Open-water swimming can be a new, and often intimidating, experience for triathletes. In this episode, Olympic Gold Medalist and former World Record Holder Brendan Hansen recalls his first experience with triathlon's open-water swim. Hansen and Coach Jeff Raines discuss common swimming mistakes, open-water skills that can be practiced in the pool, and other considerations for your upcoming open-water swim event.
TriDot Podcast .21:
Translating Pool Training to the Open Water with Olympic Gold Medalist Brendan Hansen
This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Hey folks, welcome to an exciting edition of the TriDot Podcast. Everyone, go grab your goggles, grab your flippers, grab your pool buoys because today we are talking about swim training, and you're going to need every pool toy in your arsenal to keep up with our first expert joining us today. I'm honored to be sitting with Team USA’s, Brendan Hanson. Brendan is the director of Team Services for USA Swimming, a three-time Olympian winning three golds, one silver, and two Olympic bronze medals. Brendan captains five international team USA teams throughout his career. He swam collegially at the University of Texas, and was inducted into the men's athletics Longhorn Hall of Honor in 2015. He has held managerial and coaching positions with multiple top-level swim clubs, and is a former world record holder in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke. Brendan, thanks for coming on the podcast.
Brendan: Yeah, it's good to be here. Thanks. Every time somebody talks about me that much I tend to forget. So, it's nice this morning to hear this stuff.
Andrew: Do you enjoy hearing yourself talked about like that? Or does it make you a little uncomfortable to hear people brag about your accomplishments?
Brendan: No. Sometimes I'm just like, oh, man, where are all those medals that he just talked about? Because my house now is completely converted to kids’ stuff. But you know, it's just sometimes life moves so fast you kind of forget about the past. So, it's nice to go back a little bit.
Andrew: Yep. You look back on because that was you know, 2012 Olympics 2008, 2004. You know, in some ways it feels like it was yesterday but it was also over a decade ago in some ways.
Brendan: Yesterday, but now it's almost a decade, right. And now we're looking, staring down 2020 in Tokyo. So, yeah, time flies.
Andrew: Well, now that I've successfully made Brendan feel really old and past his prime, I'm going to introduce our second coach today. We have coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology and was a successful D1 Collegiate Runner. He's qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and has raced over 120 triathlons from competitive Sprints to full distance Ironmans. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes since 2009. Now, Jeff, you've had the opportunity to coach alongside Brendan in the past. How excited are you to get this guy on the podcast with us?
Jeff: Oh, I'm just excited as can be. He's a good buddy of mine, even mentor to me, and just standing on the pool deck alongside him, I had a blast for those two or three years that we got to know each other.
Andrew: And who am I? I'm your host, Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today, we're going to get going with our warm up question, and then we'll move on to the main set talking with Brendan and Jeff, about swim training. Particularly, what they have learned from years of coaching triathletes in the water, and the primary differences between training in the pool versus training in the open water. Then we'll cool down by learning a little bit more about Brendan by asking him 12 super random or rapid-fire questions about himself. It's going to be great. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: With an Olympian on the show and with the Summer Olympics on the horizon this year, today's warm up question is unapologetically Olympic themed. If you could compete in this year's summer Olympics in any sport, and sure, let's assume in this scenario, you have the talent and the athleticism to fit right in with the pros from around the world; what sport would you choose to compete in? Jeff Raines, I'll start with you.
Jeff: Wow. Where do I begin? The Olympics would just be amazing. I guess I can't choose anything running because of my run background. That's too easy, right?
Andrew: Would almost be cheating for you to say something track related.
Jeff: Okay. Well, I would love to hold the world record in the breaststroke, but I can't steal that away from my buddy sitting here next to me. So, I don't know. I might have to say triathlon. We're all triathletes here and I know the sport. The year 2000 was that Sydney, triathlon was introduced into the Olympics, so--
Brendan: You can't pick triathlon, dude.
Jeff: I would love to be-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Come on man, you got to go equestrian. I could just see him on a horse. [crosstalk] ...horse dancing. Let's go. Come on-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You would look so cute in a little jockey outfit, Jeff.
Jeff: No, I will not do horse dancing.
Brendan: Well, I'm saying no to triathlon, he's not allowed to do it. Anyone that-- you can't do it even the sport you coached. I'm thinking here.
Andrew: All right. Brendan nixed it. You can't go tri. What are you going to go with?
Jeff: Got it. Got it. So, Brendan and I are fellow hunters.
Brendan: Oh, good call.
Jeff: Yes, we share that extra hobby when we're not chasing our daughters around our homes and swimming, biking or running. When there's time, maybe something that involves skeet shooting, biathlon, even something like that.
Brendan: I thought you were gonna say archery. I thought you're gonna go mystical flight of the arrow.
Andrew: Little Hunger Games, Jeff Raines, little Hunger Games-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: I could really see you with one of those like bucket hats on with like, one side up so that you know, just taking them on.
Jeff: Thanks, Brendan.
Brendan: There you go. I answered the question for Jeff. Is it my turn yet?
Andrew: Brendan it’s your question to now answer the question for yourself. It's your turn, yes.
Brendan: Yeah. So, my answer to this question-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And you can’t say swimming, you can’t say swimming.
Brendan: Okay. Fair enough. I'm not going to put—not going to be pulling a Jeff Raines answer. I'm gonna go with not just the sport but the arena that I wanted to be in. So, I've been to the Olympics. So, a lot of times what I would want to experience is the energy of the arena and track and field by far probably the most focal point epiccenter of any Olympics is that arena. And so any running race, I think, 200 meter, 100 meter, when the crowd just starts chanting, and everyone's clapping, and you just see, what people don't realize is you see the world come together as one. And granted, there's people racing, there's eight athletes up there racing. But when you see everybody in unison clapping or getting excited about a final, there's an overwhelming sense of unity. And so I've always wanted to experience that from the ground level, and I think-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: As an athlete about to compete.
Brendan: No doubt and that's something that I think people watching the Olympics don't get to see. And something that I didn't really notice was going to happen until I actually had the opportunity to step on the blocks in a final and realize like wow, everybody just wants to see these athletes compete. It had nothing to do with the political and craziness that our world has, right. And for one second there I was like wow, we are all together here. And I always felt like there was an energy in the pool, granted and I was you know kind of accustomed to that.
Andrew: But it's but at some point, once you're in the water, I mean you can't really soak that in properly as much as you could-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Yeah, sure. First thing, when you're swimming breaststroke, right, your heads bobbing up and down all the time. So, all I hear is like ahh, then it’s quiet, then ahh then it’s quiet again. You're just-- it's tough, right. But--
Jeff: That's exactly what I was gonna kind of curveball question you hear was that being in the arena in track and everything, you can hear the chanting of the crowd, you can feel that energy, but swimming underwater, you're kind of in your own world. Do you feel like you didn't get that full kind of grasp of that energy you were just talking about?
Brendan: No. And I think we're going to talk about this later. But when I did do triathlons later in my career, that was one of the things that I had to really channel was people like when I would be running or transitioning out of the swim to bike or bike to run, and people were like, “Go Brennan, let's go!” And I'd be like, “Thank you!” And it’s like I was like-- [crosstalk] And they're like, “What are you doing?” I'm like, “No one's ever talked to me while I'm racing before, you know.”
Andrew: I don’t know how to handle this, I don’t know what to do with my hands.
Brendan: I know. I was like, oh, it was crazy, you know. But yeah, I mean, I think back to your question, I definitely think the 100 or 200 meter dash, straight up run, where I could just feel the energy of 100,000 people would be awesome.
Andrew: See, Jeff, if you didn't have a track background, you could have picked that too. But you had to go and ruin yourself for this. Brendan was allowed to pick that because he was a swimmer. So, just to throw mine in the ring. My answer to this question will be a Winter Olympic sport. I love the-- Is it the biathlon where they ski and shoot, right? Like that’s-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Well, the question was-- I mean, if we’re going winter sports, mines straight up curling.
Andrew: Oh my gosh, no.
Brendan: Why not? We've already-- Listen guys, this room of people, we have already done the hard aerobic type workouts, right? Like we've done the endurance stuff. Let's just go for longevity here. [crosstalk]
Andrew: You want the winter games shuffleboard
Brendan: Yeah, let's just-- come on.
Jeff: Ping pong
Andrew: I can see you in ping pong.
Brendan: Hey, we'd still be competitive. You tell me I'm out of my prime, right now, I'm in my curling prime, bro.
