The Irish board the bus for another early morning training session in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Men's Swimming And Blogging: Puerto Rico Winter Training Trip

Dec. 31, 2009

Men’s Swimming And Blogging: Puerto Rico Winter Training TripIrish blog from Puerto Rico.

Follow the Notre Dame men’s swimming team during the program’s annual winter training trip. The team will be sharing experiences and insights while spending several days in Puerto Rico. Check throughout the trip for frequent updates.

Dec. 31, 2009
Andrew Hoffman
Senior – Ft. Wayne, Ind.

Yesterday I awoke around 2:30 a.m. to the phone ringing … I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or awake … I answered the phone. “Good morning Irish” (the earliest one in team history) uttered head coach Tim Welsh, “the bus will be leaving at 3:15.” As always, Tim gave us a little extra time to take a quick nap before we actually had to leave.

While boarding the bus the team received a five-star breakfast from our manager, Nikki. With eager eyes and hungry bellies the team opened up their brown paper bag breakfast. A banana, cereal bar – and that’s not all – one peanut butter sandwich made by Nikki herself. Thank you, Nikki. That wasn’t the only excitement of the morning. The bus driver got our attention with a rousing joke straight from a Kat Williams skit.

After a long day traveling we made it Puerto Rico. We then hopped on a bus and arrived at The Radisson Hotel. This hotel was much different than last year – we didn’t even have to turn in our key to the front desk every time we left the room.

The hotel was nice but we soon turned our attention to what we came here for: that’s right, swimming.

The team headed out of the hotel to catch a ride to the pool. Little did we know that the bus we were taking had recently been on the MTV show `Pimp My Bus’. The revamped yellow school bus had enough flat screens and speakers to hold its own D.J. Tiesto concert. The music of choice today was a Puerto Rican rap concert. The only words the team could decipher from the DVD were `Puerto Rico! Puerto Rico!’

Finally, we arrived at the pool. We left the bus, ears pounding, and made our way into the natatorium. The guys who were here last year were nervous because of the ice-cold frigid water we experienced during out last training trip. I timidly placed my foot in the water. It didn’t seem too bad, but your feet can be deceiving. As we were ready to hop in for warm-up, I uncharacteristically was the first one in the water … and it was great! A solid 81 degrees I would say. The rest of the team jumped in and we managed a long warm-up to shake out the plane ride.

The team gathered again on the big yellow bus, but at night it was clear to see that speakers and TV’s weren’t all the bus offered. Red lights inside, strobe lights on top, and the bus driver’s spontaneous honking all marked a great ride to Fuddruckers for dinner. Coach Matt Tallman reminded us to eat healthy which meant no desserts for the team. The team made up for it by eating the much healthier one-pound bacon burger and fries.

After dinner the team headed back to the hotel and got some shut eye. The next day something strange happened. No wake-up call! I actually wasn’t quite sure when to wake up without a “good morning Irish” from Coach Welsh … but the team woke up and had a great breakfast which consisted of eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast and fruit. We then headed to the natatorium for the first real day of training.

As we gathered again on the tricked out bus we weren’t sure who the entertainment would be for the day. We were pleasantly surprised to see a DVD of M.J. playing throughout the bus. Unfortunately (for some) this was not a highlight DVD of the great Michael Jordan, but a DVD of the late Michael Jackson.

He played such classics as `Thriller’ and `Billie Jean’. Chants on the bus began for the team favorite `Beat It’ but the bus driver decided to keep us waiting as we were given a 15 second teaser while exiting the bus.

With only one day down and seven to go, the Notre Dame men’s swim team is primed to have a great training trip.

Jan. 2, 2010
Andrew Deters
Senior – Claremont, Calif.

We started the second day of the year like every other morning on our trip, with a “Good morning, Irish” and a trip to the Ambassador Grill.

After quickly eating, we followed strength coach Elisa “E” Angeles into the busy street and walked down to our gym to lift. We stopped in a parking lot to stretch out our bodies. The stretching involved jumping jacks, seal jumps and leg exercises. Coach Welsh decided to join in on the fun with some quad stretches. I also noticed some late-night revelers outside the parking lot, still awake from the night before. They were still struggling from ringing in the New Year. We could tell Puerto Ricans know how to have fun on a regular basis.

We entered the weight room promptly after loosening up. The International Fitness Club was smaller than what we were accustomed to. “E” said it was important to “keep our heads on a swivel” to avoid getting hit in the head with a weight. The lift went smoothly, as we substituted body weight exercises due to the lack of space and equipment. Next, we walked back to the hotel for a small break.

