Getting Into the Zone

This is a post from YoungTri Contributor Patrick LaBrode. Patrick is a Sophomore on the University of Texas at Austin Swim Team.

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In the Zone at UT!

Being an endurance athlete is the furthest thing from easy! We (triathletes, distance runners/swimmers, and cyclists) have to spend many long and grueling hours training a week for a race that could 1 hour to 12+ hours. Although endurance training seems impossible, once you “get in the zone” you can feel like you never want to stop!

I myself am a distance swimmer (swimming the 1650, 1000 and 500) and I have competed in many triathlons. So many of my friends and family members ask me “how do you do it?”

They are stunned when I tell them I swam 9,000+ yards (around 5 miles) in one practice. And the only response I have is that “I get in my zone and just go.” Getting in the zone is something hard to explain to people outside of the “endurance sports world”. All of the sprinters on my team say if they were given a long-distance set, they’d get extremely bored and tired and give up. But what is different about us endurance athletes is the ability to get into that distance “zone”.

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Getting into my zone consists of me catching the right stroke rhythm. When this happens, my stroke seems in sync with my breath and my kick. I feel the pull of the water with every stroke and my stroke feels strong and relaxed. As my strokes begins to get in the right rhythm, I also might sing a song in my head that fits the speed/rhythm I want to achieve in my workout. Once everything is together, you feel it, and then you just keep going until the end of the workout or set.

As I’m in my zone, I also like to focus on what’s ahead of me. Is there a turn coming up? How long have I gone? What is my pace? All of these questions help yourself stay focused on the present workout and keep your mind from wondering.

So, next time you’re headed out to the track, road, pool treadmill, trainer, etc. try to think about your body and mind getting into the zone to maintain consistency and keep focused. It’s a great habit/tactic that distance athletes have, so use it!

-Patrick

Swimming Through Texas: Watch and Learn from the Pros

This is a post from YoungTri Contributor Patrick LaBrode

This past weekend the Lee and Joe-Jamail Texas Swimming Center (where the UT team swims) hosted the 2014 Austin Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is a series of meets that take place throughout the year. The meets are all long course meters, and they pull in a competitive field.

There were many Olympians, American record holders, World record holders, and rising stars that raced in the pool I train in daily! Many athletes think the only way to improve in their events is by practicing more and training harder. But — people are also great visual learners! That is why our coach told my team to stay after practice on Friday to watch these incredible and successful athletes compete. By focusing on their starts, stokes, turns, and race strategies, we took mental notes to hold onto so the next time we are in the water, we can work on perfecting our swims.

The Grand Prix Meet!

The Grand Prix Meet!

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to swim at such an amazing pool that host many national events, and bring in so many star swimmers to watch. Although your pool may not host meets like the Grand Prix, I’m sure there are races not too far away that you can watch and learn from! You can also learn by watching your teammates practice and compete. Almost every day I am watching my other teammate’s strokes and turns to try and see what they are doing different than me, to try and improve myself!

And this doesn’t only apply to swimmers. Triathletes can highly benefit by watching triathlons – whether in person or on television. When I was competing in triathlons, I loved to volunteer at races. I was able to get in some community service hours and watch and learn from some great racing!

Good luck swimmers as the short course season begins to come to a close, we are almost there! Stay tuned for more!

-Patrick

Learning from Sophomore Fall Stress at UT!

This is a post from YoungTri Contributor Patrick LaBrode

“The only thing holding you back is what’s between your ears.”

This quote defines my sophomore fall 2013 semester.  I had the hardest class schedule so far during my time at the University of Texas, and on top of that, the swim practices grew tougher as well. This semester was full of highs, and many lows, but finally finishing and looking back, it was an amazing learning experience.

I was nervous for this semester in the beginning because I was taking a tough courseload that had me in class on Mondays from 8am to 1pm, no breaks. And Tuesday nights I had a lab from 6pm to 10pm. I wasn’t sure how I was going to balance my swim/school schedule at first.

However, having an entire year’s worth of college swimming under my belt definitely made a difference this fall. This season I can finally push myself harder than what is expected, instead of being in “survival mode,” like I was during my freshman year! I was also swimming faster times in meets than I was a year ago, so I was stoked about that.

My fall semester was still enjoyable - despite the highs and lows!

My fall semester was still enjoyable – despite the highs and lows!

But, like with any years — lows came with some of the highs that accompanied my settling into the swim team. With the stress from class and my grades, (which were lower than what I hold myself to) I had a couple of break down points. Including our mid-season taper meet, the Texas Invitational.

This meet (early December) was supposed to be a really fast meet for all of us — and I was hoping to go best times early on in the season. I was feeling great going into it, but that week I ended up having 4 exams. So I spent the majority of the week stressing, studying, and not sleeping. It was a bad combo, and my body felt the effects from it. I began having really bad acid reflux and trouble breathing and my stroke broke down. Needless to say, it was probably one of the worst swim meets I’ve ever had.

Although it was disappointing, I am (thankfully) pretty good at putting bad swims behind me. And I had finals the next week, so I had to focus on those — and didn’t have time to dwell on the past. I studied all week for finals and my grades came out a lot better than I had expected. And my swimming continued to improve as the semester went on from my newfound balance and focus.

Great to be back with my family over break!

Great to be back with my family over break!

Looking back on my semester, I realized I was always just a couple steps behind in my classes, always struggling to catch up. If I had put in the work early on (like I did at the end of the semester) my GPA, swimming, and self would have been much better! Through this experience, I realized that it’s important when you find yourself struggling with school and training to sit down, breathe, and write down a plan for yourself. You may be holding yourself back and be further along than you think 🙂

Here’s to a relaxing break and great spring semester!