Andrew: He's not wrong about that.
Brendan: I’m just telling you.
Andrew: Hey, guys, Brendan, if you're not in the room with us, you can't see. Brendan, I believe probably still has the swimmer 12 pack abs. He's still in top shape.
Brendan: It's called operation avoid dad Bod is what it is right now. Yes. Which Jeff and I are doing really really well right now. But it is work, is it not?
Jeff: It's hard.
Andrew: So, Summer Olympics, I'm going to go fencing, you know, all the sword fight movies that are out there. It looks like fun. Right? So, if I could be just like, but you don't want to be like--
Brendan: It looked good in the suit. You know?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Kinda bee keeper-ish [crosstalk] but the American athletes have they have the stars and stripes on the front of the mask, right?
Brendan: He’s researched this, Jeff.
Andrew: They-- [crosstalk] when they win, you know, they get the rip the mask off and they have that like little like fist pump like kind of moment, right. Like that'd be super cool. So, it's-- but you don't want to just be okay at fencing. So, if I'm assuming I'm like, you know, one of the best in the world at something fencing sounds pretty cool.
Brendan: Yeah. So, you have like an alter ego like Inigo Montoya.
Andrew: Exactly. Exactly right.
Brendan: You just-- you put on that--
Andrew: You killed my father.
Andrew: Prepare to give me a gold medal.
Brendan: Here it is.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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Now, I do want to announce that we're going to circle back with Brendan this Thursday to hear more about his journey as a pro athlete and a coach. So, Brendan, I don't want to get too sidetracked by geeking out on the Olympics and world records and all of that. We're going to dive into all of that on our Thursday episode with you. But maybe as a teaser and just to kind of get us rolling today here in the main set; could you go ahead and share maybe one of your favorite pro swimming race stories to tell?
Brendan: Yeah, sure. This is obviously looking back, total 2020 perspective on looking back on my career, right. And we can sit here and talk about all the medals and world records and there's definitely some highlights, right. And then there's also the aspect of who's in the stands and who's cheering for me, and working hard and seeing it follow through and delayed gratification. There's all these things that you can talk about. But the one story that I would probably say that resonates the most with me, or at least the one I tell the most, because it has the most meaning is the bronze medal from 2012 in London.
Andrew: Which was your third Olympic Games at that time.
Brendan: Third Olympic Games, I'm 31 years old, which on the pool deck is basically you're the grandfather of the group, you have the most experience. There's a lot of side stories to this. One, no one had ever won an Olympic gold medal out of lane eight before. And I had struggled my way to getting into the final, was in lane eight and I knew that I was going to be the last person walking out of the ready room, and I could control the whole, all the other seven athletes that were coming on there. So, the benefit was I was not in that atmosphere as long as everybody else and so it kinda felt like okay, what are the positives of being in lane eight where really the odds are against you. No one in the history of the Olympics has ever medaled out of lane eight. So, I was trying to find the silver lining there, which I felt like I did pretty well. Got the support of my team and really and truly like, going back seven, eight months from that race, if you just kind of go back to that point, I mean, I'm sitting on a couch watching the NBC Olympic teaser film, looking at my wife going, “Hey, I think I want to make a run at the 12 Olympics.”
Andrew: I think I want to do this one more time.
Brendan: Yeah. And she was just like, “I don't want to live with a guy who doesn't want to do it.” So, I call up University of Texas and see if I can show up to morning practice tomorrow. And that's what I did. And what's funny is and I think it's really important for your audience to hear is that when you make that decision and you decide you're going to do something like that, sometimes in this situation, I had more people telling me that I couldn't do it than people that told me I could. And I think that's why this medal means so much to me. It's not the achievement aspect of it, it's the crap I had to go through from seven months ago, to me touching the wall third. And that's why like, I think the athletes that are listening, when you look at those medals, you don't look at like you walking across or running across the finish line or finishing an Ironman or whatever; a lot of times, it's what the story of the medal, like what the medal tells, and that's what the bronze did for me.
Andrew: All the training hours put in towards it.
Brendan: And it really was a turning point in my-- Look, we could sit here all day and talk about it, but everybody wants to know, “What was the turning point of your career and when do you think you figured it out?” And I was like, “You don't ever figure it out. And if you ever figure it out you’re beatable, right?” But man, with the bronze medal, it was one of those things where when I finished it was the first time in my career where I was like I'm really proud of myself. Like this was for me, where I felt like everything else was like it was kind of calculated, we knew I had potential to break the world record, so when I did I would do it or winning a medal or I was swimming on relays with Phelps and those guys so we were kind of expected, the favorites per se. This one was all me, and the vulnerability aspect of that just really shot me into a different mentality. And honestly, I'm forever indebted to that medal because it's how I approach everything I do now.
Jeff: So, just for the listeners here, Brendan, your bronze medal was your proudest achievement and you defied the odds, you came back, you really, really honed in on using the energy of the naysayers saying that you can't. So, what was the actual- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Haters, Jeff, they’re called haters now.
Jeff: What was the actual race, what was the event? And walk us through it. You know, what were you thinking? Did you know that you were in third coming off that last wall, you know, what was the event?
Brendan: Okay. So, it was the 100 breaststroke. Three years prior to this, I was the world record holder in it. The guy that was in lane four was 23 years old, in his prime South African kid, a kid that looked up to me and was-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: Cuz you’re the grandfather now.
Brendan: Yes, was clearly on pace to break the world record. And so when you go to the Olympics, the crazy thing is it's not about going a special time or a PR or anything like that, it's all about touching the wall first.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s place, all about place.
Brendan: Yeah, it is everything and it really brings you back, which is crazy. It brings you back to what you started with when you were a little kid and you see kids playing on the playground or you see kids swimming in summer league meets or whatever, has nothing to do with times or ribbons or anything. They just want to go from one end of the court to the other and touch the wall first, right. So, it kind of, in your career, it goes full circle. But 100 breaststroke final, I'm next to-- I'm in lane eight and lane seven is who was probably my biggest rival in my entire career, it was probably-- it was his last swim as well. We were both retiring after these Olympics, Kosuke Kitajima from Japan. Him and I have made a run for almost a decade and we inspired an entire nation of Japan to start swimming. And so it was-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And you two just dominated the breaststroke events in particular?
Brendan: Yeah, for a long time. And so it was kind of fitting that him and I were next to each other. And I just remember and we, like I said, we can talk about this in a little later podcast, but this is where process is so much more important than the product. I walked out there with the mindset of okay, how are we going to do this and not what are we going to do in the race? So, my mindset as I walked out there, I got up on the blocks and I think this is where you're going with this Jeff is just like I told myself, okay, dive in the water and nail the first three strokes because I knew that was going to set me up. You can't drive a ball unless it's teed up. And that was what I had to do. Again, if-- in these situations, if you've never been there, we are absolutely nervous. If you screw up, you have three and a half years or the rest of your life to think about it. It is a very pressure-packed situation. One that the only way you can keep your sanity in those situations is to stay focused on how you're going to get to the other end of the pool and back, and less on what could possibly happen or let your mind wander. And so a lot of what we did, like I said, I just stayed in the moment, I tried to be 100% present, and it worked out for me. And I just remember, I remember looking down 50 meters of water not seeing 60,000 people around me and just going I'm going to go down there and I'm going to touch that wall first. And then I'm gonna push off the wall as hard as I possibly can and I'm just going to make sure the last three strokes are the best that I've ever done in my entire life, and that's what I did. And I looked up and when you touch the wall, the timing system has-- it'll only highlight the three medalists and then it'll have like a bronze, a gold, a silver-- gold, silver, bronze.
Andrew: So, it’s pretty immediate feedback on-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Yeah, you'll immediately see it. But what's crazy is I had told-- I was the team captain of the team and we did a team meeting prior to that, and I was the first event that night and I told my team I said, “Hey, listen, you know me, I'm a person that walks the walk before he talks to talk. But I said tonight, I'm going to medal out of lane eight.” I mean, that's how certain I was I was going to do this. And when I touched the wall, and my name highlighted up, my team went crazy. And like let's put this in realistic terms, like we were the most winningest team in this venue. But my-- the team like went crazy. I went back to the team area, everybody, was just like, I can't believe you did it. I'm getting hugs from everybody. So, again, it has nothing to do with the color of the medal, it had everything to do with the meaning of it. And I think that can resonate with your audience a lot in the sense of when they look at their medals and they see what they've accomplished, it has nothing to do with what color it is or what it says on it. It's just what it means to you. And for me, the bronze medal meant dealing with naysayers like Jeff said, dealing with people telling me I couldn't do it. And if I ever, like want to be nostalgic, and pull something out to look at it, it's that medal because at the end of the day, like, that's what I stand on. And granted I've got plenty of gold medals that are just as shiny, but don't have close to the meaning or story behind it like that bronze.
