[Introduction] I am sure that you guys feel the same that I do, if you have been around American swimming for a number of years. I know, as a former athlete, (not a very good one, but a former athlete anyway) and a coach, that we take great pride in being successful in distance swimming. I know when there are periods when we tend to struggle a little bit – we don’t have high performance world wide – we almost feel like something is missing. After listening to people like Gregg Troy, Bob Bowman and people who do such great work with athletes – really challenging them and feeling like there is a certain pride element that has been lost in American distance swimming – it is wonderful to have great distance swimming coming up again. We have a coach here who has just done a tremendous job with developing an athlete and, boy she is quite a special athlete. She has broken the records of the great Janet Evans, she continues to get better and better and she challenges people on the world level in distance swimming. I know we all feel great about that. We take great pride in it and it is my pleasure to welcome Coach Ray Benecki to speak to you this morning.
[Coach Benecki] Thank you very much. I was really looking forward to yesterday’s talk because that was a year that went really well. When talking about this year, I knew I was going to talk about what we learned. I was hoping it would have a different flavor to it, but we are going to talk about this year as opposed to last year and what we learned from this year. If you have questions at any time, feel free to interrupt and we will answer them as they come up.
I think the overall year, especially toward the end, was marked by fatigue. Fatigue caused a lot of reactions. We spent a lot of the year reacting rather than acting, so the fatigue caused a lot of reactions to what we were doing. In turn, the reactions didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped and they might have caused a little bit more fatigue. I broke this talk into four categories: (1) schedule changes forced by reactions, (2) schedule changes forced by fatigue, (2) practice changes and training changes and (3) decision making. I think that we felt a little overwhelmed by all four of these factors and we never really did get on track.
The fatigue was marked. It was pretty obvious by comparing how Kate recovered from different trips and different stresses this year as compared to the past. In 2007, it took Kate about three or four days to adjust to traveling to Australia. She was hitting some pretty good practices at training camp in Australia. In 2008, when Kate went to Australia in January as the national team athlete accompanying the National Junior Team, it took her three to four days to adjust and then she was having really good practices. When we went to Singapore, if she adjusted after eight days she was lucky. I am not sure she did really recover, even after eight days. With the jet lag and the travel, she never really did recover. I attribute that to fatigue and possibly stress.
Also, this was marked by the high altitude. When I talked yesterday, I said that it seemed like three to five days after she got to Colorado Springs, she was doing some lifetime best swims at practice and swimming some incredibly tough practices with fast swimming. She was also recovering from the practices really well. I don’t have that up as a slide, but the time it took her to recover from the hard practice wasn’t that much. This year, when we went to altitude, it took her eight plus days to recover. We even had her go down to the clinic in Colorado Springs to have her tested and have her asthma medication changed. However, that really wasn’t it. It was just the fatigue. She was training at the same altitude, the same place, the same time of the year (we went in the middle of May), the same everything. The only thing that was different is that it was one year later. I think that as the whole year evolved, the fatigue became cumulative and it got harder and harder for her to recover. In Colorado Springs, it took her eight plus days to recover. After that, if she had a really good practice she wasn’t consistent in following that up with other good practices.
For the meets, we started out the year trying to put an effort into having a little bit more fun at meets. We traveled a little bit more and gained a little more international experience. We decided at the beginning of the year that we were going to add a little more flavor to the meets. In the beginning of October, after about a month of training, I wanted a meet for her to travel to and be tested. So, we decided to go to a short course meters meet in Germany. It was pretty good because it got her focused for about a month and she went to Germany and she swam fairly well. We usually do a meet in November. Last year we did the Minnesota Grand Prix and Kate always does the Gold Invitational in Potomac Valley.
We added the National Junior Team Meet in Australia for several reasons. One, I thought it would be good for Kate to get a little more experience internationally. Two, I thought it would be a great chance to get away instead of being stuck in the routine of swimming doubles between Christmas and the middle of January when George Mason starts up again. Three, I thought she might relish the opportunity to be a role model for the National Junior team and we combined that with the training camp in Hawaii which we were really looking forward to. We normally would not have done such a long travel meet, but we decided to add it onto the schedule for the reasons I outlined.
We normally wouldn’t have done the Missouri Grand Prix Meet. We did not do that meet two years ago. We put that on the calendar this time because that was where the new LZR would be used and Kate would try to swim with the new LZR. We figured that the experience of racing with it for the first time would be good because, if you also remember from my talk yesterday, Kate does not embrace new suits very well. She has to be convinced. She has to wear it a couple of times and she gradually gets into it, so we figured the benefits of using the LZR would far out-weigh the travel and the fatigue caused by that meet. As it turned out her LZR wasn’t there so she raced the meet in her FS2. We did Sectionals at the University of Maryland as we always do, so that wasn’t an addition to the schedule.
