The Training of Lenny Krayzelburg by Mark Schubert (1999)


Published


Thanks a lot Pete for reminding me about that birthday. I really appreciate that. First of all, I want to thank Doug Cross for not coming to this clinic because usually I don’t look forward to giving clinic talks, and I do them because John Leonard asks me to do them and a lot of times he gives me some very challenging topics, not many of which I really relish. This time he was looking for volunteers and I volunteered because this is a topic that I really enjoy talking about. Right before the 100 backstroke at the Pan-Pacific Championships, I was sitting next to Brad Bridgewater and he leans over and he goes, “Coach, when was the last time you had a world record holder?” And I said, “Not since 1982.” So I am very excited to talk about this subject Lenny Krayzelburg.

 

I want to give you a little bit of a background on Lenny so you know basically what his age group background was. It was kind of unusual, and I think it had a lot to do with his success both physically and emotionally. First of all, I would like to give a lot of credit to his age group coach in Odessa because, obviously, he gave him a lot of great tools to work with from a technique standpoint. Secondly, I would like to give a lot of credit to his parents.

 

I think one of the things that I really am impressed with Lenny about, is his appreciation, his genuine deep appreciation, for all his parents have gone through, all the sacrifices that they have gone through to give him the opportunities that he has in the United States. His father, when he first moved to this country, kept him from quitting swimming. Basically, he told him that he could not quit, that he was too talented, that he had put too much of his life into it, and he didn’t let him give it up. When he first came to this country, he had to work thirty hours per week to help the family make ends meet. Basically, he couldn’t even swim once a day for many years, so he was kind of discouraged in that he wasn’t improving and it wasn’t as much fun as it used to be, but his dad intervened. After he broke the world record in the 100 backstroke, I told him when he called his dad that night to thank him for not letting him quit.

 

I think the other thing that his dad gives him is motivation, and this is going to sound a little unhealthy, but it’s not because his dad does this in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, so it’s not. It sounds like a bad age group parent, but it’s not. I’m going to give you some examples. Every time when Lenny broke his American record in the 200 backstroke, and he would either go to talk to his dad or if his dad was at the meet or talked to him on the phone, the first question the dad would always ask him was, “Well, why didn’t you break the world record?” So Lenny always jokes about the fact that he can’t ever please his dad.  When he broke the world record in the 100 back and went 53.8, the first question his dad asked him was “Why didn’t you go 52?” Then after he went 155 in the 200 back, Lenny admitted that his dad was almost satisfied. But Lenny made the mistake of telling him what I told him after the race because I was so excited, really, I was a lot more excited with the 150 split because I thought he was going to go right by 155 and go 154 and he told his dad that and his dad goes, “Well?”

 

So, you know, that kind of tells you a little bit about the mentality that Lenny is dealing with all of the time, and I think that he is going to take that mentality to a new level as we start to look for challenges. We’ve already started talking about trying to get the backstroke records ahead of the butterfly records and maybe challenge Tal Malchaw to see who can go 154 first, and I think that will be a good thing for United States swimming.

 

I also want to give a lot of credit to Lenny’s junior college coach Stew Blumpkin, Santa Monica JC, probably the most unselfish coach that I have ever met. I brought him to our program after his freshman year in college and he basically said to me, “This guy is way too good for my swimming pool.” It would be real easy for me to keep him in JC for another year, and he is great for my program and he is a state champion, but he is a lot better than this. I think that kind of unselfish attitude really deserves a lot of recognition, because I think that really helped Lenny to continue to improve and prosper and Stew has continued to be his best supporter. He was one of the first ones to call me over in Australia after he broke the world record.

 

His age group background, basically growing up in Russia, when he was seven years old his coach told him he was going to be a back-stroker and he spent most of his life training on his back. He developed his work ethic in the Russian age group program. He did double workouts, plus weights, plus running when he was ten years old. From the age of eight to thirteen he did six to seven thousand meters per practice. He went to a school that was next to a regional sports complex, which included a swimming pool, so he grew up and most of his classmates were swimmers, most of his friends were swimmers. Most of his training was done as an age group or long course and to this day he is a much better long course swimmer than he is a short course swimmer.

