Blogging From Puerto Rico
Oct. 10, 2010
During the team's Fall Break training trip to Puerto Rico, swimmers Lindsey Hagens and Justin Stephens are sending a daily blog reporting on the team's activities and experience in San Juan. Each day's blog will alternate between Justin and Lindsey, with one post each day.
Note: The most recent day's blog will always be posted first, followed by the previous days entries.
Friday, October 15
Wrapping up this long week of great training here! It is safe to say that we are all a bit rough around the edges from hours of sun and swimming. Tough life, right? In physical appearance, coach Rick Simpson recommended a shave and haircut for some of the guys, whose features went on to be described as akin to "Chilean miners." While our ordeal does not come close to rivaling that of the miners, we can't help seeing the light of sleeping in on Sunday at the end of the tunnel. This morning we swam in groups and I joined the distance group, finishing with a 4000m straight. This afternoon we swam together as a team, working a specialty circuit of coach Tim Lane involving:
...a lot of times through
Sitting on the beach at night, watching the moonlit water fade away to nautical constellations, listening to the waves rolling in and the coqui frogs whistling, I could not help but become reflective of my times here on the island. I begin to fear that I will recall only a blur of sunshine, swimming and eating. But my memory of previous training trips reminds me that a few special moments will remain accessible to me as clear as day. Only time will tell which memories become etched in my mind and which will fade away, but I am confident that I have supplied my memory with a plethora of good moments to encapsulate, and as such, assert that I will remember this trip as the last and greatest of my training adventures!
Good night San Juan, hasta pronto Philly
Thursday, October 14
I am pleased to announce that the Villanova Swimming and Diving team successfully competed in their first unofficial meet of the season this afternoon at the local Puerto Rican University of Turabo! Despite a morning of grueling challenge sets, the team swam incredible races and beat Turabo. The feat was all the more impressive when taking into account our first half of the day.
As usual, the swimmers met downstairs for breakfast at 7:00 am. The long days of training are beginning to take a toll on the bodies of the swimmers. My group of backstrokers compare our battle wounds on a regular basis, noting the scrapes and bruises from our run-ins with the lane lines caused by closing our eyes to block out the sun. These scrapes only mark us on our left sides though because of the direction we swim down the pool, creating an easy way to distinguish us from the rest of the strokers.
At the pool, it was challenge set day. You may be wondering, "What makes a set classify as a challenge set?" Well, I will tell you that these challenge sets are not for the faint of heart. Rick, Abby, and Tim devise their workouts to push the swimmers to their limit and frequently result in, as was the case today, some swimmers to lose their breakfast on the side of the pool. Needless to say, the swimmers left the pool in exhaustion and ready for naps!
After some rest and refueling, it was off to the university to meet our competition and to put our hard work to the test. Beat up and broken down, the Villanova swimmers rallied and swam great races! We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the whole experience. Although communication with the Puerto Ricans was difficult, we still congratulated and thanked them for having us at their pool and for giving us some friendly competition.
The team left the pool after the meet and dinner was next on the list. A small group of swimmers and I opted for some authentic Puerto Rican cuisine at Mi Casa instead of the hotel's Outback Steakhouse where many of our teammates went instead.
My dinner was amazing and so tasty! It was a great experience. As an appetizer, we ordered plantain soup and for the main course, mofongo. Yes, I know that mofongo sounds odd, but if the opportunity is ever presented to you, you must try mofongo! My fellow teammates will back me up 100% in this statement as well.
Tomorrow the swimmers are back to double practices and are excited to have a team dinner with the coaches. It should be a great time!
Wednesday, October 13
Bienvenidos a la Isla de Encanta!
Today marked the halfway point in our training regimen. Completing this morning's session put us over the hump. Practice this morning included some speed work from the blocks to tune up our racing strokes after five days of aerobic overload. We had this afternoon off to experience some of the local culture and history of San Juan.
Many of our teammates went into old San Juan for a taste of local culinary tradition, shopping, and a tour of el Morro fortress. The behemoth fortress strategically defends the entrance to San Juan Harbor and has played a primary role in the history of the island, because whoever held the fort, held San Juan, and whoever held San Juan, controlled all of Puerto Rico. In addition to its rich history, the fortress also provides a spectacular view of the inlet, la ocho surf spot, and Isla Verde.
Other members of the team decided to chill around the hotel and go to the beach adjacent to the hotel. The ocean was deceptively tranquil. Tranquil because the water was flat as a pancake. Deceptive because a few of us, including myself, were stung by jellyfish. No big deal, the sting is a small price to pay for an afternoon of island relaxation!
