By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Of all the records and fast times, something else has propelled Katie Ledecky to the top: An understanding of the connectedness of her events.
She didn’t win the 100 on a busy day in Austin at the Arena Pro Swim Series. But she did win the 400 later in the day. And as everyone knows by now, she set the world record in the 800 among a very swim-literate group of 2,000 Austin swim fans who appreciate her talent and drive.
Katie talks about her event schedule.
But knowing how her races fit together, in both training philosophy and race strategy, has Ledecky in a good place this close to Trials.
“I actually think the 400 is my sweet spot -- it’s probably what I train for the most,” Ledecky said. “And then I am able to go up and down from it.”
Katie talks about swimming shorter events.
That was one of the few times in Austin she didn’t go a personal best - or record time, as the event might be. Still, she won, and it felt good. But she says her 400 could have, and likely will, be better, feel better, and get better.
“I don’t know why that one hasn’t come along as much,” Ledecky said. “But my (400 free) swim this weekend was really good and there are some good things I can take away from it. I swam it on the same day as the 100 so I’m pleased with all my swims this weekend.”
That good feeling extended to her pre-race warmup for the 800, in which she turned the swimming world on its ear with another eye-popping effort.
“I was feeling good going into it,” Ledecky said. “I knew I had some good swims this weekend.”
Some swimmers watch others, and accelerate or slow down accordingly as they see competitors come and go in their peripheral vision. Not Ledecky. She is cognizant of her own motor and runs it by how she feels as she steps it up.
“Whenever I get going like that, I get into a good rhythm with my freestyle and my stroke just feels good,” she said. “I knew if I swam it the right way I could do something pretty good
I didn’t know it would be that good.”
She and Coach Bruce Gemmell have worked on the opening part of the race more than the closing, since Ledecky is able to finish with a fierce burst whenever she feels like letting it all go. But those adjustments for early in the race are what led to the record in Austin.
“Bruce just told me to get into a good rhythm that first 300, kind of know what my stroke count is and how my stroke feels,” she said. “I just swam a thousand, going 8:59 a month ago and kind of just tried to channel that stroke into a long course pool. So I just tried to maintain that for the first 300. Bruce didn’t give me any instructions after that so I just kind of let go and race the last 500.”
The crowd turned into a rock concert chiming for an encore as Ledecky wound up for the final 100, and though she sensed it, she kept her focus.
“Once I get into a rhythm I just keep my head down and keep charging ahead -- get into that good rhythm, pick up my kick if I can and put together a well-rounded swim,” she said.
But she did hear the crowd start to build, like her own strength and energy as she started another push into rewriting the record books.
“Pretty early, about midway through I would say,” Ledecky noted of when she was aware of the crowd noise. “It was exciting. It’s always nice when you can get pushed along by a crowd like this in Austin.”
Ironically, another area of connectedness is the big-meet environment. While the noise will further inspire her, she doesn’t want to get distracted by what it means -- or does not mean.
“I try to block it out a little bit just because sometimes they don’t get as excited,” Ledecky said. “Like the 400, I was only a second off my world record, but it wasn’t as exciting -- it is a shorter race. I guess just because it’s a longer race I had more time to pay attention to it, but it was definitely great to get spurred on by the crowd tonight.”