 

One time, I sat him down and kind of interviewed him a little bit to find out a little bit more about his early background, some of the things that he did when he was younger, and I asked him a pointed question. I don’t even know why this popped into my  know, Lenny, since you’ve been an age group swimmer in Russia and you’ve been an age group swimmer in the United States, what’s the main differences in your mind?” And his response was kind of interesting. He said that “All of the swimmers in Russia that he swam with have one goal and that is to win the age group nationals.” I said, “Well, did you ever win the age group nationals?” He goes no, but he got third three years in a row.

He said the second thing was that hard work was not only accepted, but they looked at it as that is where the fun came from. The fun was going to practice every day and racing your teammates as hard as you can. The hard work and competition at practice was what they looked forward to. He said what he saw when he came to the United States was most people started swimming in America for fun, for safety, for fitness, but if they felt like they weren’t having fun that they quit right away, they stopped.

 

When Lenny left Russia, he went through a four-month immigration period living in Austria and Italy. He didn’t swim at all. He was about fourteen years old at the time. He came to the United States and did single practices or less for five years. He swam at team Santa Monica for one year at the age of fourteen. He had a real difficult time relating to the short course system in the United States. He was going 221 for 200 yards backstroke when he went 248 for 200 meters backstroke when he left Russia. I guess at the end of fourteen his best time was 230 for 200 meters backstroke, so there is a lot of hope for those of us that aren’t national age group record holders. He swam for the Jewish community center for three years and basically worked out for an hour and a half four days a week. He did weights on his own, basically kind of imitating what he had learned in Russia. When he enrolled at Santa Monica JC, swimming became fun again because of the camaraderie and competition in practice. He trained against the freestylers. He had some good partners to train with, Jerry Rodriguez, one of the editors of Swimming World, would train with him at Santa Monica College and they became training partners and pushed each other. I give Jerry a lot of credit for really keeping Lenny in it, training wise and competitively. He kind of learned a little bit about pacing from his JC coach and that has always been something that he struggles with a little bit. And when I started coaching him it was something that I noticed, that he wasn’t aggressive at the beginning of his races. He always would finish very well, but was very timid about going out fast.

 

He started training with us at Trojan Swim Club in the summer of 1994. He wasn’t a citizen. We tried to get our Congressman to get his citizenship moved up so he could try out for the World Championship Team in 1994 to no avail. He did improve that summer from 212 to 203, and I would say that was primarily done on training and it was primarily done on competition and practice which he really thrives on. I had two two-minute backstrokers at the time, Jim Wells and Jason Stell, and they would beat him all the time, but he never got discouraged. I don’t think he ever beat them  that summer in practice, but he would literally race them until he couldn’t go anymore. His goal everyday was to stay with them at practice.

 

It was notable to me how much he enjoyed the dryland aspect of the program. He really thrived on that. In the fall of 1994, he went back to the JC program and had decided not to do the eligibility, but he still needed to get his JC degree to get admitted to SC. He had an automobile accident in January of 1995 and so didn’t go to the nationals at all that spring.

In the summer of 1995, that was his second summer with our program. At that time, Greg Burgess and Brad Bridgewater had joined our program, so the training level had taken another step up and Lenny took that step with them. He was rookie of the meet in Pasadena and went 202. I was surprised he didn’t go faster, but I think that was primarily because he really hadn’t had very much competition at that level, and I think that he was still very nervous competing at that level.

 

At the 1996 trials, he couldn’t train with our team until January when he became eligible, and I think that probably is the one single factor that kept him off the Olympic team. He did continue training with Jerry Rodriguez. He was shocked to say the least when he qualified second in the 200 backstroke at the Olympic trials. I didn’t expect it at all. Probably, I could have done a little bit of a better job helping him with that self-image, but sometimes these things you just kind of have to learn as you go along. It’s a process. He finished fifth in the finals, and I can’t really say that he was disappointed because I don’t think he really expected to be in the finals. I think he was kind of in shock that whole day. But his reaction was interesting.

 

We went onto the NCAA, he had a terrible NCAA, and he often reminds members of my team that at his NCAA in 1996 he finished last in the 200 backstroke. He was sick at the meet and just had a horrible meet. He came back and I had to force him to take three days off. He came back and he said, “Coach, I don’t want to take any time off.” He said, “My biggest advantage over everybody else is if I don’t take time off.” He said, “I took time off all those years when I couldn’t train twice a day.” He goes, “I’m not taking any more time off.” I said, “Are you talking about this year?” He goes, “No, for the rest of my career.”