Also today we learned that our meet with Turabo University has been moved up to tomorrow afternoon. Because we came here primarily to train, we will continue all-out tomorrow mornings' training session and just plan on giving everything we have left at the meet tomorrow afternoon.
Tuesday, October 12
Day 4. What a fun day! The swimmers arrived to the pool at the usual time and were pleasantly surprised with some company. As the team swam countless laps in their morning workout, we were thoroughly entertained and enjoyed the upbeat presence of the Caparra Country Club's water aerobics team in the lane next to us. It seems that they were just as interested in us as we were in them. We later came to find out that several of the women had ties to Villanova, including one lady who was the grandmother of a current Villanova student. Just goes to show, Wildcat pride is everywhere!!!
Between practices, the team ventured away from our usual town area and explored a new beach down the road. The swimmers took the beach by storm and immediately whipped out their frisbees to play in the water. The waves weren't as big today, but the sun was stronger than ever. Some swimmers took a liking to the coconut trees, scaling them like Bear Grills. Unfortunately, the coconuts weren't ripe yet so eating them wasn't an option. Unsatisfied with the coconuts, the swimmers left the beach in search of some real lunch.
After lunch and a nap, the team went back to the pool and beat our legs to near death with a team kicking set. Dryland followed the swim and just as we finished up, a gorgeous rainbow stretched over the pool. It made us forget (almost!) the pain our legs were experiencing at the moment. Later that night, the team showered off, removed the film of chlorine from our skin, and dressed up for one of my favorite team traditions - the training trip class dinner! My junior class chose to return to the same local restaurant we had gone to our freshman year, El Tacquito. Coincidentally, we sat at the same table we had two years ago. We opened the entirely Spanish menu and began to try and decipher the options. Luckily, Charlie Cornelius was able to help us out with the language because the rest of us were choosing blindly. In the end, we chose the food we understood and loved - nachos, quesadillas, and tacos! The six of us shared a huge plate of authentic nachos and enjoyed the most delicious and filling quesadillas and tacos we had ever experienced. Too stuffed for dessert, the juniors went for a walk after dinner, back to the beach where we were joined by the other classes. Chatting while sitting on the beach allowed us to bond without physically moving, a definite plus after the long, exhausting kick set. Tomorrow, the team looks forward to traveling into Old San Juan after training for some sightseeing, authentic food, and every girl's favorite activity-shopping!
Monday, October 11
The weather continues to remain beautiful...wish you could be here! Although it still thundershowers daily, rays of sunshine are quick to break through the storms and embrace us in a wave of tropical paradise. This morning was clear and sunny as we swam in specialty groups. This afternoon it began raining as menacing thunderclouds rolled in during our combined session of pacework. What though the odds, we kept swimming. There is a movie based on historical fact called 300, detailing the will of the Greek Spartans to fight on in ANY conditions. The same can be said of our team. If San Juan clouds blot out the sun...then we'll swim in the shade.
With two days of LCM doubles under our belts, it is worthwhile to note the physical status of our bodies. Coaches might call this complaining, but I prefer to see it as connecting with primordial survival instincts. A humorous example occured after tonight's training session. My roommates and I were planning on going to the grocery store to restock on chocolate milk, fruit, chocolate milk, bread and chocolate milk. However, after practice we ambled to our beds and decided to call off the long sojourn to the grocery store, until one of us had the clarity to realize, "It's only 8 O' Clock...and the store is 100 yards away!" Oops! Well, sometimes we get caught up in giving 100% at every practice, that we forget that life also goes on outside the pool.
Here are a few happenings that deserve a special thank you!
1. Subway - The Subway business next door has tripled since the arrival of our team. They've done a great job of feeding us healthy food and we've also become friends with the employees.
2. Senior Tom Maughan, our official Gatorade mixer, has kept us all hydrated with 30 lbs of powdered mix he terms Lane 10 Kool-aid.
3. The Chocolate Milk of Tres Monhetas Farms has been a staple of recovery between sessions. I am a bit concerned that the last batch was bad, because I did not feel completely recovered today... might have to take it back : )
4. Sunblock. Be it rub-on, spray-on, oil or lotion, sunblock has been a key ingredient in this tropical climate in keeping most of the swimmers from looking like lobsters.
5. Coaches. This whole show would be for nothing if it weren't for the expert guidance and support of our... wait, we still have 8 sessions left, better not speak too soon. But in complete seriousness, great work by our coaches!
Tenga un buen noche!
