If you follow swimming, you've heard of Steve Sholdra - the 21-year old University student and swimming superstud who grew up in Renton, WA. Steve holds the current 2.4 mile non-wetsuit record at the blueseventy Friday Night Swim Races with a sizzling time of 47:04 and has just finished up his collegiate swimming career with a couple more record-setting swims to add to his already long list of accomplishments. RTB supersleuth Brian Guillan and FNSR Race Director Patty Swedberg threw some questions at Steve last week after reading about his latest feats so we could all get to know him a little better.
You just finished your collegiate swimming career setting a Conference record in the 200 meter butterfly with a time of 1:47. What's next?
To be honest, the NARP life (non-athlete regular person) is quite a strange feeling after 15 years of year-round swimming. But I did enjoy three glorious days off of swimming (while taking four midterms). It's amazing how much free time there is in a day when you don't have 3-5 hours of training. I'm back in the pool again, because I will be representing Fordham University at the USA Swimming Open Water Nationals again, coming up April 7 & 9, 2016. After that, I plan on continuing swimming in a US Masters program, because...well, I don't want to have to go to a gym to work out, and I really do love the feeling of the water.
I showed this question to my swimmer friends, and can't possibly describe how philosophical our discussions were about this topic. None of us have ever considered how someone could be against butterflies, cause they're so pretty. But then, it dawned on us: there are only two ways someone could be against butterflies. 1) they are against change. When someone is afraid to escape from their warm, safe cocoon, they can't possibly grow into their full potential as a stunning butterfly. 2) they just don't believe in metamorphosis. Either way, I am definitely a fan of butterflies, because I am about to be forced to change from a sheltered college life into a real-world adult life, so hopefully I can develop wings and fly.
Were you aware that the Karner Blue butterfly was Federally listed as an endangered species in 1992? Since I had to Google what a Karner Blue Butterfly was, I'm going with no. But that's really sad, they look badassical.
What are your favorite pool sets you use to ready yourself for long-distance open water swims? I had an amazing coach for 9 1/2 years on Bellevue Club that was a huge believer in non-stop aerobic training. He believed that everyone should train for the 400 IM, because when you have the muscle strength and lung conditioning to survive a sprint 400 IM, that can directly transfer over into endurance for distance swimming or speed for a 200 stroke. I've still followed that advice throughout my college career, and train IM stroke work three days a week for conditioning. However, sometimes everyone still needs to do classic distance sets, so I love creating unique patterns to make the sets more interesting. One particularly memorable set I invented, which remains my favorite set of all time, is called The Fibonacci Pyramid. Based on the Fibonacci counting sequence of a number plus the number prior to it equaling the third number (1,1,2,3,5,etc), which I learned in the DaVinci Code movie, it uses freestyle pace and recovery to develop amazing endurance and shifting speeds per distance.1x 25 moderate, 25 sprint, 50 mod, 75 sprint, 125 mod, 200 sprint, 325 mod, 525 sprint, 850 mod, 850 sprint, 525 mod, 325 sprint, 200 mod, 125 sprint, 75 mod, 50 sprint, 25 mod, 25 sprint. It's a 4400 yard set, perfect for all levels of distance swimmers.
What is your favorite drill or drills for freestyle? 3/4 Catch-up drill is my personal favorite. Full catch-up drill is nice for beginning swimmers, but it's so different from actual race swimming that it doesn't end up being beneficial for long-term. With 3/4 Catch-Up, you start the catch of your freestyle when the opposite arm reaches your ear, so that you get a great undulation and rotation that is essentially an exaggerated version of what your stroke should look like during a race. Another variation of this is the Sailor Cap drill, where you salute from your forehead with each hand as it enters the water.
What is your favorite pool toy for swimming or drills?
The Finis Strapless Paddles. I first discovered them in college, and it changed the use of paddles in practice. Without straps, these paddles force you to enter with a straight hand, and makes you feel how your hand tilts and tips as you pull through the water. Excellent for long freestyle swims where proper pulling technique is vital.
Tell the truth: when was the past time you peed in the pool? (Remember that you are under oath!)
I haven't swum for three days, so...four days ago.
Does success in the pool readily translate into success in open water?
Open Water swimming is a whole different arena than pool swimming. I've known some of the best distance swimmers in the state of Washington not be able to even finish a 5K or 10K race open water. Open Water races at National Meets are like MMA fighting in water...people finish races with broken noses, ribs, and cut up/bleeding all over. It's a careful balance of swimming your own race versus ensuring your race is better than others. I've watched Olympian open water swimmers go out of their way to steal gel packs from other swimmers' suits during the race, strictly so the other people will sugar crash and the Olympian can win more easily. In a pool, it's just you and your lane; in open water, it's a group mindset. Therefore, you could be the best or worst pool swimmer that you know, and be the exact opposite in Open Water. If you have the dedication and perseverance for open water swimming, then you can be a champion.
What are your summer plans? Will we see you swim any Pacific Northwest Open Water Races.....like the blueseventy Friday Night Swim Races?
My current plans are to compete in Open Water Nationals in April, then continue training for the NYC Liberty To Freedom Open Water Race in September. This race begins by diving off of the Statue of Liberty dock, swimming across the shipping lanes, and ending right underneath the World Trade Center Freedom Tower. But to train for this race, I'm going to need lots of Open Water practice, and what better venue than the Friday Night Races? I'd never swum in Lake Meridian before coming to the Blue70 FNSR swims, yet now that's one of my favorite lakes to race in due to the pretty landscape that can be appreciated while we swim for so long. I absolutely plan on attending the Friday Night Races!
If we got you into a pair of blueseventy Core Shorts, would you take a swing at the 2.4 mile wetsuit record? You'd have to go under 46:24.
blueseventy has always been my favorite tech suit. I've competed in six USA Swimming Nationals (including medaling in 2012) wearing a prototype blueseventy XII Nero Legskin, and it still remains my favorite suit of all time. I've owned five blueseventy suits throughout my swimming career, and yes, with Core Shorts, I'm sure I could get a best time...I always have in blueseventy suits.
What's your best advice for success at the blueseventy FNSR?
Sing a great song for the entire race, because it will help you stick to the same stroke pace for the entire race, without erratic speed shifts common when in the spirit of competition. Also, enjoy the scenery, because we're swimming out there for a really long time and you might as well look at the pretty views!
Who eats the pies you win at the b70FNSR?
My parents and I bake the pies the night after the race every time. I very recently began learning how to bake, but I can't possibly create an apple pie that tastes as good as one earned from a 47 minute all-out race.
I can't run because I have a really weak knee and quad muscle, but I did discover the joy of bicycling this past summer. I'd prefer to stick to the relay triathlons, because my friends are great runners. Together with some runners and actual bicyclists, we form a great team. I'd love to try some sprint triathlons though, there's not much running so it's worth a first attempt!
Rapid Fire Questions:
Missy Franklin or Natalie Coughlin? Missy, I swam in meets with her before she was famous and she's always been really nice.
Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte? Ryan for life. He was the medal presenter for the first meet I ever won a finals event at, and there's nothing quite greater than receiving a medal at age 13 from what was back then a surfer-looking guy wearing diamond teeth Grillz and green bejeweled shoes.
Boxers or Commando? Lucky Brand boxers for sure
Registration is OPEN for the blueseventy Friday Night Swim Races