 

Although, I moderated that stance a little bit but that was his attitude. He came back after those three days off, and he said he was going to help Brad win the Olympics and he felt that Brad was going to help him win the nationals. He went on to win both the 100 and 200 back at the Fort Lauderdale nationals in 1996, and I think one thing that will always stick in my mind, and I think one of the biggest learning experiences was when he went to Santa Clara in the summer of 1996 and raced against Jeff Rouse in the 100 back-stroke. We came back and we watched, I think it was on the Wide World of Sports or something, and we had the tape and we watched it and re-watched it and re-watched it. It was real easy for Lenny to identify the fact that his issues were tempo, particularly in the sprint events, starts and turns and the weakness of his underwater off turns. He literally fixed it, or at least as much as he could fix it, in six weeks from Santa Clara to the nationals and made striking improvements.

 

The 1996 -1997 season was really the first time that he swam on a full-fledged team doubles for an entire season. He had a spectacular NCAA season although he swam in the shadow of Neil Walker, and I think learned a lot that season from Neil Walker about what he needed to do to change his underwater backstroke. I think, again, that was an experience that really helped him to define what his issues were and what he needed to work on to improve.

 

At Nashville in 1997, he kind of came into his own and came to the forefront of American backstroke swimming and established himself as a world-class performer. He went on to win the Pan-Pac and have his first national team experience, which for him was extremely meaningful, and he said it was the most fun experience he has ever had in swimming, competing on the national team representing the United States for the first time.

 

In 1998, he went to the World Championships in Perth, and I think he handled the situation of racing against the world very well. I didn’t think that his times were great. I think that he made a lot of mistakes, but I think that he handled the pressure very well. He won two very close races, scared me to death, but won the races the last 10-15 meters. He had a bad experience leading off the US Medley Relay. That was the only race that he lost at the meet, and of course the United States lost that medley relay. I think that situation has stayed with Lenny and I think served him well in the Pan-Pac in the last event this year.

 

We came back to the NCAA season, and he was very out of sync. It was real obvious that he had really just focused on long course for a year. He didn’t have a very spectacular NCAA. He was second in the 200 backstroke and left disappointed but not discouraged. I think he understood with all the focus on the World Championships that it was tough emotionally coming back and doing as well as he had done at the NCAA the year before.

 

This season, basically we started off the season pretty well at the US World Cup meet in College Station, but then we came down to the last event at that meet, and he was going to try to do something special in the 50 meter back-stroke short-course and suffered a back injury. We had to withdraw him from the US Open. He came back over Christmas, kind of struggled through Christmas training, trying to do the rehab and do the things to take care of the back injury and finally we started getting a little bit better. He went to the World Cup meets in Beijing and Hong Kong, and I had to bring him home early because he was in so much pain with his back.

Basically, I had to force him to stay out of the water for three weeks. But probably the hardest thing, coaching wise, that I had ever had to do with him was convince him that he would be okay to take three weeks completely off, no weights, no dryland, no running. It drove him crazy. He would call me up every three days and he goes, “Are you sure about this? Are you sure I’m going to be okay?” I said, “Lenny, as hard as you work, this is why you work hard, because every athlete is going to go through a time in their career when they are going to get sick, they’re going to get hurt and your background will see you through.” I think that was a big learning experience to him for how much the background was serving him in the long run because these things will happen. Good athletes with long careers are going to face these types of situations.

 

He came back and trained hard when our team was involved with the NCAA season, he went up and trained at altitude with Jonty Skinner in March. We decided that we weren’t going to rest at all for the nationals in Long Island, but Eric Gudhanson called me and said, “You know, Lenny went 159 at the end of a set of 200 backstrokes in practice today, so I think he is going to be pretty good at nationals.” So I said, “Okay, we’ll rest him two days.” So two days before he got on the plane he went 5000 at practice the first day and 4000 the second day, and then we came to the meet and kind of treated him like everybody else.

 

He swam unshaved and broke the American record in the 200 backstroke and all the coaches were going “Why didn’t you rest him, he just broke the world record?” I said, “Well, you know, he was hurt, it wasn’t in the plan, plus I didn’t know he was going to go this fast.”

