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Hello From the Sunshine State: 2012-13 Winter Training Trip Blog

The Dartmouth men's and women's swimming and diving teams will embark on their annual winter training trip Dec. 6-17 and this year will head to Key Largo and Islamorada, Fla. The team will be providing a "behind the scenes" blog so that friends, family and Big Green swimming and diving fans can keep up with their adventures.  Make sure to check in to see what the team is up to down in the Sunshine State.

2012 Winter Training Trip Itinerary

Thursday Dec. 6- Depart for Key Largo

Thursday Dec. 6-Monday Dec. 17

Training in Key Largo/Islamorada

Key Largo Boat Parade
Scuba Diving
Sunset Cruise

Thursday, Dec 6, 2012

Day One: Away We Go ...   (Laura Hayes and Jake Lee)
The Dartmouth swim team's trip to Florida began bright and early in the chilly Hanover dawn. As in previous years, the bus got caught in heavy traffic outside of Boston and we managed to almost miss our flight. Matters were further complicated when Joseph Chance '13 lost his wallet, but thankfully had his passport. Once we were all on the plane (and yes, we all made it), it was a straight flight to Fort Lauderdale.

Once there, all 54 starved swimmers made a beeline for lunch after boarding the fleet of eight minivans. After a delicious meal at various fast-food restaurants, we headed southbound for the Keys. An hour and a half later, we checked into the luxurious Bayside Inn and quickly headed back out for practice in Islamorada.

The minivan fleet was disrupted when the van of our fearless leader, Coach Jenn (Verser), faced the typical flat tire. Thankfully, no one was injured and, with the help of Aaron Athanas '16 and James Verhagen '16, Coach Jim (Wilson) managed to put the spare tire on and all eventually arrived at the pool.

DCSD loosened up in the pool under the lights and then hit up the Conch House for dinner featuring a five-course meal. Following that, a few groups ran to the store to pick up snacks for the week, and then retired to their rooms in anticipation for an early morning practice.

And so commences training trip 2012!

Friday December 7, 2012

Day Two: Christmas In the Keys (Emily Holt and James Verhagen)

This wonderful day started off in a frightening way: crossing the four-lane highway to the Jacobs Aquatics Centre where the news of that morning's set was broken to us. Both of these events were frightening to us. We were doing the infamous ladder set. Bum bum bummmm.  The sprinters were thankful that we broke up into groups for the set. They worked hard doing a mini ladder and LOTS OF vertical kick. The distance group had the full 7.5km set. 

Upon completion of the dreaded set, weary bodies trekked back to the hotel for a quick bite to eat for breakfast. Many went off in their free time to find lunches for the days to come at the local supermarket. Coming back everyone settle in for the customary midday nap. Many swimmers chose to do this on the beach outside the hotel.

In the heat of the 2pm Florida sun we went back to the long course pool for afternoon practice. We, once again, split up into our groups for another tough practice session.  Immediately after, we headed off for an early dinner at the Conch House.

After a hearty dinner we went to a Christmas festival where we saw how people in the Keys celebrate Christmas. We joined in the celebration taking photographs under a snow-spewing Christmas tree and attempting to take a team photo with Santa. Some swimmers, still hungry dropped into Dairy Queen on the way back to the hotel. Like most places we invade, the Dairy Queen was overwhelmed by our presence but we were all satisfied once we had our Blizzards in hand.

The day was topped off with the men's team throwing a football and playing ping pong outside while the women's team bonded over a game of Charades.

Saturday Dec. 8, 2012

Day Three: The Day with Three Practices (Charlotte Kamai and Daniel Whitcomb)

We started the second full day of training with a beautiful walk in the warm, dark Florida drizzle to morning practice. The coaches were so kind to give our shoulders a break by assigning us a wonderful 4300+ meters of kicking for this morning's practice. They included some vertical kicking, a refreshing change from the normal grind. As our legs went numb from the pain of dolphin kicks, Jim kept us going with tempting promises about a breakfast that would be better than yesterday (not that orange juice and bread are all that hard to improve on...).

After a quick jog across the highway (while dodging speeding automobiles) we came upon Doc's Diner, where the locals eat!  The waiters warned us to clear out the middle of the table, and in they paraded carrying massive platters of food from the kitchen. Everything from pancakes to hash browns were present; a true swimmer feast. The girl's table was so desperate for satisfying grub they jumped at everything in sight; like barbarians, many began eating eggs with their hands.

