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Episode 10
Episode 10: Mark Usher – Overcoming a Mechanical Heart Valve

by | Jan 16, 2022

Episode 10: Mark Usher – Overcoming a Mechanical Heart Valve


Mark Usher


Heart  and Medical Conditions Discussed:
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
First Degree Block
Third Degree Block
Atrial Fibrillation
Beta blockers in Endurance athletes
Cardioversion for Atrial Fibrillation
Dupteryns Contracture

Skills & Qualities of being a Triathlete
Budgeting Time
Planning Schedules
Race Planning
Workout Schedule

Masters Swim Team & Coaches
Arlington Park, Sarasota, FL
Ira Klein Sarasota Tsunami’s
Shiela Taormina
Butternut’s Club

Name Drops
Arthur Albero
Kelsey Wohrl

Favorite Swim Sets

“THE” Auburn Sprint Set

The “Other” Auburn Sprint Set 
(Transcription by Your Swim Book)
WU: 400 Easy
3 x 50 @ :45
2 x 75 @ 1:15 as kick/swim/heads up kick
100 build by 25s

Main Set:
100 x 25 Maintain 100 race pace throughout)
10 @ :60 – (50 easy)
10 @ :60 – (100 easy)
10 @ :55 – (150 easy)
10 @ :50 – (200 easy)
10 @ :45 – (250 easy)
10 @ :40 – (300 easy)
10 @ :35 – (350 easy)
10 @ :30 – (400 easy)
10 @ :25 – (450 easy)
10 @ :20 – (500 easy)

Cool Down:
300 Easy

Progression set for endurance ~200m each
1 stroke fly, rest freestyle
2 strokes fly, rest freestyle
…up to full fly

About this Episode


 In this episode, masters swim and USA Swimming Official Mark Usher joins me to talk about overcoming a congenital heart defect called a bi-cuspid aortic valve.  Mark was an active athlete who began experiencing increasing amounts of fatigue with exercise.   An evaluation showed his aortic valve which was less flexible than it should be, and it reduced the amount of oxygen filled blood to his exercising muscles.

He was faced with many decisions about surgery, replacement options, lifelong medication possibilities and whether or not he could return to endurance sports safely.

After making his decision, full of all the potential risks of heart surgery including a poor outcome (or death!), Mark resumed his training and thrived in the pool.

He continued to face decisions about his heart condition, guided by his love for being active.

After decades of training and competing as an athlete, Mark decided he’d like to help give back to the sport of swimming that he is so devoted to.  He became a USA Swimming official, putting his time in (with love) working at local  youth meets, and working his way up to higher and higher stakes.

He’s now an in demand official at Swimming meets of the highest caliber and has worked meets with the swimming superstars of the decade including Katie Ledecky and Caleb Dressel.

Mark continues to comlete in masters swimming events and even in his 60s continues to work on perfecting his butterfly!

Tune in to be inspired by his story, learn from his upbeat and optimistic attitude, hear his favorite swim workouts and more.

Episode : Transcript

Mark Usher

Suzanne Atkinson: Hi, this is Suzanne Atkinson with Tri 2 Listen. The podcast for curious triathletes. Each episode features an interview with an athlete, coach or scientist whose passion lies in triathlon, it’s my job to uncover their story.

Suzanne Atkinson: Hi, thanks for joining me today. This is episode 10 of Tri 2 Listen. In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Mark Usher. Mark is someone that I first became acquainted with nearly 20 years ago. Mark is someone who was quite active on the beginner triathlete forums, which I spent a lot of time learning from when I first started to do triathlons. And the thing that really impressed me about Mark that made him someone I wanted to keep in touch with and eventually, interview for this podcast is how resilient he is in the face of all types of adversity.

Suzanne Atkinson: How supportive he is of other triathletes, no matter their experience level. And his ability to just keep on going and finding the positives no matter what challenges he’s facing, is I think you’ll discover during our interview, Mark has faced a number of health challenges on his own. And yet he keeps finding a way to move forward, keeps finding a way to use his body in the way that it’s able to perform for him and he just never gives up.

Suzanne Atkinson: And, you know, from my perspective, as Mark has left triathlon behind as a participant, and gotten more involved in swimming and master swimming, I was really impressed by his progress towards becoming a swim official and the steps that he took to get trained in that and certified and the steps that are required before you’re deemed capable of officiating a swim meet, you know without a trainer next to you or without having someone supervise you.

Suzanne Atkinson: So from being an age group triathlete to master swimmer to rubbing elbows with some of our recent Olympians, Mark’s got a great story. I hope that you’re able to extract some lessons from this in terms of resiliency, overcoming obstacles, and recognizing that, you know, a medical diagnosis that might put other people on the sidelines doesn’t have to keep you out of the sport. Enjoy.

Suzanne Atkinson: Hi, there. Thanks for joining me today. This is Suzanne, and today I’m interviewing Mark Usher. Mar lives in Sarasota, Florida, and he has been a longtime inspiration for me for his tenacity and endurance sports, and continuing to work on the things that are important to him. Thanks for joining me today, Mark.

Mark Usher: Glad to be here, thank you.

Suzanne Atkinson: So Mark, I was really inspired when I first got to know you by your history, especially in terms of your health. Is it okay, if we just dive right into that so that people get an idea of your background? Do you want me to ask you some questions, or do you want to just tell me about how your surgery came about in the first time first?

Mark Usher: I just kind of give you a little background. I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. Okay, which is a fancy way of saying that two of the valve flaps on my aortic valve were fused together at birth. And I was diagnosed like when I was five years old. Okay, and back then, they said, well, it’s a heart murmur.

Mark Usher: You know, that’s technical was the guy. And had no symptoms, and never had any restrictions on my activities. So growing up, I was active in sports, you know, in Junior High School, I played football, I wrestled. I swam on a summer club team, to track and field, you know, in the spring and never any problems. But, you know, the doctors kept saying, well, you know, when you get really old, you might have a problem, you know, some people don’t you might

Suzanne Atkinson: Back then was like, 30?

Mark Usher: I said 40, yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: I said, you know, that’s too hard. I’ll never have a problem. So did great, and until it’s 47, and was the job at that time was traveling quite a bit. And, you know, globally, I was traveling to Europe, I was going to the Far East a lot. And I started to get a lot of fatigue. I couldn’t recover from shortness of breath walking through airports. And it finally got to a point in summer 2000, when it was really affecting my lifestyle. And I thought, I just got to work hard to get shapes. Like I’d go to the gym, you know, and just work my butt off, trying to overcome it. Because the pursuit was, you know, again a fitness issue. Finally, end of the year, I just I could barely do anything. I mean, I could couldn’t stand up for long periods of time, daily activities were just, you know, becoming almost impossible so…

Suzanne Atkinson: And you have no idea at that time that it was maybe related to your heart?