 

We came back, he went right back to work with no break. He had a great spring. One of the more impressive things that he did was he came to the zone distance training camp and was phenomenal. He swam in the animal lane with all the best distance swimmers that were there, did everything in most cases, did it backstroke with the distance swimmers.

 

Actually, he has a tremendous capacity for work, and I don’t usually have to cut him a break in practice at all, but by the time we got past Saturday, I had to give him all day Sunday off. I had to throw him out, just because he literally had worked himself into the ground. It is not often that I become concerned, but at that point I did become concerned. I had to apologize to the kids in the camp, but I said, “You know, it’s one of the things that a coach needs to recognize, when you get to that point, you need to know when to pull the plug. And I do know Lenny pretty well, and I do know that he will keep going if I ask him to keep going. There is only one way that he will stop and that is if I stop him.

 

Part of our plan was to have him go to Monaco and Kinay. Larry Leibowitz, my assistant coach, gets this fine duty because I get to stay at USC and run camp. He gets to take all of the world-class guys to Monaco and Kinay, tough  duty, but somebody has to do it. We kind of look at that as part of training. I think you have to have one good world class meet every month. I think that is important, and I think that a lot of people lose track of the fact that it is important to race well as part of your training. Even though that was in the middle of the hard training phase, Lenny went over there and made sure that he continued to do his workouts and so forth and he raced very well over there and did some fine times.

 

He came back and the Janet Evens meet was the highlight of the month of July. Quite frankly, I was disappointed that he didn’t break the world record in the 200 backstroke at that event. I expected him to do that. I told him before the meet started that I felt that he was ready to do his best time. He’s got some great quotes sometimes. I told him that and he looked at me and said, “Well, coach, that’s what it’s all about.” So I knew that he expected that also.

 

Basically, we started to taper for Pan-Pac the week before nationals. We went 6000 that week, kind of kept the mileage up but cut some of the intensity out, didn’t shave for nationals. We came real close to the world record in the 200 backstroke. But probably swam the best race I’ve ever seen him swim to date in the 100 backstroke at Minnesota from a tempo standpoint, from an errorless standpoint. That was very exciting to me because I think if you put the shaved effort that we saw at Pan-Pac with the errorless effort that I saw in the 100 back in Minnesota, I think he can swim a lot faster.

 

We came back after the nationals, and we went 5000 for two days at USC basically, aerobic type work just to kind of maintain the endurance component, and then when we went to Australia basically the taper went from 3500 to 3000. He is not very comfortable going under 3000 at practice. That is kind of the level that he feels that he can maintain his feel for the water. We have tried some tapers less than that he feels that he loses feel for the water. This is input coming from him.

 

The other thing that I want to mention that I think has had a big impact on Lenny, and I touched on it a little bit, is competition in practice. I think along that is his relationship with Brad Bridgewater. Needless to say, it has been a coaching challenge, having the Olympic champion and the World champion in the same pool racing against each other. I mean, it’s like a dream some days, but it’s something that has to be managed carefully. But I’ll tell you, these guys handle it extremely well. The way they support each other, the way they encourage each other. Some days Brad kills Lenny, some days Lenny kills Brad, but they both recognize that they help each other.

 

There are some days when I intentionally put one on the other side of the pool from the other, there are some days when I put one in the same lane going ten in front of the other, then there are some days that I put them in lanes next to each other and have them race each other. I don’t have them race each other next to each other every day, because I think that would be too hard for both of them. So it’s something that I kind of have to manage and use my intuitive feel for that.

 

Lenny really enjoys racing in practice, and if Brad is not there, he is going to find a freestyler to race against. In fact, you know, when Bella Zabados is there (he is usually) if it is a quality set, he is usually lining up against Bella Zabados to race him and this is the guy that went 134 at the NCAA in the 200 free. Lenny expects to train backstroke next to him, and he expects himself to keep up with him. So before Pan-Pacs I said, “Hey, you swim like freestyler in practice, let’s put up a time just like a freestyler.”  He goes, “I can do that.”

 

The other thing is, I think he gains his confidence by what he does in practice. Winning in practice and doing things that are spectacular in practice. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about that because he does some things that are sometimes beyond even my wildest dreams. He trusts his coaches one hundred percent, not just me, but all of the members of the coaching staff. He really has a lot of faith in us. I think that is a big responsibility on our part, but I think it really makes things a lot easier when you have an athlete that trusts you that way. I am going to start to go into some of the specifics in training.

