June 2011

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Traveling with a team for the first time in 8 years!

Posted by Kevin Doak on Thursday at: 6:43pm (June 30th, 2011)
1976 Olympic Pool in Montreal Canada

Its been a refreshing experience to be part of a team again. Today I flew to Vermont and then drove to Montreal with Club Wolverine. I've enjoyed the comradery and joking of the college team as well as the good discussions with the other post-grads and pro swimmers.  After a meal and some rest we drove to the 1976 Olympic pool where the meet is being held. This will be my 2nd meet at a former Olympic facility after Nationals in Atlanta last year. I have quite a review to write after my experiences at the pool today, both positive and negative. It's been a great experience thus far. I'm really glad I took the trip!


Last Practice in Ann Arbor

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 10:40am (June 29th, 2011)

The team is gearing up for Montreal today.  We will do some stretching followed by a short recovery workout which will include some "positive bands".  These are long pieces of medical silicone tubing with a belt on the end.  You strap in and are pulled through the water partially by it's elasticity and also by a fellow swimmer helping pull at the end of the pool.  I'm feeling rested and ready for a new experience in a mysterious and foreign country!


Olympic Trials 1 Year Away

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 3:38am (June 29th, 2011)
USA Olympic Rings

My overall goal remains an Olympic Trial Cut for 2012.  The meet is June 25th till July 2nd 2012 in Omaha, NE.  I have one year to train!  I have a great start already!


Taper Down

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 3:30am (June 29th, 2011)

Now I'm remembering how much the uncertainty sets in during taper time.  You start wondering, did I start taper too late or too early?  Maybe we're doing too much yardage today, or maybe we need an easy day and we're not getting it.  Any change to a ritual feels uncomfortable, especially when I have so much riding on one meet.  To participate at Nationals in Palo Alto, CA, I need to have a minimum of one GREAT race in Canada.  It will need to be either the 50 Free or 100 Backstroke.  If I swim a mid 23 second 50 free or a 58 low 100 backstroke, I'm buying a ticket to California to race against the fastest swimmers in the country.


Officially Entered in the 2011 Canada Cup!

Posted by Kevin Doak on Monday at: 8:49pm (June 27th, 2011)
Officially Entered in the 2011 Canada Cup!

With as many meets as I've missed out on lately due to poor planning.  I was almost surprised to see my name correctly listed in the Psych sheet released yesterday.  I'm ranked poorly in each event but I'm confident I will significantly move up and hopefully even make it into one of the finals heats.  I had to chuckle as I attempted to read the PDF release, written entirely in french.  If I didn't know what my times were, I wouldn't even know what events I was entered in!  My rankings are as follows:

100 Free: 87th with a 54.81
100 Back: 44th with a 1:01.40
50 Fly: 56th with a 27.03
50 Free: 46th with a 24.59
50 Back: 45th with a 29.45

Since they are apparently running 10 lanes per heat with Finals, Consols and a bonus heat (a total of 30 swimmers make it back in the evening), I think I have a fair chance of returning for some finals swims in the 50 back and 100 back.

Today the taper group had a very easy practice which consisted of a total of 20 minutes of burst weights and abs (filled with a lot of standing around) followed by a relatively easy 1500 yard swim.  It was really nice to take it easy today!


Main Set Cut Short

Posted by Kevin Doak on Sunday at: 12:45pm (June 26th, 2011)

Since I'm doing a mini taper prior to Montreal, I've done slightly less than the rest of the group over the past few days.  Saturday was our routine "Race Pace" day.  The group was assigned a 4 round set of 100 pace swimming.  This consisted of broken 100's meaning we swim 50's in which you add up your times from each swim and calculate a total for your 100 meter time.  The abstract part was the "bucket" swim before each round.  We had to strap ourselves to what looks like a typical power rack (belt, thin cable, pully and lift weight as you swim away from it).  This model has a 50 gallon drum of water (half full) and a series of pullies which allows the 9 foot tall structure to provide enough cable to be pulled 25 meters or more.  Prior to each broken 100 we pulled 25 gallons of water 25 yards in the diving well.  Due to all the resistance, it warms you up for the timed 50 but also wears you out prior to the actual timed swimming.

Due to my taper, I would join the group for round 2 and 3 and skip rounds 1 and 4.  I kept warm as the group moved through round 1 and prepared for my first round.  Soon after my round was called.  I strapped the belt around my waist, connected to the cable on the bucket machine and got ready for the "go" command from the coach.  When I heard it, I pushed off and spun my arms to the other side.  The resistance on the cable was significant but not impossible.  I didn't get a time for that effort but I assume it took me about 20 seconds of high intensity swimming to cover the 25 yards.  I unstrapped myself and walked over to the long course pool.  I was out of breath but warmed up.  I noticed a slight hesitation from the other 3 backstrokers as they looked for some direction from the coach.  It seemed like nobody wanted to get in the water!  We were all so tired that we were procrastinating for every additional second we could get, it was a funny moment.  When the coach yelled "10 seconds", we knew we couldn't wait any longer.  We all jumped in and got ready.  Luckily I ended up in one of the two lanes with a pad on the wall.  I was sure to get a good start.  When we heard the "take your marks.... hup", I kept tabs on how fast everybody else started.  I was on par with everybody off the wall but I feel like these guys are still better underwater than I am.  I got edged out at 15 meters by just a little.  I cranked it up and used my new backstroke technique to touch the wall in a 27.4, others touched in high 28's and 29's.  We had just 20 seconds before we would have to swim another 50 meters from a push.  The coach yelled "Ok, I'm timing everybody to 15 meters, everybody goes 15 meters underwater.".  This was not a good thing for me.  I've never gone 15 meters off the wall in a 100 back race.  I don't have the strength, endurance or lung capacity to stay under.  Statistically it's faster for me to surface and start swimming since I'm slower underwater.  I knew all this, but he said "15 meters underwater" so I did just that.  I watched my competition pass me by like I was standing still.  I got to 15 meters but it was slow and pathetic looking.  I was even more worn outo and oxygen deprived after that stunt.  I tried my best yet hit the wall in a 32.6, others touched in 30's.  Coach Mike Bottom was right there when I finished (we had specifically discussed the 2 round deal prior to practice).  He looked at me and gave me the hand across the neck signal and said "you're done, no more rounds".  I'm certain I had disapointed him and he realized there was no point in making me do another round with a sub par performance like that.  Unfortunatley I don't think he saw the first 50 when I excelled compared to the group.  Either way, he was right, I would have gained nothing by wearning myself down more with another round.  I was a bit embarrassed but accepted the reality... I have a lot to work on.  My total time was a 1:00.00, not impressive.