Mark Usher: It’s, you know, I’ve never had any problems with my heart the whole time, my whole life. And so I never, never registered, I should be alert to that. But I finally went to my G.P., and he listened to it, you know, he said, well, you know, I think that the valve was going bad on you. And we ought to get you in to see a cardiologist. So it was on a Monday, on a Wednesday morning, I went to see my cardiologist. He listened to it for about five seconds, and he said, it’s time to gotta replace it.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And I said, what are the consequences? He said, well, if you don’t do it, you probably have a three year life expectancy.

Suzanne Atkinson: Wow.

Mark Usher: Okay. Which got my attention right away.

Suzanne Atkinson: Sure

Mark Usher: Instead, you probably ought to plan on doing it within the next three months. So my next question was, okay, how soon could we do it? He pulls out his phone, and calls a surgeon friend of his, and basically says, you know, you got any openings soon? And the surgeon said, Friday morning, this isn’t Wednesday…

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, boy

Mark Usher: So he turned to me and said, this is December 13th, okay. He said, let’s not forget, okay, you don’t get the surgery done. You have Christmas holiday off, you know, it’s time to recover. So it’s okay with you won’t let me do it. I said fine, tell them, okay. And of course under rush home and that they wanted me in the hospital the next day to do a calf before the surgery. So as I had just, you know, like seemed like eight hours all of a sudden I’m checking into the hospital.

Suzanne Atkinson: Wow

Mark Usher: They did a calf the day before my cardiologist did that. And just to see if there’s anything else they need to do when they’re in there.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: I had a meeting with the surgeon. And the big question was, okay, do you get a mechanical valve or do you want a tissue valve? And remember this is, you know, 20 years ago now and it’s a mechanical valve will last forever. Okay, basically lifetime guarantee. The downside of that is going to have to be on an anticoagulant, you know, Coumadin, the rest of your life. The other option would be a tissue valve at that time. It was, you know, cow or sheep valve or whatever and at that time that, you know, the materials weren’t the ones that held up very well.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And they said that Okay, you’re probably going to look at maybe a 10-12 year you know, useful life of this valve

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: Then you have to get replaced.

Suzanne Atkinson: Sure

Mark Usher: You have to do every, you know, 10, 12 years and said that at your age and your health you’re looking probably three more surgeries.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, I mean, what’s a cow’s lifespan, is that?

Mark Usher: But so the other, the good side, you know, is that you don’t have to use anticoagulants with, you know, tissue valves.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: But they will wear out. And he said that the more you use it, the faster it’s gonna wear out too. So if you’re going to stay after, you know, that’s going to accelerate the cycle and surgeries. And he said that, you know, the mortality rate at that time doubled every time you did it. Okay?

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, wow

Mark Usher: So for the first time it’s like 2% then it’s 4% you know, and it’s 8%

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: Just because of the scar tissue and the complications with substance surgeries so.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I said, you know, it’s been a mechanical belt and I said I’ll be able to come in it. So I made that decision. He had surgery the next morning. I was first on the docket. So you know against had surgery, Friday morning and they discharged me on Tuesday to went home. You know, I was you know, I probably spent in uh probably three or four weeks and you know, you’re still you’re pretty sore, you know when you do that, okay, open your chest up and everything. That was functional probably within a month. But it wasn’t, it took me a long time to really get over the trauma surgery. It was you know, 6-8 months before I really felt normal again.

Suzanne Atkinson: And when you say normal, do you just mean in terms of energy or discomfort?

Mark Usher: Yeah, energy, stamina just you know, getting too graphic, you know when they do the open heart, you know, they basically just cut your sternum. They used was just like a floor Jack, you know…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, just spread it

Mark Usher: And the trauma to the body is really what gets to you in my case from the time I woke up my heart was fine, okay? And it was just in the trauma that you know, of the surgery itself. At that time, actually, to they the minimum invasive techniques had just started to come into vogue that. And I talked to my surgeon about that and he said, well, you know, I’ve done like a couple of dozen minimally invasive. I’ve been like thousands of the conventional.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And at that point and let’s go the safer, you know, you get more practice during the regular ones.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: So anyway, but the conversation I had shortly after the surgery with my cardiologist was that he said, look, you just go to the gym a lot. Used to do like heavy lifting, don’t do that anymore, okay. But he said you can do all the aerobic stuff you want as much as you can handle. You know, at that point, I really, I’ve never been really a serious, you know, endurance athletes.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I am just, you know, quite a physique didn’t really match up. We’ll do it and, you know, short legs and all that kind of stuff but it’s okay. It’s fine. I’ll do what I can do. So at first it was a lot of walking, you know, some casual swimming, you know, got my old college bike out and cleaned it up and started riding that around the neighborhood.

Suzanne Atkinson: Now had you been a swimmer before?

Mark Usher: Yeah, well I swam, I was a club swimmer during the summers when I was growing up.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: In the mid-60s, this is of course in Indiana. So you know that Season was Memorial Day to Labor Day…

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: With the weather permitted. And back then it was, you know, you have seasons. So, you know, you swam in the summer, played football in the fall, wrestled in the winter track and field in the spring

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, multi-sport athlete

Mark Usher: And it’s not like, you know, now we’re, you know, football players play football in the history of football and you know around pretty much anymore

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: But I had some background of swimming and really enjoyed it. In fact, one of my regrets was after I got beat up playing football was, you know, I should have stuck in, he was swimming and being on the high school team too, but you know, you can’t second guess those things I guess.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Anyway, I started, you know, doing more aerobic stuff and a guy warfare at the time was a fairly serious triathlete and was training for an Iron Man and he would bring his bike to the office because on Wednesdays, because, you know, he will leave early and he and a couple other guys who have long rides on Wednesday afternoons and I always go down to the office and I just kind of double on his bike and I love bikes and mechanical stuff or whatever.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: And a few months later, you know, he walks into my office. Flops down an entry blank on my and saying, we’re having this beginner’s triathletes, triathlon at the why you know


Mark Usher: And you need to sign up, okay, you put up or shut up. Okay, fine, it was in two weeks.

Suzanne Atkinson: Everybody needs a friend like that.

