Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jolted Back to Reality

I just watched a short story on TV about a former NBA player, Rodney Rogers, who was instantly paralyzed after suffering a devastating fall from his ATV. These types of stories really hit me hard. I was in such a trance while watching the clips of this one-time NBA star who went from dunking a basketball, running up and down the court, living an active life to suddenly being completely unable to use any of his extremities. I could feel myself sink down into my chair at the dining room table. My breathing slowed down and my eyes felt heavy. It was like I was almost watching someone I knew..

I think the reason I felt like this is because this story jolted me back to reality. I thought to myself, "screw being tired, who cares if I'm not happy with everything Eddie gives me for practice... So what if I wish this had been different or that had been different...I am living an incredible life..." I know I do this, and maybe some of you do it as well sometimes. I think we all probably worry a little too much about things and make topics in our lives seem a little bit more serious than they may actually be. As I continued to glare at the TV I thought back to practice on Tuesday when I was really unhappy. Why was I unhappy? I was with great coaches, in a wonderful facility, surrounded by my friends, working to prepare myself to be successful in something I have chosen to make my current life's dream. What the *&^% was I unhappy about?

Some of you might remember this but back in the beginning of April a Navy SEAL named Derek came to Austin to visit. I went to dinner with him one night and he said something to me that has really stuck with me. He said, "Since I've been a SEAL I've realized that unless there are bullets flying at me everything is probably alright." Maybe this is a bit of an extreme example seeing how most of us have never had bullets fly at us, but I think this really makes a good point.

My goal is to try and take a step back when I'm stressed and realize how wonderful my life is. Instead of griping about a hard workout, be thankful that I'm able to do it. Be happy that I have someone who cares enough about me to make his living at coaching me to become successful and to fulfill my dreams. Realize that everything along the way may not be exactly how I want it. Be accepting and confident in the fact that I will make the best of it and that it will become something great in due time.

Now I'm going to go to Whole Foods and search for a really healthy and tasty treat that has been patiently waiting for me to find it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Open Communication in a Difficult Time

This time of the season can be very difficult. There are many reasons as to why (more on those in future posts) but one stands out particularly in my mind...because it's currently going on for me now. I am now about six weeks out of World Championship Trials. This is about the time when I start thinking more and more about the meet and what I need to do preparation-wise in order to succeed. The difficult part can be my relationships with my coaches and making sure I keep my poise when I do things I may not want to do.

Here's the skinny...At this time of year, as the athlete, we all look to start resting (at least a little bit). We get excited about starting to feel better in the water, in the weight-room and simply in life (yeah, taper time gives me so much more energy that everything in my life actually seems more beautiful, more vibrant, happier, easier etc). There is no doubt that we know it is only a matter of time until we begin to get out early, do less morning workouts, lift weights less often, do more speed work etc. The difficulty is that we are not in charge. This is exactly the time when our coaches want to keep pushing us, keep working us hard, get this last bit of training in before we begin the taper process. Oh and by the way...they're right...we need the's just not necessarily what we want to do. Does that make sense?

The reason this can be a difficult situation is because it needs to be handled properly, with open communication, so everyone is happy and on the same page going into taper and the big meet. I have no problem working hard...I never have. I fully trust in Eddie and Kris...there is no question about that. However, I too like seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel every now and again. I want to get out early once in a while. I want to have a recovery practice. Notice how it's all, "I want"? This is where the difficulty lies. As the athlete I know what I want...that doesn't mean that's what's best for me. In all likelihood what I want is not what's best for me in terms of being trained...that's why we have coaches. So what do I do?

Here's the skinny...I talk to Eddie and Kris. Tonight after practice I told Ed how I've been feeling. I told him flat out what is on my mind. I said, "Yo Edwin, lemmie hit the hot tub and chill out for a few...feel me?" haha nah just kidding. Seriously though, I said something to the affect of, "Ed I know we need to be working hard right now. I completely trust in what you're having me do. I need you to understand I've been having a hard time right now because I want to start feeling a little better but I know that will come in time. I understand what you're doing and I'm just letting you know that's where I'm at." Eddie knew this was how I'm feeling...just as he always does. Boom, now we're on the same page. I left the pool happy and confident in what we're doing 'together'. This is a together game...nothing gets done alone.

My advice is to talk openly with your coach. Discuss where you are and where you're going. Handle this situation properly and you'll all be feeling good and confident!