I watched the rest of the rounds as I drank some water and gathered my equipment.  We did a 20 minute ab set after practice which always produces some good laughs from the college age swimmers.  Listening to stories of college antics never gets old.  As always, thanks for the laughs guys!


The Eating Game

Posted by Kevin Doak on Friday at: 8:47am (June 24th, 2011)

When to eat?

It's a game I play every day.  I've had a few days lately where I show up to practice feeling lethargic and shakey.  Most of the time I have few options other than grabbing one of the energy bars from the team area.  I find it helps but does not resolve the problem.  I'm able to finish the practice with that little boost though.  I've determined that if I eat more than 3 hours before practice, I feel weak.  If I eat within an hour and a half before practice, a high intensity workout makes me want to yak.  So I'm beginning to set an alarm two hours prior to each workout signaling me to fill/pack my face hole and ensure I get a good workout.  I've been so used to just eating when I'm hungry.  Now I have to eat no matter what or I'm going to pay for it later.


Montreal Outlook and New Water Toys!

Posted by Kevin Doak on Thursday at: 9:43pm (June 23rd, 2011)

Today was an easy day.  We don't get many of them but with the exception of a few "build orange to red" 200m swims, it was 20 starts, underwater blast 15m kicking and mostly high quality swimming for a little under two hours.

Each day I swim with this group I'm thankful for the opportunity I've created as a result of my hard work, talent and unique skill set I can offer the team in the way of technology.  I smile every day I'm on deck.  It's not an exaggeration.  The coaches motivate and uplift and the swimmers are driven and welcoming.  I find myself becoming integrated into the team a bit more each day.  I'm voted to the front of the lane during each kick set and backstroke set, although it's a simple gesture, I consider it as an honor.  I'm mentally preparing for my swims in Montreal in one week.  I'm proud of the progress I've made in just a month and a half.  Coach Mark Hill has revolutionized my freestyle and backstroke.  I envision my 50 backstroke and the real possibility that I might just skip the :26 second mark entirely.  I think I'm capable of a :25.xx swim, perhaps even now.  If not next weekend, soon.  I'm not sure if I've ever been this excited to compete at a meet.  I see it as my first benchmark after a massive change in my training.  It can only be a positive meet.  With the training changes I've made, combined with all the "race pace" swimming we do.  I'm ready to race RIGHT NOW.  I don't ever remember feeling this confident about my abilities in the pool.  I will be proud of my swims in Montreal, I can't wait!

I received my new swimming toys in the mail today.  New fins, new paddles, goggles, and goggle straps.  I'm looking forward to trying out the new fins.  They're unlike anything I've used before.  I had been using the Speedo "V" fins until they broke last week.  These new fins are the same ones the rest of the team wears.  They are better suited to REALLY fast kicking.  They have no heel, only a strap just above the heel that keeps your foot in place.  They are made of silicone rather than rubber.  This detail apparently reduces the possibility of blisters on the foot/heel area.  I haven't been very competitive during sets with fins, I'm hoping the new fins will help.  I think the larger issue is that I need to become stronger, I'm pretty skinny compared to the faster guys on the team.  Most of them have at least 20lbs on me, a safe assumption is that it's all muscle.  I haven't weighed myself lately but I'm sure I'm still under 170.  The two best sprinters are over 200lbs.  Interesting stat.



Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 9:09pm (June 22nd, 2011)

A nice summer morning practice at Fuller Pool turned painful when we were asked to practice our backstroke to breaststroke crossover turns.  I really should have just bowed out of this drill.  I have no intention of adding the Individual Medley to my list of events.  When I attempted this turn, I came too close to the wall, flipped and cracked both heels on the stainless steel gutter at nearly full speed.  I stopped immediately to see if I had broken anything down there.  I'm certain everything is intact but WOW do I have a bruised heel.  The thing is bright purple in fact.

This afternoon we did a (ironic) purple set. There are many colors we reference in regard to what pace we are swimming at.  Today it was:

4 x [75y (25 underwater with flip + 25 head up fly + 25 free no-breath) @ 1:20 then 50y fast @ :45 then 25 fast ]

followed by some easy swimming between rounds.  Surprisingly I really held my own in the 75 portion, I was 3rd within the sprinters with a 35.1, the fastest time was a 34.5 and then a 34.9.  After the 75 I consistently fell apart.  I just do not perform well without oxygen, some of these swimmers can still swim very fast on very little air... I'm just not there yet.  The set finished up well and I'm really appreciating the shorter practices as we move toward the end of the summer season.