Andrew: Yeah, that's fantastic. Well, guys, come back on Thursday for more Olympic stories with Brendan, we're going to get a little bit into some swim talk today. Brendan, as your racing career was kind of coming to a close, tell me just a little bit about how you made the transition into coaching.
Brendan: I don't-- So, when you talk about transition, I don't think that there was much of a transition. The reason I say that is because when you're a professional athlete, you're surrounded by other professional athletes. And what I found was is that we were all coaching each other just as much as our coach was coaching us. And a lot of times, our coach had to very much the managerial role, just kind of keeping the guardrails on all of us. And then there was such a competitiveness in each workout and we were pushing each other to be the best in the world, that we were all coaches already. So, it was a very smooth transition out of the competitive world into the coaching world because I had been-- I felt like I had been doing it for a decade already, and really just trying to get the best out of the athlete. And I think what the best coaches out there they can learn the technique. They can learn how to improve your, you know, your efficiency and hit your different energy zones and those things. What I think the best coaches are the ones that can build a trust with the athlete and get them to go harder than they ever thought before. The coaches that I always idolized and the ones that I wanted to be growing up, at least the ones I wanted to be transitioning into was somebody that when the athlete got out of the water working with me, they're like, I never in my right mind thought I was going to do what I just did in that water or in that gym or on that bike. And I'm just like, to me, that was the win. Now granted, there was times I'd leave the pool or the facility banging my head against the steering wheel saying “Damn, we missed, we missed a great opportunity.” But you know, like any career there's ebbs and flows and it is what it is.
Andrew: Well, very cool. What was kind of your start in the coaching industry?
Brendan: It’s kind of one of those things where I left the sport of swimming in 2012, had been traveling around the country doing clinics with swimmers and kind of making that, I would say PR media run. You know, just like running around showing medals to kids, being around there. And I kind of got the bug to just like wow, maybe I should find 25 to 30 kids in Austin, Texas that I could work with. Found a country club pool really close to my house, walked on, excuse me walked onto the pool deck and told the coach, I said okay, “I'd really love to work with you.” And he like didn't blink for like 20 minutes and he was just like “You serious?” And I was like, I just want to see if I, you know and that's--
Andrew: Were you in your swimmer Speedo as you're making this approach?
Brendan: No. But I think he knew who I was. And I just, I wanted to at that point feel like I was passing the torch on to somebody else. And so I started doing that. And you know that old saying like, it doesn't feel like work and you know, the time flies, that's the way it felt when I was coaching. And so I was like, okay, I'm in the right place, and this is just as challenging as anything, so I stayed with it.
Andrew: So, Brendan, before we start talking about coaching triathlon and coaching triathlon athletes how to swim; have you raced a triathlon as a competitive swimmer?
Brendan: Yeah. And I don't know if we want to get into that right now or not, that very humbling experience. But yeah, so just a brief like a 2008 Beijing Olympics, we walk away very successful. I was part of Michael Phelps’ eighth gold medal. You know, like there was a lot of positive from that. But to be honest, I was 100% burned out from the sport. Just had put my heart and soul into it for almost two and a half decades, and felt like I really needed to find myself outside of that. Or like what I would say is like there were so many things on the back burner in my life that was affecting my swimming career, right? Like, don't get me wrong, I was really good at it. But there was just so much extra baggage out there, right? Dating a girl forever I wanted to marry, wanted to find my career outside of that, didn't feel like I had a lot of friends outside the sport. So, it just-- when you sell your soul to something to be this successful in it, there is a cost. In 2008, I leave it. I immediately want to get involved with my city, right? Austin, Texas was growing at the time, it still is, wanted to get involved with it. I felt like well, how can I do that but then also utilize my strengths. And as an athlete, triathlon was immediately the way I was going to do it. Plus, I find myself gravitating to things that scare me that are not the easiest for me to do. This was one that I knew was going to throw me out of my comfort zone, and kind of pushed me in that realm. And it was, we talked about this before we started when I crossed the finish line on my first triathlon, it was the exact same feeling. And everybody knows what I'm talking about, that feeling when you finish and there's that sense of accomplishment and holy crap, there's part of me that didn't think I'd do this and I did it. That is the exact same feeling you get when you break a world record.
Andrew: No different.
Brendan: It is, I mean to a T if you've ever had that feeling crossing the finish line and accomplishing an Ironman or half Ironman, or let's just say for me, it was the Jack’s Generic which was a 300 meter swim, I think it was a 10 mile bike or 12 mile bike and then a three mile run. I mean, just-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: That’s where we all started.
Brendan: Yeah. I mean, look, and I'm telling you from a guy who literally two years prior to that was on a medal stand up there with the best athletes in the world, winning the Olympic gold medal; it was exactly the same in New Braunfels, Texas when I crossed the finish line covered in sweat and I just, I fell in love with it, man. It was awesome.
Andrew: That's amazing. So, did your swim background in the pool, do you feel like it helped you at all? Were you just wicked fast in the swim split or did you find it was a totally different ballgame?
Brendan: There's-- I have mixed feelings about that question. Because look, here's the thing-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: He’s saying yes, but shaking his head no. [crosstalk]
Brendan: Well, we’re gonna post videos later, right? We’re gonna post videos later of me actually like being in the water and showing you technique. So, I think from a technique standpoint and efficiency standpoint, the answer is yes. From a controllable standpoint, no. You have to remember like when you're in a pool and swimming in a competitive pool, I knew it 50 meters of water, I knew it was 79 degrees, and there's a big black line on the bottom of pool telling me where to go. And so the problems that I had when I was competitively swimming, were not nearly the uncontrollables that I had in a 300 meter swim where it was murky water, 100 other athletes in the water with me. The technique and efficiency aspect, it was just such a small piece of the pie that halfway through the race, I was like, wow, I am out of my league. And I was working way too hard to stay up there with the pros. And so I think there's a whole different like a-- when you look at a pie, there's a whole nother slice of this pie from a technique open water standpoint that I needed to educate myself on that all those years as a competitive swimmer in the pool just didn't translate over. And again, there was things that I could rely on; breathing techniques or just straight up tech, like where I could kind of control my thoughts while I was swimming that maybe some people needed to time in the saddle to understand with the swimming. But that open water experience, man, is insane. And it took me a little bit of time to, I wouldn't say I ever really mastered it. But I definitely had to go to folks like Jeff to sit there and do open water clinics with him to understand the aspects of that.
Andrew: I don't think anybody ever forgets their first open water swim experience, right? It's just so different. And I don't know if Austin is like Dallas Fort Worth where we're at. But I think in a lot of major cities, those sprints, sometimes even the Olympics that can kind of appeal to newer triathletes; there's a lot of them that are in auditoriums, that are in pools. And so you're getting an introduction to the sport with a pool swim. And then so when you do that open water race for the first time, it is definitely a shock to the system. So, I think it's comforting for all of us to hear that an Olympic gold medal swimmer also experienced that, that same thing that the rest of us do.
Brendan: Yeah, and look, the funny thing is, is that everybody doesn't know that, right? And so when I go up there, literally the triathlon was called the rookie-- No, it was the Jack’s Generic, it was what it was. But I mean, really and truthfully, like everybody thinks that you're going to be this awesome swimmer, right because you have this background. And then just to top it off, I have the Olympic rings tattooed over my right shoulder. All right. So, now as we're getting up there with the pro group and you got all these people that are going-- [crosstalk] No, there was no hiding and you bet your butt I was trying to, right. Like I'm sitting there neck and neck in the water, treading water trying to be there, but--
Andrew: When you're tall, jacked, and tattooed.
Brendan: Yeah. But if you go into the mindset of me, knowing I'm going into 300 meters open water, it was a very scary moment and rightfully so, you have to respect it.
Jeff: Or do the spectators, do you feel like because you're, you are or at least we're, I mean the best in the world at let's say swimming, they expect you to be first off the bike and first off the run course too. Like just because you're that caliber in one sport, they expect greatness out of everything you do. I mean, do you feel that weight sometimes too?
