By Garrett Weber-Gale//2008 Olympic Gold Medalist
Inevitably there are times in our careers when we are so focused on training and grinding out the work that we and our coaches forget about racing. Racing is a fundamental part of our development into better athletes. Not only do we mentally get stronger, tougher, and smarter through racing, but also our bodies adjust to the rigors and pain.
There’s no doubt we need to go to real meets and compete. It can be very hard to mimic the adrenaline rush and atmosphere of a big competition at our home pool during practice. However, racing at practice is super important. Although we may not go the same times as we will in a meet, we’re able to work on all the tiny aspects of our races – starts, turns, breathing patterns, blasting our kick the last 15 meters, not breathing into or out of the walls, etc. These are little things we can fix during practice so that when we get to a race, we’ll be much more refined in our racing skills.
I don’t need to tell any of you that practice can put you in a lot of pain. Racing in practice provides us an awesome opportunity to feel the pain of a race and learn to cope with the feeling. Generally, the greatest racers are comfortable with the pain and difficulty of racing. Practice makes perfect.
Recently at Texas, we did a great racing set to help us feel the pain of a race, as well as fine tune our skills.
- 4x200, long course meters, on 10 minutes.
- The 200 is broken at the first 100 and at the two 50s.
- The first 100 is on 1:30.
- The two 50’s are on 45.
- The goal is go as fast as you possibly can for the entire set.
I did freestyle and averaged 1:53 for the broken 200. My best 200 time is 1:49.1, and I wasn’t close to that. However, these times are great for where I am in my training right now. The most important thing about doing sets like this is to give our maximum effort and swim with good technique. My best effort was 1:53. By the end of the set, I was pretty whipped and also satisfied with the great work.
If you can’t get to a meet exactly when you want, don’t be afraid to race at practice. This weekend when the Texas college team goes to a meet, I will be racing at home, just so I can get some more practice. As Eddie Reese says, “we don’t need permission to go fast!”