There are some days when the absolute last thing I want to do is wake up before dawn on a cold morning and jump into an equally cold pool. But there is one thing that makes it so much better: my fiancé Dominik Meichtry is right there with me. We met on the UC Berkeley swim team my freshman year, and now we live together in Santa Monica and are both training for this big swim meet we have coming up in London this summer.
While Dominik, a Swiss citizen, earned his Olympic ticket at the world championships last year, I won't have my chance to make the U.S. team until the Olympic trials, which start June 25 in Omaha. In the meantime, it's a huge motivator to know he's going. I'm his biggest supporter, and I want to be there with him whether I make the team or not. Obviously, though, my heart is set on competing -- and medaling -- at my first Games. It would be so incredible to do that together!
Well, maybe not completely together. Since we'll be representing different countries, I'm sure I wouldn't get to see him often at the Olympic Village. We might be able to sneak in a few meals at the dining hall together, though, and I'll see him some at the pool I'm sure.
But that's OK. We're really good at giving each other space. When we train now, you'll likely find us on opposite sides of the pool. Dominik frequently swims twice a day (mornings and afternoons), and I swim once daily. His event is the 200-meter freestyle, so he has to focus on aerobic training in the pool to build endurance. My events, the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and breaststroke are short and explosive, so I do a lot more cross-training outside of the water. While he's still swimming laps, I'll often be strength-training or doing plyometrics in the gym.
The few times I do land in the lane next to him, I use his speed to pace myself for one lap. Sometimes I swim faster than him and when I do, he likes to tease me, saying, “Yeah, you can beat me for one lap, but you can't keep going for three more!” And for the record, he's totally right … I can’t.
Driving home after practice, we chat and eat the delicious egg sandwiches Dominik has cooked for us that morning. Over the years, we've really figured out a good balance of support versus staying out of the other one's hair. I'm careful not to get too coachy with him and vice versa. We wait until the other asks for advice before we start doling it out -- and if one of us says something that's not sitting well with the other, we are both good about backing off.
I think a huge part of knowing how to read one another stems from the fact that we've been through a lot. During my suspension in 2008, he kept me connected to the sport of swimming because he was still training, competing and traveling to meets where he'd see my friends. At times, it would get to me, especially when he'd complain about waking up early to work out. I used to bitterly say, “Well, at least you can swim.” Dominik is always calm and level-headed, so he helped me realize that was pretty unfair. (And, like I said before, I know how hard it is to stay motivated at the crack of dawn!) Letting my guard down and accepting his help through that tough time brought us so much closer than I could have ever imagined.
We've been together for six years now, and though we haven't set a wedding date, we're planning to get married next summer. And we've already made one big commitment: We have the cutest puggle, Stevie, who is always a handful. Our favorite thing right now is to take her stand-up paddling in the ocean with us. Wearing her little life vest, she sits right there on the board, happy as a clam and quiet like one, too.
Our free time is pretty limited for obvious reasons, though, and our main focus is on the Games, and for me, the trials in June. Cross your fingers, because the next time you hear from me, I hope to have some great news!