud in Beijing on the set of the Today show. I immediately knew who he was and got super excited at the chance to meet him. This man is literally a legend. We talked for a few minutes before he went on the set. I got his business card so that I could contact him when I went to NYC. His daughter was there and I began to talk with her after he went on the show. She goes to Tufts University and was in Beijing enjoying the Olympics with her dad. Long story short, later that week she took me to Daniel's new restaurant in Beijing, "Masion Boulud." It was amazing and completely complimentary!

When I was on my way to NYC in September I wrote Daniel to let him know I was going to dine at Daniel with my sister. His assistant got me and my sister a reservation for Friday night at 7pm. This was a big deal because it was the first Friday the restaurant was open since they finished renovating it for over five weeks.
My sister and I arrived and were taken to our table. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful inside. The service is impeccable. For instance, each plate is lifted off the table at the exactly same time, each utensil is placed in front of each person at the same time, everyone who works there knows everything about the food and wine. When my sister needed a kleenex they brought her a silver box of Kleenex on a silver platter...ridiculous. They have about one employee for every guest. Long story short, we were there for over five hours. Daniel came out to talk to me and my sister twice during our meal, both times for about ten minutes. He is a super genuine and soft spoken man who really knows how to put a smile on your face both with his food and his humor. At the end of the night he took us in the kitchen and showed us around. We also took pictures with him and his chefs. As we left he handed me two of his cookbooks that he wrote personal notes in.
Recently a wonderful review was written in the New York Times about Daniel. I wrote Daniel an email to congratulate him and let him know what I have been up to. Even though he was out of the country, he still got back to me the next day...I was so excited. In his note he encouraged me to continue following my love for food and cooking. His daughter told me how he really loves to nurture young talent in the kitchen as well as people who are super into food and cooking. This really shows a lot about his character. I am definitely going to go back and see him next time I go to NYC!The cheese course we had was a compilation of eight cheeses we chose from around the world.Above is only 2/3 of one of the two dessert courses we had. The other dessert course was based around different fruit flavors.Above is a tray being prepared of different flavored sorbets.After the dessert courses each guest also gets a tray of mini desserts...literally over the top. My sister devoured all of hers, I didn't even finish mine:(

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Garrett on Two Tiny Wheels

I came across this video from 2007 of Garrett "relaxing" in Wisconsin. Can you get a ticket for that? Well... maybe a warning.

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