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Day 8

It’s day 8 of our annual trip to Puerto Rico, and while Jonny has been filling you in on all the escapades of the boys the last few days, I’ve been too busy nursing my sunburns and napping poolside. We’ve had a great few days of training, and this year has proven to be much more challenging than last year. Yesterday the distance and 400IM swimmers were handed one of the most challenging sets of our careers at UMass, 8x400s IM or freestyle on 10:00, best average…yeah you read that correctly. I managed to make it through without throwing a hissy fit, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about getting out of the pool, and running down the street in a speedo if it meant not having to do another 400IM.

As many of you know, when we’re not grinding our faces off in the pool, the boys like to enjoy all the fun things that come along with being on a tropical island. While we love our hotel, the Condado Plaza Hilton, we have shifted our interests across the lagoon…It seems that the Condado’s better looking, younger, and more fun sister, the Caribe Hilton is in town. The last few days we’ve been sneaking across the bridge and hanging around the Caribe’s infinity pools, ocean waterslide/ jungle gym, and oversized chaise lounge chairs.  Today was our last full day on the island and pretty much the entire mens team headed over to Caribe to  soak up as much sun as possible. Jonny Dray even managed to sneak up on an Iguana and pick it up without getting bitten. Some of us got a bit too much sun, and the theme of tonight‘s workout was red…very red. Tomorrow morning is our last practice, and it will surely be a challenge. None of us really want to leave the warm weather of Puerto Rico, but I know I’m excited to sleep in on the 9th before heading down to Rhode Island to face A10 rival, George Washington.

Heath Maginn

Posted in Men's Swimming Update.

Training trip pictures

The crowd!

Clinic at pool


Posted in Men's Swimming Update.

Day3: Old San Juan and the Hunt for Mr Crabs


Friday was our first single workout day, a relief for us all. Singles allow us to continue training but allow us to recovery, preparing us for the next, harder cycle of training in the following three days. Single days also give us four extra hours to pretend like we’re natives enjoying the Rican life. With that said, the boys and I hit the beach to catch some waves (and sun), a regular activity for us all. The best part about the ‘gnar is what follows after the “party waves”: the luxurious hospitality from La Concha itself.

La Concha is a higher end hotel that plays a vital role in our recovery after getting pitted. Across the beach from the water, sits a small Infinite pool with the temperature just right—hot enough to feel relaxation setting in, but not so hot that you need to set yourself a time limit. If you aren’t satisfied with that, walking up to the main pool, another Infinite pool, with an upper and a lower level. On upper level, you’ll find yourself two sizzling jacuzzis. We make our way from the jacuzzi to the pool to cool off, leaning our arms or legs over the edge where water falls down, step after step into the lower pool. Its a great feeling after a hard workout just to chill the way we do, thanks to La Concha.

The next activity was corntoss. After today’s game, I’m beginning to think iwe’re just as competitive when we play this game as we are when we race. Tyler and I had a good run today, but Sandro and Flynn Flynned us. We’ll get them tomorrow.

Corntoss was followed by snorkeling and bridge jumping, my personal favorites. Me, Ryan, Sandro, Maginn, Owen, Hao and Hargrave walked to the bridge connecting our hotel strip to the mainland. Each of us threw our equipment down to the guy who jumped before us, and then threw ourselves down into the clear blue water. Russ mentioned he saw a lobster somewhere by the bridge, and we were determined to find it. This is perhaps, the only time we have ever, or will ever, voluntarily swim extra because of Russ. We took off, covering as much water as we could, bridge far behind us, the Hilton across the water to our left, El Condado (our Hotel) to our right, and a few gnarly shed rocks protruding from the water, separating us from the great big blue straight ahead. This rocks marked the coral reef. So off we went.

We approached the reef, a place i had never ventured to last year, and the seven of us were met by schools of fish, colored an even more beautiful blue than the water of the tropics you see on the front of magazines. those of us who didn’t have snorkels would come up for air, shouting over to our nearby pals to tell them, “Dude! Come here! check this out!” excited about the exotic creatures below. I remember being underwater, following the school of blue fish, keeping far enough behind not scare or send the school darting in all different directions. When they went where i couldn’t, I turned my attention to the brain-like coral on the surface of the reef, or the fin-like coral swaying from side to side from the current.

Hao, a fish himself, found Mr. Crabs, the legendary lobster Russ told us about. He was hiding beneath some coral at the bottom of the ocean floor, too far for me to swim down. I could see Hao descend to meet the floor, placing his hands on the coral to keep himself from floating back up. Reaching is other hand into the hole where Mr. Crabs hid i could see his hand wrestling with the lobster. I went up for air and up came Hao, antennae in hand. Sorry Mr. Crabs. We gave up the fight and went back to the hotel. Im definitely going back to say goodbye to the fish and the reef before I leave again.

