By Bob Schaller//Correspondent | Tuesday, March 20, 2018
In this first of two parts, when Cal alum Nathan Adrian first burst onto the scene, the U.S. sprint field was jammed with stars both old and new. A decade later, he is widely respected and regarded for not only his sprint golds -- his 100 free in London remains a particular favorite for many fans -- but his ability to be counted on to finish off Olympic and World Championship relays. Closer to the end than the beginning, Adrian is still having as much fun as that first year, and he appreciates it even more, as he explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday, Part I, with Nathan Adrian.
1. How do you feel and how’s swimming?
Nathan: I feel great actually. We’re up in Colorado Springs right now (at camp). It’s the perfect time to be up here.
2. But with the college team at a different part of the year, so to speak, than you?
Nathan: Absolutely. Cal undergrads need to race fast, and we (in the post-grad group) are kind of grinding.
3. Being there and grinding through it, and this wonderful arc of your career -- how different is it being there as a pro than when you were there as an undergrad yourself?
Nathan: Yes, yes, it’s very different. That’s a great question. This is kind of as close to swimming at its essence as I can get these days.
4. And it does change when you are a post-grad?
Nathan: As you get older, there’s more obligations. This is the best place to do a few of the little things that you have to do.
5. Does that in a way, even though it taxes your body a little more, allow you a little more peace of mind to focus?
Nathan: It does. This is a time where I can take a step back from a lot of the other stuff and focus on swimming -- maintaining fitness and just doing all the things that make you a fast swimmer.
6. That happy-go-lucky attitude and more of swimming because you love to swim?
Nathan: That’s what my life was when I first (laughs) got out of school. Now there’s a lot more going on. So yes, this kind of gets me back to that time.
7. How does being a pro change swimming itself for you?
Nathan: It is not something you can explain super easily to someone who doesn’t get it. The best thing I can say is, every decision is not necessarily your decision anymore -- and that’s nothing too major, but it is an adjustment.
8. And that’s part of the deal to be a professional then, I guess?
Nathan: Yes, it is -- that’s the trade-off to continue to be able to do this as a career. And even going into it, I felt like I knew what I was getting myself into
9. You seem to have figured a lot of it out now, haven’t you?
Nathan: Oh man, then I tricked (laughs) the heck out of you, that’s what happened! Honestly, the best way to state it is that no one has it figured out. I just need to be comfortable in my own skin with what I don’t know, and to do my best. That kind of evolves into some cheesy cliches, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
10. You do seem your most content in the pool when you are racing, is that accurate?
Nathan: I just love to compete, it’s just so much fun, because I do still feel that anxiety and nervousness, but I can take that step back and be excited to be at the pinnacle of the sport. There is still that nervous energy keeping me up at night, but I’m certainly thankful.
11. You being at the OTC on different prep levels than the team, that unique preparation is its own beast, isn’t it?
Nathan: Yes and that’s definitely part of the preparation -- everyone having their own kind of paradigm in which they operate throughout the season, how they approach everything throughout the season, and trying to treat everything I go to with a level of seriousness it deserves.
12. But for you, part of that is competing year ‘round, why is that so important?
Nathan: I just love to race. And I need to race. We can set up our timing system and heats (at Cal) and simulate that kind of race, but you have to actually just go out and do that sometimes to see where you are, and if your thinking is on or how you modify it.
13. And under the theme of seriousness, then if you go to these meets there’s probably more of that as well?
Nathan: If we’re going to hop on a plane, get in a hotel room, then yes you are going to treat this really seriously.
14. That’s different depending where you are in prep?
Nathan: Yes, but with the various (TYR Pro) swim events and World Cup, you have a lot of opportunities, and you see some of the same people but you also see different people -- and people when they are at different points in their preparation.
15. You’re a total vet at these meets, do you get to enjoy them when they’re over?
Nathan: When you get to end of the year, you kind of go on autopilot. I think we all do it in the way that we like to experience it. Josh Prenot, the day after a meet likes to go out for a nice dinner, likes to unwind.
16. And he’s great company, and quite a thinker like you. You don’t enjoy the dine out?
Nathan: (Laughs) Get me a Smartwater and I’m out of there. That’s kind of my MO, and it’s something you develop through your career. I do see my teammates a lot and certainly we’ll spend time together.
17. So if you pass up the fine dining, what’s your post meet meal?
Nathan: A good place to eat a nice meal is always great for going out. For me, it’s a little different -- just give me some boiled chicken and steamed vegetables and rice.
18. That food part is a huge element isn’t it? Last time we talked you had focused on things such as a banana for potassium after training to get what your body needed, maybe not exactly what your first choice had been, right?
Nathan: It’s a fine balance. I’m still figuring it out. I have to make sure my body is well fed, getting nutritious food and not overfeeding it, leaving a little wiggle room because we are burning a massive amount of calories.
19. And at Cal, you all have those resources, right?
Nathan: We have an incredible nutritionist in (Alicia Kendig ). She’s incredible. She’s done such a good job, not just of all the great knowledge she has, but imparting it in a certain way.
20. That kind of communication is my life. So important when it’s done well isn’t it?
Nathan: Right, because everyone receives the information different and has different needs. Not everyone is going to weigh food on a scale, but some will. Others might need a certain amount of protein or to get their energy at a different interval. Going down that path has been really helpful and healthful for me.
In Part II next week, Nathan takes us back to Budapest and his friendship with Matt Grevers, and talks about how the U.S. women’s team is setting the bar at a whole new level.