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The Last Day I Coached 100x100: A Short Story.

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Written By: Alexis Keto


Winter Training. January 1, 2015.

Colorado. Snow on the ground.

Air Temperature hovering around 7.

Water temperature around 83.

6 lanes. 25m. For the most part, anyway.

10 x 100 Free swim @ 1:45/2:00/2:15

About 30 athletes and their gear bags prepare to run out to the pool across some pool salt and dive into the water to start the annual 100 x 100. Many thermoses filled with hot green tea with honey.

Another 20 masters athletes were joining in the fun.

Coaches in layers of clothing, parka, hand warmers and bolstered by coffee.

5 x 100 Kick w/fins (jr=zoom) @ 2:00/2:15/2:30

It’s tradition.

It’s an accomplishment to achieve something together.

It’s conquering a fear of long distance swimming.

It’s New Year’s and this is winter training. We have to do hard things.

10 x 100 Pull @ 1:40/150/210

Any number of justifications filled my mind for why this was a good idea. Masters swimmers are so motivated to get this team experience going - to swim with the young ones. We have a breakfast planned for afterwards with parents and siblings. The younger age groupers were doing 100 x 50s - so it is going to be a fun morning!

5 x 100 IM Drill @ 2:00/2:10/2:30

Personal reflection moment: I had coached this set most years around New Year’s, since 1998 or so, which is odd, I think, because over 10 years of my swim career, I think I only did it once. Not really sure why not, I actually trained pretty extensive yardage in the late 80s/early 90s and never really missed workouts. It kind of leaked into existence as part of the myth of winter training that grew when I started coaching college distance athletes in the late 90s/early 2000s.

10 x 100 Fr/Bk @ 1:35/1:45/2:05

Sure, there had been athletes that thrived on this sort of challenge. There have been variations throughout the years - 20x500; 10 x 10 x 100; 10 x 25, 10 x 50, 10 x 75 etc… But all the same theme and overall distance - get the 10K total, complete the “impossible,” level up. Athletes have done this type of training for years. It’s a gratifying experience to help grow the team bond during a trying and difficult point in the season. 5 x 100 Brst/Fly @ 2:00/2:10/2:30

The range of athletes work through their sets after set - occasionally asking each other what number they are on. Music is rocking through the speakers - a playlist that goes through the past four decades of music - all upbeat, some singable, others not. (Never Nickelback, despite their 2000s popularity). There’s a low murmur of energy, it’s early in the process. Form looks good. 10 x 100 K w/fins @ 1:40/1:40/2:00

At about 90 minutes in, the wind picks up, throwing snow over gear bags, freezing them to the deck. The first thermos of coach coffee is replaced by a second thermos. The athletes seem excited about kicking on their back so the appendages can stay in the water. There’s an increase in huddling around the hot water coming out the sides of the walls.

5 x 100 IM @ 2:00/2:10/2:30

The strokes are starting to show signs of technical weakness. Nothing significant, but the underwater kicks look feeble off the walls and a gentle reminder is issued to re-prioritize details when fatigued. And to make sure to demonstrate the proper back to breast transition. First waterbottles have been finished, thank god for hydroflasks, someone still had ice and had to throw it at a teammate..

10 x 100 Free @ 1:30/1:45/1:55

Is this really worth it? They’re into it, but they have shown cohesiveness all week, and this seems like overkill, but maybe that’s the cold or lack of caffeine that clouds perspective. This is getting rough. Probably more for the coaches - kids seem to be handling intervals well, most of the Masters swimmers are either pulling or wearing fins. 5 x 100 K @ 2:00/2:10/2:30

At least this brings the total amount of kick to 20x100. Yay for symmetry. They’re making the interval easily so it can’t be that bad. The kick at least let them sing a little with the music. It’s the Disney phase of the playlist - “Swift as the coursing river…” IYKYK. 5 x 100 Pull w/snork @ 1:40/150 /2:20

Okay, CLEARLY was struggling to keep this entertaining and made a choice to break it into sets of 5 for the final moments. Repetitive sets don’t help the coaches stay engaged. Not sure this endeavor going to pay off. The slow interval on the pull let the athletes stretch out, but man, these pushoffs are slowing going downhill. Someone should say something…oh wait…. 5 x 100 IM @ 1:35/145/2:15