That night the boys minus a few took the bus to Old San Juan for dinner and exploration. We came to the cobblestone-like city with narrow roads and small shops selling beautiful art and clothing and jewelry. Sandro, myself and Owen found dashikis. We ate at a small restaurant, the most popular dinner being the mofongo. The city was poppin’. Music could be heard on each street, whether it was coming from a saxophonist on the street corner, a shop trying to attract customers, or the live act that was put on in the city center, a courtyard like area. We made our way from the restaurant to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Sandro and Owen and I ventured down to where the lookout towers were, where you could lookout through the hole and see attacking ships, if there had been any. It was a creepy, but at the same time comforting feeling, being in the tower alone and listening to the waves crash upon the rocks sixty feet below. Looking out into a sea of darkness, I wouldn’t haven been able to tell where the water met the sky if it hadn’t been for the full moon. I left the lookout tower and joined my bothers, exploring the castle rock and architecture. I explored a little too far when I went to join Owen standing on the edge of the castle. Before I could jump up on the ledge, my face was covered with ocean spray from a combination of the crashing waves below and the gusty wind.

The castle expedition concluded our day’s events and we caught the last bus back to the hotel. It was an eventful day to say the least. Writing this two days later, now the fourth of January, myself and the other men have our second single to look forward to tomorrow, a practice designed to celebrate Three Kings Day, and a drive to and walk through the rainforest after!

Posted in Men's Swimming Update.

Puerto Rico!!!!

Day 4: 1/3/15

This morning Russ sent the 400 IM lane(Me, Mike, Evan and Heath) and the distance free lane (Joe, Alessandro, Flynn, Owen and Ollie) to the meatgrinder. It was rough, but we fought through it. After that we helped out the Loyola swim club and hosted a clinic for their swimmers, boys and girls about 10-14 years old. We taught them some swimming, they taught us some Espanol. In return the parents setup a buffet style breakfast for our men and women swimmers. YUM.

The boys returned to the hotel with full bellies, ready to shred—some of us the ‘gnar, some of us bed-gnar. Those who chose the latter missed out on some Big Bertha waves. They’ve been getting bigger each day, and tomorrow should be even bigger.

After hitting the beach I returned to my room where I snacked and fell asleep soon after. I would have thrown a hissy fit after being woken up by Owen if he had been talking about anything other than his Tinder successes. None of us could sleep so we just talked about how excited we were to go to practice, how happy we were to have woken up at 6am for the past 5 days, and how much we were looking forward to doing the same for the next five day. Just kidding Russ, keep dreaming!

We did a fun but tough race practice this afternoon. I always enjoy OTB (off the block) swim sets-they really help us as a team. As Division I athletes we are all super competitive and love getting pumped up. These kinds of workouts help us mimic the racing environment and the racing mentality. It was obvious we were all beat after, but I think we would all agree it was a good day. Thank the Lord tomorrow morning is recovery.

Despite the inconceivably and ridiculously hard swimming we do, the early mornings year-round, and even though we may exit the pool each day defeated, we all know deep down that when taper comes around, we will be the ones looking at the defeated.

It’s a New Year, 2015 and a new season—We’re working hard, training smart, and look great in the water. And thanks to the beautiful weather and these new tans, we’re looking even better out of it.

—Jonny Dray

Posted in Men's Swimming Update.

Puerto Rico!!!

Day 1: Acclimation and New Year’s

I woke to the sound of Owen’s voice groggily saying, “what time is it?” and the response from Hargrave “6:15”. Listening to how tired Owen sounded made me laugh to myself. IF he was this tired already after a day of rest, then he was about to get a slap in the face in the next few days as we adjust to swimming in a long course pool twice a day—around 14K+ meters.

Morning practice was used to get used to the pool and its length. Im not sure i will ever get used to it. The rest of the day we spent shredding the ‘gnar, the most popular activity, besides eating and sleeping. The waves haven’t been too great for shredding though, we’re hoping they pick up in the next few days from the storm passing nearby. After shredding, time is spent playing corn toss, pool volleyball, football, or in the hottub. The women can be found tanning by the pool…alongside Russ.

Before afternoon practice, most of us grab some food and take a nap, waking up with just about the same zombie-like state we were in before morning practice. But by the time we reach the pool, we are ready to go—ready to train.

Afternoon practices concludes our workouts for the day, and we arrive back to the hotel with only one thing on our mind: FOOD. Myself, Tommy and Alex hit up subway, some others go to Wendy’s or nearby Puerto Rican restaurants. Dinner is followed by hottub chillin, a fantastic muscle relaxer after a long day.

Celebration of New Years was spent on the bridge watching the fireworks, on the balconies of our hotel rooms, and outside on the main strip, experiencing tourist nightlight. For me, New Year’s was spent under the warmth of my bed’s blankets. The sounds of the fireworks kept me up much longer than I had wanted, but i can’t say i didn’t enjoy the beautiful explosions of color seen under my closed eyelids each time i heard a firework go off.

–Jonny Dray

Posted in Men's Swimming Update.