Friday, December 27, 2013

Fish Out of Water II

The time is here. My first marathon is tomorrow. Can’t say I’m not nervous, but I’m much more confident than I was a few months ago.
I followed a training plan, skipping just one workout, a 3 miler that was supposed to happen yesterday, but I was in bed sick with a stomach bug. Fortunately I’ve bounced back pretty quickly, and was able to complete the final workout this morning with no trouble.
Here is what I’ve done since September 2nd:
63 running workouts
A total of 437.52 Miles
Running for a total of 70 hours: 52 minutes: 22 seconds
Workout #1 was an average pace of 11:22 per mile, which was my slowest run
Average pace of all running since September 2 is 9:43 per mile
Fastest pace was 8:19 per mile (a combo indoor track & treadmill run)
This training plan included 6 runs that were farther than I have ever run in my lifetime, which was a ½ marathon (13.1 miles)
Longest run, 3 runs of 16 miles each
Training for this has been long, and frankly not very fun. I know many people enjoy running, I just don’t fit in that group. As much of a struggle it is for me, I know it doesn’t compare to the struggle of every person living with Autism with every waking moment of their life. Knowing that makes it easy for me to push through.

You can track my run live on Runkeeper , and I believe it will post my progress at some point on my Facebook page. Just hope my phone battery can make it thru the whole run.
If you are interested in helping out in anyway, or just want more information, here are links to all the info:
Run with me (there are 5k, half marathon, and marathon options):
Volunteer, or help provide supplies:
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Facebook page:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fish Out Of Water

I can’t believe I’m doing this. I must be crazy. This isn’t who I am, it certainly isn’t what I do. But, it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while. For me, that means climbing out of the water. I haven’t trained for anything outside of the water since the 2011 Rock the Parkway Half Marathon. That’s roughly 2 years and 4 months of no measurable amount of running. I found myself more than half way through 2013, and I hadn’t planned a fundraising activity for an Autism charity, something I had done for every year since getting involved with Train4Autism in 2010. Since I volunteered to help organize the 2nd Annual Operation Jack KC Run/Walk in the Snow, it made some sense. So, I’ve set myself up for 4 months of torture while preparing to run the first marathon of my life.
Running scares me. Running far really scares me. People hurt themselves running. One of the things I love about the sport of swimming, injuries are few and far between. Sure, with swimming I get aches and pains. But, I haven’t had any injury caused by swimming that has slowed me down since I pulled a groin 6 or 7 years ago. And I’ve swum a heck of a lot of laps in those injury free years since then. Not many runners can say that. There’s just so much pounding on the joints, it’s too easy to push it too far. So I’m being careful.
I already had RunKeeper loaded on my phone. Out of curiosity, I looked to see if it had training programs, and sure enough, they had a bunch. I found Run a Marathon in 3:30. Um, NO! Run a Marathon in 4:00. Maybe, but let’s keep looking. Run a Marathon to Finish. BINGO! That’s the one! So, I’m following the program to the letter. The program is written by a professional, and he designed it to get me to the finish line. So I’ll listen to the pro, because I have no idea what I’m doing! I started on September 2, and I’ve completed 6 of the 64 workouts. So far, so good. I was pretty worried about the first long run, 8 miles last Saturday, especially considering it followed running 4 miles just the day before. I held up fairly well, with only a little discomfort in my left foot during the last mile or so. Getting through that, I’m pretty confident I can make it through the next 58 workouts.
Today’s run:
5.38 miles in 51 minutes 55 seconds
Total since September 2:
30.18 miles in 5 hours 12 minutes 57 seconds
That’s it for now. I’ll be back to blog about my training, Operation Jack, Train4Autism, and whatever else is on my mind.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Should we call him Flipper?

Remember me? It's been a while. I do intend to continue this blog, but a blistering work schedule, and more recently, and even more demanding Olympics veiewing schedule has been pretty rough.