Not a good idea. Period. Everything about this set was trash. Turns. Strokes. Underwater kick. Pretty sure at least half the group skipped at least one pullout. The pancakes better be ready when this ends. And maybe the Rose Bowl Parade on TV? It starts at 9a, so it should still be on. Clock says it’s 8:22. Phone is frozen. Didn’t know that was a thing. 5 x 100 Back @ 1:30/1:40/2:10

Did I mention that this was actually 115 x 100 because coaches collectively find joy in stupid crap like that. It’s fun. Leave us alone. But back to the set…Ok. A little refocus on underwater helped get this set underway nicely. Waterbottles are almost empty. An athlete looked at their last couple of gatorade chews…frozen to the deck. The music is hovering on earworms of the early 2000s - Call Me Maybe? No thanks. 5 x 100 choice @ 1:25/1:35/2:05 **use gear!!

Using gear doesn’t seem to help anything. Stroke count is creeping up. Everyone picked paddles, fins and snorkels and freestyle. It’s a matter of survival at this point. The last set is a doozy…. 5 x 100 Free @ 1:20/1:30/2:00

Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now” queues up for the last set. Energy levels up and the first two 100s seem promising and then the wheels come off the bus and the last three are basically straight, rather scraggly swimming. If this set was a cartoon character, it would be Shaggy from Scooby Doo. ZOIKS!


One athlete, upon finishing, looks up with a little bit of seriousness and a little bit of shock, asks for a warmdown. The others giggle nervously and stare up at the coaches in their layered parkas and snow boots.


Yup. You betcha. Warm that down.


250 Reverse/Scull by 25s.

And the true coaches know why that’s somewhat chaotic evil.


Epilogue:

I never coached 100x100s again.

The aftermath of the workout was not worth the team building. We had more injuries and illness and other setbacks that when I reflected on the season - the 100x100 were the origin story.

Now, I challenge myself to create workouts that create the same dynamic, the same challenge, with greater outcome. Since 2017, I even dropped the winter challenge aspect and moved to using the winter break as a time to reset form, technique and spend time shifting mental space. This year, with a new team, the entire approach has been about finding and reframing goals, allowing social time for the athletes and giving some freedom to the coaches to coach differently. Our head coach spent time with staff developing a training plan for 2023 - we’re shifting to thinking about long course for the senior athletes - focusing on July meets (and beyond). Already I notice a difference in the enthusiasm of the athletes. Body language is positive. Interpersonal language is lighter. The commitment to detail is keen & engaged.


And that’s athletes & coaches.


Maybe it’s the physicality of athletes we attract now.

Maybe it's the mentality of athletes today.

Maybe it’s the passion of coaches on the staff.

Maybe it’s wearing flip flops in December.


I know one thing for sure.

I’ll never write another 100x100s


PS. The embedded workout is the actual set I wrote in 2015


Coach Alexis Keto believes in the well-rounded, socially-aware athlete and infuses this philosophy into each workout, competition & team endeavor. Each swimmer has the potential to be successful, and she feels that coaches should help swimmers discover their pathways to success and to their goals on a personal and individualized level. Over her 20-plus years of coaching, Alexis has had the good fortune of coaching at every level of the sport - summer league, high school, club and college. This tradition of excellence continued with New Trier Aquatics with World Championship Trials and Senior National finalists and now under the sun at Bolles School Sharks.

Perhaps her greatest pride, however, is her ability to use her college coaching/recruiting experience at NC State & Northwestern to help athletes find the perfect college - whether at Division 1 schools or NAIA schools. Over 50 athletes have continued their swimming career at the collegiate level with an impressive number becoming team captains during their college tenure.

She is also actively involved in the development of the sport of swimming at state and national level, currently serving on national committees, formerly very active in the development of the Western Senior Zone Championships and she has held several positions in the Colorado LSC. Her involvement is not just in governance, as she has coached and developed several local, zone and national camps & teams - as part of the task force for the inaugural 2018 Leadership Summit and as head coach of the 2018 Eastern Zone Select Camp. She currently is on the USA Swimming Club Development Committee.

She resides in Neptune Beach, FL with her cat Seamus, appreciating sand dunes more than snow drifts.

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