Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Jorge & Yolanda Caragol Masters Invitational

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The best way to get your body used to swimming fast is to race. For this reason, Saturday morning in Islamorada is race day. Warm-up and then get ready to swim fast. Even better than to race in workouts is to race in meets.

Somehow in the first part of your preparation cycle, the most important point is not always to swim your personal best but to get the effect of fast swimming. After two weeks of hard work in a camp, I was really happy to join the local Masters swimmer Tanya Hanson for the meet in Lauderhill.

We left Islamorada early on this Saturday morning to be on time for the warm-up. After a bit more than an hour and a half we arrived at the pool. The weather was not perfect on this Saturday morning with a chilly breeze. But nobody cared about it and I started to feel the meet atmosphere coming up to my body. At least for me, this is something very important. I can swim fast in workouts, but never do it the same way as in meets. Something that probably can be seen as a weakness (personally, I think it’s a point where I still can improve, but on the other hand I also think that it is one of my strengths). Read more

Aye Aye, Captain!

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The Throw Up Challenge:

Thanks to all who have submitted their favorite workout with projectile results. Pool managers across the country curse me, and chlorine sales are up. We are giving a free Race Club T-shirt to the author of the best set and are closing the contest when the next Aqua Notes newsletter goes out (in about a week) so get your set in now.

Click here to join the message board.

So far there have been no reported fatalities, so that is good. Let’s keep it that way. Read more

What Keeps You Swimming?

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For this diary entry I got inspired by the message board on the Race Club website. In these last days there have been some very interesting posts like “The art of Taper” or “The sprinter mentality.” And some great personal experiences have been shared.

I now start my 12th year in swimming (so still a rookie). And probably, like most of you, I have had moments of doubt where I was close to quitting. Times where I worked so hard for success and earned so little. But hey, I already knew that because one of my coaches once told me, “Listen, swimming is hard work and most of the time it pays badly (literally). But when it pays back for all the hard work that had been done, it will be a lifetime experience.”

And he was right. Every time I reached my goals I forgot about the struggle before and was filled with happiness. Although this is not the point of the story. I mean, why didn’t I stop in times where struggle and not success had affected my swim? Sometimes I had to wait 2 years to come back. How could I know that I would succeed again? What was it that kept me swimming? Read more

The Throw Up Challenge

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I can go on about being naturally inclined towards sprinting by having fast twitch muscle fiber or distance with slow twitch, but if your heart isn’t in the event you’re training for you aren’t going to swim fast.

Now to address some aerobic training alternatives.

Aerobic work: keeping an elevated heart rate over a period of time. Take the heart rate throughout the long “garbage yardage” set. Find another exercise that 1) you enjoy 2) achieves a higher heart rate. Swim afterwards with quality sets and stroke technique drills.

Put a stationary bike on deck. Pedal trying to maintain a difficult pace (all stationary bikes measure output somehow). Aerobic work is for your heart and lungs, not your stroke technique. So focus on your heart and lungs. You want a higher heart rate? Hold your breath for 30 seconds every other minute on the bike. Pedal for 20 to 45 minutes doing this. Read more

Now Read This!

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There has been a great response to my recent newsletters offering the idea that sprinters would be better served to be trained like sprinters and not like distance swimmers.

Some have politely offered their counter argument to their take on my points. “How we are ruining our age groupers and chasing them to other sports because we won’t allow everyone to become 50 Freestylers,” or “I just don’t think sprint specific training is the way to go with kids that threaten to quit.” These are a couple of quotes taken from the message board. It’s my fault if I haven’t expressed myself clearly enough. I really appreciate everyone that has posted on our board, there has been a ton of high quality posts that offer a wealth of information for swimming fast. I love the arguments. If you don’t agree with what we are doing or saying we want to hear from you. If you agree with what we are saying or doing we want to hear from you. Read more

A Swimmer’s Experience at Camp Race Club

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Hey All,

I am just getting ready to go to bed but I have to write this to you because I feel like a stronger athlete, both mentally and physically. I can’t believe what a difference 2 days at the “Race Camp” made.

Starting out as a gymnast from age 4-13, I new I would always compete in some sort of sport. Volleyball, cross country, track and softball; that was my life until a softball injury caused my ACL to rip in half. Of course, trying to prove to Dr. Ellison in Key Largo that I knew best, I started competing in Triathalons. That was in 1999, now once again I am training for the Key West Mini-Tri in March and thought I might need some help. Read more

Straight from a Sprinter’s Mouth

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The last time I swam the 500 free I was a sophomore in high school. That was like 15 years ago! And this is a true story. The last mile I swam, during that same year, I was pulled out of the water half way through the race in the middle of a flip turn, by my feet, by my coach at the time, the man that made me hate distance swimming forever, Pierre Lafontaine, for swimming it too slow.

Did that help my fifty free? No. I would have quit if Pierre didn’t quit that same year and go back to Canada. I will note that my personal goal in swimming at that time was to outlast Pierre. The yardage that I did when I was 16 made me decide that I hated swimming. I was wrong, I didn’t hate swimming. I hated doing something that I was never built to do, that I was never going to be good at. It took the time after Pierre left to figure out that I didn’t hate swimming, I actually liked it. I hated swimming for Pierre. Read more

All the Way to 2006!

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It’s been a long time since I last wrote a diary entry. When I first started to write about what happened with me and my swim on the Short Course National last December I was always getting so badly excited in front of my notebook that I stopped only thinking about it. The only thing a wanted was to forget about it and never talk about this experience anymore.

I needed to get some distance before I was able to write something that can be published on the Race Club website. And that’s the reason why it took me so long to share with you what I think all of you have a right to know. It just wouldn’t be fair to write such positive things about the Race Club and their training methods. I was asking myself how I would feel if someone was saying to me that they went through the best training program on earth and didn’t beat anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Now laying on the couch in the Race Club house and seeing the sun for the first time again after a long period of cold and grey weather in Switzerland, I think I found a way to finish what once started with so much anger. Read more

The Art of Taper



The taper is more of an art than a science. It is impossible to have a formula that works for everyone. There are many factors that need to be taken into account including age, training history, sex, muscle mass, and race distance.

AGE and MUSCLE MASS: Older athletes tend to have more muscle mass, this comes with maturity. More muscle needs more rest.

TRAINING HISTORY: If you have trained 20 thousand meters a day, six days a week, for the last 11 months your taper can last longer than the swimmer that has gone 5 thousand a day, 5 days a week for the last 3 months.

SEX: I am not a sexist. Females GENERALLY need less taper.

DISTANCE: Obviously swimming the mile does require more aerobic capacity and a long taper will rest the muscles but cut into that aerobic base. Read more

Exclusive Age Group Swimming

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Happy New Year!

I used to swim for Eddie Reese. He used the quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” That is true.

The problem with doing 9 to 10 thousand meters a practice is that it is nearly impossible to hold a perfect stroke through that distance. Things get sloppy with fatigue; look at some of those flip turns out there, and they don’t change to perfect for the big race. Watch the starts of the 1500 guys at the Olympics, most of them are TERRIBLE. I think that it’s safe to say that for the most part the further the distance a swimmer claims as their event, the worse their stroke technique, start and flip turns are. They sacrifice this for more aerobic capacity. Read more