Training Quote
"Look at that guy breathe! Give that guy a big bottle of air for his birthday cause he frickin' loves that stuff" - Coach Mark Hill

More Pro's and my latest kick set

Posted by Kevin Doak on Tuesday at: 11:43pm (June 21st, 2011)

Lately I've been a little run down.  I have yet to recover from a kick set last Thursday.  It's been difficult to walk for the past few days.  The set last week involved a lot of Plyometric (jump training) type exercises like jumping out of the pool, jumping in the shallow end and jumping right out of the water again.  Then there was the running and body skipping as well as the attempts to run across the water in addition to a few other drills like all out kicking.  That practice left me a little damaged.

Today we had a kick set that was comprised by only 3 x 50's. They were max effort and included some easy swimming inbetween.  The first one I touched in a 33.9, definitely not my best time but anything under 34 seconds in a long course pool I would consider respectable.  The second was a 33.0 and ranked the fastest but only because the fastest kicker left after the initial swim.  The last one included fins.  Some of the fastest kickers can kick 50 meters with fins and a board in 22 seconds and underwater with fins in 19 seconds... unreal.  Since my fins broke the other day, I chose to kick another one without fins or a board.  My last 50 kick was a 32.2, among the fastest times of the day but still nowhere near the 28.8 the fastest guy went on his first and only 50 kick.  Some of these guys are just unreal fast.

Word on the street is that CW will be gaining some new professional swimmers from around the world to train with us.  The coach was listing off all the existing Pro's and the new Pro's we'll have on the team, most of them Olympians.  At the end of the list he pointed to me and appended my name to the list with a smile.  I'm sure he did so to make me feel included but I'm certain nobody on the team is grouping me with the OLYMPIANS whom I share the pool with.  When he said my name, I let out a little chuckle because it was clearly a joke.  Still, I'll accept even jokingly being included in the same sentence as Olympians!


Ready for a mini-taper

Posted by Kevin Doak on Tuesday at: 2:29pm (June 21st, 2011)

I'm excited to race!  The Canada Cup starts in 10 days.  Today or tomorrow I will begin to diverge from the rest of the sprint group.  The team as a whole has started reducing the yardage as of this week so my practices probably won't be that much different.  I'm really looking forward to what 6 weeks of hard training and stroke changes will yield.  It really hasn't been that long, only a month and a half, but I feel entirely different in the water.  I catch so much more water in my stroke.  I anticipate I'll have a good 50 Free, 50 back and 100 Back.  I'm unsure of the 50 Fly and 100 Free.  I've done very little butterfly while with CW.  The 100 Free should be faster than I swam it at the Michigan Grand Prix but I doubt it will be anything groundbreaking.  Please consider me sufficiently excited to swim a 50 back in a high profile meet!

Training Quote
"Sprinting is about fun and games, but you have to get in the game!" - Coach Mike Bottom

7 Days a Week

Posted by Kevin Doak on Sunday at: 6:55pm (June 19th, 2011)

And just like that, the coaches cranked it up to 7 days a week.  I'm certain I've never trained every day of the week on an ongoing basis.


Goal Times for the Summer

Posted by Kevin Doak on Saturday at: 11:18pm (June 18th, 2011)

My overall goal for the summer is at least one Olympic Trial cut.  My goal for the Canada Cup is a Nationals cut, this will allow me to attend some of the bigger meets in the next year.  Since the National cuts are so close to the trial cuts, I'm just aiming for trials cuts.  Here is the breakdown:

50 Freesytle LCM

100 Backstroke LCM

100 Butterfly LCM

I still think the 100 Fly is a long shot for me but based on my recent times, I believe the 100 Back and 50 Freestyle are within reach with a good race.


27.0 from a backstroke start

Posted by Kevin Doak on Saturday at: 8:08pm (June 18th, 2011)

Just last weekend I swam a 28.8 from a push and thought that was pretty spiffy.  To put it in perspective, during my two fastest 100 backstroke LCM races, I took it out in a 27.26.  My fastest 50 backstroke LCM is a 26.6.  Today during a main set, I swam a 28.8, a 27.6 and a 27.0.  The last swim I found myself hitting the wall 1.8 seconds ahead of any other backstroker in the pool.  Today I swam well in relation to my own times as well as versus some other great backstrokers, now thats a training day I can be proud of.

Just yesterday I wrote that I thought it would be possible to swim a 27.xx from a start and today I did it... twice.

Our set today was challenging but manageable.  I've really come to enjoy all the "race pace" type swimming we do.  Both the expectations and the pressure are similar to actual racing.  Today even some theoretical wagers were made on a few races.  The highest profile being that one swimmer would buy breakfast for any teammate that beat him.  The opposite was true as well, if he won, others would have to buy him breakfast. It was a lighthearted moment of smack-talking that offered a few smiles.  The set differed for each stroke but the backstrokers swam:

3 x (50 Max Swim from a dive @ 1:10 + 30 Underwater then sprint to 35 @ 1:10 + 50 Max swim from a push)

The first 50 fast was manageable, I gave it everything I had.  However, you are worn out after 30 seconds of all-out swimming, only to have to get up on the blocks immediately to do an underwater 30 meters on only :30 seconds of rest.  That might have been my toughest underwater swims ever.  At the end of the underwater, you need to surface and swim fast another 5 meters.  Next you have :20 seconds of rest before another 50 meters of fast swimming from a push.  I really only made it to 35 meters before I fell apart and started swimming slower.  I finished in a 29.9 once, but the second swim was a 30.5 and the last was a 31.9... ouch.