By this time in the season we wouldn’t have usually done a meet in April. We added the Ohio State Grand Prix meet in April because Kate was struggling and we thought it would be a good idea if she went to a meet and did a little bit better. We wanted to start seeing things turn around and start making a little progress. We were not expecting best times, but we were expecting her to swim better than in Missouri. However, she performed the same as she had in Missouri. The meet would have been valuable even if she had a little more speed in just one or two events but it was exactly the same. So, this is an example of a reaction-forced decision to the meet schedule where we added a meet which we normally wouldn’t have done in the past and it just created more fatigue.
We have been doing The Santa Clara International Meet pretty much every year and after that we went to altitude. We will discuss the altitude decision – how we threw that into the schedule and how it wasn’t the most optimal time to do that. We figured that the benefit of going to the Omaha Grand Prix three weeks before Olympic Trials would be advantageous for us to get the experience of swimming in that pool; to get rid of some of the tension, the stress and the pressure; and get a little familiarity with that. Normally we would not have done a meet at that point in time. The other reason we threw that meet in was that we wanted to see how Kate was going to swim after altitude, just like we did at Mission Viejo. We thought she might show a little bit more speed in that meet.
Then, she did an appearance for a 50 freestyle in a meet that we host and then she went to the Olympic Games. (Question from the audience) “How many, if any of those, was she rested for?” (Response) She was rested the way we normally rest for the October meet in Germany. Basically, we got there a couple of days early. She had only one easier practice the day before we left. She had an easy practice when we arrived. She had a pretty easy practice the next day and the meet started the next day. So, she did pretty much what we normally do for that meet. She was not rested for The Minnesota Grand prix. She was fully tapered for the Gold Invitational in Potomac Valley and she swam really well at that meet. She was not really rested for Australia. We did a very similar scaled down version of what we did at World Championships in Australia, but it wasn’t quite there. She was rested at the Sectional Meet and the Olympic Games.
One of the things that I discovered working with Kate was that she responds to going to different places to train and challenging herself against other swimmers. She knows a lot of the swimmers at the University of Indiana because two of them had been at the altitude camp two years ago and most of them were going to be at altitude camp this year. So, she is very familiar with their team and she likes to train with them. I thought it would be a really good break in the beginning of November to send her to Indiana to train and maybe give a little more creativity or a little more spark to her season. Normally we wouldn’t do that, but I threw that in this year. We always talked about a training trip and we had never done one until this year. We did a training camp in Hawaii from January 10th -19th. That was new. I don’t consider that a poor choice or a bad decision. We did an altitude camp in Colorado Springs from May 18th -June 3rd. It was a little bit shorter than what we did two years ago and that decision we will talk about in a little bit. We went to the Palo Alto camp for almost three weeks and she was swimming some really amazing practices there. I don’t know if it was the excitement of getting out of Olympic Trials, being with the team and getting ready for Beijing or what. However, I also noticed that, as the camp went on, it was taking her longer and longer to recover from some of her hard practices. Then, from Palo Alto we went to Singapore and she was there about ten days. Since she did not adjust to the travel and the jet lag, every day was a challenge.
Kate made appearances at clinics for either Mutual of Omaha or Speedo. The first one was a one-day clinic in Baltimore where she drove up and did the clinic after a practice so it didn’t really affect her practice schedule. However, it did involve travel and a performance at a clinic. The clinic in Newark, New Jersey was a disruption to our practice schedule. She missed a practice. She went up on a Saturday evening, stayed the night, swam in the morning on Sunday (not her normal practice time), did the clinic and came back. One of the things that I have also discovered with Kate is that there are two sides of the coin about travel. Some people think it is really great to just get the red eye, get out of there, get back home as soon as possible, and recover at home. Other people consider it wise to wait a little big longer, spread out the travel time, not be too stressed so that when you come back the adjustment isn’t that much. I found that getting the red eye and coming back home and trying to compress her amount of time away from home just does not work for Kate. It is too tough on her. It takes her too long to recover and she is totally exhausted. This was the case, even though it was just up the road a little bit from us in Newark. She was tired when she came back. It took her a couple of days to adjust.