Andrew: I think we have a little grace as triathletes to understand that there's a bit of a learning curve. I remember--
Brendan: Hell no. There were people before I even got up there like he's got Swedish goggles on, man. He's gonna be this guy like, you know, what I mean? Like I can 100% walked out into the water-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: They expected you to win.
Brendan: They were like this guy's coming out of the water first, and I literally did not want to let them down. I would have killed myself for 300 meters to make sure that I came out of the water first. And guys, you have to understand like I was doing 70 to 80,000 yards per meters a week training. So, I would do 10 300 in a regular workout on an interval of like 305 yards, right. And I'm going on 300 meters of water, I'm going okay, this is like-- this is not even close to hard. I remember getting out of the water looking like a baby giraffe just born right. Like, I know people know what I'm talking about, right? [crosstalk] Yes. Yeah, you know the look. But I was like, to Jeff’s point, like, don't let the crowd down. And the competitiveness in any athlete at that caliber was one where I was like, I'm going to do everything in my power and like, I just worked way too hard. And you could tell after the first two miles of the bike that I'd worked way too hard on the 300 meters.
Andrew: Did you in fact come out of the water first?
Brendan: I did. But I was fourth out of the transition because nobody taught me how to set up my stuff.
Jeff: So, he is human.
Andrew: So, Jeff, tell me for you, kind of same question for your background because you came to triathlon from the track, and from being a very successful collegiate runner. Did you find that your speed on the track and your experience racing there; did it help you as a runner in triathlon? Or was there an adjustment period there as well?
Jeff: There was and still is an adjustment period. And it's really and I think everybody who's listening here that has done a triathlon can agree with me on this in that you know, no matter how conservative you are on the bike, or how hard you push on the bike that you are, you feel like you're running through sand, you feel like you're running through jello, that first mile on the run course. And I think most can agree also you feel like you're running really slow, 10-15 minute mile and you look down, and for the most part, I think most people come through that first mile split off the bike way faster than they think they are. There's just that weird unique feeling getting off the bike. But I'll say this that I ran track and cross country collegiately, and much better track runner than I am let's say, trail runner. But it's hard. Like my you could take my watch off of my wrist and say Jeff go run an eight minute mile on a track. And just off of perceived effort-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You’re gonna come pretty darn close.
Jeff: I'll probably be within five to 10 seconds of that, and then you could say hey 60 seconds rest, same thing, go run a five minute mile. And I can probably do the exact same thing, be within five minutes in seconds. But you tell me to do that, go run a six minute mile off of, you know, the Jack’s Generic Sprint Tri, come through that first mile split at six, like it's the hardest thing. It's just like that baby giraffe learning how to walk.
Andrew: Your legs have no idea what's going on.
Jeff: It's a whole other ballgame. It's a whole other sport. You know, I'm decent road Runner, a decent resume on the track, but for the life of me, I get my butt kicked on trail runs. And so you know, it's yes and no. I mean, to answer your question.
Brendan: Well, what's funny is I think the thing that helped me the most, because I think back to your question of did you do triathlons and then like I did triathlons for two years and then came back and swam competitively in the 2012 Olympics. And before we started recording, I told you guys like that was a huge component of my mindset going into it. And where a lot of athletes don't pay attention to the swimming, or I'm sorry, with the process-oriented in the moment, you have to be 100% present in what you're doing. Like if you, and when you're racing, being 100% present in what you're doing while you're doing it, is the way to be successful. And by that, I mean, I'm sitting next to Jeff Raines who literally has done 120 triathlons, right. With that amount of time in the saddle, he absolutely knows what certain areas feel like. Right? So, and they don't, it doesn't-- it could be different per course, right? Like and I think that one thing that I-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Yeah. It can be different on the same course on a different time.
Brendan: One thing that really helped me when I started to work through triathlon, and what I really took into the 2012 Olympics, and really helped me in that race where I won the bronze medal was, as soon as it started to hurt, I realized, I told myself it's hurting for every single person right now. And this is where your technique, your training, your coaching, every one of those things becomes a weapon. And you can utilize those to become better. And that's what I took from triathlon and brought that perspective and mindset of, okay, that's going to happen, 30-40 meters into this race, you're going to start to hurt, you're going to feel like knives in your legs, things are going to start to lock up. But what are you doing right now to, in a sense, stay in the present and be 100% present? Because to your point, Jeff, I remember doing my first Olympic distance triathlon and running the 10K at the end. And at the time, I was running somewhere in the range of like 48 minutes for the 10K, whatever it is, and I remember coming off the bike and literally the entire race, running it going, “This is so pathetic. I feel like I'm running nine-minute miles, this is insane. And I remember crossing the finish line. And being like, I think it was like two hours and five minutes or two hours and seven minutes is what I finished the half or the Olympic in. And my coach came over to me and was like, dude, you ran that 10K in 42 minutes.
Andrew: And you go, what?
Brendan: So, my point is like, and I was miserable. I was 100% miserable for 10, you know, for those six and a half miles. But I think that's why it's so important to just not-- And I think Jeff is trying to say this is just like, stay in the present. Like stay in the moment and respect it and I think at that moment, you'll realize like, and a lot of times it's so easy to lose trust in your training, right? Like I immediately was like, “I'm not prepared. I'm so-- I'm not fit. Oh, it's this.” And my mind was negative, negative, negative, negative. And then when I crossed the finish line, they were like, “Oh, you actually ran you know, just under seven minute miles.” The whole way I was like, “I really wish you would have told me that three miles in, I would have had so much more fun.” So, it doesn't always pan out the way.
Jeff: What I love about the sport and you could relate it to Brendan in that open water versus pool swimming, or translating running into triathlon. What I love about the sport is that each race, each training session is different, in that you know, Brendan has, like he said earlier, he has a pool that is a designated distance. He knows the distance; yards, meters, short course, long course, he knows that black line is there, he knows how many strokes, you know, at each given effort per length. Well, kind of that same Brandon's a whole other league, but we share this in that I'm kind of the same with the track. It's 400 meters, the curves are the same distance as the straightaways. I know how to pace it, I know how to lean into the curve; just little things that are controlled. So, every one of my events from a 5K to a 400 to an 800 meter dash, it's all on that same track. You know, I travel all over the United States for these big events and college and every venue was arguably identical. Same with Brendan, pools are arguably the same.
Brendan: I hope.
Jeff: And so-- Yeah, right. And so we get into the wonderful world of you know, endurance sports where we have to share 112 miles of roads in open water, and so every swim is different. And translating that controlled mindset into the unknown is, it can motivate and fuel some people or some people shut down. And so that's what I like is that no matter what your background is, how well you train, every single race is different. And so that's just a whole other level for me. And so I feed off of that now.
Brendan: Which is crazy to me that people out there that are triathletes had these personal best times. Because like, there's, so to me, coming from the competitive swimming world where there was so many controllable things, the first thing that I realized in my first triathlon to my last triathlon was the fact that there were so many variables that I could not control. And like I couldn't even wrap my head around the fact that the amount of training that I would have to do and potentially get a flat tire. You know what I mean? Like these are things that as an Olympian and a three-time Olympian, I could not wrap my head around. Because I think the benefit of triathlon, in my opinion, and what we really, I would say, built my mindset going into the 2012 Olympics was the fact that there was a sense of accountability. What you put into it is what you were going to get out of it. Your training was going to show up in the race, but it was never going to show up when you wanted it to, right? But then there was the other factor, and that was the same way in swimming.
In competitive swimming, like, what you put into it is what you're going to get out of it, right, if you're really prepared, but it may not happen every time. Like I may get up do 500 brushstrokes and it may be one out of the five actually really correlates to what my training was like and how I was, right. And you have to deal with those ebbs and flows, failures, and successes. But in the triathlon world, you take that same mentality but then oh, by the way, we're going to throw in all these different uncontrollable variables that you may not be-- You may wake up at four o'clock that morning and guess what? Your stomach may hurt or oh, by the way, it may have dumped through two and a half inches of rain on the course. Like, to me, that blows my mind because I'm sitting there, and that's what allowed me to kind of like I said, I went back into the Olympic world in 2012 and was like, my problems are not real problems triathletes have problems, right? I'm sitting there going, like everyone's complaining about being 81 degrees or not 79. And I'm like, really? That's what you're going to let-- [crosstalk] That’s what you're gonna hang your Speedo on? That's what you're gonna be worried about? And I'm sitting there going, okay, I got the upper hand now, because I had that triathlon mindset mentality of like, hey, this is a very controlled environment, and I can win out of it even out of lane eight.
