Blog: Men's Swimming and Diving Trains in Puerto Rico (Updated Jan. 14)

Blog: Men's Swimming and Diving Trains in Puerto Rico (Updated Jan. 14)

Follow the Crimson during its annual Puerto Rican training trip.

The Harvard men's swimming team has embarked on its annual training trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico where it will train over a 10-day period to prepare for the second half of the season. Senior co-captains Owen Wurzbacher and Greg Roop will be blogging throughout the trip for, giving fans an inside look into the program.

Wednesday, January 9
For the seniors, today was the last day to enjoy training trip as members of Harvard men's swimming & diving, but that did not mean that the team was going to ease up on its goal of winning each day.  The theme of the first practice of the day was speed and power.  While all the groups were swimming slightly different distances, everyone was expected to reach top speed.  The coaches, of course, were full of their usual enthusiasm and intensity as the team chipped away at practice under the unusually cloudy Puerto Rico sky.  After the workout, we returned to the hotel for our heavenly breakfast, and then it was on to enjoying our final hours in the tropics before returning home to our winter wonderland.

After a brief intermission during which most people enjoyed their sixth Subway lunch in a row, it was time to load the buses and return to the short course pool for dryland and a swim.  Our trip was not without a bit of drama, though: we were delayed by a traffic jam on the main highway that was caused by a malfunctioning stoplight.  There was some honking and a lot of frustration, but we managed to make it through thanks to our driver's skill.  We had a great training session and traveled back to the hotel, avoiding the disastrous traffic light.

By this point in the trip, everyone has been to most restaurants within a half-mile of the hotel, so dinner called for a bit of creativity, with some choosing to chow down at an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant while others headed down the road for Wendy's familiar fare.  Dinner was followed by our traditional "secret santa" gift presentation, which is always sure to be a good time when 35 witty college athletes are participating.

As our last day in San Juan comes to an end, everyone is enjoying free time to do as he pleases before our sunrise beach practice in the morning.  We return to Boston tomorrow evening where we will continue to build on the tremendous amount of momentum that we have generated during our 2013 training camp.

Tuesday, January 8 - Guest post from Chuck Katis, Class of 2015, HMSD 100 and 200 breast school record holder
6:30 a.m. arrives quickly. As the team quietly boards the bus, the Puerto Rican sun slowly rises. Our bus driver speeds by what has become a now recognizable route to the pool, whipping by small communities, spanish billboards, and eateries, all the while blasting popular Puerto Rican music from the bus's sound system. 

We arrive at the pool to see the end of practice for the club team that practices at the pool before us. As we do our dynamic (land based) warmup as a team, the eyes of these young swimmers make clear that great college teams are not a common sight in this residential portion of San Juan. The morning's practice consists of longer aerobic freestyle work with stroke mixed in, with variations on the set between the distance, mid-distance, and sprint groups. As the sun beams upon us, we loosen our muscles preparing our bodies to perform in a race set that afternoon. 

After refueling with breakfast, the team carries through in normal post practice recovery, stretching and hydrating. Time between practices, free from class and other commitments, is spent resting, whether on the beach, by poolside, or in bed. After lunch is enjoyed, our second workout fast approaches.

As a team, we board the bus and return to the Sacred Heart pool. Coach Murphy reminds everyone that the afternoon practice would consist of a threshold/race set. The blasting music of the bus and the interesting scenery we pass stay with us as the team warms up during the first portion of practice. The day's challenge set is explained: 4x8 50's on :45, holding best possible average. The team, from top to bottom, from distance to sprinter, participated in the set. This was our chance to move forward as a unit, pushing ourselves, and racing each other. As the Puerto Rican sun set, as the final 50's of the set were raced, it was clear the team had put every ounce of energy into the task we were given by coach. In that moment, we had become a better team, we had made tangible progress yet again. As I write this, 49 days remain until ECAC championships, 55 days remain before Ivies, and 76 days separate us from NCAA's. Let's go!!!

Monday, January 7th - Guest post from Chris Satterthwaite, Class of 2014, HMSD 50 and 100 freestyle school record holder
The day got off to an earlier than usual start with a 6:30 a.m. bus to our morning practice. The weather was cloudy with scattered showers throughout the practice, but by 9 a.m. the sky had cleared up. Practice consisted of short build swims with a focus on kick, which we wrapped up with some stretching.