Mark Usher: Yeah, but I trained for a whole two weeks

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: How hard this could be, you know, I swam, I was a kid…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And I’ve run, you know, sometime, you know, and I know how to ride a bike. So I did that and you know, I wasn’t dead last, but I could see dead last morning I finished

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And you know, took off, it was the snakes women, a 50M pool. I did the first length, like I was in the final Olympics

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, yeah

Mark Usher: You know, just died, you know, the rest of mine. But I had a great time. I mean once I recovered, this is kind of fun.

Suzanne Atkinson: Now, how long after surgery was this?

Mark Usher: This was, I’m sorry, this was 3 years, 3 years of surgery.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And they were just forming a triathlon club with a ‘Y’. And so I was one of the charter members of that, I signed up for it and just started in races. I did like maybe two races the first year and then started building up and I was doing, you know, you know, four races a year, probably on average for the next 10 years.

Suzanne Atkinson: Free

Mark Usher: Mostly local sprints did, remember Rev three, you know, they had an?

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: He got down to Venice Florida, did that of course ST Anthony’s up in Saint Pete, which is, you know, one of my favorite places.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, I love Saint Pete

Mark Usher: So I had a good time doing that and did I just, you know, I was doing it for a long time and then I did have some nagging injuries. I actually I didn’t miss most of 2010, I has my Achilles problems and was in a boot for.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. Oh, I wanted to ask you a couple questions about like your previous sporting background, you mentioned that you played football in high school and you got real beat up playing football. Did you have any sick quella of those old injuries that came back to haunt you when you started doing triathlons?

Mark Usher: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve got knee problem. I dislocated my kneecap, my right knee playing football and that it’s never been the same.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: You know, some tracking issues with that. And you know, what research has suggested compliance. We could probably go in and work on a little bit, but you know, it’s, you know, I don’t really want to do it.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you why I’m asking because I have a theory that I’ve developed in it. It certainly applies to me. And so I’m very curious about people that start triathlon when they’re older. And you know, older than 18, because if you’ve had injuries when you’re young, young people are very adaptable and very resilient, you know, I had dozens and dozens and dozens of ankle injuries from playing soccer.

Suzanne Atkinson: And after the first dozen ankle twist, they didn’t hurt anymore. That would just twist my ankle and I pop up and I’d run again. Well, I didn’t realize that I had created such instability in the joint, that by the time I was, how old am I now? 50. I needed to have surgery on, I need surgery on both ankles. I had surgery done on the left ankle last fall, but it was years and years. It was basically 30 plus years of this chronic instability that created significant arthritis and wearing of the joints. So, I’m very jealous of people that have good joints.

Suzanne Atkinson: And so, my theory is that if you’ve been, and an athlete in high school or college with some physicality to it, where you may have injuries if you’ve continued to be active. You know, I’m just wondering how many of those people have injuries that prevent them from continuing versus people that don’t pick it up again until they are, you know, 50 or maybe they were never an athlete and they start being athletic when they’re 30 or 40.

Suzanne Atkinson: They don’t have these old traumatic injuries from when they were young and went a lot harder. That’s, that’s the reason I’m asking. And so I’m just curious how other people manage it and deal with those things as they crop up.

Mark Usher: Well, I think that helped, that helped me over the years is I’ve always been active. Okay. And, you know, it used to, again being the gym while lifting weights I think, you know, that’s helped a lot of my joint stability I think took into my shoulders and so on. Sometimes it works against you as a swimmer, but I think just, you know, if I sat around for, you know, 15 years, I think it when it’s gone as well so.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, good

Mark Usher: But we just kind of finish up my background a little bit. Because I went 17 years after my surgery and then I went to my regular checkups and my doctor said, well, you’ve got, you know, first degree AV block. Okay, what’s that? Okay. And learn about this little, you know, SA note in the heart that, you know, generates electrical signals and you know, fires the atrium, then fires the ventricle.

Mark Usher: They can see on the E K. G, that okay, that’s lagging a little bit, had no symptoms at the time. Okay. So they have to wash it. So I, you know, I kind of brushed it off at the time. Six months later, I’m swimming, you know, in the morning and do about 50M and I just I can’t do anymore. I’m done, done. I am fine. And so I called the cardiologist and they said, look, you haven’t called for 17 years, you’re doing great. You’re coming in right now.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And it turned out I developed stage-3 maybe block, and my heart was bradycardia.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: My heart wouldn’t get up about 32 beats a minute

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh boy, that would prevent you from doing much in the pool.

Mark Usher: That’s right. Anything really.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: But then that led to Ok, OK. You need a pacemaker, and only old people get pacemakers.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: But I went in again two days later and they put a dually pacemaker in and it’s when it’s at ones, it’s wireless

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And I have a little thing by my bed at home

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And it downloads dad every night and they monitor from my doctor’s office, okay. And they had all these adjustments on it. And actually the tech that were from a cardiologist is the competitor of rower. And when I went back for follow ups after I got the pacemaker and it was really slow to ramp up. Okay, so it took me forever to warm up swimming.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: Just, I can’t adjust that, you know, she did.

Suzanne Atkinson: Wow

Mark Usher: She fine-tuned it. She, you know, she knows, you know what the demands of swimming are. So it’s like a threshold setting and then a rate setting, okay. That she could and we fine tune that a couple of times. And so it got me kind of dialed in to, you know, be able to do things again.

Suzanne Atkinson: Now, how long ago was the pacemaker?

Mark Usher: I got it in March of 2017.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: Three years ago

Suzanne Atkinson: So doesn’t have an accelerometer in it that senses your activity?

Mark Usher: Yes, exactly.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: Exactly, exactly.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, those are great one. So that when you start being active, it senses that there’s movement and it will increase your heart rate to help increase blood flow and it speeds up the warming up process?

Mark Usher: Yes. In fact, that was one of the problems because it works great for runners and cyclists, but with swimmers because you’re horizontal

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: And you don’t really have, you know, it’s totally smooth motion, whatever. It’s not the sensing ability in the standard settings. That’s why, you know, I was fortunate the tech new. Okay, here’s what swimmers need.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: Okay, so my threshold is a little bit lower. Okay, so it’ll start kicking in a little quicker. Okay. But then the just finished the pacemaker thing. It was working fine, okay. But then a year ago in May I get a call from the doctor’s office they say you’ve got afib. What do you mean? I have afib and I don’t have afib you know. Yeah, you do and what they can tell, you know by downloading the data. And it was funny because I got an argument with him actually on the phone.

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, yeah

Mark Usher: Because you know, we saw it last Friday and whatever, I said last Friday that is masters swimming. Okay. And I don’t know if you know what the auburn sprint set is?

Suzanne Atkinson: I have heard of it, yeah. I’ll link to it in show notes.