First, if you haven't been here before, I'm a father of a child with Autism and I competed in the 2012 US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals to raise money for the Ozark Center For Autism. Go here for my intro blog.

Now that I'm somewhat caught up on my sleep, I want to bring up a subject that is weighing on me, and isn't getting much attention. Do you remember last week in the mens 100 meter breaststroke where Brendan Hansen pulled off an unlikely feat of winning the bronze medal from lane 8? Do you remeber the winner of that race, Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa? Did you notice he broke what the world record? Well, if you haven't heard yet, he cheated. That's right, he intentionally broke the rules in order to give himself an advantage, and he admits to it. You haven't heard much about it unless you are a pretty hardcore swim fan like myself. NBC just caught on and posted a story today for something that happend over a week ago. Even the best swim news sites took more than a day to post something about it. But, that could be explained in that if you are going to break a story that is calling an Olympic gold medalist a cheat, you better make sure you are right.

Here are your questions with answers:
What did he do?
In breaststroke at the start, and push off of each wall, you are allowed one stroke pull, and one breaststroke kick underwater before you surface. In 2006, thanks to a similar controversy in the 2004 games in Athens, they added that you are allowed a dolphin kick during that underwater arm pull. Otherwise, all dolphin kicks are illegal. A week ago I saw that posted this video that clearly shows van der Burgh executed 3 illegal dolpin kicks after the start, prior to starting his arm pull, and then one legal dolphin kick.

Okay, he cheated, how much did that help him? There has been some debate. You do not move faster through the water at any point in a race than when you dive in. You can see in the video swimswam posted that VDB kicks immediately upon entry into the water. Some argue performing a dolphin kick at this point creates more resistance than it would replace with  propulsion. I think there has to be some benefit, and the VDB experimented to prove it. I'm sure he experimented to the point that he knew just how many kicks were optimal. And it certainly doesn’t stop there. In order to be certain he can get away with it, he needed someone to watch him to see if the infraction is visible from where everybody knows the officials are watching from. This type of experiment could be completed between ½ hour to 2 hours. You don’t think he spent that amount of time making certain he optimal number of kicks? He knew exactly how much those illegal kicks help him, and he knew exactly how much he could get away with this without getting caught! Now I could conduct a similar experiment to tell you how much this will help me. But, I really don’t want to know how much this would help my race.

So, everyone knows he cheated, what will FINA and/or IOC do? That’s a good question, but the answer is simple. Nothing. If you are a sports fan, at some point in your life you have to come to terms with this one truth, bad calls and missed calls are part of the game. Case in point is last year’s world championships where Filipe Silva of Brazil used dolphin kick at the end of his 50 meter breaststroke to help him win gold. No action was taken. But, in Silva’s case and in Kitajima’s case, they did not admit to an infraction. Should action be taken when a competitor admits to knowingly breaking the rules? It seems the only circumstance they will strip a medal after the fact is for doping. I don't know why doping is the only cheating that receives this type of treatment, but I don't expect this occurance to change that practice.

What does this mean for Cameron van der Burgh's legacy? Well, it's not good. Every time someone thinks of who won that gold medal or who broke that world record, they will remember a cheater did it. Even though he wasn't the only person doing it, he won the race, and he will carry the label. It is unfortunate. Even with that nasty stain, it was an absolutely brilliant performance. I watched in complete awe. NBC had a fantastic shot of his turn, which I showed my son half a dozen times (thank you DVR). And the sickening part, he certainly would have won the gold medal without those illegal kicks. In the following days, he was faced with some difficult questions. His response was without apology or regret. He feels justified in his actions, using the notion that others are doing it, and he can't afford to give up that competitive advantage. I understand his delima, but it hardly gets him off the hook for me. Like it or not, as an elite athlete, you are a role model. Chosing to cheat, getting caught cheating, and being unapologetic about it sends an awful message to impressionable young athletes. I have heard from several sources Cameron is a good, decent young man. I have no reason to doubt that. But even the best men occassional make the wrong call.