Andrew: And so for you, it wasn't after you-- Because my impression going into this conversation that I've now learned differently, but I want to point this out to our listeners. You didn't finish your pro swim career and then try triathlon, you tried triathlon between the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, right. And so you had those kinds of life lessons from the triathlon course to take with you, that helped you kind of get that bronze medal in London, correct?
Brendan: Yeah. And then look, there was a lot of physical change too just in training, getting on a bike and learning that and then also learning how to run and all those aspects that really kind of helped me physically going into 2012. But I would say the number one tool that I took out of triathlon going into those Olympics, was that like, concrete mindset of just being, like impenetrable in respects to like, Hey, man, this could all go away. And like, again, when I didn't have to deal with all those uncontrollable variables that come from a triathlon race, and go back in the Olympic like the Olympic venue, I was like, I got this.
Andrew: So, you guys have both coached triathletes and elite competition swimmers? Is there a big difference in the way you teach stroke technique to a triathlete versus just a pure pool swimmer.
Brendan: So, when we're looking at a competitive swimmer or somebody that's basically just going to stay in the pool and swim for exercise or they're going to, you know, swimming is their sport versus a triathlon, triathlete. When we're coaching those two athletes, I think the perspective is very similar. A lot of times the foundation of a pool swimmer is a little bit stronger than a triathlete. And a lot of times it has a lot to do with their mindset, right? Because sometimes the changes that a triathlete makes on a bike or a run are somewhat immediate. Whereas when you're looking at from the pool, there's a little bit gradual, and they don't have that like aha moment. There's not a lot of times when you're coaching somebody in the water that when you make an adjustment to their stroke or anything like that, it takes a little bit of time before they have that like breakthrough interval change or breakthrough aha moment. It's not like hey, if I raise your seat a little bit on the bike, you're immediately going to recognize the power of wattage output that you can put on that bike, right. So, that's the challenge that we have as coaches.
And I think what Jeff and I did so well when we shared the pool deck was the collaboration aspect of what we did so him coming from his world, and me coming from mine, just I think what makes great teachers and coaches are people that can sit there and say, “Hey, one size doesn't fit all.” We would work with that athlete, understand their challenges and what they were struggling with. And then him and I were-- I mean, I can't tell you how many times we would talk on the phone, going home from work, or randomly call each other in the middle of the night and just be like, “Hey, I've been thinking about this. What do you think about making this change to the workout tomorrow, whatever it may be?” And it was nice to collaborate with that. And I think that's what made both of us great athletes was that that mentality of just like, “Hey, I'm never-- I'm always going to be in that learning mode.” And I think we take that into coaching. I don't think there's a drastic approach difference. I will say that what makes great coaches are people that can rely on other people on the pool deck, and continue to find ways to get the most out of that single athlete. And all I can tell you from just a challenge standpoint with triathletes, is the fact that they're looking for that aha moment and I'm just telling you, it's not going to come from-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Because they're seeing it in the other sports?
Brendan: Yes. And all I can tell you is that if there's ever of the three disciplines, if there's one that you have to have trust in your coach 100% on, it is the swimming aspect. And granted, I'm just coming from that world so that's what I'm going to obviously, gravitate towards and be biased on. But that's where I feel very strongly and just like, just trust me on these drills that I'm teaching you, because I'm 100,000 laps ahead of you. You know, it's just like, it's what I told my kids. I'm like, “Just trust me, you're gonna like this food. I'm 1,000 cheeseburgers ahead of you.” And you try to sell them on that. But the trust factor in the swimming aspect is so crucial for us.
Andrew: Yeah, I think for a triathlete, I mean, when you introduce a new drill, or a new kind of form, technique, anything like into your routine, like if anything, it feels weird at first. Like if anything, you feel less efficient, because you're so aware of this new thing that you're doing. I mean, you never feel better right away when trying something new with your stroke. So, Jeff, what are maybe some of the things that you've seen in coaching triathletes versus coaching pool swimmers?
Jeff: Well, first to kind of reiterate what Brendan said, something that we did really well is at our facility we had tri swims versus like your master swims. But at the same time, master swimmers could come to my triathlon specific pool swim workouts, and then my triathletes can show up to Brendan's masters swims. And then at the same time, there were times where Brendan would coach my tri swim and I might coach a master swim one day. Maybe they were out at a national swim meet and I needed to stay in town and coach one of his. So, knowing the athletes and we were very specific and intentional in how we wrote workouts. So, there would be certain sets that were, there might be some IM sets or some non-freestyle sets, but we created and strategically planned workouts to where everyone is happy, and that's the hardest thing to do. So, how do you have someone on a 1:15 base interval, versus a 2:45 base interval all doing the same workout? Well, maybe half the people in the pool are triathletes and half are strictly swimmers. So, how do you accommodate everyone? And so we strategically wrote workouts where triathletes could look at their Garmin watches and maybe they didn't want or have to do flip turns even though we encouraged it.
Andrew: That’s me, guilty.
Jeff: You know, me keeping in mind like, Okay, how many triathletes are in, you know, there's 50 people in the water right now. Okay. 10 of y'all are triathletes, right. And so you know, just knowing that some people will never and won't ever do a flip turn or maybe they're not going to work on their kick. Even though we used to say that the best swimmers are the best kickers or the fastest swimmers are the fastest kickers. But in the tri world, you know, a lot of people rely on that wetsuit, they don't want to kick. And so just certain sets, knowing your athlete base, getting to know what intrinsically motivates each and every athlete that you have in the pool is kind of what Brennan alluded to earlier. You can know all of the knowledge and have the degrees and certifications. But making a successful coach is knowing what intrinsically motivates each and every unique person in the pool. And then how do you adapt in the moment to help that athlete achieve their goals?
Brendan: And look, to be totally honest, one of the biggest things I learned from Jeff when I would watch him and and kind of observe him working with triathletes was his innate ability to tell the athlete what we're going to do, and then why we are going to do it. And I travel the world now, right, talking to other coaches that are just pool swimmer coaches, that are working with, for the USA Swimming, and I tell them how important it is to express the why. Right? Like as coaches especially from when you're-- Like we had this ivory tower aspect where we're like, I have all the knowledge, and you're down there laying in the water. And I'm going to talk over you and tell you what it is. But I learned the perspective from Jeff and working with triathletes, that if you meet them level to level, obviously, these are more adult athletes, and I was working with more adolescents; ages 11 to 18, which is a different perspective than what Jeff is, most of our triathletes were in the range of 22 to 55-65, had some older ones.
But understanding that you have to explain the why what they're doing really enabled me to tap into a lot more energy out of the athlete and get more buy in. Like I said, the trust factor, and he had that connection immediately. I watched him do it and I was like, that was the one thing I was like, I want that. I want to be able to do that. [crosstalk] And I think it's important to mention that I learned a lot from watching a coach work with triathletes. And I learned a lot from triathletes when I worked with them because I would get immediate adult mature feedback. Sometimes I didn't want to hear it, right, but at the same time like expressing the why as a coach really helped me. And I think that's one thing that a lot of athletes, triathletes out there don't ask. They just buy in blindly, right. Like hey, I want you to go do eight 100 freestyles. Okay. And you know, just keep your head down they’re like okay. And they just like get in the water like windup toys and do it. But I'm like ask the question why because the more buy in and the more like the ownership you have in your disciplines, I think you're going to get closer to that wow factor.
Andrew: Yeah, you're going to learn more, you're gonna improve at a faster rate, you're going to understand what you're doing, why you're doing it. So, tell me this, and Jeff, we'll start with you. Working with so many different triathletes in the pool, are there may be a few kind of common mistakes you find yourselves working on with triathletes or is really just totally different athlete to athlete?
Jeff: It's different athlete to athlete. But something that triathletes, coaching triathletes in the pool. It's a little unique because they're training for three different sports. And you could argue that the shortest distance of every triathlon is the swim portion. And so swimming probably takes the most time to improve on. But there's a give and take, right? The low hanging fruit is like, I only have this much time to train and I'm going to spend it on the bike and run. If swimming takes the most time, arguably, to improve upon I only have two days a week to swim. And swimmers are there seven plus, five plus days per week swimming. And so if you have a triathlete in the pool, and they have two other sports, they got to focus on; nutrition and strength training as well, all these things. I only have these triathletes in the pool for maybe one or two times a week. And so that whole why aspect that Brendan was talking about is something that you've got to be intentional with that little bit of time that you have with that triathlete in the pool. But some things that are almost even myths or that I see in the pool with triathletes is you know, they feel like okay, I have to bike which uses my legs, I have to run which really over uses my legs so I don't want to kick when I swim. I'm gonna have a wetsuit on, the buoyancy. Saving your legs for the bike and run, that that's a myth in the triathlon world. But that's something I see a lot is oh, I don't have to worry about doing flip turns-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: It becomes the excuse for not training the kick and not training the well-rounded form of, you know, swim technique.