Mark Usher: It’s 125, okay. And you did you attempt at a time and you start you know the first 10 or on a minute then 55 whatever. Okay, you take five seconds off every 10. Okay. It’s a killer workout. Okay, I mean it’s really fun to get through it.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I mean, it’s not so much fun in the middle of it. And I thought I said, surely what they saw was I did this sprint, auburn sprint set and my heart was going crazy and they think that’s a fail.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Well, it turns out, you know, I was, I didn’t know I was talking about. They bring me into your atrium doing this, doing that, and okay

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: So the first, you know, solution. Okay, we’ll put you on beta blockers. Okay, and when I’m at my triple and then we started some sort of all, they didn’t do anything for me except maybe. Well, I had like every side effect in the world…

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, boy

Mark Usher: That was for both of them. And just it made me feel so tired. I couldn’t, you know, one day I went to hop in and hop back out.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I can’t do it. And they tried a cardio version, which is basically the trying to shock your heart back into rhythm, that didn’t work. And I got some meeting with my cardiologist and said, how are you feeling before we tried all these things? And so I was still fine.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Okay, let’s stop them. Okay, so I have persistent afib now but my pacemaker paces me.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: And it’s my resting heart rate was about 40 before all this stuff happened. But now they’ve got it set at 70. They kind of split the difference between the HMM and the venture will basically, and it works fine.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: So medications are also.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay. So just for people who are listening, who aren’t quite as familiar with all the medical stuff

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: That’s okay, I’m gonna link to a bunch of interesting things in the show notes. So people get a little mini med school education.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: But the atrial fibrillation is when the heart is beating erratically because it’s getting too many signals from the top half of the heart. Normally, there’s one signal that comes from the atrium, that signal gets sent through the heart to the ventricle. And in a healthy, normal healthy heart, that signal is sent appropriate to what your activity is. So when you’re sleeping, it’s at, you know, 40, 50, 60 times per minute. When you do activity, it will go up to whatever people are used to 120, 130.

Suzanne Atkinson: So with afib, if it goes too fast, the bottom half doesn’t have time to fill with blood and then you’re actually not getting enough blood flow and that’s what causes the fatigue. So in your case, you said that you had done the auburn sprint set. Did they tell you what your heart rate was when you were in afib?

Mark Usher: No, the, like the resting HMM rate is about 90 a minute. Okay, it’s locked into doing that all the time regardless.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: But I don’t know when, you know, during the other thing, I don’t know what it was.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay, right

Mark Usher: I have a pulse oximeter that I keep by the poolside all the time and you know, I check my heart rate and normally if I do a hard set, you know, I’m getting like in the 130 range, okay then I, you know, just kind of spot check and see how long it takes me to recover and that sort of thing. So I’ve always been kind of, you know, trying to be cognizant of what’s going on.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. So you’re still in afib, you’re in afib all the time, but the rate is controlled, is that correct?

Mark Usher: Yeah, that’s correct.

Suzanne Atkinson: And you’re already on Coumadin because of your heart valve. So normally when people are in afib they would get placed on a blood thinner…

Mark Usher: Exactly

Suzanne Atkinson: To prevent complications.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Good. So, let’s fill in some of the stuff in between you know, your first triathlon and your oximeter at the pool side. You had a nice a long triathlon career and I must have met, you will become acquainted with you during that time period.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: I first, you know, online met you on the website ’beginner triathlete’. And I remember your screen name is Red Corvette.

Mark Usher: Yes

Suzanne Atkinson: Tell me about that.

Mark Usher: I had a Red Corvette. I had a 1990 Red Corvette, which I loved. And the story with that is that my kids were getting ready going to high school and needed a third car for them because they were involved in activities and stuff and they need to be able to transport themselves and we went out to look for a used car from them. I saw this and they use a lot and I just happened to know that the guy who owns the dealership

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I’ll make you a deal on this. So I ended up, I gave my car to my kids about the corvette and…

Suzanne Atkinson: That’s great, do you still have it?

Mark Usher: I’d love that car. No, I don’t, I wish it did

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: But it was fun, not real practical sometimes.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: You know, it couldn’t take it to home depot and hold, you know, mulching it or anything

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: But it was fun, you know, and you know, at the time and I’m glad I had it. It has good memories.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. So during that time on being a traffic, this was before I was on Facebook. And I think before Facebook became a more common forum for us. But I was impressed, as I got to know your story little by little, obviously it’s hard to get to know someone through an internet forum, but in your response to different people’s questions, you would reveal little bits of your story about your heart valve and the fact that you were on Coumadin.

Suzanne Atkinson: And I think the first time that I read that is when I was really intrigued by, uh, by who you were and how you managed to persevere in spite of what some people could consider. You know, life changing or not career ending, but athletic ending intervention, it sounds like you had very supportive doctors?

Mark Usher: Yes

Suzanne Atkinson: And you got into triathlon after that, you recovered from that surgery. So how did triathlon play into your ongoing recovery from that bicuspid valve repair or replacement?

Mark Usher: Again, it kept me active and, you know, I was never great in any one sport, but the good thing about triathlon, you shouldn’t be mediocre and three things okay. It’s still do pretty well, okay, but it kept me in a discipline, okay, because again, if you’re gonna do triathlons, you have to be able to, you know, budget your time, you’re playing your schedule. I’ve always kind of been that kind of person anyway. You know, I have a spreadsheet that says, here’s the next year and I kind of look ahead at the races, I want to do

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And kind of plan my workout schedule. You know, you get a base period, you get, you know, whatever, and but just kept me in a discipline, get me to schedule. You know, that the hard things for me, I think we’re probably the bike, okay, just from standpoint to get a decent bike ride, and you have to do it on the weekends all the time and…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, to get the time you mean?

Mark Usher: Yeah, I mean if you want to go out to like, you know, 40, 50 miles, you just can’t do that after work, you know

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: We’re swimming and running and do any time you ran in the dark a lot of mornings

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And swimming in the morning.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: So that was part of the most difficult thing.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: You know, I literally, before, I love bikes and I love the mechanical aspects and I love to talk to Michael something about that, but it’s just, you know, I like to take it with him, taking apart, put it back together, you know, I had, even though I live in flat Florida, I probably had like four or five different cassettes, you know, figuring

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, yeah

Mark Usher: Right

Suzanne Atkinson: Right, come to Pittsburgh sometime

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Have you ever heard of the Dirty dozen bike race?

Mark Usher: Yes, I have

Suzanne Atkinson: You should come up and try that with one of your rear cassettes, one of your dinner plate cassettes. Go ahead.

Mark Usher: So I actually just sold my tribe like

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, did you really? Okay.

