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  • May

    Journey to Omaha: Part 1

    By Andrew Saeta, 2008 & 2012 Olympic Trials Competitor

    Editor’s Note: Most general sports fans know the U.S. Olympic Trials as the event where Olympic stars qualify for the Olympic team and have one final preparation for the upcoming Games. But for many elite swimmers, just reaching the 2016 Olympic Trials is the goal of a lifetime. We caught up with one swimmer hoping to make the cut-off time to compete in Omaha, this summer. Here’s his story and his challenge!

    In March of 2013, I took the last stroke of my collegiate career as the anchor for Stanford’s 400 Freestyle Relay at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis. That last stroke represented the end of an era for me – one that lasted 15 years where I spent thousands of miles staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. Although the moment was bittersweet by any standard, I was excited to hang up my swim suit in exchange for a dress suit, as I began my professional career in the financial industry.

    I’ll admit it – I was pretty burnt out from swimming. For the next two or so years, I could probably count the number of times I swam in a pool using just my fingers. Not only was I staying away from the pool, but I also wasn’t doing much exercising. Working 60-70 hours a week didn’t leave much time for working out. I started to dislike what I was seeing in the mirror and I was noticeably out of shape. In December of 2015, I started to feel an itch – an itch that wanted me to be healthier, to get into shape, to get back into the water.

    Always a big fan of goal setting, I decided to set a pretty big goal for myself: I wanted to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 50m freestyle. Now, over the course of my swimming career, I had qualified for two Olympic Trials (2008 & 2012). Qualifying wouldn’t necessarily be a new feat for me, but the conditions had changed pretty drastically. With a rigorous work schedule, I allotted six workouts a week for my “qualify for Olympic Trials” regime. I would swim three times and lift weights three times for an hour each. Because work required me to wake up at 6am every day, there was a zero percent chance that I would wake up before work to train. That meant I’d be swimming or lifting weights in the evening.

    As it turned out, swimming and lifting after work was really, really hard. After a long day spent tackling several different projects at work, I just wanted to go to sleep when I left the office. I found myself downing a cup of coffee on the way out the door, just so I could make the most of my hour-long practice. This was definitely a deviation from the schedule I was used to in high school and college. Plus, with only roughly six hours of workouts a week, I was going to have to train with an especially high level of intensity in order to make the most of my limited time.

    I competed at my first event in Orinda in mid-April and missed the 50m freestyle Trials cut by .19. Then, two weeks later at a meet in Pleasanton, bad luck hit me. I got the flu and was nursing a fever of 102 degrees when I swam. Needless to say, I didn't get the cut. A week after that, I swam well at U.S. Masters Swimming Spring Nationals in North Carolina. The times don’t count for Trials but not only did I swim a solid 50y freestyle but I had a personal best in the backstroke. It was a promising performance. Perhaps the 100m backstroke is also in play for the chance to reach Trials.

    Now I am focused on the Grand Challenge in Irvine, CA at the end of May. It’s close to my parent’s home in Pasadena. And a week later I’ll have one more shot at the Santa Clara Grand Prix. I’ll give it all I have!

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