Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Islamorada with Michelle Engelsman

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Not a long time ago I was sitting on the couch and Michelle came through the door. During the 3 weeks Michelle spent here in Islamorada, things really got started!

If you have followed my diary entries so far, you already know a lot of things Michelle and I were doing together here in Islamorada. But yes, it was all about fun. Swimming with the dolphins, fishing with Mangrove Mike, going out on the boat to snorkel or watch the sunset. But that’s only one side of our Race Club life; don’t think that all days had been relaxed like these. We also did a lot of serious work!

So let me take you through a “typical” workout day. All started at 9 a.m. at the pool with the morning water session. This first workout took about 1.5 hours. And after this, there were several ways to continue our day. Depending on what we planned to do in the afternoon, the morning session was followed by core work (abs and stuff like this and boxing) or we went straight ahead to the next step which was breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s (also very important!). Our “business as usual” breakfast was chocolate chip pancakes for Michelle and the country wrap with grits for me. Read more


The Islamorada District Sheriff and Me

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I really never thought that something like this would happen to me. But life goes its own way and it happened. Since last week, I am no longer a stranger to the Islamorada District Sheriff!

I already told you that I went out with the Jeep to get familiar with the Keys environment, and this time I got familiar with the American law. So let me start with a short lesson in American law.

Florida Statutes
STATE UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL (Chapter 316)

316.126 Operation of vehicles and actions of pedestrians on approach of authorized emergency vehicle. Read more


Welcome to the Evacuation Capital of the World

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When I decided to come to Islamorada, the only thing my mom told me was that at this time of year, Florida was having hurricane season.

I had never really thought about something like that and had never really been scared of it. I didn’t even think about what it would be like going through one of those tropical storms or hurricanes. But I did it twice, and everybody has told me that this is a great story. So I want to tell you the stories about these two hurricanes (storms).

The first, named Katrina, went through the Florida Keys during the night. This was after my first week, when I lived with Anthony in the house near the canal to the sea. We didn’t even know that a hurricane was announced to hit the Keys. The day before the weather was still great (sunshine all over). And even in the evening the weather was okay. It started raining a bit, but none of us even thought about something like a hurricane. Read more


Fishing with Mangrove Mike

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Several things need to be explained so that you can follow this little “adventure.” Let me start with Mangrove Mike’s. This is a restaurant in Islamorada where Michelle and I (and most swimmers from The Race Club) used to have a good breakfast after the morning session. And as the name tells it, Mike is the owner of this restaurant.

So one morning, like any other morning after our morning session, we were having our breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s sitting at a table near the wall. And on this wall, like on most walls in Mangrove Mike’s restaurant, you can see pictures of Mike and his friends and their catches from the fishing trips.

Michelle was looking at these pictures and told me that her goal was to be on that wall with a big catch in her hands. With that new goal in her head, she asked Mike if it might be possible for us to join him on one of his fishing trips. As he loved the idea of seeing us two fishing, we set up an appointment for the next day at midday. Read more


Swimming with the Dolphins

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There’s one thing, both of us (Michelle and I) always wanted to do, and that was to swim with dolphins. So we started to check the facilities that are available in the Keys. After checking all possibilities, we decided to go to Dolphins Plus to have our swim.

Located on the ocean side of Key Largo, Florida, DOLPHINS PLUS, INC. operates a marine mammal facility involved in environmental education programs, in-water therapy with handicapped, and the study of inter-species interaction between dolphins and humans. Dolphins Plus is a member of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network. It works closely with organizations such as the Marine Mammal Rescue Foundation, Inc. and the in-water therapy programs offered by ISLAND DOLPHIN CARE.