 

Let me start this off with another great Lenny quote. One time, they were complaining, as swimmers will sometimes do, about how hard the set was that day at the end of practice. I think we had done a 6000 set or something like that, and Lenny looked over at the guy and kind of gave him a dirty look, and then he looked up at me and goes, “Coach, the way I look at is how much can you hurt me in two hours? And  I say if it’s ever hurting real bad I just remember after two hours it’s going to be over with.” I thought that was a pretty interesting way to look at it.

 

Another pretty good story about the way he approaches training is, this guy worked really hard to get into SC and almost didn’t. Then when he was at SC he worked really hard to be successful. I think one of the things that he struggled with was coming to this country and English not being his first language. He finally got to the point where he graduated from the business school with above a 3.0 and we were all really proud of him. It’s Graduation Day he was at practice that morning. We have 20,000 people on campus for Graduation Day on Friday morning, and he’s there at practice and graduation starts at eight a.m., and we practice from six to eight. So I figure, okay, well he’ll get out at seven or something like that. So now it’s seven-thirty and the guy is still training, so I go “Lenny, isn’t that your parents standing outside the gate waiting to go to graduation?” I said “Don’t you think you should get out and go to graduation?” He goes “Yeah coach, but I am feeling good—this set is going really well.” So with about twenty minutes to go, he gets out of the pool and goes in and puts his coat and tie and puts his cap and gown on a runs out the gate. His mother is shaking her head, and they run across the street and he gets his diploma. That kind of tells you about his attitude towards training and his understanding of how important the work is to his success.

 

We train two two-hour swimming practices a day, ten practices per week. The practices vary in length depending on what we are trying to accomplish that day, but usually between 7000 9000 meters. He basically trains with the distance swimmers and the 400 IM’s, particularly in the fall and the spring. He does like to get in the outside lane. I think both because of the fact that he likes to work with the distance swimmers, and also he likes to swim in the lane that is next to the building so that he can tell that he is going in a straight line. I think that is the other reason that he likes to get into that lane, but I think he likes to do the distance work as well.

 

Most of our practices in the summer are long-course. We swim eight of ten practices long course. The other two are twenty-five yards. I think that is important for speed and tempo. Olympic year and world championship year we train eight of the ten workouts long course during the collegiate season, and the normal collegiate season we will train long course in the morning and short course in the afternoon through Christmas training and then go short course through the NCAA. Basically, we kind of have a little cycle that we do where two of the practices of the week in the morning, usually Monday and Thursday morning, we do some type of a long pull set.

 

I am going to just pull out some of the sets that Lenny has done this summer just to give you examples. Some of these examples, obviously are some of his best workouts, I mean, not every practice is as spectacular as some of the ones  that I am going to tell you about, but many of them are. An example of a long pulling set might be sixteen 50’s on 40, eight 100’s on 120, four 200’s on 240, two 400’s on 520, one 800 on 10 minutes. He would go the 50’s free, the 100’s back, the 200’s free, the 400’s back and then the 800’s free or back depending on feel. A lot of times he’ll like to challenge himself on the long aerobic sets to see how long he can hang with the freestylers, because he is not a great freestyler. It is actually harder for him to train freestyle than backstroke. And I know when he gives up because that is when he rolls over on his back and then he starts going faster. He wears buoying paddles for pulling sets. He does not wear a band, both because of the situation with his back and also because I think with backstrokers I think they need that little balance that you get some time with a little bit of kick. I think that helps them so I usually don’t have my backstrokers pull with bands. I do have my freestylers pull with bands. Two practices a week, we do a long aerobic set and that varies depending on when during the season.

 

We start off in September, that set will be about 3000 and in October and November it gets up to 6000 or 7000. Examples for the backstrokers might be five 800’s, on ten minutes and keep descending them down to 855 backstroke. A set that he did this summer four 50’s free on 45, two 100’s free on 120, 200 back on 240, four 50’s free on 45, two 100’s free on 120, two 200’s back on 235, four 50’s, two 100’s, three 200’s on 230, four 50’s, two 100’s, four 200’s on 225, four 50’s, two 100’s, five 200’s backstroke on 220. He would do a set like that on the 200 backs probably averaging about 215 and maybe break 210 on the last set of five trying to descend those on one to five. Those practices usually we would do on Monday and Thursday afternoons.