Monday, May 25, 2009

This was my reaction after the 50...I was pissed haha:P

50 free

Last night was the finals of the 50 free. I was pretty focused before the race. My start was ok. I've been working on looking at the bottom more so my head is in perfect alignment with my spine...this will help keep my body flat across the water and minimize drag when I swim. I don't really like it because it is harder for me to see where I am in the pool...I think it is helping me go faster though so I will do it. I was focusing on blasting my kick and having a clean entry with my hands at the front of my stroke. I hit the wall at 22.9. I got second. I was not happy. I dropped time from the prelims but I wasn't happy with how the race felt and I was annoyed I got second.

Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that I'm still tired. I can't expect so much of myself all the time. I have always been a big taper guy...meaning I swim my best when I get lots of rest. I will continue to keep getting better and better as the summer goes on. I know I am going to have a great summer but sometimes it's hard to simply settle with not doing exactly what I want right now. The time was still fast but I wanted more.

Later that night I started feeling better about it. I began to realize I actually did swim well for right now in the season. I just need to be patient.

Now I'm going to go fishing with some friends at their ranch in Hutto, Texas!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A&M Update 2

Last night I swam the 200 free. I didn't feel particularly good in warm-up. It is important to keep warming up when I don't feel good. It is very hard to warm-up too much, especially at this point of the season. I kept swimming slow hoping I would feel better. I didn't really feel any better but that may have just been in my mind. The truth is that it doesn't matter how you feel, it matters how you look. There have been many times in my career when I didn't feel very good in warm-up or even the race and I still had a great race. At Olympic Trials last summer I never felt incredible in warm-up. Obviously that didn't matter...I went all best times and broke two American Records.

The 200 free last night was great. I won the consolation final with the time of 1:53.9...(I actually thought I went 1:52.9 until about 30 seconds before I wrote this when my roommate told me I went 1:53.99...I was ticked...I thought I was better than that haha). That is still a really good time for me right now. I've been really tired in workouts and this meet gives me a good look at where I am and where I need to go with my training and preparation.

This morning I swam the 50 free. I warmed up really slow and got ready for the race. Again I didn't feel very good in warm-up. There was no power. Sometimes that's just what it is. I was trying to manufacture some power in my warm-up and get ready to have some in the race. I ended up going 23.7 in the 50. My hands felt really choppy and I was riding low in the water. This time is ok for a morning swim when I am still tired and only wore a Speedo. I'm seeded second going into finals tonight. My finals swim will be better. I'll let y'all know

Saturday, May 23, 2009

College Station Update

I'm currently in College Station, Texas at a swim meet. I swam the 100 free yesterday. I got second and went 50.4. I was pretty happy with the time. The important thing to do at these meets leading up to World Championship Trials and the World Championships is to hone my skills and fine tune everything. Yesterday in the 100 I was really focused on keeping my head in line with my spine and making sure my body was in perfect position. This will allow me to move more smoothly through the water and travel with less resistance. I'm also working on my breathing. I have been breathing a little bit late in my stroke and I'm trying to make it more fluid.

Every time I race I make sure there are a few things I really focus on. The more I fine tune my skills the more confident I get. It is really important going into the big meets that my confidence is riding super high.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Glimpse At My Softer Side...

This is a funny little video that was made for a meet last year called Encore! Now you can see my softer side:) Let me know if you think I have the talent to be an actor? haha


Monday, May 18, 2009

Skinny Cow Will Not Defeat This Stallion

Dessert. Wow do I love it. I have an unbelievable sweet tooth. There is nothing better than an incredible piece of my Grandma's homemade rhubarb pie for breakfast (that only happens once or twice a year though...after a huge meet). Most of the year I'm pretty good about keeping desserts in moderation. However, it is very hard.
So I've been having this problem the past week or so. When my mom was down here she bought a pack of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches. I realize they are the healthy ice cream desserts but it doesn't matter. I told myself that when my mom left I was done with desserts until after World Championships. This sleeve of Skinny Cows is killing me. Twice this past week I've gone down to the freezer and looked at them. Both times my roommate was around and said, "Dude I thought you're done with desserts???" AAAhhhhhhhh this kills me. I tell him, "I am but these just look sooooo good." I still haven't touched them. They are my arch nemesis. He asked me if I wanted him to eat them. Originally I told him yes. However, I have reconsidered and told him no. I want them to sit in their and rot. I'm not touching them. I'm going to prove to myself that I'm the stronger one. Skinny Cow will not defeat me hahaha:)

I do the dessert thing for a several reasons. I originally started doing it when I heard of an Olympian in the 1980's who did it and ended up having an incredible Olympics. I thought I may as well give it a try. I've had great meets without having dessert for a long time before them so it has definitely worked in the past. I tend not to fix things that work beautifully (maybe only alter them to make them better). Lastly, I'm not the most cut sprinter in the world. I'm certainly not fat but washboard abs are not in my bio. Basically, eating dessert will give me no added benefit in what I'm trying to do so I cut it out. I don't need it. This is just one more little piece of ammunition I give my mind going into the big meets.
Some might call this tactic stupid and ridiculous. Go ahead. I'm not telling anyone to do it. I'm simply saying it has worked for me. You'll find that every athlete does things differently...what matters is the outcome at the end...and for that, there is no room for error. NO DESSERT FOR ME

Friday, May 15, 2009

Prosciutto de Parma!