The month of February was a very busy month. She made an appearance at The Mutual of Omaha kick-off in Nebraska. That involved two days of travel that really piled on in the month of February. I put the ASCA Southern States’ Clinic onto the schedule because it was a chance to go down to Florida and train. Peter Banks invited us down any time we wanted to go down there. We went down there two days before the clinic. We had a chance to go to the beach and just have some very relaxed practices. That was almost like a mini training camp appearance for her.
At the beginning of the year, Kate got an invitation to go to the Vatican for a Christian Athlete’s Symposium. She thought that it would be a great idea, so we threw that into the schedule for her. When she came back we had already been into training for a couple of weeks and her trip was a big disruption to her training. Since we knew she was going at that point in the season, we started training a week or a week and a half earlier than we normally would have. So, because of her trip to the Vatican, we pushed our season up earlier and she might not have had enough rest or enough recovery after the Senior Nationals last summer at Indianapolis. So, that is a case where we probably reacted poorly.
We attended that Golden Goggles and NBC media meeting out in California from November 13th -19th. We always try to go out a day early. The Golden Goggles is on Saturday and usually people fly out on Friday and go back on Sunday. Well, there was an NBC media meeting on Friday so Kate normally would have gone out on Thursday, but we went out on a Wednesday because we like to not be too stressed when we travel. She got some good practices out in Los Angeles at UCLA and that wasn’t too stressful for her.
Kate was offered a Vogue photo shoot in Los Angeles. Now, this was one that Kate chose to do, and how can a coach tell a 19 year old female that she can’t do a photo shoot for Vogue magazine? This came onto our schedule in November and we originally had wanted this to be a four or five day trip where she went out a day early, which she did, then they have the photo shoot the next day and half of the following day. Then, spends that night and the next morning there and travels home in the afternoon. Well, not only did the photo shoot only take one day instead of a day and a half, but they insisted on putting her on a red eye coming back. So, the five day plan that we had became three days and she came back in terrible shape. She was sick with flu-like symptoms, but she did not have a flu. She just had an upper respiratory and it really took her a long time to recover. This was not good going into February because February was a very busy month for us.
She then had a photo shoot for the suit launch in New York, which sounded like it was not going to be a problem. We could hop on the train or take a plane to go up there so she had a regular morning practice. She went up that afternoon. She even had an evening practice up in New York City at Asphalt Green. The suit launch was the next day and she was going to catch a plane back at around 4:00 to 4:30 p.m., so that wasn’t going to be any problem. It is only a one-hour flight from New York City to Washington D.C. Well, an ice storm hit and the airport was closed. Rather than be stuck in New York City for maybe another day or two days, because we didn’t know when she would be able to come back, we decide “Let’s hop the train and come down”. She didn’t get back until 1:00 in the morning. Needless to say, that did not go too well. It took her awhile to recover from that one, too.
At the end of February, she had the Speedo photo shoot in Los Angeles. Now, this is a summary of all of her commitments: her appearances, her schedule, and her other commitments. As you can see, the blue arrows are her meet commitments. Normally, there might have been two or three fewer blue arrows. Except, this year we thought we should throw these in because of the way that she was training and the way her meets were going along. We wanted to turn the corner and we wanted to show some progress. The red are the training camps and there were a couple thrown in there that we normally wouldn’t have done. Once again, we wanted to make things a little more interesting this year and not get into a stale mode of training or just a dead time.
Also, what didn’t show up in there was that, towards the end of October, I thought it would be beneficial for Kate to go out to Colorado Springs. We went for three and a half days and trained a little bit out there. We also talked to some of the staff at USA Swimming and got some first-hand and second-hand experiences of Olympic Trials and the Olympics. So, I threw that in there too. That, looking back on it, probably wasn’t a good choice. The green were her clinics. The yellow were the other choices, like Vogue Magazine, the Vatican, things like that. So, as you can see, the schedule really got out of hand.
She was taking six credits last fall and this is another choice, too. She is taking six credits last fall and she took one credit just so that she could claim her status as progressing towards a degree in order to be able to live on campus. She took one credit in the spring. Kate is also an individual who thrives on routine, so she does really well when she has a regular class schedule, regular training schedule and not a lot of disruptions or distractions. When we started out the year, probably half of these commitments were on her schedule. After we had laid out half of these commitments, the Vogue photo shoot popped in November. I was driving her back from a physical therapy session and the phone rings and she tells me, “Guess what? I am going out to Los Angeles for the Vogue photo shoot.” The training trip to Indiana was thrown in toward the end of October. The Ohio State Grand Prix was thrown in during February to try to turn the corner and to try to turn things around. So, a lot of these things happened and we had control over them, but we felt like they were necessary to do.