Will FINA make changes for the future? Maybe. This is an embarassment for FINA. Athletes are competing outside of the rules. The only people with the power to do something about it, the officials on deck, can not see it while everyone else in the world can. Following the Kitajima controversy in 2004, FINA decided since the deck officials can't see a dolphin kick during the pull out, they will just change the rules to allow it.  Will they decide to allow more kicks? I hope not. I really, really hope not. A seemingly obvious solution would be to allow video review, and let the officals have access to what the rest of the world sees. And why not? Sound familiar baseball fans? So far, much like MLB, FINA has been resistant to allow video review. MLB has slowly allowed limted video review, maybe FINA will get on board with that as well. That is my hope. In fact, I hope they reverse the rule change from 2006, and take dolphin kick out of breaststroke for good. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a breaststroker whose dolphin kick is just plain awful!
Tony, have you done this? Would you ever do it? No, I have never used an illegal dolphin kick in breaststroke. And I don't intend to. But, I'm not going to get on my high horse and label Cameron van der Burgh as evil. You have to understand, I've never had a race with stakes nearly as high as an Olympic final, and being a strong contender for gold. Put in that position, and knowing my competition would cheat, would I choose to cheat? I can't answer that. I hope I wouldn't. Know this, if you are racing me, go ahead and use illegal kicks against me. It doesn't matter to me. I will try to beat you, and I'll do it fair and square.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Full Meet Recap!

I gave a daily recap of each day I competed in the 2012 Marriott USMS Summer Nationals.  There are still some things I want to share with you that occurred over the weekend.

First, if you haven't been here before, I'm a father of a child with Autism and I competed in the 2012 US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals to raise money for the Ozark Center For Autism. Go here for my intro blog. If you have not done so yet, its not too late, so please click on My Donation Page on the right to help rebuild the Autism Center that was completely destroyed by the Joplin tornado last year.

So, I thought I would share a collection of factoids and stats from the weekend I think you'll find interesting. Some you may have already read in my previous posts, but many you haven't. So, here goes
  • You might have heard my say "I'm only 40 in meters". In setting age groups, USMS for yards meets uses your actual age the day of the meet. In meters, they use your age at the end of the year. I'm 39, but since I turn 40 in October, I competed in the 40-44 age group.
  • This meet had 1,253 swimmers entered, making it the second largest summer nationals in USMS history. See, we can put on a pretty good meet here in the midwest!!
  • I swam in Lane 0! That was a first. The pool was set up with 10 lanes, 0-9. It makes sense if you think the pool was built for Olympic Trials. In that meet, the finals use 8 lanes. That way the finals can be swum in lanes 1-8. Seems logical. But this meet ran all 10 lanes through out. It just worked out that the mens medley relay I was on would swim in lane 0.
  • I swam in 3 separate heats that included world record swims, and another that included an American record swim. First, I swam in the lane next to Steve West as he broke the world record for M40-44 in the 100 meter breaststroke. The next day I swam in the lane next to David Guthrie as he broke the world record for M50-54 in the 200 meter breaststroke. On Sunday I swam on the mixed medley relay in the 120-159 age group, where Phoenix Swim Club broke the world record. That relay included my friend Jeff Commings, and Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman. And finally, the last event I swam was in the lane next to Steve West again, where he broke the USMS record for M40-44 in the 50 meter breaststroke.
  • I swam on a relay with a married couple. Another first for me. It was that mixed medley relay where I swam on a team that included Troy and Kelly Reynolds.
  • I was reunited with one of my Lincoln Northeast High School team mates, Joe Woodshank. We had not been on the same team in more than 22 years. And we got to swim on 3 relays together. What was even more fun, chance would have it that we swam in the lane next to a relay where the two of us were matched up against two swimmers from Lincoln Southeast High School, Rich Nolte and JB Barr! How cool is that?!
  • I set 3 MOVY Masters records in the M40-44 age group. If I find a yards meet before October 15, I could potentially set records in the M35-39 age group, months after setting records in the M40-44 age group. It would be difficult considering I've already had very good swims in that age group, but it would be fun to say I did that if I could pull it off.
  • I helped MOVY Masters to a 2nd place finish in the Mens Local Team category, and 2nd place finish in Combined Local Team category.
  • And finally, for the important stuff!! My fundraising website is now showing $705 raised. There has already been $500 donated off line, and I know there is more than another $100 on the way. So that means the total is over $1,300, and still growing. It's not too late to help, so please consider contributing, and passing on the word to your friends.
  • My website has received at least two donations from people I have never met heard of. I'm touched by the kindness of strangers. The only problem is I need to figure out how I will thank them.
That is it for now. Thanks for following along, I hope you enjoyed the journey! I do intend to keep blogging. After some time to reflect on my adventure, I'll figure out what my next adventure will be.  Meanwhile, like I said, I'll keep my donation page open for a while. It's not too late!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

