Always eager to swim faster, I hopped on a pool version of a treadmill and let a former University of Texas swim coach pick apart my technique.
Former Longhorns head women’s swimming coach Kim Brackin has resurfaced, this time as the head of her own personal coaching business, Brackin Elite Swim Training, or BEST.
She works one-on-one with clients who swim in an "endless pool" in her backyard in Hyde Park. The pool, slightly longer than a king-sized bed, is rigged with cameras and mirrors below and above the water, so swimmers can watch themselves as they swim. Brackin stands nearby, keeping a careful eyeball on each client and dipping a small video camera into the water to capture it all for later reference.
I felt sort of like a salmon heading to its spawning ground as I chugged into the current, which can be speed adjusted. (Just don’t crank it up too high or you’ll be blown backward like a gnat in a firehose.)
It took a few minutes to get over the fact that I could watch myself swimming in the mirrors. After about 10 minutes of plugging away, Brackin tapped me to tell me to stop. She rolled up a TV monitor and we watched my stroke.
She pointed out the good with the bad — my stroke is kind of spidery looking, because I dig with my shoulders and arms instead of letting my bigger core muscles do the hard work. At the same time, she noted that my stroke is narrow and my arms and legs don’t flop around a lot, creating a lot of needless water resistance.
We talked about how I could make my stroke more efficient by driving more with my core muscles. She suggested a few drills, which we worked on right there in the pint-sized pool. Later, she emailed me video clips that she shot during our session. It gave me a lot to think about the next day, as I hopped into the pool for my regular swim team practice at Western Hills Athletic Club.
"I just think this environment is so unique," Brackin says. "You put the person in this pool where they can be an active participant in their learning and can make real-time adjustments. People love that feedback. And it’s fun."
Brackin works mainly with high-performance swimmers and triathletes, including Austin-based pros Patrick Evoe and Terra Castro. Brackin is an Ironman Triathlon finisher herself and has more than 20 years of collegiate swim coaching experience, including six at UT, which released her in April. During her coaching career, she’s worked with top athletes including Olympic medalist Kirsty Coventry.
Sessions cost $150 an hour or $800 for six sessions. Those who sign up for an intensive three-day camp can stay right on the property, in a guest house in Brackin’s backyard.
For more information go to www.brackineliteswimtraining.com.
Triathlon, a team sport?
That’s the idea behind a new youth triathlon league based in Round Rock.
Boris Robinson, head of T3 Multisports, says the Lonestar Youth Triathlon Environment, or LYTE, will work similarly to a baseball or soccer league. Each member team — and so far there are five around the state — will host an event. The teams will travel around Texas to compete in those events and other youth triathlons.
Athletes will race as individuals, but earn points that will count toward team totals. They’ll wear team uniforms and train together, too.
The league system brings familiarity to parents. "With triathlon, parents only see it as an individual sport," Robinson says. "They don’t know how to get kids involved in it or train them."
The league and its member teams, which include groups from Dallas, Victoria and College Station, can help, he says. The goal is to get more youth involved in the sport and develop more youth teams. The league will complement the Youth Triathlon Series now in place in USA Triathlon’s South Midwest Region.
Kids can learn a lot from triathlon, he says, including individual responsibility and working with others. Unlike other team sports, in triathlon everybody gets to play and there are no time outs.
"A lot of kids on soccer teams sit and watch for the most part," he says. "With triathlon there’s both — it’s an individual event to compete in, but there’s also the team concept."
Robinson has created a Youth Triathlon Academy at T3 Multisports. About 30 young athletes, ages 7 to 15, get together one to five days a week to swim, bike and run.
For more information go to trilyte.org.