I'm really proud of my practice and even more excited about the Canada Cup in just a few weeks!  A 27.0 represents the 3rd fastest time I've ever even swam a 50 Backstroke LCM in my life, and I did it during practice!

Training Quote
"Really? (after I ordered two large breakfast plates of food for myself)" - Waitress Kim

Resting for the Canada Cup

Posted by Kevin Doak on Friday at: 7:49am (June 17th, 2011)

After a solid sprint workout, I briefly spoke with head coach Mike Bottom about the Canada Cup.  The topic being which meet I will taper for.  Since I haven't achieved a national or Olympic Trial cut for 2011 yet, I differ from the rest of the team.  I'm very optimistic about my chances though.  With all the race pace swimming we've been doing, I've gotten a good feeling for my abilities.  My :28.8 from a push (on :30 rest) was really the icing on the Olympic Trial cut cake.  If I can swim a 28.8 from a push, I can go a 27 from a backstroke start.  With a shave and a taper, I think I can bring it home in a :30.xx.  Anyway, our consensus was that I will rest for 7-10 days prior to the Canada Cup and aim for a trials cut there.  If I succeed I will swim at the 2011 Nationals in Palo Alto, CA in early August.


Not proud of that practice

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 8:21pm (June 15th, 2011)

Once again I made the mistake of not eating enough before practice.  I had a few sandwiches and I felt shakey during the entire evening workout.  Luckily the team has access to some energy bars, I ate two of those during practice and felt a little better.  We had one of our first yards practices.  It was a set of:

3 x (75y @ 1:30 + 3 x 25y @ :45)

With some easy swimming between rounds.  The first round I swam freestyle.  I was voted into the fastest heat and therefore was swimming against the 3 top sprinters on the team.  During the first 75 yards, I was definitely in 4th but not by much.  I have yet to beat any of these guys doing freestyle.  They are all 19 or low 20 second 50 freestylers.  The 25s were a little ugly, I didn't really hold with the guys, I basically got blown out of the water.  These swimmers can hold it together and still swim fast with only 40 seconds rest.  I have never done well in sets like this.  I swim well on the first one and fall apart afterwards.  Establishing a training base will help with this issue.  The last two rounds were backstroke.  I didn't swim very well on either round and the coaches and other swimmers noticed.  I will do better next time.

I brought in my high speed camera today and the coaches were running around videotaping everybody with big smiles on their faces.  Apparently none of them had seen a camera that could shoot 210+ frames a second in super slow motion.  It's one of my coolest toys :)

In heartbreaking news, I ripped one of my fins today.  It's one of my first disapointments with Speedo.  The fins are about 3 months old, probably worn less than 100 times and they tore down the heel while I was putting them on.  Speedo will be hearing from me.


I need to improve on kicking

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 12:59pm (June 15th, 2011)

At times, I really look forward to kick sets.  Lately they've been hit-or-miss for me.  I remain among the top kickers on the team but I need to get better.  There are two kickers I'm very impressed with.  They have both set the bar for me and inspired me to improve.  I had no idea somebody could kick THAT much faster than me.  It's really quite impressive.  Both of these guys can pull a BODYLENGTH on me at 25 meters.  Just amazing.

Today's kick set was a 100 Fast, 75 Fast, 50 Fast and 25 Fast.  Each with a 100-200 easy in between.  Each was timed by the coaches.  My 100 Kick was a 1:17.1, a respectable time but not great.  In each of the 4 races, I finished 3rd out of the 12 sprinters.  The number 2 guy was within reach, only about a second difference between us or less.  Yet the #1 guy just schooled me every single time by an embarrassing amount of distance.

If a person can kick that fast, somebody else can kick even faster.  Swimming with this group has shown me what is possible.  Yet I've also learned that these guys are "human", as odd as that sounds.  Meaning, with enough effort and training, their speed, like my other competitors, can be eclipsed.  I need to improve.


Mad Scientist, 28.8 from a push and 8.6 from a dive

Posted by Kevin Doak on Tuesday at: 11:44am (June 14th, 2011)

Lots to write but short on time as usual.  Saturday I got to work with Mark, the mad scientist who has been studying cyclist wind tunnels and swimmer fluid dynamics since 1988.  I swear, when the guy starts talking about this stuff, there is a significant possiblity his brain power is creating a drain on the electrical grid.  Since I missed the meet this weekend, I got to work with him for 2 hours.  I was his testing subject for his new machine.  It tows the swimmer through the water and analyzes body type and drag.  We worked above the water and below.  Although I don't know all the stats, his machine used a maximum of 6 volts to tow me at a rate of 2.5 meters per second.  This represents the fastest I've ever moved through the water, especially underwater.  I imagine I was going faster when I was riding a dolphin a few years ago, but besides that experience, this was pretty darn fast.  There was a lot of great conversation in both directions.  He is a great resource for the techinical side of swimming.  Afterward we reviewed some data with a few U of M engineers and Jim Richardson, the womens coach.  There was a lot of intelilgence on deck that day (not referring to myself).

Prior to that experience, I trained with the Womens team since the Mens team was at the OLY meet.  Jim Richardson wrote a great set:

5x (4x50 D1-4 @ 1:00 + 200 Easy Swim @ 4:00)

I love sets like this, it reminded me of an EMU workout.  I did quite well.  I descended to a great 4th round time of 28.8 from a push!  Probably the fastest I've ever swam backstroke from a push.  I am, without question, making progress.  I'm feeling fantastic and swimming great.

