Jessica Hardy reflects and projects

Courtesy of Jessica Hardy

After a nice mix of training and playing since the 2012 London Olympics, gold medalist Jessica Hardy checks in prior to the U.S. national swimming championships in Indianapolis.

Out of the pool, I've done a lot of living since last summer's Olympic Games. After achieving my dream of becoming an Olympic medalist, I got the chance to go to the Grammys, attend Justin Timberlake's album release party and participate in a celebrity car race staged by Toyota. While the car may be worse for the wear (seriously), I came out on the other side of all this without a scratch, albeit not in racing shape.

While it was fun to live a completely different lifestyle for several months, I was ready to dive back into training this April and get my feet wet again at home. I needed to return to my roots. My fiancé and I moved from Los Angeles to Long Beach, Calif., where I grew up, and we recently bought a house. We also adopted a puppy -- a sweet Puggle named Duke. These changes, and settling down, have definitely made getting back to normal life and training a real joy. Not to mention, my fiancé, Dominik Meichtry, is also a competitive swimmer, so our schedules line up nicely when we're both training.

As a result of my unorthodox offseason, I needed to cram in more aerobic training this spring than ever before to get back to business. Racing every other weekend, I was feeling pretty tired, so it was no surprise I found myself a second or so slower than I was at the same time last year. But that was all part of the grand plan leading up to the national championships and world championship trials, which start today in Indianapolis.

Courtesy Jessica Hardy

Jessica Hardy says she's had the ideal mix of aerobic and speed training heading into the U.S. nationals in Indianapolis.

I added some speed work at the end of my training cycle, and then I tapered. Now I'm feeling fresher and stronger. I have the ideal blend of aerobic and speed training under my belt as I enter into this championship season, which makes me think I've gotten it right. With that said, I still have a good amount of adrenaline and nerves going into this meet. It doesn't matter that I've been on the national team every year since 2005 (when I was 17), because each meet is a new opportunity to go out there and see what I can do.

In these championships I'm competing in the 100-meter free, 50-meter breaststroke, 100-meter breaststroke and 50-meter free. My main goal is to race as hard as I can -- it's as simple as that. This will be the first time the U.S. is selecting a swimmer to go to the world championships in the 50-meter breaststroke (in the past the competitors were chosen based on their 100-meter finishes). It's always been my favorite event, even though it hasn't previously been included in the Olympics. I haven't lost in the 50-meter breast since 2005, and I'm just a tenth of a second off my own world record, so breaking that record would be the icing on the cake.

Following this meet in Indianapolis, I'll (hopefully) be going to Bilbao, Spain, for training camp and then the world championships in Barcelona. After all that, I'll certainly be ready to get back to being a beach bum and planning our wedding. Coming home to Dominik and Duke is something I look forward to, but it's not something I can concentrate on right now. My head is definitely grounded in Indianapolis, and I want to make all of us proud as I work toward punching that ticket to Rio in 2016.

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