Sunday, October 10
Day 2 of training camp began bright and early with breakfast served downstairs in the lobby of the hotel. Homemade omelets, bacon, cereal, fresh cut fruit, and oatmeal filled the plates of hungry swimmers preparing for our long morning swim practice. We arrived at the pool at 8:00 am and lathered on sun screen before starting some dryland training upstairs in the balcony at the pool. When dryland was finished, the team split into specialty groups and went to work. Abby's strokers, Tim's sprinters, and Rick's distance swimmers all endured their practices while baking in the sun. By the time the team left the pool, not only were the swimmers sporting goggle and one-piece suit tans, but the coaches had caught some rays as well. No complaints here! We are all happy to get the color!
You would think that having been in the sun all morning would have kept the swimmers inside during the afternoon. This was certainly not the case. The team could be found in places such as the beach and the pool - seems like we can't get enough of that water! No worries though, we were sure to follow Rick's instruction and always carry around our water to prevent dehydration in the hot sun.
Come 2:30, it was time to meet up in the lobby for the second practice of the day. We walked onto the pool deck and jumped in the pool immediately to cool off from the scorching heat. Being from New England, there has been very few times in my life that I have felt heat as intense as I felt today! Once the swimmers were in, practice began with a short team set and then it was time to split up again, but this time into specialty kicking groups. The breaststrokers kicked with parachutes, the backstrokers/flyers did endless underwaters along with an exciting, down-to-the-finish relay, and the freestylers had fun in the middle lanes of the pool kicking aerobically. We ended the day with core work and left the pool bronzed and ready for dinner!
Once showered and cleaned up, swimmers and divers ventured the town for a meal and stumbled upon the familiar Chilli's. The top floor of the restaurant was overtaken by the Villanova team and we had the entire section to ourselves. We had a great time talking about the day and looking forward to the week to come. Day 3 starts in the morning, talk to you then!
Saturday, October 9
Greetings from Puerto Rico! The Villanova Swimming and Diving team departed campus at 5:00 am this morning from the Pavillion and started our journey to San Juan for our fall break training camp. After the swimmers and divers arrived to the bus at various times ranging from 20 minutes in advance to 5 seconds in advance, the bus left campus and we began to make our way to the Philadelphia Airport. At the airport, breakfast was had by all and we loaded onto the plane. Four hours later, we arrived in beautiful San Juan! The tropical heat was a nice change from the cool and crisp fall weather back at Villanova.
After settling into the Embassy Suits, we were famished and ready for lunch! The swimmers and divers did a little exploring around by foot and found Subway close to the hotel. A couple hours later at 3:00 pm, it was time to do what we came here to do, and swim our first practice of training camp! A thunderstorm passed by quickly and the weather cleared up just in time for us to jump into the local country club's outdoor long-course pool down the road. Practice was great outside in the sun!
After practice, it was time to refuel and have dinner. At a restaurant downtown we ordered our meals and conversed with the locals. The food was superb and it was an excellent opportunity to absorb the local culture. Later that night, swimmers and divers met on the beach where we sat in the sand and enjoyed the waves crashing on the shore. As we starred at the stars in the crystal clear sky, it finally sank in that we were in the Caribbean on the gorgeous island of Puerto Rico. Needless to say, it was the perfect end to a day of travel.
Tomorrow we start up at 7:00 am and look forward to our first day of doubles and soaking up some more Caribbean sun! Stay tuned!
Hola friends and fans of Villanova Swimming and Diving! Let me introduce myself as Justin Stephens, a senior breaststroker and Environmental Science major. I can't relay how pumped I am to fill in the page that is my senior year of college swimming, so without further ado, here is my first of a series of blogs following our season.
We touched down in San Juan, Puerto Rico for our fall training trip at 11:00 this morning, psyched to be back on the island. Temperatures here are in the mid-80s with the only drawback being the ITCZ. In case you were worrying, relax - the ITCZ is not a Puerto Rican gang, but rather the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, a weather classification of the low latitudes over which rain clouds frequently form. Locals informed us that this has been a wet summer here in Puerto Rico, and the trend continued with a steady downpour in the hours leading up to our first practice. However, by the time we arrived at our training facility at Carraba Country Club, the rain gave way to bright rays of sunshine!
I felt rather stiff in the pool from the plane ride, so it was good to get in a swim session this evening to loosen up and prepare for the next week of double sessions. The pool is a standard, eight lane, 50 meter length - clean, warm and sunny. Looking forward to making great athletic gains in this pool. We've got a big day tomorrow, time to turn in. Adios!