That set was followed by 6 x (25 Dive Fast + 25 Easy @ 1:30)

I had the privilage of swimming alongside an Olympian from Asia.  He was a butterflier so after 2 rounds freestyle, I switched to butterfly to see where I stood against him.  In the last 3 swims, he beat me 2 out of 3 times, but not by much, perhaps an arms length at the 25 meter mark.  The last one I got him though, by just a tenth.  The coach changed the last 25 to a sprint 50 for the very last round.  The other swimmer was going to swim butterfly, so I chose the same.  We were neck and neck for the whole 50 down to the finish, he touched me out with a 25.4 to my 25.6.  I was proud that I hung with him the entire race and that I'm 0.2 secoonds off my lifetime best butterfly time IN PRACTICE.

I'm having a blast.

Monday was a power lift and swim set.  There are lots of details but I've already written for too long.  We ended with all out 25's underwater with fins for time.  Sadly I was at the back of the pack.  I'm just not a great kicker with fins on.  I'm among the fastest without fins, but I lack the strength to utilize the extra surface area fins offer.  I was a 8.6 from a dive.  That ranks among the slowest sprinters.  The fastest was a 7.4, a very impressive time.  I'll get better.

Training Quote
"Want to go faster?" - Mad Scientist Mark

Another great day

Posted by Kevin Doak on Friday at: 6:55pm (June 10th, 2011)

As usual, it was an uplifting, amazing day at practice.  The entire team will be at a meet this weekend so it was a short practice consisting of only "meet warmup".  It was basically a fun 45 minutes of blast swimming and race pace starts with breakouts.  I followed what others were doing and got ready to race since I'm swimming a difficult practice set tomorrow.

There were mulitple times during today's short practice that I simply watched and listened to the coaches advise other swimmers on how to improve.  It's fascinating to listen to their training techniques, I'm just learning constantly.  A fun little mini-set we did was to see if we could touch the 15 meter mark with a dive and no kicking or pulling at all.  This means we dove in and didn't move our bodies at all.  After one try at 14 meters, I hit 15.5 meters, among the furthest of us who were trying it.

After practice I helped with some technology issues on deck, moments like those make me feel like I'm contributing to the program in more than a few ways.  Before I left I met a man named Mark who was referred to as the "Mad Scientist" by the coaches.  He has apparently developed a system and accompanying computer program to tow a swimmer through the water at any speed and measure lots of aspects of the fluid dynamics.  It was awesome to just listen to this guy, he just had high level physics information spilling out of his cranium.  He couldn't seem to talk enough about it.  I could listen to this guy all day, it was really interesting stuff.  So the downside of this weekend is that I won't get to race, the upside is that I get to be one of the first swimmers to try out this machine!

As I was walking out, I was treated to a short conversation with both Assistant Coach Mark and Head Coach Mike.  I spoke with Mark about vitamins and suppliments for a few minutes before Mike came over to give me a run down on my practice tomorrow.  Afterward, I asked them both flat out, "so how do you think I'm doing?".  It was really the first time in a month that I presented the question to them.  I think I got an honest answer as well.  Mike said "I think you're doing well, you've made some good changes".  Mark followed with "I was just telling Mike the other day that you're picking up things quicker compared to everyone else, it's sort of frustrating"... he said frustrating in the sense that teaching others was comparitively frustrating.  Mike ended with "Your biggest problem is your head".  When he said this, I thought he was going to follow with something regarding my head position while swimming.  As in: I need to put my head down during freestyle or tip it back during backstroke.  However he was referring to psychologically.  He said "You need to elevate yourself.  You need to stop seeing yourself as Kevin and see youself as something more.  You did it the other day.  I asked you to become more than you saw yourself as, and you did it... you beat that other guy, you beat him by a lot!  You need to change your head, you don't have the time to change Kevin, you need to tap into your alter ego, figure out where that is and do it".

It's conversations like that which leave me speechless.  I'm on the deck of the University of Michigan, where Olympians have been trained and competed, I'm talking to one of the best sprint coaches on the planet and he's telling me I have more potential than even I think I do.  I can't think of many other situations in my life that have rendered me speechless.  Good job Mike.


The most fascinating month of my swimming career

Posted by Kevin Doak on Friday at: 12:42pm (June 10th, 2011)

I've never experienced so many new things in such a short period of time.  Every day for the last month, I feel like I'm about to burst with all the stories and training techniques my mind is filled with each day.  In every single practice, I feel as though my swimming is being revolutionized.  I feel nothing but lucky that I have this chance.  I've done everything I need to do to earn the coaches acceptance and establish my place on this team, at least for the summer.  Nobody I know of has done what I have done... Swim in college, take some time off, and come back with more dedication and drive than ever before.  I've made countless choices in life that have lead me to this opportunity and I couldn't be happier.

The team is traveling to a meet at Oakland University this weekend.  I joined the team too late to have participated in the meet unfortunately.  I really would have loved a chance to benchmark my progress thus far.  As far as I know, my registration for the Canada Cup is on track with all my preferred events.  I'm excited to swim everything except the 100 Free.  It's never been a particularly good race for me.  The 50 back and 50 fly have me pumped up!  It's so rare that a non Masters meet offers these races.

