When I raced as an elite amateur, I didn’t have to work too hard to make my way to the front during the bike…or rather, I did work hard, but it just didn’t take as long to pull ahead into the lead position. Upon taking my pro card at the very end of the 2013 season, I was quickly reminded that this would not necessarily be the case when swimming against D1 swimmers, olympians, and others who grew up in the water. But instead of viewing such a discrepancy as a weakness, my perspective has always been that this is instead a huge opportunity for me. Meaning, I have the chance to learn efficiency in the water, to tweak my technique, and to put the effort in to gaining fitness in the water and big things can come of that. It’s not something I would have focused on as much if I was still racing as an amateur, but now the difference between a strong swim and poor one can make or break a race. You might not “win” the race in the water, but I believe you can lose it. Now that we have less races with pro fields, a dying non-draft olympic distance (thus more women racing long course), and more competitive, larger pro fields, the dynamics have shifted greatly to favor a stronger swimmer. If an athlete can get out of the water in the mix, what you end up with is a group to ride with – legally gaining the benefit of a draft or a mental push when you might otherwise back off – and those that miss the boat so to speak are left fending for themselves in no-man’s land during the bike portion. Therefore, yes, swimming is my opportunity and the strength and speed gained in the water will translate into a better ride as well.
So when I got the chance to travel to The Woodlands, Texas and train with Magnolia Masters, I jumped at it with no hesitations (other than leaving my husband and pup back in Kansas City for two weeks!) ~ it was lead by the knowledgeable Tim Floyd and we trained under the philosophy of USRPT (Ulta Short Race Pace Training or Ultra Short High Intensity Training). One of my favorite parts of racing professionally is the opportunity for a homestay and the people and families we get to meet along the way. Tim connected me with an awesome family in The Woodlands, The Gibbons, and they took such great care of me. It was a small group of pro athletes and we got plenty of undivided attention. Sometimes you actually wished you could escape Tim’s watchful eye and cruise along, but he always knew what would push your limits, and where you stood from one session to the next – solid, tired, recovered, hungry, hangry, strong, rested, or just plain old feeling like crap. He knew how to get the most out of us, giving us workouts we often doubted we could complete. Things I never would have executed on my own.
The Woodlands offered awesome weather and outdoor pools. We swam twice a day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with sessions just 5-6 hours apart. We had the chance to do a recovery session and stroke analysis Wednesday and Sunday, and Saturday was a longer, more traditional endurance based workout. Everything we did was high quality with good, long warm-ups. We tweaked our technique, and sometimes that meant getting slower before getting faster. It takes time to create new habits, muscle memory sequences, and change. But efficiency matters. After our mid camp stroke analysis session, I even refused to believe that it was actually ME in that go pro video, I don’t swim like that! That’s definitely not my kick…You photoshopped this for sure! But sure enough, I was able to see what I was doing inefficiently and then make the necessary changes to go faster.
One of the things I struggled with was getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in the water. I’m fine with finding my edge while running or riding, but there is something about my head being underwater and managing my breathe that has always made it hard for me to dig deep while swimming. Well, there was no way around that under Tim’s supervision. We did some tough sets with a designated interval accompanied by a “hold pace” – meaning hit the wall in that time or sit out. And a type-A athlete does not want to be “sitting it out.” So we were forced to swim hard, swim fast, swim efficiently. And I was reminded that in order to swim fast, we have to swim fast. Rocket science, I know. . .
My motto during camp became “Sometimes you have to fail to succeed…” These hold pace sets were challenging and I underestimated how hard it was to swim hard. . . Sometimes you have to give all you’ve got and push yourself to the point where you can’t dig any deeper, and that’s when you make the breakthrough. That’s when the magic happens.
It’s taken some time to absorb all the work we did but I’m excited to give it the go in 2016. Huge thanks to BlueSeventy for the amazing swim gear – awesome suit patterns and comfortable goggles – and to Nuun for the electrolyte hydration that kept me cramp free and moving strong day in and day out – and to Barnana for the shipment of snacks! It was gone in no time, the perfect way to snack conveniently (oh, and healthy too) on the go! Thanks to Magnolia Masters and the Woodlands community, and especially to Tim for all the insights and help. I loved the camp and can’t wait to come back and replicate it over the summer! You can see what we did throughout the camp, each workout, here. BIG big ups to my homestay fam. They were wonderful. It was a homestay jackpot, as I put it ever so gracefully. . . They helped me with my Felt (full bike shop in the garage, I’m not kidding!) and showing me around and provided an awesome, relaxing, quiet place to stay. So grateful for the new friendships all around!
This picture was taken while we were grinding out a tough set during the second week of camp. My face don’t lie, I was screaming on the inside!
The workout was:
400 swim w/fins
400 kick w/fins
4 x 100 des 1-4 @ 1:30
12 x 100 kick w/fins @ 1:30
100 easy swim
Continuous Main set
10 x 50 swim @ :40
5 x 50 swim @ :45
10 x 50 swim @ :40
5 x 50 swim @ :45
10 x 50 swim @ :40
12 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest
My bundle of joy I got to stay with in The Woodlands, happy memories with this family for sure!