This morning I went to 'Central Market.' This is a higher end grocery store that carries a huge variety of fresh products and specialty items. I ran into a guy there who owns and makes his own Prosciutto in Parma, Italy. He gave me the hat I'm wearing above and I bought some of his product! If you're wondering that is some Prosciutto hanging out of my big deal:)

I came home and made an incredible sandwich with a whole wheat rustic bread, fresh basil, turkey, the Prosciutto I bought from the guy, and some Italian soft-ripened cheese from the Stracchino family. Daaaannnnnggggg was it gooooood!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gone Fishing!

Check my new blog out on SwimNetwork...

This is a pretty hilarious story. I hope you like it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wisconsin Foodie Video

Last fall I hosted a celebratory dinner at a restaurant in Milwaukee called Bacchus. The meal included healthy and low-sodium recipes. Between courses I talked about my experiences at the US Olympic Trails and the Beijing Olympics. The chef at Bacchus is Adam Siegel who has won the prestigious James Beard Award.

Wisconsin Foodie is a TV show that did a special on the evening. The video is about five minutes long. Check it out here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finding Your Routine

Yesterday morning I turned the TV on and ESPN was doing a special on the differences in the warm-up routines and batting stances of some of the best MLB batters of all time. They showed many different routines and styles. The really cool part was that they had many of the actual players interviewed on the show talking about why they do what they do. Immediately I thought about swimming and getting ready for a race.

I've been asked many times why I swing my arms in the same pattern before I race...why I get ready from the side of the block...why I put my left foot on the top of the block and shake it...why I rub my hands together before the starter calls us up onto the block. The answer is the same every time. I do all of this because it's what makes me feel comfortable.

Over my career I've tried different techniques. Some have worked and some haven't. Cal Ripken Jr. talked about how he did the same types of things until he found what worked for him. The trick is to be comfortable and find what works for you. Everyone does something a little different but that is ok...whatever works for them. For instance, Aaron Piersol generally just sits down and puts his cap on, Brendan Hansen puts some water in his mouth and spits it into the pool, Ian Crocker stands behind the block and puts his foot up, Michael Phelps stretches his legs on the block etc.

My advice to all those who wonder what they should do to get ready is what other people do and try it for yourself. If you like it, use it. If it's not for you then try something different. What will likely happen is you will mold several techniques into one that is your own. Good Luck!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

SwimNetwork Blog

Recently I began writing for the swimming website I will have a weekly blog on this website. The topics will be varied and be somewhat different than the blogs I post here. I will put a post up on this blog every time there is another post on SwimNetwork. Here is the first one...

Garrett's SwimNetwork Blog

Friday, May 8, 2009

Refining and Building Power!!!

I always impress upon swimmers the importance of continuing to fine-tune our strokes. I think this principle holds true for everything in life. In order to keep getting better at anything, whether its selling something, building something, drawing etc. it is essential that our techniques continue to grow and become as close to perfect as possible. Wednesday night I swam with one of my best friends Neil Walker. He coaches a group of Longhorn Aquatics down in south Austin. Ian Crocker was there and was watching my freestyle stroke. I'm always thinking about what I can do better but many times it takes a trained eye to really help you along. Ian made a comment about my right hand as it pulls through the water. He said it is pulling out too wide. I moved it in about three inches towards the center of my body and felt a dramatic difference in the grip I could get on the water. I love getting better and knowing I'm more refined than I ever have been. Keep working to improve your techniques in whatever you do!