Mark Usher: One of the guys I swim with and I haven’t done a tricycle for years now, but one of the guys that swimming is young father wants to get into triathlon, you know, it’s like three little kids, not a huge budget, you know, go out and buy something new and I said, look, my bike’s in the garage and we made a deal on it. And you know, he’s been just essentially pictures, it was racing with my bike to do that.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: You know, it’s your bike on my bike. I have to do that.

Suzanne Atkinson: That’s great. Do you miss it?

Mark Usher: Yeah, I do you know

Suzanne Atkinson: What made you decide to transition out of it?

Mark Usher: A couple of things. One of the time requirement, I guess just needed to get longer rides in. I had one bed crash and hit my head pretty hard on the pavement

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: At the point where I cracked my helmet even

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: People have always cost me about, you know, your human and you be careful about this. Okay. And that kind of got me thinking, you know, okay. And down here there’s some places to ride, but you have to ride through heavy traffic areas to get to them

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Okay, or drive someplace and get out and do it and I get more nervous riding in traffic, okay. The other thing that happened was that I had the carpal tunnel syndrome years ago and had surgery, and so my hands are still a little tender from that. But then everything else I developed the depressions contraction.

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, okay

Mark Usher: Okay. And particularly my right hand.

Suzanne Atkinson: Another medical little lesson will give in the show notes.

Mark Usher: Sorry about that encyclopedia.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, that’s okay.

Mark Usher: But basically it’s your hand is deformed and your fingers want to curl and…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, the tendons on the front side of your hand get short and so the fingers curl up and you can’t straighten them all the way.

Mark Usher: And I’ve got nodules and they said it’s not painful, but it actually is.

Suzanne Atkinson: I’ve got a friend who’s got it pretty bad and he’s had several surgeries

Mark Usher: You know, I think I said unfortunately only in my right hand

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: But it just got the point where I couldn’t use my right hand shift gears on the bike

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And you know, it’s wearing heavily padded gloves and stuff, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. So that kind of drove me off the bike

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And so that that’s kind of, yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. So that’s another part of your athletic career that I want to talk about and…

Mark Usher: Okay

Suzanne Atkinson: What I, so when I first met you, many, many years ago I was inspired just by the fact that here’s a guy who must own a red corvette because that’s his screen name, but he’s got a mechanical heart valve and he’s on Coumadin and he’s out there doing triathlons.

Suzanne Atkinson: I thought that was fantastic and I really felt like you had a fatherly attitude, maybe that’s not quite right, but you know, I guess if you start triathlons when you’re late forties or fifties, there’s a certain amount of wisdom you can provide to the person in their twenties and thirties. So I really appreciated that. And then over the last several years as I’ve gotten to know you more master swimming is what you’re all about.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Every day, every morning you’ve trained with lots of really cool coaches, you’ve trained with lots of really cool swimmers. You’re in a place where swimmers travel to swim in your area and in your pool.

Mark Usher: Yeah, exactly

Suzanne Atkinson: So how did you get into the masters swimming down there?

Mark Usher: I’ve always swum at an actually at the city owned pool, Arlington Park in Sarasota. We’ve got a 50M pool and then we’ve got a smaller 25 yard pool. They’ve always had some type of masters group there. It used to be more casual kind of loosely organized.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And it would swim in the afternoon. So I would, you know, after work it was close to my office, I’d go over and swim with about a half a dozen other people. And this is when I was first getting into doing triathlons and it has some structure but not a lot. Okay, I recline who like, you know, you know who he is at least…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, I know him

Mark Usher: An old friend of, you know, Terry’s and he had left the Y. M. C. A here where he had been the Head Coach and started his own program, the tsunami uh series of tsunamis. And then he got an agreement to use the Arlington Park pool or swim. I remember the first time a couple of times went in at night and we were ticked off because you know they had 10 lanes and we only had you know 10 lanes, you know shared among our group in the public.

Mark Usher: Who’s these guys, you know? But anyway, I ran then said, well, you know let me help with the master’s program. So we kind of roll it together and one of the little things was that I ran had been the vice president of USA Swimming on Colorado during the 1996 Olympics Cycle. And Sheila Taormina, okay, he had worked with him during that time.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And she’ll have done their weekend things for years, whatever clinics but she was looking to kind of settle down and have a maybe a more of a base of operations someplace in the destination location.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: She and I were hooked up and so she became the coach of the masters in the mornings, doing like three days a week and then she would do, you know her, you know, location seminars or clinics on the weekends.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, so had I ran transition out of coaching for your group then or…?

Mark Usher: Yeah, yeah he would just his you know, he would basically do make up a workout for us and post it

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And he would go down to focus on the kids and we were kind of on our own, and he was you know had fun workouts, you know, we liked it a lot of creative things that he learned. It was over the years, Sheila came in and it was like, you know, NCAA division one workouts. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And we’re here to swim, we’re not here to socialize and I’m not here to be, you know, your lifeguard, you know, we’re going to do it. Just do it hard.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And of course you, we’ve talked before, I know at least online about the different philosophies and at that point, you know, I’ve been kind of following the total immersion stuff for my triathlon stuff because it’s really well suited for distance swimming and so on.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And Sheila came in and now it’s all propulsion, don’t worry about the streamline and stuff, you know, just catching bull.

Suzanne Atkinson: Maybe I can get Sheila on a podcast sometime.

Mark Usher: Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, but she was there and it’s about two years I guess.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And but it just, you know, actually, I made tremendous progress under her, but most of it I think was just having a knowledgeable coach on deck. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: That could give you immediate feedback, okay. And when you’re swimming on your own, I mean, you might have a workout, you try to work out as well as you can, but unless you have feedback, you visualize yourself as Michael Phelps all the time. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, right

Mark Usher: You don’t realize that I’m thrashing here and I’m not doing that, having that feedback. Okay. It’s just, you know, it’s so important to improving.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah. The first time I took a clinic as an adult, was with Dave Cameron who’s based out of Minnesota and he showed us, he did several different underwater videos and I remember when it was my turn to swim, we had done two or three hours of clinic and you know, I watched the other people in the pool and I had grown up swimming on the swim team from the time I was six or seven years old, up until high school.

Suzanne Atkinson: And so I had this mental image of what I looked like and, you know, I wanted to show off for everybody and show them how great of a swimmer was.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: And I saw the underwater video, I was like, oh no, I’ve got so many things to work on. And um, you’re right without that feedback, you can think that you’re doing everything right, but you need to see it, or have someone show you or tell you, or physically sort of put your arm or shoulder or foot in the right place in order to make progress. So, otherwise you’re just, you’re still swimming. You’re still moving forward, but with all of your flaws and awards and everything.

