Jan. 8, 2013
January 7, 2012
We're in Hawaii to train, and of course to catch some rays, but did you know that the Minnesota swim team is also engaging in some infrastructure-building projects? If you answered no, then you are just as woefully uninformed as I was before yesterday's public utility beach construction project.
The adventure started when I woke up from a nap on the beach to find my beach mat wet, courtesy of an unrestrained flow of water from the public showers, down the sandy beach, and directly into the official University of Minnesota tanning area. Not wanting to allow the water to take over our precious oceanside real estate, we did the only sensible thing for a bunch of mature, 20-something college men: we made a sand canal. And an artificial reservoir at the end of it. And possibly a couple of islands in the middle of the river that were suitable for sand-dwellings, castles, even, if we so chose. I can pretty confidently say that we were the only speedo-clad adult males on the beach making sand sculptures. We were quite the sight.
Head engineers Brandon Hatanaka, Sean Nesheim, and myself realized that our activities were a bit childish about the time that 5 or 6 little kids joined our digging (we decided to consider them "unpaid interns" to make us feel better), but by then we were far too invested to quit. And the kids turned out to be great workers, and though they asked a lot of questions, many of them were pretty thought-provoking. One of the first to be raised: Why are your swim suits so small? I actually had some trouble answering that one.
After all the construction was complete and we said goodbye to our helpful interns (offering to write glowing letters of recommendation anytime they needed) and their laughing parents, it was time to take our sunburned selves back to the condo. On the way, Sean, Haley Spencer and I stopped for one of the three main delicacies everyone visiting Hawaii needs to try. It's called a Shave Ice, and it's like a sno-cone, but better. The ice is shaved off of a giant block, then packed tightly together into a thick mountain, with your choice of tons of tropical flavors to put on top. And a Shave Ice just isn't the same without the extras - a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom and sweet condensed milk poured over the top. On a warm Hawaii day, there's really nothing better to cool you down and satisfy your sweet tooth.
While we were doing manual labor at the beach, another group of gophers was hiking to a waterfall for some swimming and cliff jumping, followed by some beach time and a stop at a roadside stand for coconuts. Others caught some sun on the roof of our apartment building. And at night, a small group of us who have been getting together for a Bible study throughout the semester reconnected for another meeting in a beautiful environment.
In other exciting news, this is shaping up to be perhaps the toughest week of training any of us can remember. For the mid-D group, we've got a trifecta of tough sets coming up. Today we did the Fishburn set (CJ Smith completed the fastest interval I've ever seen anyone swim on Fishburn, and Alex Cisneros also had a great set). Tomorrow is the annual Erik Vendt set, which is a 500 free followed by a 400 IM, five times through. It's a mentally grueling set, but one that usually leads to some impressive performances (and some memorable trainwrecks, too). Finally, Wednesday we've heard rumors of a challenging quality set we took on earlier this year with limited success. We'll hope to be more prepared the second time around. The mid-sprint group started the week off right with a 3-hour practice on Sunday featuring a set of 175s all out from the blocks. I remember the set well from my days as a mid-sprinter, and can honestly say I don't miss it one bit. Coach Purdy's group descended a bunch of 1650s this morning, which I know they all enjoyed. And our divers, making the trip to Hawaii with us for the first time, have been braving the 30 mph winds as they dive from the 10-meter tower.
Outside the pool, the team has been up to its usual tricks. Yesterday I ran into Hrvoje Capan and Jimmy Rafter taking glamour shots of themselves flexing on the beach. Vince Radecke, Alex Cisneros, and Garin Marlow have all survived man o'war jellyfish attacks. Every few days I get an update from Ben Bravence on the status of his prized pokemon - a Charizard (nicknamed after Hrvoje Capan) that he started training in the airport on the way here. Currently "H" the Charizard is somewhere around level 70, which is quite a bit higher than the real-life Hrvoje is, I'm guessing.
We realized in the van this morning that we're not even halfway done with our time in Hawaii, which feels awesome. Actually, I think that fact came out when one of the women swimmers wondered aloud how much longer she had to survive van rides with a rambunctious Josh Hall, but most of us took it as a positive - plenty more time to tan, plenty more trips to the beach, and most importantly, plenty more days of freedom before we have to hit the books for classes again. We know there's a lot more tough training to be done here, but as difficult as that can be, it's also exciting. We are absolutely ready for the weeks to come!