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My Introduction to the Collegiate Recruitment Program

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In the winter of 2009-2010, I suffered from knee pain that eventually developed into Synovial Plica Syndrome. Basically, I had swollen tissue in my knee that was rubbing against my patella, causing discomfort when I ran.  Ultimately, I would undergo surgery in March and miss my entire indoor and outdoor track seasons that year. I had dealt with injuries before, and even minor surgeries which included placing pins in my big toe, but this one was tough to swallow because my NCAA eligibility was coming to an end in another year and for the first time my days as a competitive athlete seemed to be numbered.

jason
Swimming is all about frequency. Even when I'm on vacation I try not to miss a day.
Around this time my head coach at Northern Arizona University, Eric Heins, was contacted by Barb Lindquist, asking whether he might have any athletes on his team that would be interested in racing triathlon post-collegiately. Coach Heins knew I had raced a triathlon the previous summer and forwarded me her information. “Cool,” I thought, but I let the email sit in my inbox for a month or so.

As my knee injury worsened, I began to swim more and thought I should see what this Collegiate Recruitment Program is all about. Barb filled me in with the goals of the program, told me about a few of the program’s successes, and the caliber of athlete they are looking for. She said they expect to find some of USA’s next Olympians through this program (see: Gwen Jorgensen). I had already met the program’s standards as a runner, so I thought I might as well knock out this swimming ‘B’ standard while I am recovering from this knee injury.

What is the ‘B’ standard? A 2:15 200 from a dive, 1:00 rest, and a 10:00 800 from a push, for short course yards (2:30/10:56 scm and 2:36/11:18 lcm). With my knowledge of swimming at the time primarily consisting of Michael Phelps’ eight Beijing gold medals, I really had no idea how fast (or slow) those times were. On January 6, 2010, I jumped in my local athletic club’s 25-yard pool and gave it a go. I swam the 200 in 2:27. The one minute rest gave me just enough time to realize that I needed to swim the 800 in the same pace I just swam that 200! Needless to say, I rode the struggle bus to an 11:15 800.

At this point, I’m sure Barb was thinking maybe this kid doesn’t have what it takes. However, she continued to encourage me and I continued to work hard over the next few months in the pool. In May I gave it a go once again: 2:19 and 10:26. I continued cross training with swim and bike throughout the summer as I began to increase my run volume back towards 100 miles/week. Finally, in my last swim test of the year, I went 2:13 and 10:10 in July. While I ended up just short of the standard, both Barb and I were happy with the progression I had made from my first test six months prior, which was enough to show her I might have what it takes. Swimming was going in the right direction, but I knew I had to let it go for a bit while I finished up my final, and ultimately most successful, cross country season (perhaps thanks to the extra aerobic volume over summer from swim/bike).

In May 2011 I finished up my running career at NAU and jumped right into full-time triathlon training. At this point I began working with Ian Murray and he helped identify a couple issues with my stroke. Both Ian and Barb encouraged me to join a Masters swimming team, and I spent most of my summer swimming with the Conejo Valley Multisport Masters out of Thousand Oaks, Calif. In July I won the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island, earning my elite license, and raced my final race as an amateur at Age Group Nationals in August, where I placed fourth overall.

jason
Anxiously anticipating the swim at the Clermont ITU Pan American Cup (Erik Pedersen).
At this point I was gaining confidence in my swim after having a good summer of racing. Still, I technically hadn’t met that ‘B’ standard, and wanted to see how that 200/800 test compares with my first ITU swim in Myrtle Beach. About a week before my professional debut, I swam 2:10 and 9:47. I was quite excited to have conquered this benchmark that I had been working toward for the last 20+ months. In Myrtle Beach, however, I came out of the swim in 27th of 33 in a solid pack of two, 3:00 behind the leader and learned why the standard I had been chasing was just a ‘B’ standard.

That race was all the motivation I needed to spend the next few months logging 30-40k yard weeks. I really learned to let my run go for a bit, knowing that a speedy run is futile in the draft-legal world without a solid swim. The sacrifice seems to have paid off, as I came out of the water at Clermont’s USAT Sprint Nationals just 40 seconds behind the leader, allowing me to ride in the front of the first chase group on the bike. With goals of breaking 2:05 and 9:30 before my next race at the Dallas ITU event in June, I hope this improvement combined with a clean T1 and strong bike will get me in that lead group.

Still, I have a long way to go. I am racing against guys that have spent much of their lives in the pool, and Ian often reminds me that this commitment to swimming is going to last at least another two or three years. I didn’t just wake up a 30-minute 10k runner after a couple years of running, and to become that same caliber of swimmer will take time, consistency, focus, determination and support. Thanks to Coach Heins, Barb, Ian, USAT and the fire within, I have all those things going for me.

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