Then we got onto our less-pimped-out bus. It was missing the large T.V.s and white flashing lights, but still blasted reggaeton music regularly. I was sitting in the back so I witnessed the whole incident that occurred next. Our bus driver needed to back up in order to pass other cars, but he slammed on the gas through the intersection behind us. I’m pretty sure we ran a red light too. I saw a police officer pull us over, with an angry look on his face. Our bus driver got a ticket, which took about 20 minutes.

We showed up to the Natatorium a few minutes late, with our coaches anxious to get some work done. On the distance side of the pool, we finished a long mile set the group did not finish the day before. Wearing fins, paddles, and snorkels, we felt fast while swimming miles at speeds close to our best times.

We returned to the hotel to get some much-needed rest, only to depart for the pool a few hours later. The gang showed up ready to go. Sprinters and distance guys alike either had a long IM set or a strong aerobic freestyle set. As for the three milers, our main set was a challenging 10×400’s on 5:00, trying to make the send off. As a group, the distance gang did very well, getting much rest in between reps.

After finishing the double we headed for dinner at UNO’s. There were few tables outside, so I was lucky enough to end up inside the restaurant in the cold air. Once finished, many went back to the hotel for relaxation, and to prepare ourselves for the next day of hard training.

Jan. 3, 2010
Nikki LeGare
Senior Manager – Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

After a regular morning practice we went to the sixth annual Copa Coqui Swim Meet. We drove about for a half hour to the pool in a regular coach bus. No more “pimped out” bus for us after our bus driver sadly got a ticket from la policia. Although this bus was not blasting Michael Jackson, we were able to witness a performance by the Puerto Rican National swim team’s marching band at the met: the traveling mariachi! The meet was filled with Puerto Rican music and people dancing around the pool dressed up as fish (I think!).

The Copa Coqui was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. but it was postponed an hour and a half. No worries though, the team was able to catch a few more rays of sun while we waited. The meet staff handed out thunder sticks and whistle-type necklaces. This had to have been the most spirited meet I have been to. I have never seen these swimmers cheer so loudly for their teammates before. Makes me think that we might need to purchase these for our home meets! The most exciting part of the meet had to be the final event of the day: the Pineapple Relay. We were waiting for this event all day! The winners of this 10x 50-meter relay won pineapples for first place. And our relay won! The ten men were each awarded a pineapple.

But we were all ready to get to the bus and back to the hotel by the end of the meet. The training trip is more than halfway over now (not that I am training), but I have to say, I am not ready to get back to snowy South Bend just yet! I am still excited for a few more days of this Puerto Rican sun.

Jan. 4, 2010
Michael Sullivan
Junior – Franklin, Mass.

The day started just like any other, with a “Good morning, Irish” from Coach Welsh. I woke up for real about fifteen minutes later to my own personal “RING RING” alarm that I had set the night before. Waking up was especially easy today, knowing there was only one practice to get through. When the rest of suite 607 (Kevin Rahill and Chris Johnson) was ready, we headed down the elegant Gatsby Floor of the hotel to start our day. The schedule called for breakfast, a weight session, a practice in the water and some time in Old San Juan.

The exercises that E. had planned for our weight session today would undoubtedly prepare us for a day to go shirtless in Old San Juan and impress the native ladies. After some squats, bench pressing, and low rows, we were given a short break and were on our way to the pool to begin what Coach Tallman billed as the hardest practice of the training trip. While I cannot specifically vouch for the mid-distance group, I can say that the practices for the sprinters and distance gang lived up to the hype. Despite the distance guys did not quite making the initial intervals, the set was adjusted to be more doable, but just about as difficult. The sprinters were no slouches, either, racking up over 8,000 meters over the course of the two-hour practice. The rest time for our distance gang was not abundant, but the few times where I had some breathing room at the wall, the mid-distance guys looked to be working just as hard as we were. This all combined to make for a great day of training, despite having only one practice in the water.

After practice, we were given a few hours to relax before heading to Old San Juan. Some spent the time at the pool while others went to the beach. I myself spent the time watching SportsCenter, where topics such as Wes Welker’s knee, B.C.S. bowl games, Wes Welker’s knee, NFL playoff matchups, Wes Welker’s knee, and NFL firings were discussed. After saying some prayers for that knee, I worked my way back to the bus for Old San Juan, along with the rest of the team.

The time in Old San Juan was well spent by everyone. Many started the trip by touring the Castillo de San Cristobal, which is an old seaside Fortress in the city. Included in my tour group were swim team members Andrew Deters, Steven Brus, Connor Wills, Josh Nosal, Ryan Belecanech, Joe Raycroft and Petar Petrovic. The fort had a lot to offer in ocean views, hidden tunnels and even a dungeon. After touring some of the more conventional sites in the fort, we spent 20 minutes or so doing our best Steve Irwin impersonations in what we liked to call “the grassy knoll”. Lizards and iguanas were abundant, and we wasted no time in chasing them in hopes of pictures, and perhaps a catch. Aside from a few pictures, the hunt was largely unsuccessful.