We had some chill time after breakfast to digest our delicious meal. From napping to reading to tanning in the Florida sun, the swimmers had a few hours of much deserved rest. And then came our lift session.

We had acquired time to do weights at a local gym called Froggy's. Ross knows how to properly kill us in the weight room and today was no different. We worked on upper body strength to balance the kicking we did in the morning, and after we drove directly to the pool for our third workout of the day.

The University of Kalamazoo swim team is also on their training trip in Key Largo, so DCSD coaches chatted with 'zoo coaches and planned a joint practice for the evening. We did a brief warmup (during which the entire men's team swam in one lane and the entire women's teach in another) and lined up behind the blocks for a lovely afternoon of sprint 50s. It was our first practice with "meterage" less than 6000.

To finish off the day, the teamed dined together once again under the flickering tiki torches of the Key Largo Conch House and enjoyed delicious lasagna. Some of the group went to watch a boat parade in downtown Key Largo while the rest of the team headed back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow's set.

Saturday, Dec. 9

Day Four: "Sunday Funday" (Kendese Nangle and Aaron Athanas)

Starting out this lovely day with a quick drive over to the Jacobs aquatic center in Senior Jay Margherio's van and quickly changing into my suit, I discovered todays set as a result of a small miracle was recovery. And the recovery set turned out to be even better as the sun just peaked over the horizon, to make the clouds an eerie black. The moon still hanging in the sky led to an interesting conversation with two teammates about what phase the moon was and how the sun affected it. Practice quickly flew by with some relatively easy backstroke, we ended it with some quick snake-sprint-esque relays that should have been won, but due to a few unnecessary breaths my team lost. Regardless, we were all glad for some as Jim called it "deserved rest".

After the team enjoyed another wonderfully filling breakfast at Doc's Diner we returned to the hotel to grab our bikinis and trunks then headed out to Whale's Harbor. With Avicii's Levels blasting and hands fist bumping out windows our convoy cruised through the Keys. With a smaller boat waiting at the harbor for our arrival, the first group of six girls boarded and began their parasailing adventure. The rest of the team, coaches and Jim's wife boarded a large catamaran equipped with snorkeling gear, refreshments and some relaxing tunes and set out to sail the ocean. As we watched the first group soar 600 feet above the ocean the team became excited. Partners were quickly chosen, groups of six made and arguments had about which groups would be second third or fourth.  While waiting for our turns on the catamaran we snorkeled, ate, visited a sand bar and just chilled.

After a near whole day of sitting in the sun, swimming in the ocean, playing football on the sand bar we all returned to the catamaran, mostly sun burnt. After all of the parasailing groups had returned we made our way back to whale's harbor. After a quick break down of what would happen that night (and later this week) we thanked the captain and his first mate and went on our way to dinner. Followed by receiving a free shirt and some delicious pulled pork and fries from Doc's the majority of both squads proceeded to the small beach in back of the hotel to either play some ping pong or watch the sun set over perfectly flat horizon of Florida. Spending the day in paradise the Dartmouth way. Vox Clamantis in paradiso.

Monday, Dec. 10

Day Five: "Sunday Funday" Makes For a "Fun" Monday (Katie Papa and Logan Briggs)

(Photo courtesy of Frazier Nievens)

Waking up at 5:30 after a whole day in the sun without afternoon practice was arguably the most horrible wake up yet. Swimming with sore and sunburned shoulders was rough for all, especially the distance group, who had to do the infamous 6x900 set. I was extremely lucky this morning, after being in the distance group every practice up until today when I was moved into the stroke group for the first time. Dodged a bullet there...

After practice, we were on our own for breakfast. Some of the people more dedicated to food went to the Waffle House, while most just went back to the hotel to get a quick, free, and very simple meal before heading straight to their rooms for a long nap before weights. I myself took a 4.5-hour nap. Most took more moderate naps and had time to lie out by the pool, read, play ping-pong, etc.

At weights, we worked our biceps, triceps, and shoulders all the while complaining about the prospect of having what many call the hardest practice of training trip, the 400 IM set, after weights. We did not like the idea of doing over a mile of fly (and every other stroke) after killing our arms.

After a quick return to the hotel, we went to the long course pool, completely prepared to struggle and die over the course of the next two hours. Surprisingly, most of us were upset that the coaches changed their mind and gave us a different practice, as we just wanted to get it out of the way. Practice ended up being a choice between an IM or a freestyle set, with a surprise King Of Kick test set at the end.