These are the practice schedule changes that we had. We are going to show how they were different from the year that she had two years ago leading up to Mission Viejo. This year, after December, Kate decided that it was too hard to continue on the dry-land program that she was doing where she was doing elliptical and some core work maybe two or three days a week on her own. She would be using a vibrating machine a couple of days on her own and she would be doing a little bit here and a little bit there when Mason was running or when Mason was doing their dry-land. She would be doing some of it and she also used to be doing some medicine ball routines in her room. Well, she felt it would be easier if she just cleaned all that up and got a personal trainer. It sounded like a good idea because she would get a lot stronger and she would have it taken care of for her and there would not be anything left to chance. When she decided she was going to use a personal trainer that affected our practice schedule considerably because she chose to go to the personal trainer twice a week. The best days that we could work out were Monday and Friday. So Monday, we went about 5500 yards in the morning and I was under a lot of pressure to try and squeeze out 6,000 or 5,600 sometimes to try to get her volume up. Tuesday was normal from what we had been doing. Wednesday was normal from what we had been doing. Thursday was the same as the previous year. Friday, once again, we lost the evening practice because of the personal trainer. Then, Saturday and Sunday were the same so the maximum that we could possibly go was 73,000 to 78,000 without much flexibility in our schedule. In addition to that, there were a lot of practices where Kate would come back from her personal trainer and she would struggle for a day or two because it was really brutal. It was pretty tough, so that also affected her practices.
Now, the middle column is what we did two years ago which I talked about yesterday. The maximum that we could possibly do was 85,000 to 90,000. If we were shooting for 82,000, we had some flexibility in giving her a practice off. This year, if we did everything, we would get 73,000-78,000. So, her volume dropped this year. We couldn’t give her off as many practices as she was used to getting in previous years. There were no spikes. Remember yesterday morning I said we tried for a week of 82,000 and then we would go down to 75,000 the following week to help her recover a little bit and the we would spend a week at maybe 67,000 or 65,000. We had flexibility in giving her off maybe a Monday, Wednesday or Friday; or two of those mornings; or three of those mornings in the easy week. Well, we couldn’t do that this year, so she pretty much did 75,000 when she could. Without her commitments and her schedule constraints, she pretty much trained 75,000 yards, too. So, on the average, if you look at that schedule, she probably missed one to one and a half practices a week due to travel commitments. The reality was that if we got to 70,000, we were lucky. So, the way she trained was different and it was because of the other choices we made, including picking up the dry-land. I don’t know what the balance is between two sessions of dry-land and two sessions out of the water, but I don’t think it worked for Kate.
Now, our training and the way we trained changed, too. Kate wanted to make the team in the 800 Free Relay. The way she had been improving in her 200 Free (I think she went into the fall season ranked like #5 or
#6 in the 200 Free), she had a real legitimate shot at making the relay. We had gradually been changing her training a little bit anyway to focus more on speed and sprinting in the afternoons. However, we went further even again this previous year and we focused a little bit more on speed. The way we focused on the speed was probably putting more pressure on her, because instead of just trying to swim fast and use those practices to swim fast, all of a sudden we were recording times and trying to do personal bests in the 25 free off the blocks in practice and trying to do personal bests for the 50 free practice-wise off the blocks. So, we put more focus and a lot more emphasis on swimming really fast. We did a lot more sprints and we also gave her a lot more rest. I would say that we probably modified another 1 to 1 ½ practices per week from what we had been doing to try and focus on this. That might have gone over the edge. That might have been a little bit too much of a change and we got away from some of the other things we had been doing.
Now, we realized the 200 wasn’t happening as the season was progressing and we went to the Grand Prix Meet in Omaha in the middle of June, after altitude. Remember, after altitude, Kate would always come back down and do her best times in just about every event, especially the sprints. This year she didn’t and that wasn’t a surprise to me. She really failed to recover from the altitude and she was struggling to train up at Colorado Springs. We had only been there for a little over two weeks, so I decided at that time (I didn’t tell Kate) that maybe the 200 was not going to happen. I still felt this urge or this need that she needed more speed. Whether she was going to make the 200 Free or not. I felt sure that she was going to need the 200 speed for her 400 and her 800. As it turns out, 4:03 won the 400 Free in the Olympics. It didn’t take a 3:59. Kate and I were convinced that it was going to take a 3:59, so that extra pressure of having to go 3:59 became overwhelming. That led to why we believed we needed a lot more speed in the 200 Free. If she went her best time and went 1:58 she would have to come back in 2:01 to go 3:59. Meanwhile if she had gone out 2:00 and come back in 2:03 that would have been fine.