After growing tired of the reptiles, our group headed to the other fort, Castillo el Morro. While we were disappointed to find that there were no roaming lizards at this fort, the views were still exceptional. We were able to see the arrival of a Carnival Cruise ship, with a dolphin jumping and leading it into the harbor.

As the afternoon went on, classes started to meet up with each other for class dinner, and our junior group picked up the stragglers by the names of Nate Geary and P.J. Koppel. We walked around the city streets of Old San Juan looking for restaurants and avoiding the pigeon…”airstrikes”… that dirtied up Connor Wills and Joshua Nosal. For class dinner, we settled on a place called Tijuanas, where the Cokes come out after the food and lemonades are handmade using packets of sugar. The food was very good though, and it allowed us some time to relax and wait for the bus.

As the bus came around 8:30 p.m., we poured on throwing the last of our loud poppers at each others’ feet. With fedoras in hand (Bill Bass), pirate shirts being worn (Jonathan Whitcomb) and most team members exhausted, the day of rest had nearly ended. The day off was enjoyed and much needed, and it will allow for us to refocus and train hard for the last two days of our trip to Puerto Rico.

Jan. 6, 2010
Nathan Geary
Junior – Lancaster, N.Y.

Though I could not possibly offer a message equitable to that in Phil Collins’ song Another Day in Paradise, I intend to call out and enlighten you on our own experiences in Puerto Rico – about our own day in paradise.

As the first diver on the Notre Dame team to reflect on our trip, it is absolutely necessary to tell of some past memories that precede today’s blog!

The highlight of our trip came, indisputably, on New Year’s Eve. The eight representatives of our team (Wes, Sean, Ryan, Natalie, Heidi, Theresa, Jenny and myself) decided that it would be un-American and inhuman to miss a countdown of the New Year, and made the ten-minute cab ride to the first-ever festival in Old San Juan to “do our thing.”

Upon our arrival at 10:30 p.m., we entered the surreal environment characteristic of Puerto Rico: the temperature was above 80 degrees, music blared from a band playing at the head of the plaza, the surrounding trees were well lit for the season, the people were ecstatic and we were completely lost in the moment.

Miss Puerto Rico 2009 and a young Puerto Rican rapper (who is apparently between the age of ten and twelve and has his own clothing line) began the count from “diez, nueve, ocho…” down to the culminating “Feliz Ano Nuevo!” A ten-minute fireworks display ensued over the passionate plaza, at a distance much closer than I have experienced in New York.

Amidst all of the craziness and confusion, our team was together for the New Year and knew that we would forever remember December, 31 2009 – the night we spent together in Old San Juan and struggled with our Spanish numbers to welcome a new year of competition, friendship and life.

We carried the fresh mood of the New Year into the afternoon of Jan. 3 with our competition against the University of Michigan. The meet proved to be a success for some, as Natalie Stitt and Ryan Koter each secured a victory on one board (Ryan’s first victory as a Notre Dame diver coming in the 3-meter competition).

Nevertheless, the demanding practice schedule seemed to take a toll on many of us during the competition. To promote relations between the Notre Dame and Michigan diving teams, we invited the Michigan divers out to dinner at a Puerto Rican restaurant called Orozco’s and synchronously dug into our orders of Mofungo and sweet plantains. The day of competition and diplomacy proved to be exciting and fulfilling, and was concluded with an easy sleep brought on by our full stomachs.

This past morning of Jan. 5, 2010 (wow, it is weird writing 2-0-1-0!) began at 7:30 a.m. with a morning jog on the beach to the pier adjacent to the La Concha resort, a mere half-mile down the shore from our own Radisson hotel. Feeling it necessary to reenact a scene from Rocky, I ran up the rocks to the pier and threw my arms up in a fit of achievement, adding an extended and superfluous scream over the crashing waves of the ocean. Our illusory moment on the pier would only be disrupted by the whistling of a Puerto Rican security guard meant to induce us to descend from the pier, which was unfit for viewing due to the severity of the waves. Following this brief run-in with the law, diving coach Caiming Xie ran us through a series of dryland activities on the beach, including ten back-flips in the sand, during the remainder of our morning workout.

Our pair of water practices took place between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. In our first workout, E. made her first successful jump off of the 10-meter platform. Though we did not tell her at the time that the leap could prove to be painful, she stuck the entry and was able to check the feat off of her bucket list (I would have to admit that I was impressed)!

