This weekend we were at the Stanford Grand Prix meet in Palo Alto, California. This meet is one in a series of meets sponsored in part by US Swimming and Toyota to bring the fastest swimmers in the nation together as they ready themselves for our Olympic Trials.. The Trials are being held in Omaha, NE beginning the 30th of June.
At Stanford this weekend we saw Klete Keller, swimming with the Trojan Swim Club out of southern California, post a fabulous 400 meter free swim. His time of 3:45.2 was inspiring - and instructional - to watch.
1 - His splits for the 200's were, out in a 1:51.9 and then back in a 1:53.3
2 - His time was 1.1 seconds slower than his American and U.S. Open record of 3:44.11 and 3:44.19 respectively. Both of those record times were set in the summer of 2004.
3 - His breathing off the turns was precise, low and straightforward. His breathing during each lap was very efficient.
4 - His swim, no doubt, caused a few of his competitors to go to the pool today (Sunday) when perhaps they had thought about taking a day off.
What can we learn from this swim, regardless of our own personal speed and interest in swimming?
1 - If you will train diligently you will have the ability to swim even splits (if you take out Klete's dive the first 200 it is nearly identical to the second 200) which is an efficient way to expend your energy - regardless of the distance.
2 - Klete has been training and racing for nearly 4 years. His swim Saturday was excellent by any standard. It was not however,his personal best. It is very important that each swimmer, indeed any athlete, keep performances in perspective. We did not speak to Klete personally but we feel comfortable saying that he felt a measure of personal satisfaction with his swim and the time. Sometimes we get too wound up in doing our "personal best time" when what really counts is how we are progressing at this point in time. The difference between those two perspectives is enormous. We are guessing here, but we are confident this point is not lost on Klete Keller this weekend. (The internet being what it is, Klete, we would love to get your take on this point of discussion!)
3 - If you keep you head down when you breathe you will keep your hips up which means you are pulling a flatter, more streamlined torso through the water. When Klete took a breath it was not possible to see his nose. He was breathing to his left. His right goggle was not visible, nor his nose. His head was in a neutral position and we are guessing his head rotation was less than 45 degrees. And of special note, when he came off the turns his head was down, his breathing "in the pocket" (meaning in the space created by his head's bow wave) such that his first arm pull propelled him forward, not up at all.
4 - "Gamesmanship" is a big part of competition no matter the sport. Men in the US thinking about a spot on the Olympic Team this summer in the 400 free were served notice Saturday that Klete Keller is a force that needs to be: 1 - recognized and 2 - be dealt with. And, if you, as a lap swimmer or Masters swimmer, or former competitive swimmer looking for the extra push to get up Monday morning and go to the pool, then perhaps Klete did you a favor!