-Patrick LaBrode

Swimming Through Texas: Second Year!

Another year as a Texas Longhorn swimmer is in full swing! Classes are harder than last semester, and the swimming is too!

I spent this summer in Houston (my hometown) swimming and trying to figure out what medical issues I have with my shortness of breath and extra heart beats. After multiple doctors and doctor visits, I was finally able to conclude that I have a bad case of acid reflux. During swim practice, the acid in my stomach would come up and irritate my lungs and heart. It was not a fun time. But with a change to my diet, I was back to the swimmer I was before I had these problems.

I found out that I had to cut out coffee (caffeine in general), soda, tomato sauce, acidic fruits, super fatty foods, chocolate, and other foods that cause acid reflux. I also can’t eat a big meal three hours before practicing or racing. And although I didn’t want to follow this diet, I knew that if I wanted to achieve my goals that I had to change my habits.

And I have changed my habits. I have been following the acid reflux diet as best as I can, and I have been swimming so much better. Both my body and my mind are motivated in practices and I’ve found the love for swimming I had several months ago!

I’ll keep you updated on practices and meets and just my life in general as I “swim through Texas” as a sophomore!

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Hook ‘Em!

Patrick

Expect the Unexpected: Transitions {Advice after my Junior Elite Race}

When triathletes train, they tend to focus mainly on swimming, biking and running. However, the time elapsed during transition portion of your race can be the difference between winning gold — or coming up a stride too short.

I competed in 2011 USAT Junior National Championships in San Diego, CA as a junior elite athlete. This was my first national-level triathlon, and I was a mixture of excited and nervous. My training had been going really well, and I was stoked to see the outcome of all my hard work.

The swim portion of the race went really well! I ended up coming out of the water in 3rd place and was in the zone to hang with the lead bike pack. But when I got to the transition area, I encountered major complications.

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Transition at USAT Junior Elite Nationals!

I got my helmet and sunglasses on quickly, but as I went to pull out my bike from the rack, it wouldn’t budge! Somehow my bike had gotten tangled up with a youth elite girls bike on the other side of the rack! Panic struck at this point, and I was freaking out. My emotions did not help solve the problem. It took me about 20 seconds to get my bike untangled, just enough time to watch the lead pack leave me (every second matters in such a short race) and I was stuck by myself for the first loop of the bike portion.

My legs died out as I watched many bike packs pass me — and although I finished the race, I did not finish where I wanted to in the pack.

Although my race didn’t go as planned, I learned a huge lesson: expect the unexpected, especially in transition. What I learned from my race is to stay calm when something goes wrong, so you can more easily solve the problem If you stay calm during a race, you can think quicker/more efficiently and you can go for the gold!

-Patrick LaBrode

YoungTri Executive Board Member & Swimmer at University of Texas at Austin

Swimming Through Texas: Overcoming Obstacles as a UT Freshman Swimmer

this is the third post in a series by YoungTri Executive Board member Patrick LaBrode about competing on the University of Texas at Austin swim team

As my first year at The University of Texas recently came to an end, I’ve been taking a look back at my entire year and season. My first year as a college athlete was nothing short of amazing! From the very start I just knew I belonged at Texas, and every day was a blessing. But that’s not to say there weren’t any obstacles I had to get over throughout the course of the year.

As a student, college classes were not easy. I came into my freshman year thinking it wouldn’t be much different than high school — but I as wrong. I had to pull multiple all-nighters (living off coffee and popcorn)! Balancing swim, school, friends, relaxation, and everything else was not easy — but it was always an awesome adventure.

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the pool at UT!

As a swimmer, things got pretty tough. I was training harder than I’ve ever trained — with longer practices, more yards, weights, drylands…etc. I even put on over 15 pounds in my first collegiate swim season. Having said this, my first semester of training overall went quite well! I was working hard each day, and posting some fast times at meets. I survived the rough Christmas break training, and was looking forward to the end of the season taper!

But then — just as I thought everything was going quite well — a major obstacle was thrown at me.

Come mid-January, I discovered that I was having extra heartbeats during practice. They didn’t hurt or cause me to feel dizzy or anything — these beats were just not normal. I went to the cardiologist and was given an “event recorder” to monitor my heart rhythm during practice and when I was having these extra beats. As these beats began getting more frequent, I began stressing myself out and thought something was seriously wrong with me. But the cardiologist concluded that I just had pre-ventricle contractions, which are not harmful at all (which was a huge relief).

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go Longhorns!

Just when I thought everything was okay, I began having trouble catching my breath during practice. I wasn’t getting that full satisfying deep breath that swimmers crave during a workout or race, and it was affecting my practices and my racing. And just if things couldn’t get any worse, I ended up catching a stomach virus, which had me basically out of practice for a full week. Finally, the virus went away, my heartbeats were normal, and my breathing was getting better. Going into my taper meet (end of February) I wasn’t sure how I was going to swim. My training for the past month and a half had not been up to my usual standards at all, and I was worried. But I just had to stay positive — and focus on doing well in the present — not my past obstacles.

I ended up posting best times in all of my events — maybe not by a ton — but it was a huge relief! Based on my past conditions, I was happy about my performance and finished the season strong.

My obstacles were very normal for any athlete. Athletes are always having tears here, breaks there, and overall sicknesses — but you can’t get discouraged by the setbacks that may come your way. All you need to do is listen to your coaches, your doctor, and stay positive. You can overcome any obstacle with a positive outlook on the situation.

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enjoying some time home with friends after my first year swimming at UT!

I’m looking forward to the next three years as a Texas swimmer! What obstacles have you dealt with in the athletic realm recently? How have you overcome them?

Stay strong,
Patrick LaBrode