I also decided that I was going to change the taper from a five day taper for her, which has worked in the past, to a ten day taper. I convinced myself that it was a good choice. I thought, “You can’t rest too much and she is older.” So, that is a choice I made. When we changed the length of the taper to ten days instead of five, I also kept the training the same, even though Kate did not make the 200 Free for the relay. She didn’t even make semi-finals at Olympic Trials. So, the need for training for the 200 Free was probably a bad choice. These are decisions that affected the outcome.
The biggest decision was the time of the high altitude training camp. We knew from 2007 that 3 1/2 to 3 weeks was perfect, maybe even 4 weeks. It was a lot better than the previous year when it was a little over 2 weeks. We knew the timing of it was that she swam really well the first meet when she came down from altitude. We couldn’t do it. Option A would have been to have the altitude for a period of 3 to 4 weeks before the Olympics. That was not an option. Even though it worked in Mission Viejo and that is a really fast meet. It wouldn’t have worked for the Olympics because of the need to have the National Team training together at camp. So, Option A wasn’t even viable. Option B was three to four weeks immediately prior to trials with maybe 5 days back down from altitude before going to Olympic Trials. Also very similar to what we did in Mission. That probably would have led to very good trials. Option C was mid-May to early June.
We will discuss Option B and Option C. So, Option C was mid-May to early June so that she could go to the Invitational in Omaha before she came back home for a few weeks before trials. So I already discussed that Option A wasn’t possible. Option B: if we had gone to altitude for 3 1/2 weeks before trials and then came down from altitude for four or five days before trials started, then she would have been away from home for three plus months. The way it was, with the timing of Trials and the Olympics, it was almost two months. That is a really long time to be away from home, especially for some swimmers who thrive on the home environment. So, Option B really wasn’t a choice because I didn’t want to tell Kate, “Look, we are going to be gone for 3 months starting in May.” With Option C we still have to be gone for 3 ½ or 4 weeks. However, I felt that there was the need to swim in the Omaha Invitational to get some good times so that she would get a little more confidence back. I was thinking that she was going to have really great Trials, and because of that, our end date was June 3. We also wanted to do something fun before we went off to Trials, so we went out to Santa Clara a couple of days early and went to the beach and played around. It was a very relaxing meet. So, because of that, our start date for the camp was May 18. That is how we came to the conclusion to go with Option C.
That wasn’t what happened the previous year. The previous year we were able to dictate the schedule. This year the schedule was dictated to us. As you can see, a lot of what we did was based on reaction and we strayed away from things that we normally would have done. You also hear that the Olympic year is different and things go differently. There are more appearances, there are fewer appearances. You try to put everything into November and December so that January on through is clear and the slate is clean. We did not have a lot of those choices. Are there any questions?
Q: When did you first know that you had a problem and how did you know you had a big problem?
A: I knew that we had a problem as early as August of 2007 because Kate had a really good World Championship Meet and there were a lot of swimmers at that big meet. Then they took two, three, four weeks off and they had no desire to go to Senior Nationals in July or August. Instead, they chose a different venue, like the Paris Open or the Japan Grand Prix, or they didn’t even swim at all in July or August. They took their time off. Well, Kate didn’t have much time off during that time. Then, she exceeded that by swimming really well at Mission. So, that was her second big excitement, her second big swim of the year.
Now, the other thing that happened after the 1500 was that all of the expectations and all of the pressure increased because she had finally broken one of Janet Evans’ records. Now, the 800 was supposed to be next. So, the expectation was there to get the 800 and she really didn’t want to go to Senior Nationals, but I kind of said, “We usually go through to this point of the season.” “You will be swimming at the end of July or you will be swimming in August next year at this time.” So, I knew we had a little problem then. I thought the problem was resolved, judging by the way she swam in December at the Tom Dolan meet, but Katie Hoff swam even better in Annapolis. So, that just hammered us again on the need to get faster in the 200 Free so that she could get competitive in the 400 and the 800.
When February started unrolling and she went into February struggling and exhausted, I knew February was going to be a really tough month, and it was because the Vogue Photo Shoot in L.A. was at the end of January and then the Speedo launch up in New York City. The Speedo suit launch was two weeks after she came back from L.A. from the Vogue Photo Shoot, but then the end of that week was the Missouri Grand Prix, which we really didn’t want to do, but we felt we had to because of the LZR. I would have cancelled that meet in a heartbeat. Then she came back, and a couple of days later was the Mutual of Omaha Grand Prix or Mutual of Omaha Kick-Off where she had to go out for an appearance with all of the Mutual of Omaha athletes. Three days after that was the Speedo photo shoot in L.A. So, I knew February was going to be a rough month and she didn’t enter it very well. She never recovered from that. That was the real problem.