DOLPHINS PLUS offers a STRUCTURED swim program and a NATURAL swim program. The programs are designed for those interested in learning more about dolphins and their environment and will provide a total role reversal experience with the human, entering the dolphin world as a swimmer or a snorkeler. Read more


Swimmers for Life

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You could almost hear the hearts pounding inside the nervous lean bodies of the six swimmers preparing themselves on the starting blocks for the finals of the 200-yard breastroke. After the starter had blown the whistle signaling for the start, it was that quiet. Most of the eyes of the 2500 spectators inside the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale University on this evening just before 9 pm in the Spring of 1946 were focused on the odds on favorite, Jimmy Counsilman, the fastest qualifier in lane 3 from Ohio State. Most thought that it was Counsilman who had the best shot of breaking Joe Verdeur’s world record of 2:21.0. But even with the meet in the bag for Ohio State, there was so much tension; the spectators, perched in the highest seats five stories directly above, perspiring from the humidity, looking down on a swimming pool that appeared to be no larger than a small tank to a circus diver, could feel it. Read more


My First Week with Michelle

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When Anthony left Islamorada, I moved to the Race Club house. As Gary left the house for a trip to the Bahamas with his grandfather and Bebe left to spend some time in San Diego, I was home alone.

This first day alone, I tried to get more familiar with the place where I spend my time. I went out with the Jeep to explore a bit of the Keys. When I came back in the early evening, I was still alone at the Race Club house. But not for long. Only a few minutes after I found a comfortable position on the couch and a good movie on TV, Michelle Engelsman came through the door.

She came in, placed her stuff in the house and then cooked pasta for dinner for the two of us! Thus, we ate, got to know some things about each other and then went to bed so we would be ready for the workout in the morning. Read more


Islamorada with Anthony Ervin

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Do you remember the Olympic Games 2000 in Sydney? Well, I do. I remember a great and thrilling 50m freestyle race won by two American guys, Gary Hall, Jr. and Anthony Ervin, both in 21.98 seconds!

And exactly with this Anthony Ervin and I spent my first 2 weeks down in Islamorada. Let me try to be honest with you. When I first saw Anthony, I thought something like “Wow, this is him? This guy won the Olympic Games!?!”

I mean I don’t remember how Anthony looked in 2000. I just remember that I saw a great race on television. But it is like it is. Time changes and people do, too. Even when Anthony may, at first sight, not look like what you would generally imagine an Olympic gold medalist to look like, you can see when he’s swimming why this guy won gold. Looking at Anthony, it seems like the easiest thing to float on the water and swim with a long strong stroke through the pool. He’s for sure one of the most talented swimmers I ever seen. Read more


Speedo Swim Miami 2005

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Already on my first weekend down in Islamorada with the Race Club, after 4 weeks summer break (“tradition” in Switzerland after the Swiss National Championships held in July), and after only 3 easy workouts, I went to Miami for the Open Water Speedo Swim meet on Saturday, August 27, 2005, together with Anthony Ervin.

Anthony and I left our house in Islamorada the day before, as we both don’t like to get up early in the morning (meet started at 9:00 a.m.). So we drove down to Miami in the early evening of Friday, to spend the night at Gary’s house.

On Saturday, at exactly 9:00 a.m., without having done any warm-up and not really feeling ready to do this 1 mile open water swim as early in the morning as 9:00 a.m., the race started with an impressive number of participants. We had to swim one round of the circuit which had been set out. The first straight I just wanted to get out of the crowd without losing too much energy already at the beginning (take it as a short warm-up). Read more


From Switzerland to Islamorada

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Last summer after graduating from my 4 years of study in Trade and Commerce, I decided to make my dream come true and focus on swimming for at least one year. What I want to find out in this time is, if I can go further in swimming than “only” Swiss National Championships or if I just love this sport and have fun with a couple of workouts a week.

So I began to write Emails to leading swimming clubs all over Europe to find a place I could stay for a while in a professional surrounding with professional workouts. As a fan of Gary Hall Jr., the Race Club was always in my head and on top of my list, but everybody around me told me that I would never be accepted to stay over there. Encouraged by my former American coach, Chris Morgan, and because I always go my own way, I decided to try it anyway. And look where I am now!! Read more