Thismorning I had an incredible set. We have a pulley system at Texas that allows us to swim while a rope attached to our waist pulls weight into the air. The point of this is to swim against resistance and gain strength and power. I did a total of ten 50's and increased the weight every two 50's. On numbers seven and eight I used fins. On numbers nine and ten I used paddles and fins. If you want to be a work horse you need to pull some serious weight and that's exactly what I intended to do. I did my first 50 with fins and paddles pulling 60 lbs. Then Michael Klueh who swims for Texas said the most he'd ever heard anyone doing was 72lbs with fins and paddles, it was Neil. When he finished saying this I got super excited and filled with adrenaline. I looked to the sky, put my arms up, and yelled at the top of my lungs....LOAD THAT WEIGHT UP BABBBBYYYYYYY!!!! I had them put 76lbs on. I had to man up and see what I was capable of. I knew this was going to take every muscle fiber I had. I chilled on the wall for a couple minutes and pushed off. Daaannnnngggg this was a log of weight. I thought I was pulling a semi truck or something. I went for about 30 seconds as hard as I possible could. I made it to a little over half way. When I finished my body was burning everywhere. I had a huge smile on my face when I finished. I was so excited. I didn't make it the entire way but this proves to me that I have a lot of power. I have more power than I've ever had before. Maybe I could have made it to the other end with only 72lbs on...who knows? I will get 80lbs the entire way by the end of this season. This summer is going to be awesome:)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Making a Difference

On Sunday I spoke at the Dallas Mustangs swim team banquet on behalf of one of my sponsors, Speedo. I traveled to Dallas with the intentions of speaking and going home. What happened was something I didn’t expect.

The seniors on the team gave speeches. I couldn’t believe some of them. They were so insightful, so heartfelt, so filled with emotion and thought. These were merely seniors in high school but they spoke as if they were much older. Their lives had been affected by this swim team and those around them in a very dramatic way. One swimmer talked about how his coach, Mook, had been the most influential person in his life. How all his teammates had been with him through everything. A lot of them cried. Most of them had a hard time getting their words out. I was almost speechless. I was listening to young minds speak with such poise and wisdom like they had seen it all. Their structure and word choice was not always perfect but the intention and thought process behind everything came through like the sun comes through your window bright and early on the most perfect day.

I looked at the coaches who were sitting on either side of me and I thought to myself, “what lucky guys.” These two men have made a dramatic influence on so many young people. Sometimes I wonder why coaches do what they do. Their compensation is probably not high for all the work they do. They deal with pain in the butt parents. They spend long hours on the deck at practices and meets as well is probably much more I don't even know about. Why do they do it? I feel like that day in Dallas it finally clicked. They do it because they can see they’re making a difference and that they’re helping people.

The look on these young faces, the appreciation, the deep seated emotional gratitude, the laughs, the smiles, the tears…everything was real. I could barely believe my eyes and ears. My mind sat idle wondering what I would ever do to maybe come close to helping someone to this extent. I thought of whether or not I’ve ever affected anyone in such a dramatic and real way??? I honestly don’t know. My mind changed gears and thought about what I do now. I thought about what I want to do with my life. Will my life include such love, such emotion, such positive differences in other people’s lives? I can’t answer that. A tear almost dripped from my eye.

Mook and Doug (the head age-group coach) were making a difference. My coaches, Eddie and Kris, have made a difference. My former coach, Randy, made a difference. I want to make a difference. I’m sometimes so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I don’t have time or the extra mental capacity needed to think about helping others. My guess is that someday I will get there. Someday I too will help those around me more. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky these guys were. Of course everything is not easy and fun and happy. I could tell you that. The truth of the matter is whether or not we’re making a difference. Eddie always says our purpose on this earth is to help people. Are we doing it? Am I doing it? Watching these seniors in high school I realized that there is a lot that can be done to help others. I realized that it’s not all about the big things that I want to do in life. I want to help people.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Still Tired but Got a Mental Break

Last week was a tough week of training. Ed is continuing to put a lot of pressure on us. We are still a little over two months away from World Championship Trials which means now is when we need to get our final weeks of intense work in before we start to taper. I'm very tired in the weight-room and the water. My focus has been on trying to maintain my intensity in workout and continue to make sure all my little technique aspects are perfect. This can be a difficult time of the season because as athletes we are looking forward to resting and preparing for the big meet. At the same time, the coach's job is to keep the intensity of practice up and make sure we are continuing to put in the work. The difficulty arises because in general the athlete's definition of work at this point of the season is not the same as the coach's definition of work. The truth of the matter is that I implicitly trust Eddie and know he has my best interest in mind. He has always guided me to the places I want to go. We absolutely communicate but it is more the Eddie Reese show than the Garrett Weber-Gale show.

My mom was in town this past week. It was great to spend some time with her. There is something special and unique about having a family member around. The atmosphere is very relaxing and fun. She really helped me organize my life (I have basically no organizational skills). We had some nice dinners and she helped me take my mind off of the intensity of my swimming for a while. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful parents who have always supported me in whatever I decide to do!

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