Heidi George Exceeds Expectations at the U.S. 10k World Championship Trials
Heidi George, 33, of Palo Alto, Calif. competed in her first open water competition 15 years ago. This month, she placed seventh at the 2009 U.S. 10K World Championship Trials, a mere one spot away from making the team. George, who trains with Los Altos Mountain View Masters and Lost Altos Mountain View Aquatics with coach Jose Bonpua, says, "I think I swam pretty smart. I didn't expect to be five seconds away from 6th place, and all things considered, I'm pretty happy with it."
The U.S. 10K Open Water National Swimming Championships/World Championship Trials was held only a couple of weeks ago on June 14. George, the oldest competitor in the event, started the race with the "fast" group of swimmers which included Olympian Chloe Sutton and NCAA Champion (1650-yard freestyle) Emily Brunemann. In a close race to the finish, George was not able to catch the sixth place swimmer but did, however, make her presence known.
George, originally from Minnesota, swam her first open water race in Lake Minnetonka with her mother and aunt in a canoe. "I was a miler back then, so if there was an event as long as five miles, then I was the perfect candidate," shared George.
Though George trains mostly in the pool, she has always been a distance swimmer. "I never had much speed so even for the mile I was always working on my speed." George's first 10k race was the World Championship Trials this summer. "The 10k is like the mile but even more relaxing. When you get in the right groove all you have to think about is trying to take it as easy as possible the whole way," she explained.
George initially thought it might take her more time to qualify and prepare for an elite level event such as the World Championship Trials, but when she qualified she thought this summer was as good as any. "I was going to try to train another year before thinking about qualifying for something like this, but once I realized I was in good enough shape, I just did it." With only two weeks to prepare, after qualifying for the race, George upped her yardage for the first week and convinced her brother and his girlfriend to row as she got in a practice swim and looked ahead to the race. The week before the competition George decreased her training intensity and did "barely anything."
George thought she might be able to swim with the other competitors based on her mile times. Because her mile time was comparable to the other women in the event she knew "it was more a matter of pacing it right," but George never expected to be within five seconds of making the national team. "There are definitely things I could work on improving and maybe next time I won't worry about waving to Bart (George's feeder) on my first lap around the course," George joked. "My brother is pretty sure that cost me at least six seconds."
Click here for the official results of the U.S. 10K World Championship Trials
What advice does Heidi George have for her fellow masters swimmers that want to compete with the "kids"?
Have stepping stones to get back into shape. I've been slowly getting back into better shape for the past four years. Four years ago I was a lot slower and never thought I would be able to compete where I am now. Make sure you have someone you can train with to push you and make sure you have a coach that can do the same. I got a lot more confident a couple of months ago when I started seeing times I was going in practice when I was 16 years old. I started doing a set of 8x800's long course where I got down to 9:16 on my 8th 800. That gave me confidence and also made me realize that I could still do what I could do as a kid.
What other meets does Heidi George have her sights set on?
I decided to do the World Cup Circuit, which I think will be fun and give me some good experience. Right now my schedule consists of races in Bulgaria, France and Denmark. I am also very excited to swim the annual Trans Tahoe relay. We have a great relay which includes a Masters World Record Holder in the 1500, George Tidmarsh; Clayton Jones, who had an incredible meet in May at USMS Short Course Nationals; Brad Howe and Barton Wells. All of whom can pretty much take down any ringers any other team might have.
George will continue to train, and we think, will continue to get faster. Be sure to look for her name in the results of the World Cup Circuit later this year.