Sets of Champions: Broken 1500s with Erik Vendt

Distance swimmers put in the work.

There is a certain pride in being a member of the Animal Lane, where the workouts are longer and the yardage out-paces what most people drive in a week.

Few swimmers in recent years personified the relentless work ethic necessary to conquer the distance events than American Erik Vendt.

While Vendt’s accomplishments in competition were storied, it was the appetite for hard work that was particularly noteworthy. Michael Phelps, in his 2009 auto-biography “No Limits”, detailed just how driven and competitive Vendt was in the pool.

“If I was willing to work hard in practice, Erik had perhaps an even greater appetite for it,” Phelps said of his Club Wolverine teammate. “If, on a scale of one to 10, I was now turning in consistent eights at practice, very few sinking to a two, rising every now and then to a 10, Erik was maybe a nine each and every day. I had, and still have, never seen anyone work out so hard and be so competitive, both in workouts and in the racing itself.”

Vendt’s work ethic resulted in some epic performances in competition:

  • In 2000, at the US Olympic Trials, Vendt would break the 1500m freestyle American record, which had stood for 16 years.
  • He was the first ever American to dip below the 15 minute mark in the mile.
  • Later that year, he would win silver at the Sydney Olympics in the 400m individual medley behind world record holder Tom Dolan.
  • He would win silver again in the 400m individual medley four years later at the Athens Olympics, this time behind Michael Phelps.
  • At the 2002 US Nationals, Phelps and Vendt would duel in the 400m individual medley in a hard-fought battle that saw both swimmers dip under Dolan’s world record.
  • He posted the world’s fastest time in the 1500m freestyle (14:46.78) in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics (but would place fourth at trials).
  • He would pick up a gold medal in Beijing as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Training with Erik Vendt

The following swim workout was done in June of 2007, while Vendt was training at the University of Michigan under Bob Bowman and Jon Urbanchek. At the time, Vendt had considerable endurance, with Bowman noting he “has enough endurance right now to swim the English Channel twice.”

The focus for Vendt was developing the speed to be able to get out fast and maintain that speed in order to challenge Hackett.

The below workout was typical on his training during the summer of 2007. It was done in long course meters. Some neat-o things that stick out include Vendt’s incredible kicking speed. The main set is a round of broken 1500s on descending intervals.

Warm up

  • 1200 as 3x [200 free breathe alternating sides by 50 + 200 IM drill]

Kick

  • 400 cruise @8:00
  • 6×100 best average @1:45 (Vendt averaged 1:14.8)

Pre-set

  • 2x [200 IM drill @3:30 + 4×50 free Fast/Easy @1:00]

Main set

  • 5×300 @3:50 (avg: 3:22)
  • 5×300 @3:40 (avg: 3:19)
  • 5×300 @3:30 (avg: 3:11, last one 3:05)

Warm-Down/Recovery

  • 600 with snorkel as 4x [50 free, 50 kick with arms at side, 50 breaststroke]

ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

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Skoorbnagol

Absolute swimming legend, was gutted when he went 15.07 in 2008 trials after his 14.50 heat swim. Was rooting for him to win 1500 in Beijing.
Gave hope to average athletes who made the decision that ‘I can out work anyone, that is in my control’ when other athletes succumbed to the fact they are smaller or not as technically gifted or genetically gifted.
Right there with Tom Dolan / Kieran Perkins in terms of insane work ethic.

Honest Observer

Agree with everything you say, and it’s true, Vendt was only 5′ 9″ or so; it’s also true that his work ethic was legendary, and he was a tough as nails competitor. But “genetically gifted” comes in different forms. Vendt obviously had a much stronger constitution than most: his heart, spleen, liver, kidneys, etc, were simply better at producing energy and at helping him recover. Plus, he was jacked. If most swimmers attempted some of the workouts he did (he reportedly had 30k yard days) it would, at best, wear them down to a crisp; and at worst, it would result in injury or even hospitalization.

TheRoboticRichardSimmons

Vendt’s stroke technique was also impeccable and amazingly efficient. The dude was naturally gifted, just not tall.

anonymous

Vendt was actually 5’11”. He just looked shorter when competing against swimmers at that level. To put things in perspective, I remember watching a meet where Vendt got 1st and Vanderkaay 2nd. At the ceremony, even though Vendt was on the highest podium, Vanderkaay stood taller than him from 2nd place.

Yolo

Katie could probably hang with those 300 times

Dave

30 x 1,000 averaging under 10 minutes, folks. Ate a granola bar 2/3rds of the way through.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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