Dinner at Docs was great; we were given heaping plates of spaghetti and garlic bread, which we all wolfed down in order to get back to the hotel and try to squeeze in seven hours of sleep before another day with two workouts along with a scuba diving or snorkeling trip the next day.

Tuesday, Dec. 11

Day Six: Water Excursions Day (Daniel Chen and Olivia Samson)

After waking up tired and walking or vanning over to the pool, our 6AM practice was thankfully not too difficult, including a mix of IM and freestyle. In addition to the light practice, many of the men got out extra early to go to scuba diving practice. Everyone went to Doc's again after practice and enjoyed their generous offerings of pancakes, hash browns, eggs, sausage, bacon, French toast, rolls, and bananas.

After breakfast, the team split up and did many different kinds of activities. For the fourteen men (including Ross) who chose to go scuba diving, they spent their morning in a hotel pool learning the basic skills needed to be safe under 30 feet of water. After lunch, they took a boat about five miles offshore to two different dive sites. Many different kinds of fun marine life were spotted, including a shark, eels, a lobster, and pipefish.

For those who did not go on the scuba trip, many went snorkeling and many opted to stay and rest at the hotel. The Bayside Inn-ers slept, made runs to Walgreens, and made use of the ping-pong table (with 16's Emily and Charlotte finishing victorious).

Those who went snorkeling took the hour-long boat ride to see the famous underwater golden statue of Jesus and explore reefs 10 miles offshore. Marine life sightings included eels, barracudas and many different types of fish. The boat rocking caused some to be queasy and concerned for the boat's buoyancy, but all went well.

Everyone arrived back at ye olde Bayside for a little while to grab some food and get ready for practice at 6. At practice, the highly anticipated IM set was bestowed upon us, just the birthday gift Charlotte Williams wanted. At least the 16's no longer had to wait in fear and speculation for this infamous training trip workout! The sprinters did a modification of the 12 400 IMs and 16 100s, and luckily there were no casualties after the grueling set.

With few being able to raise their arms very high above their heads, the team packed into vans for The Conch House. Dinner included the usual salad and fruit salad, as well as Caribbean rice and versatile chicken. Tired and ready for bed, the team headed home, eager for sleep to recover from the long day spent in the ocean and pool.

Wednesday, Dec. 12

Day Seven: Beach Time (Matthew Ginsberg and Koryn Ternes)

We began the day with yet another 6 am morning practice that consisted mainly of kick and IM. It wasn't as much of a recovery from the previous nights 16x400 IM set as many had hoped. The girls who were going scuba diving got to get out early, and after practice everyone feasted at Doc's again for breakfast.

The girls who went scuba diving were lucky enough to see sharks, sea turtles, eels, stingrays, and also Val fondle the scuba instructor. Despite the fact that the water was choppier than expected, everyone seemed to have a jolly old time.

While many of the woman's team were out scuba diving, the rest of the team had no organized plans. While many took the standard four to five hour daily nap, some chose to seize the opportunity (carpe diem!) to go explore. A group of the guys went to Miami and went to the beach. But let's be real, the highlight of the trip out there was Chipotle and Yogurtland (unfortunately, one car had insufficient time to make it to Yogurtland and had to quickly rush back to make practice on time. Don't worry, we made it!). While the drive out was about an hour and a half, most would agree that it was well worth the trip. It was the first time any of us had stepped foot on a beach so far this trip and there was plenty of tanning and feasting for the boys.

At afternoon practice, we worked on our speed with some fast 50s. After practice we had yet another meal at Doc's diner, which consisted of freshly caught fish and corn pudding, a Southern favorite.

Half way done with training trip 2012!

Thursday, Dec. 13

Day Eight: Sunset Cruise with a Side of Singing and Dancing (Joseph Kind and Briana Williams

On the eighth day of training trip, the coaches gave everyone the gift of an extra hour of sleep and no afternoon swim practice (a much needed rest)! Starting the day off at Jacobs Aquatic Center at the blessed time of 7 AM, the team broke up into the usual sprint, distance, and stroke groups, which was immediately followed by a bountiful breakfast at Docs graciously provided by Jacobs Aquatic Center.

The team headed back to Bayside Inn to rest up before afternoon lift at Froggy's. Following the lift at Froggy's, the entire teams headed out for a night on the sea on a sunset cruise! Sadly, it was a cloudy day so there was no actual sunset in sight but the team had a blast anyway. A limbo contest formed with Rebecca Butler '15 as the female victor and Daniel Chen '16 as the male victor. Rebecca and Daniel battled it out and though it was a close call, Daniel Chen pulled out the victory.