Mark Usher: That’s what coaches really bring value to the equation, you know, in my view that getting that feedback and, you know, the corrective measures and that sort of thing. And the other thing I do a lot to is I have somebody video during practice.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And because I work on something for a while, okay, this video and then I’ll compare it to, okay, here’s what was a month ago.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Am I really, you know, accomplish what I want to or whatever? And so I’m doing that kind of stuff, that technology and more, it is amazing what they can do things with the cameras and so on.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, it is. So when did you start? So you’re on a masters swim team, when did you start competing in masters competitions?

Mark Usher: Actually, it’s probably it was two weeks before I started working full time with masters. Okay, I’ve been doing the casualty in the afternoon, but then I was going to switch for the morning full time.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And I entered a long course masters meet two weeks before Sheila came got onboard as coach

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And I said, what I get a baseline, okay, I’m doing and whatever.

Suzanne Atkinson: Did you know that she was coming at that point? I mean, it was planned?

Mark Usher: You know it and Ira told us

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And, but I thought, well that’s just want to be a swimmer and I needed to swim meet. So I hadn’t been on the blocks like for, I don’t know how many years, 30 years.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I had never swum in a long course pool before.

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh boy, it’s a big change.

Mark Usher: Tell about, yeah, you know, I find 100 freestyle and I think, you know, went out in like 40 seconds and came back in like a minute, 20 or something. And actually I think it was a 201 I think. It was my time in the hundreds

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay, and I can respect that for a long course first time

Mark Usher: But I like things to work on and, but that was the first time. Then she’ll, you know, encourage us to compete. Okay. And so we, you know, do short course stuff the first part of the year, and the transaction long course in the summertime and then the short course meters in the fall, it’s actually got three seasons with the swimming.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: So, you know, I would usually have been doing about three short course meets in the spring. A couple of long course meets, some of that’s been kind of retailed by my officiating board

Suzanne Atkinson: By your what?

Mark Usher: Officiating

Suzanne Atkinson: Officiating, right. So I want to get into that.

Mark Usher: And then do like a short course meters thing in the fall just because it’s different.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, yeah. Well that’s great. So favorite stroke?

Mark Usher: Butterfly

Suzanne Atkinson: Me too, I think you and I are built the same. You mentioned something about having short legs interfering with your sporting ability and I can definitely relate to that. Butterfly was also my favorite stroke when I was on the swim team as a kid. I was the only one who would be willing to swim it in a meat for a long time. And then even still, it’s one of my favorites because there’s so many nuances, you can’t, if you’re really strong and really powerful, you can struggle through butterfly, but there are some techniques that if you can incorporate them, it makes it much less effortful and then you can sort of choose when to add the power that you want.

Mark Usher: Exactly, exactly

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, are you familiar with the butter nuts club?

Mark Usher: Yes, yes

Suzanne Atkinson: Are you a member of The Butternut Club?

Mark Usher: No, I’m not and that’s crazy

Suzanne Atkinson: The Butternut Club, you should be. The butternut club is open to anyone who has verified uh 500 yards or more of legal butterfly without taking a break. So legal turns, legal strokes and it just has to be verified by another swimmer. It doesn’t have to be, you know, it’s not like the Guinness Book of World Records where you need to have the certified official with you.

Mark Usher: Right, yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: And I had been, I wanted, I heard about it, I wanted to join it. I had improved my butterfly a lot. It was becoming a lot easier and so I was training for it one summer in our long course pool, and so I think the furthest I got continuous butterfly without having to stop and stand up was 75 meter. So down and then back halfway and but I was determined, I was going to add 25 meter every week until I could do this, but it wasn’t until I went to a conference a month later up in the finger lakes and I heard a speaker named, oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue. I’ll put it in the show notes.

Suzanne Atkinson: He wrote a book about endurance training and had these concepts that he calls push and pull, you know, rather than pushing yourself towards a goal. You know, here’s your goal, there’s the finish line or there’s the top of the hill, you know, feel yourself drawn towards that goal rather than forcing yourself to get there. So, we have the Buoy lines set up that was 200 meter long and one of the people with as a joke said, Okay, butterfly all the way. And so I started swimming butterfly. And I look up in between breaths and nobody else’s swimming butterfly, but I didn’t stop.

Suzanne Atkinson: I saw that every time I’d come up for a breath, I’d see that that orange buoy 200 meter away and it got bigger and bigger and bigger very slowly and I got to the 200M and I thought I could do another one of these. And so I turned and I did another one and ended up doing three lengths altogether and I had five witnesses.

Mark Usher: Oh, super

Suzanne Atkinson: So okay, so you had mentioned officiating, tell me how and when that came about, what made you decide to become an official and what’s involved in becoming a swim official?

Mark Usher: Okay. Again, we have the kid’s team that’s associated with economic group and typically for age group swimming, officials come from the parent’s ranks. Okay. And so they were continually as, you know, kids age out and stop swimming, they recruit new parents coming in. So Ira was organizing, you know, orientation seminar of different clinic for a new set of parents. And he just mentioned one day, hey, you know, I know you love this stuff. You volunteering meets anyway, why don’t you come to the official’s plan?

Mark Usher: And the process with USA Swimming is that you first have to go to a clinic conducted by a certified instructor. Okay. So that you start out as a stroke and turn official. So you had a stroke and turned clinic, once you complete that, then you’re allowed to start apprenticing and you have to do 20 apprentice hours, at least three different meats and you’re with a certified official, okay. You’re allowed to make calls and whatever, but you know…

Suzanne Atkinson: The sort of…

Mark Usher: The mentor has to have to control it basically

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: And once you can put the 20 hours, then there’s a basic exit exam, oral exam with the meet Director where they, you know, review everything with you. Do you feel confident you need more time as printing as apprenticing, you know whatever and then you become certified if they sign off on you and then you go and you know do that. It’s a progressive thing to where by position where the lowest drawing is the stroke and turn official. Either you’re drilling strokes inside of the pool turns on the end of the pool and there you go up to the starter, okay?

Mark Usher: And the same kind of thing. You have to go to the starter’s clinic, you have to practice so many hours in the direction of the certified starter and whatever. Then it goes from starter to deck referee than to meet referee. Okay. And this is progress is gonna think. The meet referees the most involved because you have to have knowledge of the timing system and you know some other organizational aspects of doing these.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: But in parallel with that, you know, this is all administered by states basically

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: Under the USA Base Swimming. They also have national ratings or qualifications.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: So if you’re a certified intern official in Florida, you can ask to be evaluated to be get a national rating and there’s N2 and N3. N2 is the first step where they observe your meet, and there has to be a qualifying meet. Usually they’re long course, you know big meets and they have an evaluator who watches you at that position for the course of the meeting, you have to so many sessions over the meet.

