Saturday, August 16, 2008

My father's words ringing in my ears... plus more inspiration

When I was a kid, back before my parents divorced, they were always at all of my swim meets. In the summers, mom usually would stroke judge, while dad would usually announce. If you've never met my dad, which I don't think any of you have, you have to understand that my musical talent comes from a combination of my parents but largely him. He has the "Most Bombastic B-52 Bass" voice. (It was an old Concert Choir award, I didn't make that up.) Basically, he has an awesome voice, so he was a great announcer for our swim meets. After my races, I couldn't go talk to mom cause she was busy watching the kids in the pool, so I went to dad. For the better part of the 15 years I swam, my dad always said the same thing. It got to the point where I would say "I KNOW!" before he would even say it. "Starts, turns, and finishes will win your race, Kate." After 15 years, it really sunk in.

These days, I find myself acting more and more like my father when I'm coaching at swim practice. I yell at my kids for not finishing hard, standing up on starts, doing open turns instead of flip turns, and I certainly find myself chastising them for gliding to a finish. In a sport that can be won or lost by hundredths of a second the smallest of technial things matter. And I can't tell you how much last night's race in the 100M fly between Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic excited me. Not because it was a tight race and because it came down to the thinnest margin I can think of, no, that's not why I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because it proves me right (and we all know how much I love to be right!) I now have fodder for my rant mill come November when my kids get back in the pool.

It proves me right to my kids because one of the world's best athletes fell blunder to one of the oldest rules in swimming and it cost him. They can now see that their crazy coach isn't really just talking out her backside. Cavic fell blunder to one of the rules that is ingrained in swimmers from day one. DON'T glide into the wall. His mistake cost him the ultimate prize. That last glide cost him the gold medal. Instead of finishing hard and hitting the wall the way he should, Cavic failed to nail the touch pad, allowing Phelps to get in .01 ahead of him. .01. You can't even blink that fast. Ok maybe you can, but I think you get the point. Everyday at CF we preach form. Form and technique. A technical failure on the part of Cavic cost him dearly. That's not to take anything away from his swim. He still left his heart in that pool and did a pheonomenal job, but guaranteed when asked in 10 years how he feels about that race, he will lament on that last stroke. (If you didn't watch that race, I encourage you to go to the NBC online site and stream it. Actually, even better are the photos taken by the underwater cameras. you want to see what .01 looks like? Check out the Getty photo gallery. This race was even better than the 4X100 relay that everyone was talking about, including me. You can't seem to figure out how Phelps gets his hand on the wall. Even Phelps mom thought he was in second. Watch her reaction post race.)

Form and technique are important, there is no doubt about it. Sometimes with CF we get so caught up on going heavier, we lose form, and we forget about it. We need to remember that there is a purpose for the form and techinque we practice, so that like Cavic, when it counts, we don't ruin an opportunity. It might be an opportunity for a PR, it might be an opportunity just to complete a safe lift. Form and technique, just like those "starts, turns, and finishes" are ultimately what will allow us to win our "race" with CF.

The Olympics give us lots of great performances to focus on and lots of reasons to be proud of our athletes, but I found some inspiration a little closer to home today. I love reading CrossFit NYC: The Black Box, because they do a great job of finding interesting links to post on their page. I copied and pasted the following story today because I thought it was too great of a story not to pass along to those of you who don't click over to those guys very often. I think it shows how CrossFit can be embraced by anyone!