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. I'm such a runner. You know, chicken legs will say that I had to learn a big gear riding on the bike. I would kick with the kickboard and not go anywhere, you know things like that. It took a long time to translate that. But some of those things, I'll run through them real quick. Just a couple quick things off the top of my head here. You know, kicking is the big one, right? We mentioned that. But um breathing patterns, sighting, you know, head positioning; a lot of these things a lot of triathletes will sag their lower body because they feel like they don't have to have perfect head position because they're going to be looking up sighting so much. Brendan calls me out in the middle of master swims all the time. Like, “Hey, you could get more distance per stroke on that breathing side, if you would lower your head a little bit. You're so used to sighting that you're looking up at the end of the pool.” Just stuff like that. So, being intentional, and just learning the aspects. If you're a triathlete out there, hundred percent and this is another podcast, learn how to frigging flip turn. Also-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Learn how to a frigging flip turn.
Jeff: Yes, quote me on that. And also, learn the other strokes, they're going to make you stronger, you're learning different things, and that's a whole other podcast, but don't be afraid to mix in other strokes and even try to learn other strokes.
Andrew: Maybe the breaststroke, perhaps.
Brendan: Settle down, settle down. Not everybody's ready to be that awesome. I think-- here's, one thing that I'll say that just, and this it goes across all athletes. And I call it the Tin Cup moment. Do, you remember in Tin Cup when Kevin Costner’s sitting there and he lost his swing, right. And he's in the trailer and he's got like, every gadget known to man on him. I think a lot of times you have that aspect of over coaching, and then we have also have the overanalyzing. And so there's that dynamic that we have to deal with all the time. Where if something's wrong, I'm going to throw everything at it. And there's a lot of times when I would work with triathletes, and Jeff can agree with me on this is where they'd be like, “I was thinking about my head, my feet, my arms, and I was trying to pull...” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, there's no way I could possibly think about all of those things at one time.” And I think what Jeff and I did so well when we were coaching together, and what great coaches do is, hey, let's focus on one thing, and that one thing is potentially going to fix five. And so a lot of times, and we're going to break down drills later on in some video and do some other things. But when we break down drills, really simplify it. Like it's not-- at the end of the day. I'm also at the same time teaching five year olds how to swim across the pool. They're not thinking about the 20 moving parts that you are, but yet they're getting across the pool. So, let's not overanalyze this and from a coaching standpoint, maybe telling them too much is too much. And there was times where Jeff’s like that's too much Brendan, like you've gone way over like tone it back. And that's where we would have that collaborative relationship where I was like, you're right, man. Let's just get him thinking about where they need to be looking. And that was going to fix their body position. And that’s where I think it's important understand it takes a village and then you know, we figured things out.
Andrew: Don't take on too much too soon. You know-- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Oh gosh, Tin Cup moment. Don't do it. Like literally.
Andrew: Guys, let's talk about this for just a little bit. We're recording this in Austin, Texas. And Austin is blessed with several great open waters swim training areas. But for folks that don't have a Barton Springs, a Deep Eddy or a Lake Travis or the Colorado River, right down the road; what are some of the best ways to train for open water swimming while in a lap pool?
Jeff: Something that I think was always fun is that I would call Brendan and I'd say hey I've got my tri swim coming up. You know, I've got three of the 20 lanes, and I know you have 17 but you know what, I need two or three of your lanes. And you know, I know he's at home rolling his eyes, you know, like what you know those triathletes-- What I would do a lot was asked Brendan's permission to take the lane lines out of the pool, I would take the lane lines out of the pool, show up a little bit early, throw some open water, sighting buoys in the pool and have my athletes focusing on you know, once sweep versus three sweep turns around the buoy and you know, just stuff like that. But if you don't have a program that allows you to do those types of fun aspects, the things that I would do with our junior team or our junior triathletes. There's a lot of little things that you can do in a pool to help your open water techniques. Like simply do you drift right or left? You know, if you are swimming and open water and the sun's in your eyes and 200 people around you and they're punching you, and it's white-capping.
Andrew: I drift to the side that I'm breathing on. So, if I bilaterally breathe every three strokes I stay pretty straight. But if I ever for wave, current, people around me find myself favoring one side, I will start drifting that way. Side note about Andrew Harley, please continue.
Jeff: Oh, awesome. No, I mean, I think everyone has that dominant side. And you know, Brendan actually for a number of years would say, Jeff, that right arm is doing that weird thing again. Jeff and I know, my right arm does something weird, you know. And so until I saw myself doing it, so getting filmed of myself doing it, I wasn't able to correct that. And so, some people are visual learners, some are learned by doing, you know, some are seeing, some have to see it, some have to hear it. And so that's a lot of the why and knowing what intrinsically motivates your athlete. But things that we can do in the pool, I would have my athletes and especially my juniors, it was kind of a fun game. I might take a lane line out of the pool, but I would say, “Hey, get on top of that black line. Push off of the wall, streamline a little bit. Take 10 or 15 strokes with your eyes closed. And then as soon as you-- [crosstalk] As soon as you count to 10, 12, 15 stroke, stop tread water and see if you drifted right or left. And in less than 25 yards, you would be dramatically, you know, like just mind blown on in 10 strokes, they-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: How far off you could get.
Jeff: They went 10 or 15 yards to the left. I took five lane lands out of the pool and not even in 25 yards they’re 10 yards to the left. What is that for 1.2, 2.4 miles? And so I'm just little tricks like that. I would do tread water starts, not let my athletes, you know, push off of the wall or they have to U turn, you know doing the one or three sweep turn, not allowed to touch the wall. Just little things like that. And even in a master swim group, I would say “Hey, you know what, these three lanes are designated for triathletes, you're gonna do this set with all the master swimmers. But you know, for this 400, you're not allowed to touch a wall.” Or “Hey, you know what, instead of pushing off the wall, you guys get to leave two seconds early because you're going to tread water.” Start stuff like that. So, you can be intentional in open water, pick a few techniques and be intentional with what you're doing.
Andrew: Brendan, what were a few things that kind of helped you as a swimmer transitioned to the open water?
Brendan: So, my swimming background was really strong. So, I knew that I could swim, no problem. The first thing that I realized was one, there was multiple other people around me. One of the things I really liked to do was put myself in the most crowded lane I possibly could. We would do like certain passing drills and things of that nature, where a lot of times people go to a pool and they immediately look for the lane has nobody in it. And if you want to get better at open water, you better find the most crowded lane or get your whole team into one lane and just start focusing on how you're going to move around people and hey, you're going to get kicked. Hey, you're going to get, you know, understanding where your arm is, or if you get hit with the arm, how you still try to find that catch and not lose your rhythm. The second thing for me was the visual aspect. Looking in the water and knowing that I couldn't see eight feet of water and see the bottom of the pool, that really threw off my proprioception. Like I really didn't really-- I could close my eyes and know where my body was in the medium of water. But I didn't know where I was in respects to how far down the course I was or where I wasn't on the course, even with me sighting great.
And so one of the things that I found myself doing was just taking duct tape or electrical tape and putting it over my goggles and only giving myself a certain view of a sight view, right? So, like really limiting my ability to do that, right, to be able to do that. And then I'd also do sets where like, “Jeff would say, hey, look, let's go 10 100 freestyle, and you know, the last number four and five are hard and nine and 10 are hard.” And then he'd be like, “Hey, take your goggles off for five and 10. Like, I don't want you to see it all.” Like, again, making you uncomfortable but trying to maintain-- these are these are uncontrollable things that just you have to get the brain and the heart to understand that if something happens to you in uncontrolled, you can control your heart and you can control your thoughts. And that's where open water to me just from like, again, the visual aspect and then being able to-- It didn't mean that there was a time where your goggles was going to fall off and you’d have to swim the rest of the race without your goggles on. But it definitely allowed me to understand that like, Hey, here's an uncontrollable situation, and I have to control my heart.