After devouring the hotel breakfast the team spread out to nap, watch movies, read by the pool, or head down to the beach. The weather was great, allowing some guys to work on their tans, while others worked on their burns.

The team split into two groups for the afternoon practice. Distance did an aerobic threshold set while the mid-distance and sprint groups got in a great lift. After a miscommunication about the bus back, the entire team finally arrived back at the hotel for the night.

The evening was pretty low key; we all watched an amusing skit in the hotel ballroom before getting together to watch the BCS championship game. Coach Murphy was less than enthused with Notre Dame's performance, and once the score reached 35-0 we decided it was safe to go to bed. Another great day of training trip is under our belts, and we're one day closer to the end of the season.

Sunday, January 6
As promised, the race set was waiting for us Sunday morning. Although the set was a bit different for each group, everyone was doing race 50's with their teammates who swim the same events as them. The competition was intense and people were loud, encouraging, and enthusiastic. The sun was out without a cloud in the sky and we raced well – this practice encapsulated what the training trip is all about. Coach Murphy was thrilled with the way we performed and we left the pool feeling great.

To reward us for a job well done, we were given the afternoon off and organized an impromptu beach trip to Luquillo beach. It was a lengthy drive, but was worth it without a doubt. It was a beautiful white sand beach with few other tourists around. We played a lively game of football (which also served as a reminder of why we stuck with the sport of swimming…) and swam in the ocean. There was local food nearby and after a delicious, albeit adventurous, lunch we headed back to our trusty Verdanza hotel.

It was a relaxed night – everyone was exhausted from a long, eventful day. The team dispersed to their favorite restaurants, with some splurging on the local Outback Steakhouse. Later in the evening, the team went for a hot tub to relax and prepare for the remaining days of training ahead.

It was another excellent day of swimming and bonding for the men of HMSD!

Friday, January 4
The first full day of training here in Puerto Rico got off to a great start - we were greeted by 75 degree morning weather instead of the usual sub-freezing Cambridge temperatures. We welcomed the site of our bus to carry us to our first morning practice.  

Our main long-course training pool is quite nice - 8 lanes in the open air and sunshine, which made our grueling first practice more enjoyable. After practice, we went back to the hotel for our beloved breakfast buffet (though the hotel employees are always shocked at just how much swimmers can eat) and some relaxing on the beach just down the road from our hotel. Most people were lucky to avoid having their New England skin burned too badly by the sun, and we were off to the pool for our afternoon workout.

This pool was a bit more remote and was 25 meters instead of 50, but we were all thrilled to be swimming in the sunshine. In addition, the weight room at this pool was world class, which was perfect for what we needed to get accomplished. The team was split into smaller groups to accommodate our limited pool space. One group would lift weights while the other swam and vice-versa, although the distance lane, true to form, stayed in through both sessions to take on a challenging set.

It was a very productive first day of training, and we look forward to more great things to come! 

Thursday, January 3
We began our training trip with a very early morning, departing from Blodgett pool at 4:45 a.m. The walk down to the pool was particularly chilly - we were dressed for the Puerto Rican sunshine but we were walking in 5 degree Fahrenheit weather. We made it to the bus frostbite free, although some of our Florida teammates weren't so sure... Our 6:30 a.m. flight departed on time, and after boarding, nearly the entire team promptly fell back asleep. We had a brief layover in Miami and arrived in Puerto Rico at around 3:15 p.m. local time. We collected our checked bags and boarded our one-of-a-kind bus, equipped with multicolored strobe lights, great local music and a friendly driver, whose son is always there co-piloting with him. The weather was ideal - 80 degrees and sunny.

We made the short trip from the airport to our hotel, the Verdanza, and unpacked our luggage. We had time for a quick trip to the supermarket for snacks, and then it was off to the pool for our first practice. The workout gave us a chance to loosen up from the long day of travel and also get some dry land / aerobic work accomplished. The team grabbed dinner after practice from one of the many restaurants within walking distance of our hotel - Ponderosa Steakhouse and Mi Casita were popular, though some stuck with the always reliable Subway sandwich. 

The team then headed for bed to rest up for the tough week of training ahead. We will keep you updated as the week progresses.

Harvard on the war path!