Our practices were full of great dives and less-than-great dives, as the end of training trip often brings about a series of physical pains and ailments that inhibit one from performing at their best. Nonetheless, we were successful in our objective of training well in a beautiful environment and constantly enjoying ourselves. The second practice was followed with a return trip to Orozco’s for a Puerto Rican meal in which the team may have reached its maximum intake of plantains for the New Year.

The conversation and experience of dinner only confirmed to me that Notre Dame is home to the greatest community of athletes, coaches and people that I have come across in my short life. With only one day left to spend in Puerto Rico, I hope to ride those killer waves one last time and force one more plantain into my diet before boarding the plane back to South Bend and embarking on the final stretch that leads us to our defense of the BIG EAST title!

Go Irish!–

Jan. 7-8, 2010
John Lytle
Senior – Clearfield, Pa.

This morning, we started our day like every other with a “Good morning, Irish” from Coach Welsh. However, as he alerted us, we were to load the bus after eating breakfast. After eating our last breakfast at the Ambassador Grill, we donned our finest dress code “B” and boarded the bus with all of our gear.

With one final farewell drive through San Juan, we made our way to the San Juan airport for our flight scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Unfortunately for us, as a travel precaution, our bags had to be checked at the airport for native fruits and vegetables which meant that our prized pineapples from the pineapple relay were not suited for travel. After an otherwise hassle-free check-in and flight, we arrived in the snow globe called the United States.

After arrival in Atlanta, word quickly spread that our next flight, scheduled for departure to Chicago at 4:00 p.m. was canceled. We proceeded to our departing gate anyway and it was confirmed that our flight had been canceled. In an interesting twist, Coach Welsh and swimmer Kevin Rahill were able to fly on an earlier flight to Midway, but at the last minute they decided to not take the earlier flight and stick it out with the rest of the team. After some phone calls by the coaches, we were alerted that we would be staying the night in Atlanta and catching a flight the next day to Midway. Most of the team was disappointed to hear the news that we would not be able to practice the following morning, which included a lift and a “roll”. Hotel accommodations for the evening were booked at the Hyatt Place near the airport, but in another interesting twist, we learned that our checked baggage would remain in the Delta Airlines system, meaning we would have to spend the night with the clothes on our back and our travel-on bags.

Dinner was scheduled so that we would be able to make it back to the hotel for the start of the BCS National Championship game. In and unfortunate event for swimmer Jonathan Whitcomb, his beloved Texas Longhorns jersey was packed in his checked baggage, meaning he would have to endure the game without his jersey.

Dinner and the evening brought a surprise visit from some of Atlanta’s finest businessmen. Our presence was graced by former Irish greats Michael Bulfin, Eric (Bagel) Swenson, and Jeff Wood. The evening was relatively low key as we watched the Texas-Alabama football game, visited with former teammates, and enjoyed delicious snacks provided by manager Nikki LeGare.

The next day we awoke to another “Good morning, Irish” alerting us that our flight was still on time. We took showers before dressing into our clothes from the previous day, and some of us made our way downstairs to enjoy breakfast. We easily made our way through security at the Atlanta airport and waited for our flight. After a gate change and an apparent delay, we were able to board the plane earlier than first thought. Some of the freshmen decided to use the “delay” time to travel to another concourse to enjoy Dunkin Donuts, but after a call to alert them that we were boarding, they hurried back.

They got a quick airport jog in that would even impress strength coach Elisa Angeles. Freshman Kevin Overholt led the group onto the plane, noticeably out of breath, yet Dunkin Donuts in hand.

After arriving in Chicago, we learned that our luggage was not lost, just not on our flight from Atlanta. We patiently waited as another scheduled flight to arrive from Atlanta with our bags. A few swimmers passed the time by practicing their behind-the-back coin tossing tricks, as perfected by the beggars in the streets of San Juan. After a wait, our bags finally arrived. The entire team was relieved to discover that the bags of Kevin Rahill indeed made the trip and arrived safely with all of the others. After grabbing our bags, we were met by the familiar face of bus driver, Charles, and quickly boarded the bus back to South Bend.

Upon arrival in South Bend, we made a slight detour to pick up pizza from Rocco’s and after eating the pizza back at the pool, we ventured into the familiar water of the Rolfs Aquatic Center. We had a short practice to shake out the long two days of travel and prepare us for the upcoming meet with Northwestern. Once back to Rolfs, it was confirmed that the best tan of the trip belonged to non other than Andrew “Butters / Bob / M.J. / Dave” Hoffman, with a close second by Marshall Sherman.

With lots of hard work, tens-of-thousands of meters logged, and some nice tans, it is no doubt that this year’s trip provided some great training (and some fun) to prepare us for the pivotal months ahead in our season.