I have to control my heart rate from going and keeping it at that threshold level, or my mind being like, “Oh, God, this is…” You know, like, you see these people just like lose it. You know, where they're like, “Oh, my God, things are going wrong. I can't see the bottom of the pool. Oh, my God, I'm a drown, I’m a drown.” And all of a sudden, you're like, “You're fine. You're fine.” That's the kind of aspects that I would try to work on and try and put myself in those positions. Because I was, like, I told you, I was not prepared for my first open water. And those were the two areas. I was like, I'm freaking out right now. Like, I'm freaking out, because every time I take a stroke, I'm hitting somebody. And when I’d put my face in the water, I can't see anything other than the end of my goggle lens, and it was really screwing me up. And the only thing I could do is like to just point like, what calmed me down was I had the ability to just center my mind in closing my eyes, finding like a Zen moment and just keeping my stroke balanced and knowing that if I kept my stroke balance, I was fine. But those are the things that I went back to after my first triathlon and worked really hard on.
Andrew: Jeff, that reminds me of him kind of sharing that, one of our TriDot ambassadors. I'm forgetting where she's from now, but her name is Chung. And she actually raced Ironman Arizona, just this past year, and so we were in Arizona, and she was at some of our events getting ready for the race ahead of time. And she specifically told us before the race, she was like my plan. I know the water's cold, and I don't deal with that very well. And there's gonna be a lot of people around me and I don't deal with that very well. Her plan was to as soon as she entered the water, and got away from the boat dock a little bit. She was going to purposely kind of stop, tread water for a second, dunk herself under the water a couple times, get used to the temperature, get used to the water on her face, get used to there being people all around her and compose herself and then start swimming. And she did that and she said it works great. She said the rest of the swim she was fine. But it was that moment of okay if I need to center myself, but let me get out there. Let me get in the water, let me get the people around me, and let me realize I'm okay.
Brendan: You bring up a really good point and I've talked to a lot of people about this in the last couple years having left the competitive world and even when we were coaching. I call it finding your triggers. Finding a way to get into the right mindset to where you're in the go mode and the not the no go mode. Right? So, for her, all of those things were planned out. She knew they worked for her, and it was her what I would consider superstition. We see it in all other sports but nobody really does it if you're a recreational athlete, right. You watch somebody in the ready room or you see somebody on the on deck circle, right, and they have a certain routine, that's the trigger. Find your routine of what that's going to do so that you're able to do that. So, when you talk about preparing for open water, a lot of it is not necessarily the fitness aspect. Yes, we can all get fit, right, and I was extremely fit coming from the swimming world. But understanding and finding a new routine and a trigger that was going to set me in the mindset of like okay you got this, you're going to be just fine in front of, you know, is what you have to work on. And that's different for everybody and from a coaching standpoint, for Jeff and I, it was really fun to help athletes find those triggers and find those routines because they become part of your process.
Andrew: Well, let's end with maybe this while we're talking about it. And we had a couple different ending questions plans, but we've taken a lot of great time here a lot of great stories, a lot of great stuff, and it may be let's, land the plane here today for this main set. If there's an athlete listening today, and maybe they're working out for themselves, okay, what does race morning look like for me? What is going to get me to the starting line, whether it's pool swim, whether it’s an open water swim; what's going to get me in the water feeling like I'm ready to crush it instead of dreading it? Because I think a lot of triathletes, when they come to the sport that the swim is the hardest part for them to wrap their mind around, right? They probably didn't start off a competitive swimmer, they might not have had a lot of experience lap swimming in the pool. Or maybe they did. Maybe they're a strong swimmer and it's just brand new to them being in a competition environment on triathlon day. What maybe for you guys both, and Brendan, I'll start with you. Thinking back to your racing career, pre-race, whether you're jumping in the pool for the Olympics, going for that bronze or whether you're lining up Lakeside for a local sprint or Olympic down the road; what do you kind of do mentally to get yourself ready for a race?
Brendan: Let's just go before that day, which is the night before, right? For me, a lot of times like everybody's like, how do you sleep in the village when you know the next day you're about to race against the world and potentially everything is coming to a halt and it's on when somebody else clicks the beeper and it goes off and then you're racing against seven other people for medal that you've thought about since you were a kid? How do you go to bed at night? And the thing is, is that you can't change the outcome or affect the outcome at all in that moment. So, it goes back to what I talked about earlier, which is being 100% present. And at that moment, I had to check all of those things. And just say, right now, the best thing for me to do to be ready in that moment, which is 12 to 15 hours from now, is go to sleep. Yeah.
Andrew: Is go to sleep. That sounds so hard.
Brendan: It is really hard. Yeah. But a lot of times like that is part of, I mean, look, and then it's just like yeah, it's okay to have those jitters. Because if you have those jitters that means it means something to you. Right? Like if you talk to any athlete out there, they're like, as long as I'm still nervous before I get up in the batter’s box or before I get up to you know, the T box and I'm about to the T off the US open. Like if I don't have those jitters or feelings, then why am I even doing this at all? But what we sometimes have a negative response to that and we shouldn't. The thought is like, man, it means something to me, and that's what I should be doing. So, I think changing your mindset on why you have those nerves the night before, and just saying like, right now the best thing for me to do is go to sleep. That's what you need to do. The second thing and the most human response that I know of, is that the day of the race, everybody wants to do more. And you should do exactly what you've been doing in your training to get ready for it because from the neck down, your body should think it's just another training day, and maybe a test day. But from the neck up, you know it's different. But from the neck down your body should 100% feel like it's fueled the same way, recovered the same way, ready to respond when you want it to respond.
And to do that, you better have a system and routine in place that's been done multiple times of that day. And I can tell you, there's been multiple mistakes that I've made traveling around the world having to deal with different time zones, different menus, and whatnot; different cultures, all those things that I had to deal with. But a lot of times I found a lot of just it was a safe zone for me or just a lot of comfort in knowing that I could stick to my routine and finding ways to stay in my routine. And sometimes the more important the event was, the more I found myself being like, I'll do this today, I'll stretch extra more. And all that does is throw off your body from what it's really capable of doing. So, we have the saying, just do what you need to do to get to the dance. Do what you got you there, it's exactly what we do. I mean, that's, in a sense, that's the way the Olympian thinks,
Jeff: Yeah, and I would even take it a step further. A lot of triathletes want to cram that last even month. And arguably, it takes about you know, two to three weeks for your you know, physiology or your fitness to start to really detrain. And so two to three weeks out, two to four weeks out, we race, rehearse in TriDot two and four weeks out for those key events. And we're not trying to gain a lot of fitness inside of two to three weeks out from those big races. And so just like Brendan said, not just the night before, but I would take it further back and be intentional on the technical aspects. of your course coming up. Find someone that's been there, done that, get on webinars and all sorts of things, read race reports of other athletes who have done that. Because your fitness is set and like Brendan said, you got to the dance, the dance is here, right. And so even if you're a month out, you're at the dance, you're already ready. And so instead of doing another 100 mile ride, or cleaning your goggles a fifth time or pumping up your tires or checking that wheel the night before the race a fifth time, you know the air is still in that tire, you're fine.
So, what I would do is 30% of the sport is the physical fitness. You've got the technical aspects, you've got the mental preparedness, and all the things, so know your course and in those days and weeks leading up to it. You know, I do the workouts that I've always been doing. I don't do anything crazy different, like we were mentioning. Don't add an extra 500, don't do a six the open water swim that week. You know your wetsuit fits. So, I would even just take that day off, and I might just say, you know what? I usually train for this hour and a half. I'm going to call up somebody. I'm going to call up Brendan Hanson and say hey, you know what? This is my first out of state race. I have to go to a hotel like how did you, you know, did you go to Whole Foods in every race locally, you have your same meal, but you're in China now, you can't go to the Whole Foods; what do you do? Get those technical aspects and get the advice from someone who's been there, done that, and focus on those things as intentional as you can.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: For our cooldown today, Jeff and I are going to drill Brendan with a dozen rapid-fire questions. Brendan will be rejoining us on Thursday to share more about his pro athlete journey, but we want to get to know him just a little bit better before that. So, Brendan, are you down to answer a bunch of super random and moderately insightful questions about yourself?
Brendan: Um sure. I'm here. Let’s do it. [crosstalk]
Andrew: Are you asking me or you're telling me?
Brendan: Yeah, I know.