And just like that, it's over!

Yesterday the final day of competition came to a close at the 2012 Marriott USMS Summer Nationals. It was an awesome experience for everyone involved, and one that I will never forget.

First, if you haven't been here before, I'm a father of a child with Autism and I'm competing in the 2012 US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals, and raising money for the Ozark Center For Autism. Go here for my intro blog. If you have not done so yet, please click on My Donation Page on the right to help rebuild the Autism Center that was completely destroyed by the Joplin tornado last year.

It was going to be a tricky day. I had 2 events fairly early in the day. Then we needed to get everything packed into the car, and figure out what to do to kill time before my final event scheduled to be late in the afternoon. We got everything as ready to go as we could, then headed down to the pool.

Walking into the building, I immediately saw what was one of the highlights of the whole meet for me. My Dad was standing there waiting for me and my family to come in. When my swimming career really began in high school, I lived with just my Dad. We were very close, and he was extremely supportive of my involvement in swimming, and all other activities I had going on in high school. It was really special to see him sitting up in the stands with my wife and two sons, some 25 years after he watched my swimming career begin.

First up was the mixed medley relay. I was excited for this one because my relay team included Troy and Kelly Reylonds. Yes, they are a married couple, and I actually trained with them for about a year. I was great to be on a team with them. I had the breaststroke leg. Kelly was swimming backstroke, and I made certain she was going to make a solid finish before my feet left the block. My start was okay, but my breakout was sloppy. It took about 4 strokes for me to settle into my stroke before I could really dig in and go. I got pretty fatigued before the end, but not too bad, and I touched the wall to send Troy off on butterfly. At first I didn't want to know what my split time was before I swam the individual 50 meter breaststroke in my next event. But, a friend offered to look it up on his phone and I changed my mind. 30.91! I was pretty excited. That was 0.26 seconds faster than my split in the mens relay the night before. It still wasn't as fast as I wanted to be, but was closer to that than I had been all weekend!

I went into the 50 breast with a little higher hopes. I thought that dipping below 31 seconds, and getting 2nd place was a real possibility. I was matched up against a long time rival in Rob Butcher. We have traded breast stroke races in a number of meets. I wasn't having a fast meet, but Rob wasn't exactly 100% either. As Executive Director of USMS, he had many duties to tend to during this meet. Plus, he spent 8 days on his feet at Olympic Trials while running the USMS booth in the AquaZone. Rob had beaten me by slim margins in the 100 and 200 meter breast, so the 50 was my last shot to get a race from Rob. My relay split that morning gave me hope that I might be able get him in just one race. I had a really good swim. It was a good start, and my break out was better. I was digging in and going hard from the first stroke. I did get pretty fatigued with about 10 meters left, but I just kept digging and fought for the finish. I looked at the giant score board above the pool, 31.22. I'll take that! An individual race should be about 0.30 seconds slower than a relay split, so to do practically the same race with very little rest, I was good with. Then I looked at Rob's time. 31.09 He got my by 0.13 seconds. Oh well. Rob is a great guy, and a great athlete. I know I'll get to enjoy racing him many times in the future.