I wish she was a relief pitcher and had that mentality, but no. It is very hard. I have to give her time away and time off to get her thoughts together and clear her thoughts. Kate did say that she learned more from this year than all the other years when she was successful, so now we just have to put it into practicality and learn from it.
Q: What was that speech between the two of you?
A: Well, I tried. What did I do when I knew there were troubles? I tried a whole variety of things. I tried things that with Kate had worked in the past, but they didn’t this time because she is too smart and she knows that it is really not real. Katie Hoff did get faster than her. It was obvious in Missouri that she wasn’t going to be a favorite in the 400. I said, “Well Kate, you are the underdog again” because she thrives on that. She thrives on where she was at in 2004, on just going to Olympic Trials, shooting for best times, seeing how many spots she can rise up and surprising herself. So I told her, look, it is no different, you are the underdog. You are not the fastest. You still have to improve to get to that point. Well, she did not embrace that because she still knew that she was the World Record Holder in the 1500 and that it was expected that she would win the 800 and medal in the 400. Plus, she wanted to make the 800 Free Relay. So, she wasn’t able to step back and go back to her roots, so to speak, and be the underdog. We talked about the fact that you are only swimming for yourself, so do not feel any pressure from anybody else. That still didn’t help because Kate wants to do really well and she expects great things out of herself. So, she was putting a lot of pressure on herself too.
We tried a variety of things. We tried meets where she didn’t swim her best events. We tried meets where the purpose was just to negative split it or to go out really hard, even if she did die, and none of that seemed to work. It seems like the expectations skewed everything and even some of the travel meets we went to that had been fun in the past. Just going somewhere, racing and swimming her off events wasn’t that much fun because of all the previous travel that we had been doing. Meets became just another commitment away from home, so she couldn’t enjoy the travel.
The thing is Kate would have some really good practices. What I do is I record certain practices from year to year. About twice a week she would get in the water and she would beat what she had done the previous year. It took her a little longer to recover from that, but she was still swimming better than she had the previous year. For instance, we did one set in Palo Alto and I thought okay, this is going to be okay, she is going to be great. She has finally gotten this fast. Maybe making the Olympic team is all that it took. Then when I saw Singapore, everything was back to square one again. One of the sets that we did (I borrowed this from Texas) was short course yards. It was three 100’s on 1:05 recording her times, then 50 easy on :45. Two 100’s a 1:00, then 50 easy on :45. One 100 on :55, the 50 easy on :45. We were supposed to go two rounds of that, but because I knew it would stress her and it would be too tiring, I said, “If you do really well and you go or if you break 55 on your last one, we will only go one round.” So, she went 58’s on the three 100’s on the 1:05, 56’s on the two on the minute and she went a 51+ on the last 100. Great, that is fantastic. So, then we did some kicking, pulling, recovery and drill work.
Then, we hit the set one more time because originally the practice was two rounds in the beginning and one round at the end. So, this time I made a deal with her. I said, “Look, we will take every second that you are faster, each round will be a hundred off your next practice.” So, for the three 100’s on 1:05, every second faster would be 100 off practice. On the second round of the two on 1:00, every second faster would be a 200 off and on the third round every second faster would be a three hundred off for every second faster. So, on the first round of three 100’s on 1:05, she went 56’s, so that is 600 yards off in all. On the two 100’s on 1:00 she went 54’s, so that is 800 more yards off. On the last round she went 51 low, so she was swimming great, fantastic. However, it took her forever to recover from that. It took her like a day and a half – two days to recover from that practice. So, she was still fatigued at that point.
I probably need to go less of that sprinting and less of that focus on the 200 speed or that pure speed and go more of the middle distance and longer distance stuff that she had been doing before this year. That is an example of a practice that I threw in this year because I thought she needed it. This was the first time that she ever did it. I heard about it from Texas and I said, wow, great practice for sprinters. It should help Kate. That is an example of something we threw in that we probably shouldn’t have.
Q: Looking back, you should have changed the commitment schedules and so on, but were this to be done again, could you just change this or were your hands just totally tied?
