PSC’s Lawrence Palmer Competes in Fina World Cup-Dubai

Lawrence had a phenomenal season last season becoming a National Champion and being acknowledged as a World Class Elite Athlete. 2015-2016 proved extremely challenging, and for the first time in his swimming career things didnt go to plan, due to events outside of our control.

The advice we were given at the time was to not change any part of his training programme in preparation for the British Championships Olympic Trials in April this year. However, the implementation of the new competition structure did not suit us at all and saw Lawrence have to compete more to obtain qualifying times within certain qualifying windows for the main events.

This had the effect that in order to compete in these events, Lawrence lost training time during the weekend when the large bulk of his training takes place. Along with other issues this saw Lawrence ultimately suffered from Neural Fatigue, a condition which affects the functionality, strength and power of all major muscle groups, the battery that fires the muscles was drained and his muscles were compromised, he lost his power, we had overstepped the fine line in his training programme between high intensity training and the relevant recovery in trying to overcome the issue he faced.

He should not have competed in the British Summer Nationals or the ASA Summer Nationals but he wanted to, but due to his condition he obviously couldnt compete as well as he wanted. Being at Nationals though prompted an intense recovery programme, as we had a dilemma. Lawrence was to be the first Bedfordshire Athlete training at his home club being given the opportunity by British Swimming  to compete in the Fina World Cup Series in Dubai, a dream come true. Something we should have been so excited about. At that moment in time, the issue was could he compete? Many thanks has to go to Ian Arminger, from Loughbourgh University Swimming, who has supported and encouraged us over the last 18 months. The worst case scenario was Lawrence would not recover until December, after the World Cup in October. The recovery programme was cruel in the eyes of Lawrence, absolutely no exercise at all, only the odd walk. We had to stabilize his resting heart rate. As a Coach, Ian said that I would probably never come across this again in my career, but will do me good, the mental toughness and resilience needed for both Lawrence and myself to get through this would be huge, it could be make or break for Lawrence.

The psychological effect for both has been horrendous all this alongside all our other swimmers at PSC. The Club and its swimmers have always been behind us and have kept us going un- be- known to them, through some very bad days. I researched a lot from USA about Neural fatigue and its recovery, ultimately every angle had to be controlled, from sleep, to heart rate, nutrition, the amount of exercise and medication to basically slow the neurons down to aid recovery. Once his resting heart rate was stable he began swimming for just 20 mins twice a week, constantly monitoring.

By this point, the World Cup was creeping up, with no training under his belt for 3 months but indications he was recovering, we took the decision to go to Dubai and compete. It was his 2nd International competition of the year and to make it easier for us to cope with, not many people knew because it obviously under the best circumstances. Mentally for both of us, we made this not a major International Competition but as a Regional Championships,  we played it down in our heads.

The event was being held at the World Class Hamdan Sports Complex,  a massive facility in the middle of the dessert an experience in itself 5 pools and a dive pit in one place. The event was 25m short course event and saw Lawrence compete in the 50m breast heats  in the morning, although he went in ranked 2nd fastest we obviously knew he would not swim that, however, he did make his first ever World Cup final and just .5 off his PB. This was such a sense of relief and such a boost.

In the same session, he also swam the 200m breast, but this event we used strategically, he had only been working aerobically so I wanted him to use this race as a race practice, to stretch his stroke out and complete over distance to keep everything relaxed, which he did but he made the final, the deal was though if this happened he would not race that final.

The final itself was an experience never to forget just to be a part of and saw Lawrence finish 7th but again his time was slightly quicker, smiles at last.This now left the 100m Breast the next day. This race was the one we were worried about, it was the unknown entity due to no anaerobic training or gym. In my mind, I was expecting a time of 1.02/1.03 in comparison to his pb of 59. Both had prepared for the worst, which in the end made it sweet. In the heats he swam 1.01, physically he actually felt fine and knew then he was on the mend. He scraped into the final and swam 1.00.

It wasn’t the World Cup experience we had wanted it to be, but it definitely served a purpose. Looking back on the event now, what we have been through and how we handled the recovery and the pressure, it was beyond tough. Lawrence has shown such maturity and resilience to get this far. Plans? Well to continue recovering, he can see a light at the end of the tunnel now which should see him still training and competing hopefully for the next 18 months before he retires.

We have to thank everyone at PSC, swimmers, parents and committee members as well as our only families, your support has been invaluable. We both as a Swimmer and a Coach have gained invaluable experience from this in every aspect. We also have to say a big thank you to Luton Rotarians, who have supported Lawrence financially, your assistance was gratefully received and in particular to Jack Sapsworth.