I knew my wife was under the weather. I was going to leave it up to her to decided if I scratch my last event and we head home. She didn't want to make that call, but the second I saw her when I got back to the hotel room, I knew we had to head home. So I missed out on the 200 individual medley. I wanted to swim it, but I'm not upset about missing it because I know I'll be able to do it faster at a future meet anyway. It turned out to be a good call. We made the 3.5 hour drive home and unloaded the car a good 30 minutes before my heat would have gone.

That's it for now. I'll draft another blog soon recapping the meet as a whole, and let you know how the fundraising turned out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

One Day to go!

Yesterday was my second day of competition in the 2012 USMS Summer Nationals. It was long, exhausting, and unbelievably fun.

First, if you haven't been here before, I'm a father of a child with Autism and I'm competing in the 2012 US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals, and raising money for the Ozark Center For Autism. Go here for my intro blog. If you have not done so yet, please click on My Donation Page on the right to help rebuild the Autism Center that was completely destroyed by the Joplin tornado last year.

One thing that worked out well yesterday, although it was a very long day, because of how the event order worked out, I didn't even bother heading to the pool until after noon. It was nice to have a leisurely breakfast with the family, then I just lounged around the hotel room with the boys while Stacy went to get a pedicure. Stacy has been so supportive of me through my training, and especially during this meet, she deserved a little break!

I headed to the pool for a nice long stretch and warm up. Up first was my most dreaded event, the 200 meter breaststroke. The event, by my standards, is very long. And the pain that results from racing breaststroke can be extremely intense. I prepared well, and went behind the blocks to relax a little in between cheering for my team mates that were in the heats ahead of me. And I noticed something weird, there appeared to be a man with a video camera stalking me. I tried to ignore it and focus on my race. I think I executed the race really well. The plan was for the first 100 meters to go long and strong strokes, and make the pull outs as long as possible, then build the 3rd 50, and fight like hell the last 50 meters. That's just what I did. The only change I might have made was to maybe push the first 100 a little harder, but as little as I get to race this event, expecting perfection is a bit unrealistic. So, I was pleased with the race. If you read my blog from yesterday, you can guess I'm not happy with the time or placement, but I have put that behind me.

So you ever watch a big time swim meet and wonder why they always interview the athletes right after their races when they are still really out of breath? I now know what that is like! As soon as I climbed out of the pool, and took a few seconds to get myself vertical again, I was ambushed by that man that was stalking me with a camera, and Laura Hamel of USMS. If you are thinking it must not be easy to give an interview right after a race, you are right! Just another reason to respect those talented athletes that work so hard, because those post race interviews are tough. I tease, but Laura was lovely, and very helpful. USMS had heard that I played a part in the construction of the building the meet was in, and wanted to know what it was like for me to compete in it. You can see the interview here. I'm on the Day 3 video. Watch the whole thing, its a great video! Look for me at about 4:45 into the video. My team mates are all over the video in their blue & yellow tie dies, and yellow and blue MOVY Masters swim caps!!

I was up in the next event, the 50 meter backstroke. This is an event I almost never do, and after racing it, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Of course my start was sloppy, my breakout was ridiculous. But once I was up, it was just sprinting backstroke, and it was pretty fun. The giant scoreboard hanging above the pool is a bit distracting though. I managed a somewhat respectable time, and just missed a 10th place medal by 0.12 seconds. How about that?

I had a bit of a break before having 2 relay races. First was the mixed freestyle relay and my team included two young ladies I had never met before. So that was fun to meet a couple of new people and race with them. My split time was a bit off from what I did the day before, but not too far. The second relay was interesting. It was the mens medley relay. The backstrokers and butterfliers go to the start end of the pool, and the breaststrokers and freestlyers go to the far end. So as the breaststroker, I went to the far end with our freestyler, my team mate from Lincoln Northeast High School. Wouldn't you know, in the lane next to us, swimming next to us was the Nebraska Masters team, which had swimming breaststroke non other than Rich Nolte, a great breaststroker from Lincoln Southeast. And their freestyler was J.B. Barr, also a swimmer from Lincoln Southeast. Now Nebraska Masters may have beaten our MOVY Masters team, but the Rockets combined to out split the Knights by more than a second! Ha!! Once a Rocket, always a Rocket!