Andrew: All right. Number one who is another Olympian, swimmer or non-swimmer that you have always admired?
Brendan: I always admire consistency, and so someone like Usain Bolt who literally has been as consistent as he’d been and dominant in what he's done is somebody that I always look up to. I think it's really good to be good once, but I think if you can be good multiple years and be as dominant as he has been in this sport, there's something to be said about that.
Jeff: Brendan, it's a Friday night and you and the girls, you want to go out, you want to do something in Austin, Texas; what's just kind of a just a good go-to free night chill moment for you and the family?
Brendan: You know, there's just so many good eateries around Austin. And so I think anytime you can get them outside playing around the playgrounds, Austin's got beautiful weather, so there's just a lot of different places. I really can't pick one, to be honest with you. But just somewhere with a playscape, somewhere the kids can get their energy out in the afternoon, we can spend some time with the kids and enjoy a couple tacos, I'm all in.
Andrew: This is a bonus question. It's not in the script. But while we're talking about your family, what is your favorite perhaps maybe animated film that you've seen with your girls?
Brendan: Man, I tell you, there's always that moment in animated movies where it's you know, it's for the parent that's sitting there. Right now, Frozen 2’s pretty good. I'm not gonna lie Olaf brings his best performance. The music's top-notch, there's some good, 80s ballads in there. [crosstalk] I’m just saying, you know, Sven, the reindeer has some moments.
Jeff: I actually, two days ago had my first daddy-daughter dance with my almost four-year-old daughter and it was Frozen themed. So, I'm right there with you.
Brendan: Yeah, you know it well.
Andrew: All right. Brendan, are you traveling with Team USA for the Olympics this year?
Brendan: I will be traveling with them on training camps. So, our team will be picked six weeks out from the Olympics in Omaha, Nebraska, and then we'll go to Palo Alto. So, we'll be at Stanford's campus, and then we're going to go to Singapore for two weeks prior to the Olympics. Now, up to that point, the credentials to get into Tokyo are really hard, and I want to make sure that our entire medical staff is there. I don't-- I feel like I can do my most damage or good damage in the training camps making sure that this team is mentally sound and physically ready to go for those games.
Jeff: Love it. Brendan, what is the last movie that you have seen in theaters?
Brendan: Funny you should say that, Frozen 2 at Alamo Drafthouse. So, you know, you get to eat some food. [crosstalk] Yeah, that's how you do it. Right? So, but Frozen 2 was, I mean, it's a hot ticket in our household.
Andrew: At the height of your swim career, how many calories were you taking in each day to fuel your training?
Brendan: This is a really hot topic, I would say somewhere in the range of 6,500 to 7,000 calories a day. And it's looking back on it, we were grazing throughout the entire day, eating five to six meals, rather than the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner; we had all these different meals in between and looking back on it, that's probably what you needed to stay recovered.
Jeff: So, Brendan, little tangent here, but if you were casting an actor to play the Brendan Hanson in a movie about your life, I would choose Ryan Reynolds for me, but who would you choose?
Brendan: That's a really good one actually. I would actually say between him or Bradley Cooper.
Jeff: I can see Bradley Cooper working for you. [crosstalk]
Brendan: Yeah, I was gonna say I’ve been asked if I look like that once in a while, you know, if I grow the beard out I kind of look like the sniper. Yeah, I can come across like that. But yeah, I'm not the tallest guy. So, you need one of those two guys. I think they're both about six foot. I think that would work.
Andrew: Yeah, pick up a guitar, sing shallow and you could totally pull off Bradley Cooper. Okay. What is your current go-to way to unwind from a long day?
Brendan: Actually, a long day for me doesn't really include exercise. So, the way I'm able to kind of handle what Jeff calls the chaos of having three kids under the age of 10, one is alcohol which I tried to avoid, right? I mean, I'm just being totally honest here, I want to put my best foot forward, and the other is exercise. And it really allows me the time of, to just forget about everything and enjoy the moment and sometimes just hearing my heart sit at like 150-160 beats just allows me to keep the sanity than the craziness that is my life. So, a lot of times I travel a lot. So, coming off a plane or getting into a new city or whatever, it may be, just throwing on a running shoes and run in that city. That's how I find myself. I see this as not necessarily unwind in the question, but more about balance. And I think balance in life is so important. And the way I'm able to do that with a crazy work schedule, and then a crazy home life is definitely the exercise piece.
Jeff: Brendan, what coach in your swim journey has impacted you the most?
Brendan: Now, this is hands down, Eddie Reese. He's the john wooden of our sport. He's the head coach of the University of Texas for the last almost 40 years now. He's the most winningest coach in NCAA history. But the nice thing about him and I mentioned this earlier in the podcast, it's so important to find a coach that's going to push you and is open enough that you can push them. There's multiple times I'd walk in his office and say, “Hey, I want to break the world record this summer.” And he didn't look at me like “Okay, you cocky little sophomore. Get back in there and start swimming.” Right? He looked at me like, “Let's build a plan. Let's do this.” So, there's that trust level. There was a belief system between the two of us and we were able to work together to really change the record books.
Andrew: What pool from your entire swimming, racing, and coaching career would you say is your favorite pool you've ever swim in?
Brendan: Man, that's a tough one. They all have their different moments, right? But when I think the venue aspect and the loudness of any pool, Beijing's, the water cube was pretty cool. It’s just a crazy feeling when you're swimming down the pool and all of a sudden the entire building changes from purple to green or something, you know, right. So, like, yeah, there's that aspect of where the whole-- there's just an architectural craziness to the venue that you're in, and there's a vastness to where you feel really, really small in a big area. It's really fun to be in those situations.
Jeff: On a scale of one to 10, how hard do you root for the University of Texas Longhorn Athletics?
Brendan: I'm going to say seven. I really am a die-hard Longhorn. I've been here my whole, my life since pretty much since 2000 when I stepped foot on campus I'm just a fan. I wouldn't say that I'm a crazy like die-hard be there first for the-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: You’re not getting app alerts on your phone with like all this is happening?
Brendan: No. But at the same time, I want my kids to know what the University of Texas meant to me, what the campus and the people that are associated with it meant. So, a lot of these questions are going to scale through my own family and my kids and what I want them to experience. And that's why we take him to basketball games, football games, swimming events, things like that.
Andrew: What is your favorite place in Austin, Texas to grab a bite to eat?
Brendan: Oh my gosh. You have to pick a meal, okay? Because I'll just, I'll say this right now, like honestly, it sounds stupid, but for breakfast Cisco's. Their amiga’s and briskets are incredible. [crosstalk] Yeah, I mean you cannot bring that up and not kill a podcast and just pack this stuff up and leave, right? For lunch, again, there's just so many holes in the wall. Mexican places to go eat or like you can go hit up barbecue and it's like what kind of barbecue do you want to hit, so that's that. And then for dinner, Austin's grown so much that we just have a lot of really good restaurants and around in Austin. Right now, my number one restaurant to go to is Lonesome Dove is based out of-- in Dallas, Texas. But they've come there and it's just to me, if you're picking my last meal, it's coming from Lonesome Dove.
Jeff: Last question. Brendan, what are your number one kind of current favorite pair of goggles that you would recommend that maybe we all buy and try or maybe just what worked for you the best in your career? [crosstalk]
Brendan: No, it’s not. I do want to say that I am not sponsored by anybody or anything of that nature. I think when it comes to goggles, it's what is most comfortable for you, and what you vision, right, like what you see. A lot of your success under water is going to come from your visual, and whether you need that input or you don't. And so I like a lot of peripheral vision with my goggles, and that's where I come from. I wear Speedo Speed Sockets. It's something that the gasket’s really nice. It's a silicone, they last, they're worth their money in gold as far as how long they're going to last. They're a low profile, so they're very protected if you get hit by somebody don't rise high on your face. And then ultimately, I do like the fact that I can see really well out of the peripheral, like the lens tends to bend around the side so I can really see out the sides of the goggle.
Andrew: Well, that's it for today, folks. I want to thank USA Swimming's Brendan Hansen and TriDot’s Jeff Raines for talking to us today. If you enjoyed hearing from Brendan today, remember that he will be back with us on Thursday in TriDot Podcast Episode 22, share more about his career, the Olympic Games, and his new role for Team USA Swimming. Shout out to TriBike Transport for partnering with us on today's episode. The next time you need to travel for a race, head to TriBikeTransport.com to let them get your bike their race ready and stress free. Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/Podcasts and click on submit feedback to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
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