Mark Usher: Usually they’re multiday meets and then at the end they give an evaluation of whether or not to advance you. Once the end to certification, lets you do sectional and regional meets. Okay. So after I got my into historical turn, I could go up to speedo sectionals up in University of Florida. Okay. Bigger meet, you know, you’re sort of unofficial or whatever. It is still some mentoring that goes on if you’re a newbie, but it’s a higher level of swimming obviously.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Beyond that they have what’s called the N3 category. Okay. So if you’re N3, you can be evaluated for N3 after serving, you know, so many meets his experience and then three gets you basically the national debt. Okay?

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: You can, you know, you’re going to pool where you can apply to do Olympic trials or bad example. People apply for that really, but national championships…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: The tier pro series okay is, you know, and three kind of thing. So I got my national rankings and, so you can turn also that there’s a, what’s called a chief judge, Okay. Which is kind of the supervised, a group of concerned officials on the deck all the time. And that’s let me go to, you get higher level meet. So I was able to the airport to meet in in the Indiana University last year. And I mean it was just my blowing experience and I’ve always loved watching elite swimmers, but you have a whole pool full of them at one time.

Suzanne Atkinson: Right

Mark Usher: It’s something, a quick story and I got their daily and kinda got acquainted. But then, yeah, I was, I knew I was going to be the turn judge in lane one for the first morning Plymouth Session. And when you’re in a meeting like that, they don’t give you heat. So you don’t really have any swimming

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: You, just to judge the swimmer. You know, the higher level officials, you know, people deal with.

Suzanne Atkinson: Is that in order to prevent any preconceived notions in your lane?

Mark Usher: Part of it, yeah. It’s not everybody’s carrying a clipboard around or whatever, you know

Suzanne Atkinson: Sure

Mark Usher: And what they do actually, it’s interesting that meet like that you raise your arm if you observe something

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And they have reserve officials, if you raise your arm, the chief judge immediately pulls you off the deck. They slipped the reserve person in your place and the interview off deck. Okay, what did you see?

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: What rules violated? You know, and then they either confirm or reject the call.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: But anyway, it was the first morning session was the 200 freestyle preliminaries for women and I’m you stand at the right time to go down and look at the turn and by the second time the swimmer came down, I go, that’s Katie Ledecky, please don’t do anything.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, wow

Mark Usher: So, but it just, you know, it’s funny episode two, that again, I got there a day early and had a chance to see some of the kids, they’re the swimmers at the training sessions. The Olympians are to a person, the nicest people in the world, okay. I have not met anybody from the US that wasn’t very cordial, nice spend time talking to you, you know, saying, Hi, and it just, you know, really, it was impressive. I got to know Nathan Adrian, you know fairly well to the point where he would come up and kid with me during the course of the meet talking to Nathan one day and you know, somebody standing behind me saying, Hi, we’re talking and it’s like, okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And so it’s just like you died went to heaven.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, that’s such a great story you know

Mark Usher: Yeah

And I hope that I haven’t sort of made up this fairy tale in my mind about, you know, your story arc of endurance athleticism, but the fact that you have overcome so much and not let it slow you down in terms of continuing to explore your own limits. You show up every morning for masters regardless of who the coaches, you’ve thrown yourself into competition and now you’re officiating it at the highest level of swimming. I just think that’s a great, great story and something that lots of people can learn from and be inspired from.

Mark Usher: Yeah, I just want to say to that, you know, I feel very lucky and blessed. Okay. Again, as mentioned earlier, I’ve had great doctors along the way, very supportive of what I do. I know that there’s people that have had similar conditions to mind, who have not had the same outcome. Okay. And I mean that there are things that can happen and neither by recovering the same way.

Mark Usher: I think Guinness as mentioned earlier, the fact that I’ve always been active and healthy helped me through this process. Okay. But it’s, you know, I’ve been lucky. And another thing too is I know more about my health. The most guys are small, Matthew are quote unquote healthy. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I know how my heart works. I know you know, this is going to do this, this is going to do that. Again, I apologized, we do so much Jargon

Suzanne Atkinson: That’s okay by this time in our podcast, everyone will be an expert because I’m going to put notes in and people can pause and read.

Mark Usher: But you know, I’ve always tried to, you know, learn about my condition. Okay, I just don’t want somebody to finally tell me, what do you get this at, whatever. I try to understand what’s going on with it.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And my cardiologist, you know, I had the same cardiologist for 20 years and he’s a great guy. Dr. Rocha you’re here in Sarasota. He knows that I’m into it. So if you can talk to me in a different way that you can talk to most of his patients

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: He got this, he got that, whatever, he shows me things, you know, and he…

Suzanne Atkinson: I can guarantee as a physician that when you have a patient that’s responsive like that it’s a lot easier to continue sharing information because it’s appreciated?

Mark Usher: Yeah. But again, I just like, and I’ve seen some guys, you know, I’ve always been healthy. I don’t need a doctor and…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, so I just want to follow up with a few questions to wrap things up.

Mark Usher: Sure

Suzanne Atkinson: What is your current time for a 100 meter long course freestyle? Oh, did you improve?

Mark Usher: Oh yeah, I think my last mostly 126

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh, fantastic

Mark Usher: In probably a year or two.

Suzanne Atkinson: But that’s a big improvement from 201.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: Yes

Mark Usher: Actually, you know, it was, you know, I was kind of stuck when I was doing triathlon before a certain bastard something. I’m kind of stuck it like it like around the 140 per 100 you know

Suzanne Atkinson: And that yours?

Mark Usher: Yeah. And then the, I still work with Sheila and I immediately dropped time guys in the 120, you know, for 100 yard right away. I think that the fastest time is in practice. I actually wanna 117 yards one time, which was, you know, I was swimming in my mind that day, but…

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: You know, I made improvement obviously, I think I’m kind of, you know, first you have, you know, on the curb, you have great improvement then you, it flattens out, okay. So the faster you go, the harder it is going faster

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: And some kind of point now where we really happened to work on the details, you know, the conditioning and other things to, you know, see improvement but not having time in the pool right now is not helping me out there.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, sure, yeah, and then I wanted to ask about butterfly, I think I saw a recent post on Facebook that you had competed in national masters competition and butterfly, do I have that right, or is it, was it just your national ranking based on time on time?