 

Two practices a week are centered around kicking and that is not to give you the impression that that is the only kicking that we do, because I think that it is really important with backstrokers to do a lot of good kicking. But our focus practices are on Tuesday and Friday morning where we try to go between 1500 and 2000 kicking and this could include but not exclusive of vertical kicking, board kicking, flyer free, non-board kicking. I like to do side kicking with backstrokes with a rotated forty-five degrees but keep their head position perfectly centered for backstroke. Fifty percent of this kicking is usually done with fins, and with fin kicking I usually emphasize breath control and underwater work with it. Some examples might be sixteen 50’s one easy one fast with mono fin, emphasizing underwater drills, time distances.

 

Toward the end of the season, we might do mid-pool 25’s from a turned time underwater. Some examples of some  of the better fin kicking sets that he has done might be two 100’s side-kicking backstroke on 140, four 100’s speed-kick on 130, (and when I say speed-kick they are required to go at least fifteen meters underwater on the first fifty, more if they can, they are required to go at least twenty-five meters underwater on the second fifty, more if they can) two 100’s on 140 side-kick as kind of a recovery, although I try to ask them to keep them within a certain range so that they are not easy, but as I say smooth, three 100’s on 125 speed-kick, two 100’s side-kick, two 100’s on 120 speed-kick, two 100’s side-kick, one 100 on 115 speed-kick, this is long course and he would be under a minute for that one.

 

On these Tuesday and Friday morning practices, we also try to integrate power work. I like to do surgical tubing training and one of the things that we did to kind of help Lenny with his tempo in April and May was we did some tethered swimming at constant stroke rates, like for one minute or one minute and fifteen seconds or one minute and thirty seconds, six to eight times. I think that kind of helped him. Then as the summer went on, we would add sprinting with tubing and usually that is like broken fifties, where they would sprint at twenty five against the tube we would time that, rest fifteen seconds, and the sprint twenty-five back and we would time that, and sometimes that would be assisted by their teammates. Usually, sets of four to six, and we usually would kind of do that to finish up practice.

Some other examples of some of his better fin kicking sets, four 50’s on 50 long course, and I would ask him to swim the last fifteen meters and practice a good finish, so he would go mostly kicking, thirty-five kicking and fifteen swimming, four 100’s on 140, and I would try to keep the same concept where they would swim the last fifteen meters into the turn so they were practicing a good full-speed turn and then kicking under water twenty-five meters or more and then swimming the last fifteen meters into the finish, and then four 150’s on 230 with the same concept swimming the last fifteen meters of each wall so they are working on turns and finishes.

 

I think there is some real value in practicing your kicking taking the backstroke into the wall and then doing your breath control work off of the turn. One of the better sets that he did one year he was doing some mono-fin training, and he would get so competitive that he kind of lost track of where the bulkhead was, racing somebody trying to break twenty seconds for a fifty meter sprint on his back with the mono-fin, and he crashed into the wall and subluxed his shoulder. He gave me a heart attack, I had to walk him down to the health center, and you know my heart is pounding, and they told him that he had to kick for a week, I mean, it didn’t cause any major damage, but he had to kick for a week.

 

So he came back the next day which was Thanksgiving Day, and we were doing this 5000 set where they went ten 300’s and then they had to finish up with fifteen 100’s on 110 short course holding the fastest pace possible. So he is kicking these ten 300’s backstroke and doing a pretty good job he did the last fifteen 100’s with fins on backstroke, and I told him that he had to stay under fifteen meters on every single 100 of every push off, and he did and he descended on those fifteen 100’s. This is at the end of a 5000 set from 55.5 to 48.5 on the last one with fins on backstroke kicking, with that much underwater that was pretty impressive.

 

The other thing is two practices a week, usually Tuesday and Friday, we work on either some type of race pace or some type of easy fast swimming where they will do some mixed speed work. Sometimes we integrate some short rest work into that as well, but it is always something easy and something fast. And this was kind of when I knew that there wasn’t much doubt he was going to break the world record in the 100 and 200 backstroke this year. On the 30th of July, so this was the week before we had left for the nationals, everybody else had left the pool because they were all tapering, and we had a group that either was back to work because they didn’t make it to the nationals or was going to Pan-Pac and was still working. And these guys were doing about a 7000 meter practice, and I had them do about 3000 in warm-up, and then they did this set where they went 50 on 45, 100 on 125, 150 on two minutes, and they could do those any stroke, and then they had to go 200 their best stroke on 230, this is long-course, and the backstrokers were to go the 200 backstroke and we did that six rounds. I told them, and they always give me this look, well so how fast do you want these to be, and I said, “Well let’s start at 215 and see where we go,” and then they would roll their eyes  because they knew what that meant.