Practice Information
Dist: 6,000 LCM - (Long Course 50 Meters)

Stroke form

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 11:51am (June 8th, 2011)

Although I have up days and down days, on average, I'm really doing quite well after 5 weeks with the team and two of those weeks were training alone or at a meet.  After noticing that other swimmers have had trouble changing their stroke after 3 years on the program, the sprint coach made a comment that I've made some impressive stroke changes after only 3 months.  I gently reminded him I've only been working with him for 3 weeks.  I wouldn't ever credit myself with being an above average learner, but the coaches seem to agree that I have an awareness of my arm and body position that has been easy to work with.

Yesterday we did some underwater video.  I swam both full speed backstroke and freestyle and was analyzed by the coaches.  After just a few minutes and the analysis that followed, I made some great improvements in both strokes.  My excitement is building to be able to race.  I've learned so many things in the last month and it has allowed me to make HUGE changes to my freestyle, backstroke and block start.  I also committed to the "Canada Cup" championship meet in Montreal in early July.  It will be my first meet outside of the United States (but only barely, cmon, it's Canada).  They offer the 50's of each stroke so I plan on swimming:

  • 50 Free
  • 100 Free
  • 50 Back
  • 100 Back
  • 50 Fly

If the schedule permits that is...

Looking forward to it!



Posted by Kevin Doak on Sunday at: 10:54am (June 5th, 2011)

Saturdays are "Race Pace" days.  For all practical purposes, we are presented with sets that mimic the pressure and physical strain of an actual meet.  Heats are stacked so we have competition in our given stroke and we're provided time to cool down after each swim.  We all fear these days but they consistently turn out to be good stories.  Today was a 100 pace day.  Although there are days I'm assigned Freestyle, today was Backstroke for me.

The set was comprised of 4 rounds of a short burst swim of 25-50 meters to warm yourself up to swim fast, then a few 50's all out.  The final round culminated with a fast 100 with fins and paddles.  The coach made it clear that he expected world records to be broken with these power adders at our disposal.  For my 100 backstroke, the world record is a 51.94 by the recently retired Aaron Piersol in 2009.  Thats a steep goal for me, even with fins and paddles.

The heat I was in was filled with 3 other skilled backstrokers, one of them was about my skill level, the other two held best times significantly faster than mine.  Through the first round I was coming in 3rd or 4th each time.  The times I did beat one of them, it wasn't by much.  Although I expected the results, I was feeling defeated.  I noticed myself looking over at the other swimmers during the race, not a good thing.  Each time I listened for the times, each time somebody had been a 28.5 or so, then a few 29's and I was almost always a 30.0. The second round was much the same, getting touched out each time but one of the other backstrokers had changed to a different stroke and therefore a different heat so we were down to 3 guys.  We moved onto the 3rd round and lost one other backstroker as he chose to switch to butterfly.  It was down to two backstrokers, myself and one of the fastest backstrokers on the team.  Admittedly, I let his times and ability get into my head and it was affecting my swimming.  It was then that coach Mike Bottom came over to my lane, right after I had gotten beat on the first swim of the 3rd round.  He pointed right at me and practically yelled "Kevin, you are better than you see yourself".  I didn't really know what to say, I was out of breath and a little disoriented.  He followed with "Don't let him beat you" as he pointed to the other swimmer who had started warming down.  He said a few other things that I can't recall but his overall message was that I was not elevating myself the way I needed to be.  The message was received.

We had two swims left, a 50m swim from a dive and a 100m swim from a push with fins and paddles.

I had only about a minute to process what the coach had told me but I was ready to give it another shot.  I was swimming against a backstroker I had never beat in a single swim, ever.  All things being equal, within the last year, he swam 4 seconds faster than me in the 100 backstroke, yet Mike Bottom says I can beat this guy.

I got to the other end of the pool and got ready to race.  I placed my feet on the gutter and took a deep breath.  The coach yelled "take your marks.... go", we both did backstroke starts in unison.  During the underwater kicking I caught a glimpse of the other swimmer in my peripheral vision we were dead even.  I knew I had a shot.  We raced to the other side but I refrained from looking over again during the race.  I finally saw the flags and took my big kick to the wall.  I heard the other swimmers time first... a 28.4.  Mine came next... a 27.8, the fastest time of the day for backstrokers!

Mike Bottom came right over, pointed at me and said "That's what I was talking about, elevate yourself!"

As we made our way down to the other end of the pool to warm down I had a smile on my face realizing what I had just accomplished.  I spent the next few minutes swimming and thinking about my final race coming up.  I was concerned that I see myself as a 50 backstroker but barely a 100 backstroker.  I've never had the endurance to get through an entire 100 backstroke all out.  The other variables were the fins and paddles, I lack the strength to utilize the additional surface area they add.  After I cooled down, I asked the coach if I could swim the 100 without equipment.  He shook his head "no" and replied, "the set was written that way for a reason, you need to wear fins and paddles.".  In hindsight, I was asking for two reasons, first because the equipment barely makes me faster, second because I knew I didn't have much of a chance against this other swimmer.  Regardless, I put on the equipment and jumped in the water to do a push start.

I watched the other swimmer to ensure we started at the same time.  We pushed off and I surfaced at 15 meters, he was slightly ahead of me and pushed it past 15 meters (we were told it was ok to do so).  I spun my arms, using my new backstroke techniques I had learned in the last few weeks to anchor my arms.  I saw the yellow rope pass by, the 25 meter mark, then the flags at the other end, the 45 meter mark.  I flipped and looked over to see myself about a half a second ahead of the other swimmer but I knew his second 50 would be where he shined.  I began my kicks underwater and watched him pass me up.  I had nothing to lose at that point, he was ahead and we had 30 meters left to swim.  I put everything I had into it, I was just whipping my arms over and over with maximum effort, careful not to let my stroke fall apart, I saw the flags and dove down into my finish to touch the wall in a 53.0, the other swimmer touched in a 53.6.