A: I wouldn’t have sent her to Colorado Springs at the end of October. I wouldn’t have sent her to Australia for the National Junior Team. I would have just gone to Hawaii maybe a little bit longer. We wouldn’t have done the Missouri Grand Prix because February was already too crowded. I didn’t feel that there was anything I could take away on that month. You know, when February first started the only thing on the schedule was, nothing. Then as the season progressed, she was always going to come out to Missouri. As the season went along, Speedo announced that there are two launches in February before the Grand Prix meet with Missouri. As the season went on we also found out that the Speedo photo shoot was at the end of February and as the season went on we kind of knew that somewhere in February was going to be the Mutual of Omaha kick-off. That got scratched, so February didn’t look that bad. Then by the end of January, it looked really bad. I would have eliminated at least two of those things. I would have eliminated the Missouri Grand Prix and I guess that is the only thing I could have eliminated in February, definitely not Ohio State. I probably would have bagged the Santa Clara meet and gone to altitude a week earlier. Maybe I would even try to end the travel and commitments over the winter so that she could spend more time at home before Trials. Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough with Mark to try to convince him to let some athletes go to altitude instead of Singapore or Palo Alto. I don’t think I could have changed that either, but I could have tried. So, probably a third to half of the commitments we probably could have gotten rid of, though at the time, we thought they were necessary.
Traveling to these meets in the past didn’t seem to be that much of a chore or that much of a burden because she wasn’t traveling as much for other things. So, when we went up to New England for New England Senior Champs a couple of years ago, it was four or five days in February, but she didn’t have to fly out to the West Coast twice and to Omaha once. It was really different.
Also, at that time she was in a regular team. She was taking classes and there was a very small window for us to do other things. You know, she still says that those photo shoots were worth it, but going out to Colorado Springs at the end of October wasn’t. She is still satisfied about having gone out to Indiana to train with them, but I shouldn’t have tacked on the Minnesota Grand Prix after that. She was gone for ten days, training and then the meet. She had a fairly good meet because that was November and she wasn’t exhausted and fatigued yet, so she just dug deep, gutted it out, and swam fairly well. However, she couldn’t go to that reservoir over and over and over again.
She swam a 1500 short course meters in Germany and had positive results from that with a World Record in short course meters. She swam the 1650 at the Gold Invitational Meet in December. She didn’t swim the 1500 in Australia for the National Junior Team. She did not swim it in any of the Grand Prix meets. She didn’t swim it in Santa Clara because they didn’t have it on the schedule that year. I think she did swim it in the Sectional Meet in April. I don’t think she even swam it in Omaha for the Invitational, so she swam it three or four times and that was about it. She didn’t even swim the 1500 at Nationals in August last year.
Q. It is different now. Your schedule is crazy. How did you manage your team?
A: Very tough. This year I was away probably more from the team than I was with the team, although I didn’t go to all of those places with her. When she went out to L.A. for the photo shoot and the Vogue photo shoot, I wasn’t there. When she went to Indiana to train, I wasn’t there. When we went to Minnesota, most of the top group from the team went. When we went to Missouri, anybody who qualified went. When we went to Ohio State, most of the top group from the team went. Of course, they didn’t go with me recently when I was gone from the end of June until just two weeks ago. I probably went with her to about half of her commitments.
Now, it is very interesting, because my team manager, Monica, was talking about this too. On the way to the National Junior Team trip in Australia, we went out a day early and we stayed in L.A. to recover from the five hour flight. We relaxed a little bit before we got on the trans-Pacific flight that takes forever. I got off the plane and I got an e-mail that the coach who I put in charge of my top group was quitting. So, that also affected my top group. By the time I came back, which was in the middle of January, we already had a good candidate for replacement. He came on board in the middle of April, so the group was affected, big time. They also know that if they qualify, they go. Normally, we wouldn’t have gone to the Missouri Grand Prix, but because Kate went, a whole group from the team went. We wouldn’t have gone to Ohio State, but because Kate went, a whole group from the team went. They get along with these things. The Hawaii training trip was only Kate and Amanda Weir, but that opened the doors and it opened the doors for the whole group to go out maybe this winter. Yes, it does affect them.
A: Well, the way I run my team is that I have a full time job with Customs and then I coach full-time. I get my income from Customs and I don’t rely on my income from The Fish, so whatever is left over at the end of the year I get. This year I got very little because of all of the travel. The expenses this year were unbelievable. I was in Beijing and our team credit card had a $20,000.00 charge on it from clinics, Grand Prix meets, and all these things. So, it doesn’t hit me too much because I am not relying on the income.
