Beat the Clock

Hour by hour, an Olympic-hopeful puts everything into the race of his life.

By Jillian Tyler

6:10 a.m. The 6-foot-3 swimmer gobbles down Greek yogurt and granola to fuel his body for practice. He then heads to the University of Minnesota pool to stretch. Nine swim workouts each week keep Plummer submerged for three hours a day. “As a swimmer, training is your sport,” says Cal Dietz, University of Minnesota Head Olympic Strength and Conditioning coach. “Physiology is incredibly important and making sure you’re prepared to perform at your best means having to put more time towards things like stretching.”

8:00 a.m. Plummer extends his arms overhead and the two eagle head tattoos on his shoulder blades flex before he dives into a speed set. Kicking furiously, he powers down the 25-yard pool in less than 10 seconds. Practicing at maximum speed enables the sprinter to maintain a steady rhythm for long periods of time, a crucial skill in his best event, the 100-meter backstroke, which he is currently ranked 5th in the world.

9:30 a.m. Plummer’s intense blue eyes crinkle with smile lines as he goofs off with two friends on the way to the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena to lift weights. “I worked with David when he was in university, and the biggest difference now is he is a full-time athlete,” says Dietz, who oversees his workouts.  “He can spend his time worrying about what he eats and how much he sleeps instead of homework or parties.”

11:15 a.m. Plummer inhales a breakfast burrito to restore the calories he burned that morning, then it’s off to his Minnetonka apartment to nap. “My focus has shifted to wanting to be the best in the world, and I dedicate more time to doing the little things right, like recovering,” Plummer says.
“We’re doing everything we can to prepare the best way possible,” says Plummer’s coach Ben Bartell, who anxiously awaits the swimmer’s Olympic trial in June.

1:15 p.m. A quick mental break playing NHL Hockey on his Xbox is just the boost the brown-haired athlete needs before driving to the Minnetonka Middle School where he swims every evening.
“There are two pieces to athletic performance – psychological and physical” says Dr. Michael Wade, a Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota. “Psychological recovery is important because it keeps an athlete balanced.”

6:00 p.m. Dropkick Murphys’ Irish rock beats blare from the speaker system as an amped-up Plummer plunges into another swim practice, sprinting multiple laps for minutes on end. Capping off his day, the exhausted athlete eats a protein-rich supper followed by a Skype-date with fiancée Erin Forster, who goes to school in Ohio.  “The biggest thing I’ve had to do is put my relationship on hold,” Plummer says. “We knew we would stay together, it was just figuring out how to get through this year.”

“We are both kind of doing our own thing,” says Forster, 26. “He’s so good at swimming that we decided he has to go for it. We both don’t want to hold each other back.”