The night continued on with classic dance party jams such as Cupid Shuffle, Gagnam Style, (the Dartmouth classic) Blame it on the Boogie, and the DCSD favorite, Levels by Avicii. After the dance party settled down, the team was graced by a solo lip sync performance by team captain, Will Derdeyn '13 to the 90's hit "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. Next up, Aaron Athanas '16, Matthew Ginsberg '16, and Daniel Chen '16 put on an impromptu performance of "Just a Friend".  After the sensational singing boys concluded their shows, the comedy segment began. James Verhagan '16, Erin Henn '14, Joseph Chance '13, and Charlotte Williams '13 really brought down the house with their comical interludes. After the sunset cruise, the men and women's teams went on their own ways for dinner and to rest up for the upcoming days of training.

Friday, Dec. 14

Day 9: Date Night Big Green Swimming Style (Laura Hayes, Maddie Wall and Aaron Athanas)

For the second morning in a row, DCSD was treated with a 7 A.M. practice- a whole extra hour of sleep! However, we were also faced with a cold, breezy morning and a long course practice of 20 x 200s free.

After practice, we went our separate ways; some girls (and guys) were found lounging by the pool for the eighth day in a row, while others retreated to their dens to sleep. The hotel manager surprised the team with 10 large Domino's pizzas and sodas for lunch that were delivered poolside.

Today we were lucky enough to see the sunrise and sunset during practice, instead of practicing in complete darkness. The practice began with splitting the men's and women's teams up, thus beginning the rivalry. After a short set, the coaches surprised us with a gender divided relay. To make it more interesting, the women swam freestyle, while the men swam a medley relay. Despite the women's blatant cheating attempts to defeat the men (including 10 second early starts), the men claimed the victory and received the award of a 100-meter warm down instead of 300 meters.

As everyone showered and changed, the team anticipated the traditional Date Night. The men's and women's teams gathered around while each guy pulled a lady's name from a hat, revealing who they would take to dinner for some one-on-one or two-on-one bonding time. The vans went to several different restaurants, where some couples paired up to make the evening less awkward.

Some dates were simple like Nejc Zupan '14 and Teva Levens '14 went for a fish and chips buffet, while others kept it classy and went to waffle house and jammed out to the juke box. Even a few went above and beyond by shaving and dressing up for their dates (Matthew Ginsberg '16, One June Chang'13, James Verhagen '16). Even if just for a moment the men's and women's teams forgot the differences they may have had in the past and enjoyed a balmy Key Largo evening basking in the warmth of their teammates' company.

Saturday, Dec. 15

Day 10: King of the Hill Day (Emily Holt, Logan Briggs and Koryn Ternes)

This lovely morning began with a chance to sleep in until 7:15 for our 8: 00 a.m. workout, which consisted of a massive kick set. The team, too sore to move, was rewarded for our efforts with another quality breakfast from Doc's, this time with cantaloupe.

On our own for the rest of the afternoon, some swimmers chose to lie out by the pool while others went on shopping trips for secret Santa gifts.

Later, we headed back to the pool at Founder's Park for the dreaded test set, King of the Hill (20 x 100s). After surviving the grueling practice, we had the evening to ourselves. The men's team went to see The Hobbit, while many of the women's team went to Mrs. Mac's for another delicious meal and then had some quality time together back at the hotel.

Sunday, Dec. 16

Day 11-- Day Trippin' in Boca (Charlotte Kamai and Olivia Samson)

Nejc Zupan '14 in the ocean

We began our morning by sleeping in an extra hour yet again, and gathering to leave at 8 a.m. for Charlotte Williams' '13 house in Boca Raton. There was a minor setback on the transportation side, as usual; Jay Margherio '13 led his van astray, but luckily they all got to the Boca Raton Community High School Pool by the time warm up ended. We were pleasantly surprised by short course yards for the first time all trip. Underwater speakers made the 16 150s set slightly more bearable, as it turned into a contest to see who could fit the most equipment from their gear bags on their bodies. After, we split up into the regular sprint, stroke, and distance groups.

When practice ended, we had a short break to run across the street and get a quick snack from Jamba Juice, 16 Handles, or Whole Foods (yay civilization!) before lift. Today we did weights at Florida Atlantic University, where air conditioning is still just an abstract concept. 