A: I went in before Kate visited her and I laid down the guidelines. We cannot do much running because of her tendonitis. We can’t do much running because of her knees. We can’t do weights because of her shoulders and I don’t believe that Kate is going to benefit from weights. So, I kind of laid down the guidelines and I also pointed out some problem areas that I wanted her to address. Kate is a lot fitter and a lot leaner than she has ever been. She is also a lot stronger. I just think that the trade-off of being out of the water, having the volumes drop, and having the flexibility of 82,000 or 75,000 or 60,000 yard workouts was a trade-off which I don’t know was positive or negative. Then, Genadijus Sokolovas came out and visited our club. I sent him with Kate to observe and he came back and gave me a really good positive report. So, I try to stay as uninvolved as I can. I also need to know what is going on and so I thought it was going okay.
Q. You had the personal trainer at night and did not have a workout. Was there no time during the day?
A: There was time during the day. Kate would go and see the personal trainer at probably about 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. She could have made an afternoon practice and she could have gotten the volume up with the swimming. However, there is a balance there too. As Kate would say, “I am already working out twice today. Is it really fair to expect me to workout three times?” So, I had to balance that a little bit too and not be too demanding in that area. I said, “Well, you know you have off on Monday afternoon and Friday afternoon now and she said, “No I don’t, because I go and see my personal trainer. So, I don’t have a practice off at all.” Using that logic, she’s right.
Q. How are the sessions?
A: They last two hours and they are brutal. Some of them are really brutal. She adjusted to them, but it took awhile. The other thing is that she started this in the middle of January. She started kind of casually or informally in the middle of December. However, we were going to Australia and the holidays were coming around, so she couldn’t do too much. She didn’t get into a routine until the middle of January when we came back from Hawaii. It took her a good long while to recover from that and with the schedule in February as crazy as it was, it was very hard to get into a routine again. She is a person that thrives on routine.
Q: Prior to that, how much dry-land would she do typically?
A: Well, she would do the elliptical on her own. She would do core work, medicine ball work, extra stretching, some strength work on the vibrating machine, and some flexibility on the vibrating machine. She did a fair amount, but it wasn’t anywhere close to two hours twice a week. She was convinced that this is one of the things that was positive. She was convinced that the dry-land would turn things around and she would get faster because she was getting stronger and leaner. So, that was the one thing that changed this year and that she still believed was going to help her.
Q: Had she gotten stronger with her lactate testing done every few weeks and her lactate levels?
A: She was normal at the meets, even when she was fatigued and swimming slow times. Normal lactate for her was 7 or 8 and she was recovering fairly quickly. She had a terrible Missouri meet, but when we left on Monday morning, I had them all go in and do a practice. She had an unbelievably amazing practice. Something was happening when she was getting up on the blocks. She was defeated.
A: No, but when we went up to altitude and did lactate testing there, even though she wasn’t adjusting, it was not abnormal. What we did discover later at Olympic Trials and at the Olympics was that she could generate a lot higher lactate. Instead of 8 or 9, she actually registered 12 one time and she had never been anywhere close to that. Now, what does that mean? Does that mean that she had to work too extremely hard to get the minimal results that she got? Or did that mean that she was getting stronger and faster and able to generate higher lactate or did that mean that she was struggling? I don’t know.
A: I would go back to what we did the first three years of the four year cycle. I would do more normal things and balance that with some time away that she needs. Maybe I would ask her to specifically pick where she would like to go to train for a week. We had a trip to Texas planned for her to train because I thought it would be great to get away and swim with the Texas guys, but she was so fatigued and exhausted when April rolled around that we just cancelled that. We also cancelled an appearance for her. There was an appearance in Chicago that she was supposed to do for NBC, I think. We cancelled that.
We need to get back to what worked for the first three years. Now, it is a little bit different because she still has the appearances. She still has the photo shoots on the West coast. She still has the Golden Goggles. She has things that she didn’t have in 2004. However, she was able to handle these things in 2007 (her first year that she was doing it) because it was all new to her and we were not overwhelming her with all these other things. I guess maybe the second or third year that you go through it, it is not nearly as exciting because it is not the first time. Now you start thinking about all the travel that is involved and you see a lot more of the downside and the negatives that you didn’t see the first time. I have to be sure to point out to her and remind her that this is still exciting and that she is having fun doing this because she loves the Speedo photo shoots and she loves the Golden Goggles. However, when she comes back, she doesn’t have the same boost or the same benefit from having gone as she used to.
Q: Sports psychology – did you or did you not consider a sports psychologist?
A: Yes we did and we are. It started a little bit after Missouri