Today is the last day of competition. First up is the mixed medley relay, where I'll have a married couple on my team, Troy and Kelly Reynolds. Right after that I'll have my 3rd consecutive 50 meter breaststroke. Then I'll have a wait before I close out the meet with the 200 meter I.M. It's going to be tough to stick around for that one since it will go into late afternoon, and we'll still have a drive back home after it. But I'm glad I signed up for it because MOVY Masters is in 2nd place in both Mens and Combined category. I'm seeded 5th in that event, so I'll be glad for every bit I can help score points. Although I'll be glad to have this meet behind me, I'm sad it is about to end.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

3 down, 7 to go!

My first of 3 days of competition is complete. I have 3 races behind me, and 7 to go. This meet has been an awesome experience, competing in an amazing facility, and meeting even more amazing people.

First, if you haven't been here before, I'm a father of a child with Autism and I'm competing in the 2012 US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals, and raising money for the Ozark Center For Autism. Go here for my intro blog. If you have not done so yet, please click on My Donation Page on the right to help rebuild the Autism Center that was completely destroyed by the Joplin tornado last year.

I started my competition weekend off with the 50 meter freestyle. It's an event I don't do very often, so my expectations for this race were pretty limited. If ever you enter a swim meet and have an opportunity to get in a 'warm-up event', you should take it. That was the thought here. It was just an opportunity to see what it was like to compete in the Olympic Trials pool. I didn't know what to make of the time I swam, I really didn't have much of a reference point. The water felt good, stroke felt okay, but I got pretty tired, and for a 50 freestyle, that is a problem. I suspected the illness I had last week may have an effect on this meet, and it was starting to look like my suspicions were true. But I still had hope, because I knew I really wouldn't know until after my next event.

My second event was the 100 meter breaststroke. This is my 2nd best event for the meet, and my expectations were high. I was confident I could get down below 1:08, which would mean I would reach my goal of getting back on the FINA All Time Top 10 list. The race felt good, I feel like I executed it as well as I could. I went out with a fairly quick, but long and controlled stoke on the first 50. The second 50 I built in to a stronger, and quicker stroke, focusing on the legs. It hurt more than usual, which is okay. But the time, 1:11, and 4th place. I was hoping for 1:07 and 2nd place. So, I was really disappointed. I had trained really hard for this meet, and I knew any chance of having any good swim was looking pretty slim. So, I have to put my expectations away, and focus on just having fun at the meet. At least I know there is a reason I'm not up to par. Based on my last taper where I went 1:06.5 in the 100 meter breast in a 25 meter pool, which is equivalent to a low 1:08 in a 50 meter pool. So I know I can do it, it just won't be at this meet. One thing that was exciting, the guy I swam next to set a world record! His name is Steve West, and last week he became the oldest man ever to compete in U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming. It was exciting to swim next to him, even if he did beat me by more than 7 seconds!

My last event for the day was all about fun. The 200 meter freestyle relay. What I was really excited about was being reunited with a highschool team mate, Joe Woodschank. We last swam together at the Nebraska Highschool State Meet in the medley relay where we broke the school record. It was fun, and I proudly wore a Lincoln Northeast swim cap along with Joe in the relay!

The rest of the meet is all about doing my best and having fun, meeting new people, and enjoying the company. I'll have to forget about my expectations, or I could let myself ruin the whole weekend.

My second is the toughest day, starting with my toughest event, the 200 meter breaststroke. It will be long and painful. Then I have a fun event, 50 meter backstroke, something I almost never do. And then I close the day with two relays. Should be fun!!

Thanks for following along, I look forward to reporting what happens on Day 2!