After the team sweated out at least half our collective body weight, we piled into very smelly vans to drive to the Williams household a few minutes away. Mr. and Mrs. Williams graciously provided a delicious catered meal and opened their house for 50 swimmers as well as members of the Williams family. Some swam in the pool, others took advantage of the cable television to watch football, and the rest headed straight for the food.

After a delicious meal including salad, fried rice, teriyaki chicken, birthday cake and ice cream, the team packed up and headed for a nearby mall. Many swimmers went shopping for Secret Santa gifts for tomorrow night, while others chose to visit Yogurtland and Chipotle... again.

The drive back to the hotel was entertaining, if a little stressful because of the traffic. The seniors rushed off to change for their annual Senior Dinner with the coaches, while the rest of us chilled at the hotel and local restaurants and shops. 

One and a half days left!

Monday, Dec. 17

Day 12:  Christmas Dinner and Secret Santa Exchange (James Verhagen, Katie Papa and Kendese Nangle)

Today was our last full day here in the Keys. It all started with a workout in the long course Founders Park pool followed by a short ocean swim right in Founders backyard. The ocean workout turned out to be the seniors appreciation set. The seniors completed one lap around a buoy in the seaweed-filled sea, the juniors two, sophomores three and the poor freshman completed four.

After the morning practice, groups dispersed for various breakfasts. Some headed to the usual Waffle House, others to Doc's Diner and yet others settled for the continental breakfast at the hotel. With a substantial break between practices, some swimmers travelled to Key West for the mid-morning and afternoon. They took an hour break halfway at a scenic beach and then continued on the have lunch and shop in Key West. Everyone else hung round the hotel soaking up the last rays of sun they would see for a while. Katie turned into a lobster under the hot sun. James and Logan took the opportunity to explore the bay on the hotel kayaks.

At 3:30pm we all gathered up again for our last afternoon practice of the trip. We all warmed up together and then broke up into groups (which we could choose ourselves this time!). Inter-class relays would decide which year could get out first. The 14's made a late charge in the first medley relay to pip the freshman and get out first. The 16's would get out next as they won the next relay (partly due to the 15's getting disqualified for blatant cheating). The sophomores and seniors were duly punished for their indiscretions with lengthy warm downs.

The locker (particularly the girls' one) then became a frenzy of activity, as everyone got ready for the team Christmas dinner. Everyone, dressed to the nines, headed to a Brazilian Steakhouse for a delicious buffet including sixteen different cuts of meat. Dinner ended with lots of pictures and jokes.

We finished off the day by exchanging gifts in a team secret Santa. Everyone was in charge of presenting one other team mate with a small present, many of which had a humorous story behind them! 

One day and one big set to go.

Tuesday December 18th

Day 13: Wrap Up (Daniel Whitcomb on behalf of the Class of 2016)

The most anticipated set of the year was on everyone's mind as they stumbled out of their beds, through the rain, and into the vans for our final trip to Founder's Park. Few spoke on the drive in order to save every joule of energy for the 100 x 100s we were about to embark upon. 

The set began before even the first ray of sunlight had broken over the horizon. As we dove in, we understood why it is said to be darkest before the dawn. We were so close to the end, but our greatest challenge remained. 

The set is rarely a physical challenge, but is always a mental gauntlet. Some do their best to not think, hoping time will pass quicker. Others do their best to get a good song stuck in their head. I was stuck on the numbers. 12 100s took 17 minutes; 10  100s took 14 minutes, 10 seconds. all 100 would take 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds. The people on the 1:20 interval would be done 8 minutes, 20 seconds before we would. The set makes you do crazy things.

Well after the sun had risen, one by one the different interval groups finished up. Everyone was in bliss as they broke the seal of their goggles and hopped onto dry land for the first time in hours. The only thing left for DCSD to do was get home. We all packed into vans once again and made the trek to Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

I thought I would be ecstatic to get home, but I write this while sitting alone in the airport, the first time in many weeks without having the team at my side. Swimming is the focus of this trip, but everything else is what is really worth remembering. The piles of food at Doc's, the hours of relaxing by the pool, parasailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The dancing on our sunset cruise, and a wonderful Christmas dinner. It brought us closer as a team, and will be the most important thing we bring away from Key Largo as we hit our competition season, and Ivies in only a few months. I can guarantee I am not the only one who wants to be back in Hanover as soon as possible to continue the work and fun that we had on this year's training trip.