 

So Brad and Lenny started at 215 on number 1, by number 4 actually Lenny was at 205, Brad was at 204, number 5 Lenny comes in at 202, Brad comes in at 201.8, this is one of those days when I had Brad going 10 seconds behind Lenny because I knew since he was going 10 behind that he was getting a little drag and that would really piss Lenny off because he would be going faster and it did. Eric Gudhanson and I are sitting there because Lenny is at Pan Ams and Jim’s at the weight room, and I looked at Eric and I said you need to get your watch out now and I said watch this and then the last one, number 6. Lenny is leading the lane, he goes a 158.2 and breaks the winning time from Atlanta and Brad is 130 at the 150 and comes back in 29.8 159.8, and I said to Eric you just witnessed the best backstroke practice in the history of the sport.

 

A couple of other kind of interesting practices we would do, two practices a week, actually to finish on that last practice, you know that is supposed to be variable speed, but they kind of turned it into a quality practice, and they both looked up afterwards and he goes, “Today’s Friday and tomorrow’s Saturday does that mean that we get to do quality tomorrow?” and I said “No I think that we will count that as quality.”

 

Quality practices we usually do on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and normally it’s sets of descended 100’s or 200’s with recovery swimming in between. I try to have it be about 900 of very fast swimming. Sometimes we will go over that, but that is kind of my goal to make sure that I get at least 900 of race pace swimming.

 

Actually, on the 14th of July, which was on a Wednesday before the Janet Evans meet, and I had meant to have this be a little bit less than a quality practice because we had a Janet Evans meet coming up, but what it became was a little bit more than that. We did a set of 400 free smooth on 6 minutes, and then four 100’s descended on 130 and Lenny descended to 58.2, 300 smooth on 430, three 100’s on 130 he descended to 57.4, 200 on three minutes, two 100’s on 130, descended he went 56.2, 100 on 130 and then 100 all out and he went 58.8, in other words he crashed. If I’d have been smart I would have said take a two-minute break and then see what you can go for 100, and he would have gone 55, but we progressed with the set.

 

The second part of the set we went 200 smooth on 3 minutes, four 50’s descended on 45, descended to 27.7, 150 smooth on 215, three 50’s on 50, he descended to 27.2, 100 on 130, two 50’s on 55 he went 26.2 on the second one. Then I was smart and I said okay go 50 on 2 minutes and then we will see what we can do on the last one. He went 25.2 leading the lane, so that is why I wasn’t extremely impressed  with 24.99 because he had been 25.2 in practice.

 

I think one of the places that this speed comes from is by doing some type of variable sprint work every practice. We do 600 meters of some type of a variable set every day, and for the backstrokers this could also include some underwater training as well. But basically what this is, is doing a set where they are focusing on three cycle sprints, going three cycles as fast as they can go. And usually it might be twelve 50’s doing what we call redline sprints. I’ve got these red lines on the bottom of the pool, that actually one of my assistants years ago recommended, and every pool that I have had since then I have tried to put them on the bottom. Since we have the fifteen-meter backstroke rule, we put them at the fifteen-meter mark and at the twenty-meter mark and we kind of use those as sprint guide lines. So, if they are doing red-line sprints, number one will be sprinting to the first fifteen meter mark, number two will be sprinting from the first fifteen meter mark to the twenty-five meter mark, number three will be sprinting from the twenty-five meter mark to the last fifteen meter and number four will be sprinting the last fifteen meters into the wall. Usually we will do those on a minute or 65 so that they are getting enough rest in between and can really do them with good technique, but do them fast. Sometimes we do those integrating mid-pool turns or we might do 100’s where they go the first fifteen meters sprint or the last fifteen meters sprint, on the odd ones sprint the turns and on the easy ones. But we try to do that every single practice, and I think that it’s really helped us to be able to compete faster during practice and compete faster during the season, and I think that has helped us to be faster at the end of the year.

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