I said "good job" to the other swimmer, hopefully he knew that also meant "good job" on all the other 8 races he beat me in earlier in the set.  I walked away with a new found confidence in my abilities.  After the workout I passed Coach Mike Bottom again and had a brief exchange with him regarding training.  He said "good job today" as he sized me up from head to toe.  He followed with "you've got some potential here but you've got to change how you see yourself.  Go home and read some Superman Comics."  I laughed but he didn't.  He was serious.  He followed with "but we need to get some muscle on you and that takes time, you've gotta look into supplements.  Are you taking anything now?", I replied "no".  Supplements have always scared me a little because once in a great while, these simple suppliments turn up positive on drug tests.  That's just my worst fear, that somehow I get fast, then fail a drug test because I'm taking a stupid pill.  I know all good athletes take supplements, I'll be doing some research.

Overall, a great morning.  I got beat quite a few times, got a pep talk from one of the great minds in swimming, revved it up and swam faster in practice than ever before.


Sub Par Kick Set

Posted by Kevin Doak on Friday at: 11:38pm (June 3rd, 2011)

There is really only one type of practice set I pride myself in.  Kick sets have proven to be my only way of consistently keeping up with the other guys.  Today we had a long set which was comprised of everything from 25's, 50's and 100's.  All of them on less than 30 seconds reset and all of them a maximum effort.  I assumed I would be able to hold my own.  My lane voted me up to lead the set.  I saw that as a small honor.  The set had three main rounds.  The first two used no equipment.  The third used fins.  During the first two, I was consistently beat by everybody in the fastest heat.  I was touching last out of 8 swimmers.  It was really frustrating.  I gave it my all but just felt really run down.  I've never done well in sets with short rest.  Only two of the swims did I hit the wall in 5th but for the majority of the two rounds, I represented the slowest swimmer within the fastest heat.  I was in pretty good company for a few swims though, the first heat was comprised of 2 NCAA champions and 2 Olympians.  These guys were just killing me, touching the wall 5-10 seconds sooner than I was in the 100 kick.... really impressive.

Sadly, I volunteered to go last in my lane for the final round.  I was pretty run down and felt as though the other swimmers in my lane would benefit from the heat 1 competition more than I would.  We all have "on" days and "off" days.  Today was the latter.


Running them down

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 11:06pm (June 1st, 2011)

We had another race-pace type set today.  It was 3 times through:

100 (75 race + 25 cruise)
2 x 50 (#1 race + #2 cruise)
3 x 25 (all race, get out and walk back)

I held my own in the 75's, in the 2nd fastest group, finishing at the same time as the other swimmers (an accomplishment for me!), the 50 was similar, I finished ahead of one swimmer, a tenth of a second behind the other.  The 25's seem to be going better and better lately.  Each set thus far, I've been singled out by the coach and praised for great racing.  This first set I won all three 25's against two other swimmers, one of them being a 19.8 second 50 freestyler.  Oddly enough, I would be even with the other swimmers, they would excel in the underwater and breakout portion, and it would always take me a few meters to find my stroke.  However, when I found it, I started running these guys down.  I finished the 2nd 25 and the coach exclaimed "Doak is running you guys down in the last 5 meters!".  It put a big smile on my face, partially because I was singled out, partially because I feel like I'm actually improving and these other guys must see it as well.  Two weeks ago I was getting ruined by everybody.  Now I'm hanging with these fantastic swimmers on a small portion of the sets.  The second round was backstroke with fins.  A talented backstroke/butterflier was paired up with me for the set.  This guy has incredible underwaters and swims a  100 fly in 45 seconds.  He was pulling a body length on me at 15 meters every single time.  When the round was finished, I had to say something to the coaches.  I said, this guy is demolishing me underwater!  The coach responded "well, he swims a 100 fly in 45 seconds, what can you do?!"  I replied, "I don't know yet but I'm going to figure it out!".  After the 3rd set I thought it was only right to share with the swimmer what I had said about him.  I said "just keep doing what you're doing, you were just killing me underwater".  He replied, "yea, but as soon as we hit the top (above water), you were running me down".  We shared a laugh and got out.  The third round didn't go so well.  It was with fins and paddles freestyle.  I was moved up into the first group with the fastest sprinters.  I did not swim well compared to them at all.  I finished dead last on each of the swims.  It was still very useful to see the difference between myself and the most talented swimmers on the team.  I find I do significantly bad on the fast swims when equipment like fins and paddles are added.  These additions multiply the surface area on your hands and feet.  This also means that you have to have the muscle to harness all that extra surface area.  I, unfortunately do not have the muscle to take advantage of these devices.  This is where muscular swimmers just ruin me.  It was pretty pathetic.  I got beat by about 2 body lengths at the 50 meter mark.  Really quite sad in comparison.  Regardless, I'm learning every day and I hope to keep improving.  I feel great and look forward to racing again!


The Pain

Posted by Kevin Doak on Wednesday at: 10:48pm (June 1st, 2011)

To begin, let me mention that in no way am I claiming to endure more pain than any other athlete, I just thought it might be interesting to read what we go through every day.