Mary Conover is a grandmother in Santa Cruz, CA who started CrossFit at age 69, this is her story: "About 3 1/2 years ago, at the age of 69, I was fretting because I couldn’t pick up my 13 lb granddaughter. I figured that in order to get her into my lap, I would have to wait until she could climb there! My police officer son, who keeps fit, strong, and happy with CrossFit, urged me to contact Coach Greg Glassman because he wanted a lifealtering best for his mom. That contact and his unspoken confidence that I wasn’t “too old” were some of my son’s sweetest gifts to me, especially because the gift goes on and on every day!
A couple of weeks later I walked into a world foreign to me. Actually, I paced up and down in front trying to figure out what I was getting myself into as I surreptitiously glanced in the window of a somewhat daunting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu center where Coach Glassman, in those early days, had a little rectangle of CrossFit floor space where he and Lauren worked their magic. I finally made it through the door after Coach noticed me loitering outside! On that day I developed a bond with the Gravitron (with lots of help) and could only squat with poor form to the highest plyometric box. Situps followed the squats and by the time I had done 5 situps, I knew that one of the components of my quads had given up... actually failed! My first workout was over! When I informed Coach that I couldn’t do one more sit-up, there followed the only time in my now long acquaintance with him, that I found him speechless, if you can imagine that!
I was back the next week. In the days, weeks and years that followed my reps and weights increased and, as I strengthened and learned technique, minutes and seconds fell away on my 2K rowing times. But the bonus was that I can now pick up my granddaughter and, now at 4 years old, she weighs a whole lot more!
The elderly obviously don’t have the potential reflexes, balance, or strength of a young person. However, CrossFit workouts do improve every one of those functions. I feel strong and, if I concentrate, can even achieve a little straighter posture. My bone density reads “Normal Young”, and, in a world where few people notice an old lady, I enjoy the genuine acceptance, youthful camaraderie, encouragement, celebration, and love that permeates the CrossFit world."

Now, be inspired, and go focus on your form and technique... I might go for a run later... :P


The Wigan Crossfitter said...

Crossfit too hard?


Aww..its funny how we end up sounding the same as our parents at times.

Heck my own 6yr old reminds me of my old dad because of the stuff I copied from him!

Now thats scary!

Lars said...

I watched that replay just a few minutes before I read this, and I was thinking more or less the same thing, "what in the name of Einstein is he doing?" I have no clue about competition swimming, but that struck me as a bit foolish. Nice to have it confirmed by the experts.

Oh, and where's Brad?

Katie said...

Lars, here are a few swimming things for you... one of the things that they teach at a young age is that for the last 5 yards (most competition pools are in 25 yards) you should put your head down, not breathe, and haul your butt to the wall. Gliding is a big no no for the exact reason of what you saw last night. Breathing, picking up your head, gliding can all allow a competitor to get their hand on the wall before you in a close race. It's unfortunate that the finish happened that way... losing like that is not fun... you kick your own backside for a good long while, but at that level, Cavic really should have known better.

It looked honestly like his stroke count was off, and rather than take a half stroke, he decided to glide. Allow me to explain. Just like in CF, swimmers' coaches preach consistancy. Ideally, a swimmer should know how long to stay under water off a start, when to come up, and how many strokes it takes them to the turn (if there is one). From there, the swimmer should know again, how long to stay under, and then how many strokes to the next turn, or the finish. It should be predictable. The last thing you want as a swimmer is to be halfway through a stroke and find yourself at the wall. Ideally a swimmer should hit the wall perfectly extended each time.

If you watch the replay it looked like Cavic's stroke count was off, and rather than take another stroke that would have had to be shorter than his normal one, he decided to glide in. Phelps' count was also not dead on, but he took the half stroke, and got his hand on first.

I would say that stroke count is VITALLY important in butterfly and breaststroke. Otherwise your body is too close to the wall and it slows your turn due to ackward body positioning. Stroke count can be dangerous in backstroke as well if counted incorrectly. You only get one pull before you have to do your flipturn and if you're too far out, you have to glide in, or kick really hard. Either way, both slow you down immensely.

Sorry... got on a tangent, but hope you learned something!

Lars said...

Yup, now I know that as long as my stroke count (!) is good, my horrible butterfly technique doesn't matter :-)

Katie said...

LOL... Lars that's not exactly what I'm saying... stroke count is very important, but so is technique... if you have no technique... your stroke count won't matter... LOL... but for these guys at this level... it matters a huge amount...

Lars said...


On another tangent, I make a point of _not_ telling my kids the same stuff my dad told me, or at least I put it forward in a very different manner. But that's just me.

Katie said...

Lars, it's not a conscience effort to sound like my dad, but when I step back after saying some of the things I say, I mutter to myself how "Dear God I sound like my father." :P

Justa said...

If you look at tonights race, I think Torres also was caught mid-stroke, also costing her the gold. I'm no expert, but it looked like it to me. you have the bass voice too when you sound like your father?

Katie said...

Sadly Justa I did not inherit the most Bombastic B-52 Bass voice... mine is a nice mid soprano... :P

I didn't get to see the Torres race... I caught the medals as soon as I got home... I will have to watch the replay.