Mark Usher: National ranking based on time probably, yeah, that’s where the, the Pan am masters was here in the States 2018, I swam in that, I was going to 50 free in that, I was gonna, I wanted to do the fly, but it was like the next day and it was like another night in Orlando 300 night hotel rooms.

Suzanne Atkinson: How much is that worth to you?

Mark Usher: But it was fun to that as an experience, but you know, I mean, I’ve had milestones all the way along, you know, I started out the 50 fly and you know, okay, I want to break 50 seconds. Okay then you do 49. Okay, now I want to do, you know, Get down to the sub 40. Okay. And uh, I can practice again. I’ve done maybe 37 or something like that. Okay. But probably the last couple years I’ve missed a lot of meets for different reasons and you know, build up something that I can’t do the meet, but my practice times have been improving.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: We get butterflies. We talked earlier while I was technique and, yeah, more, you know, call it too. I think you’ve probably seen that we have college teams that come down to Sarasota, Christmas breaks universal Louisville. It comes every year and I’ve got to know Arthur Alberro, their Head Coach. And, but Kelsi Dahlia used to Kelsey world swam for them and it’s now in one of the program people, I used to watch her some butterfly and it’s just amazing. But I think I realized that the elite swimmers is, they all work hard.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: I mean there’s talented swimmers to do well, but Olympians, they’re talented and they work okay. But I watch Kelsey, and every push off she goes 15 meter underwater, Dolphin Kick it every time. Okay. I mean that’s how you get good, you know, just know, lackadaisical lapses just every time she’s, you know, pushing it okay off the wall

Suzanne Atkinson: Right, and consistent practicing those finer skills

Mark Usher: And that’s one thing Arthur told me to. He said, you know that especially with drills, he’s always on the kids that that you know, people get sloppy doing drills. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Well I’m looking, you know, I looked my way through this, whatever you said, the best swimmers are the ones that take the drills as seriously as you do the races. Okay.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, I believe that

Mark Usher: And precise every time. And so you kind of learn, okay, here’s a little bit guys do it, you know, how much of that can I transfer back down to? What I’m trying to do is you know, this old guy and then the other number pool. So yeah, let’s go with the gray hair.

Suzanne Atkinson: Last question I always like to have people share their favorite and swim sets of their favorite workouts. Do you have a favorite one workout that you do in any stroke or a favorite set?

Mark Usher: I’m actually, I like the auburn sprint set just three self-spring. Okay. One of the things I do, I do a lot of butterfly drills, I was, you know, I’m kind of into the pool a lot of times because the only one that must work on the fly. But I think like a progression set where to build a fly endurance where you start off, you do one fly stroke finishing freestyle. Okay, the second 25 you do two fly strokes rest freestyle.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay, yeah

Mark Usher: Okay, so every 25 you’re adding one more fly stroke into it and it’s a really good way to work on your endurance. Okay, because you get you’re kind of interval training with an interval training stuff.

Suzanne Atkinson: Do you do that continuously or do you take a break between each 25, or does it just depend on?

Mark Usher: You know, just continuously and you know I’m about probably seven strokes okay for 25, so it works out to about 200 usually.

Suzanne Atkinson: Okay

Mark Usher: Okay. It depends on how far you push it off the wall

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah, of course

Mark Usher: You know and I try to you know, count my dolphin case off the wall. A lot of types of drills that before haven’t you know, really swimming hard and maybe 78.

Suzanne Atkinson: Oh wow, okay

Mark Usher: So that’s actually So that’s, that’s actually a better person unless it’s under waters.

Suzanne Atkinson: I like that said I’ve never actually done that, that particular version of it.

Mark Usher: Yeah

Suzanne Atkinson: There’s a set that I like, that’s kind of similar to that you do you swim 100 IM fly back breast free and then you rest and then the next time you do 50 fly and then 25 back breast free. And then the third one you do 50 fly, 50 back, 25 breast, 25 free and you continue building up until you you’re doing a 200 IM. And then you subtract the strokes off the front end. So when you come back down, you do 25 fly, 50 back, 50 breast, 50 free and then, you know, 25 fly, 25 back 50 breast 50 free. And it’s a nice way to if I just decided I was going to swim 200 IM, I would die after about, you know, 37 yards.

Mark Usher: Sure

Suzanne Atkinson: But it’s a nice way to sort of build up your endurance and you’re pacing and your expectations for how quickly you can swim those sets. Great, okay, well, I really appreciate you spending this hour with me. And again, I’m very inspired by your story and I just love how you’ve sort of completed the circle of going from a beginner athlete, beginner triathletes to becoming a swim official at the highest level working with people like Katie Ledecky, That’s just a great story and very inspiring. So, thanks for joining me.

Mark Usher: There’s a lot of fun, Suzanne and we’ve got to get together one of these days.

Suzanne Atkinson: Yeah

Mark Usher: Get down here

Suzanne Atkinson: Definitely. When the pool’s open back up, we’ll swim together.

Mark Usher: We’ll do that

Suzanne Atkinson: All right, thanks a lot Mark, take care.

Mark Usher: Thanks Suzanne.

Suzanne Atkinson: Bye.

CLOSING: Again, I think that Mark’s story is just incredible and you know, everyone has a story. If you are interested in telling your story, then please get in touch. You can get a hold of me at suzanne@tri2listen.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, I would love to have your feedback. You can do me a big favor and give this a great rating on iTunes, share it with your friends, share it with your triathletes, club members and help other people get the message about Mark’s fantastic story. Upcoming podcasts that you can look forward to hearing at Tri 2 Listen include interviews with Alexandra Paul, Bobby McGee who was always a pleasure to talk to. Pete Jacobs, Steven Siler, Fad baddy. And if you have other folks that you think would make a great interview again, please let me know. And I wanted to give a special message today for coaches and self-coached triathletes that are serious about learning the physiology and the science behind training. I have another website called tricoachacademy.com and offer webinars live for free. And then after the live webinar, I usually put up the free replay for about a week and then after that it goes into the membership site where it can be purchased as a standalone, or you could purchase access to all of the previous webinars as a monthly, or annual membership. So if you’re interested in that head on over to trycoachacademy.com. If you’re looking for something that you don’t see there again, feel free to reach out to me. You can reach me at either one of these domains, suzanne@tri2listen.com or suzanne@tricoachacademy.com and finally, if you’re looking for training plans, I offer training plans for every distance of triathlon. You can get in touch with me for training plans at my regular coaching website steelcityendurance.com. So I just want to be sure that you guys are aware of the other activities that I do besides the podcast here again, I really appreciate your support and look forward to talking to you next time with our next podcast interview.


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