I'll isolate one average practice.  We begin with stretching, sometimes it's refreshing, other times, it's painful depending on what we did in the days prior.  We'll then move onto dryland training, this involves all sorts of medium impact movements, sometimes jumping up on a 2 foot tall box, sometimes stepping up on it with 30lb weights.  We do lunges with weights... over and over again till our legs burn.  We'll move onto ab workouts which involve minutes on end of leg movements while our bodies are suspended on a bench so our legs have nothing to touch below them.  We hang from rings and lift our legs up, oddly enough, it's our hands that hurt more than our legs, the skin at the base of your fingers gets stretched so hard that your hands are white for minutes afterward.  We do V-ups till we can't move anymore.  We do jumping pullups which put pressure on our spines and in my case, sometimes causing some odd compression issues.  We do power lifting, setting the weight to significantly more than normal and lift it as fast as possible.  Some guys lift so much on the lat pull down machine that the corners of the steel bend upwards.  These guys are pulling down 260lbs.  I'm at a solid 180 and I'm on the light side of the group for sure.  Then we do negative lifting, where we set the weight to maximum, complete a rep, and at the top, a buddy then pulls the weight away from you as you resist them... a crazy new concept to me.  We do many other exercises as well before changing for the pool.  We're dripping with sweat by this time, weights and/or dryland lasts 45 to 75 minutes.

Afterward we prepare for the pool workout, briefly reviewing the printed workout and doing some final stretching.  The pool is always cold.  The entire team dives in within 30 seconds typically.  The funny dives are really the only joking or fun that can be found in a practice.  The first dive itself can be painful, you're still tired from the lifting and when I forget to stretch my neck, I can really tweak my spine in a bad way.  It's happened many times.  Once you're in the water, you spend the next 1 minute just getting used to the cold.  You're swimming slow for the first few hundred meters, just allowing your body to adjust to the temperature and the zero impact of the water.  It's followed by a short kick set.  For me, this comes with some pain due to my arms stretched out on the board, it strains and compresses your spine and puts your shoulder joint in an unnatural position, others don't seem to mind as much.  I do it, but I dislike it.

The pre-main sets almost always include some underwater kicking.  12.5's are easy any day, when we are asked to do 15 meters underwater without fins, it's a little daunting.  You find yourself kicking and running out of air, just hoping to see that second red buoy that indicates the 15 meter mark.  You surface and take a huge breath, just glad that it's over.  Unless they are "race pace breakouts", you can slow it down for a few seconds and relax to prepare for the next one.  Then comes the 25 meter underwaters.  I can speak for any swimmer and say that these aren't "easy" for anybody.  They are 10 meters beyond what is legal in a race so their only purpose is to build up a tolerance for no-breath swimming.  They seem to last forever but they're do-able with some effort.  When the 35 meter underwater swims come up, many swimmers don't make it.  Myself included although I'm improving.  The 35's come within a difficult set so you rarely get any rest beforehand.  You push off underwater, watching the 10 meter buoy pass, then the 15, then the blue bouy's start meaning you're almost half way down the pool (thank goodness, running out of air!).  You see the yellow rope pass indicating the 25 meter mark.  You start swallowing air, almost like a heaving as you near the 35 meter mark.  You surface, almost violently to get that breath of air.  You immediately think about how many more you have to do just like that one. 

Some days we'll do 20 or more starts off the blocks with race pace breakouts.  On the bulkhead side, it's rarely painful, the block surface is plastic with a little grip.  However, on the competition start side, the blocks are downright aggressively surfaced.  It's a 36 grit sandpaper (or less) with channels horizontally moulded into it.  This means that your trailing toe is going to catch one of these sharp channels and do some damage if you're starting fast.  My toe looks like a hungry piranha got some quality time with it today.  Many days within a main set we'll do repeated starts, 15 meters underwater, a race pace breakout and a sprint to 25 meters.  When we stop we're given a time, spoken to us like "Doak ten six".  This indicates that my time off the blocks (probably off my feet) to the 25 meter mark was completed in 10.6x seconds.  I begin a mental database of these times throughout the set to gauge my success against myself and others.  When we complete the 25, we swim to the wall, take a breath and hoist ourselves out.  Many times we are so tired, we can barely get out of the pool, it looks pretty pathetic.  We are gasping for air and we have just exerted our bodies at 100%.  We crawl out, hands, then knees, then slowly stand up and walk back to the blocks.  When we get to the blocks, we have about 10 seconds to gather ourselves and prepare to do it all over again.  We'll do it as few as 4 times, as many as 40 times in a row, sometimes with breaks in the middle.  There are days you're so out of it, you stumble up onto the blocks, almost falling in the water, as you feel the dizziness start to affect your equilibrium.

Other sets we're expected to swim 50 meters without breathing, and do so slowly.  This is my greatest failure so far.  I've only made ONE of them.  Other swimmers have a much better track record.  I start heaving, break down and take a breath at the 40 meter mark.  I know I will improve but it's one of the most painful things thus far.

The 100's "green/purple" pace are very difficult as well.  These are race pace 100's.  You are basically swimming a race every few minutes.  I fall apart at 40 meters and struggle to get to the wall.  I'm almost always at the back of the pack on these sets.  I have poor endurance for a 100 meter race.  All your muscles start burning.  You can't seem to breathe enough and you feel your stroke fall apart.  It's painful

Somehow, I keep coming back for more.  It's been a rough month but I feel myself improving.  I love it

I know it was an unorganized post, but perhaps that gives you a glimpse of what a single workout is like.