From Switzerland to Islamorada

This entry is part 1 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

Last summer after graduating from my 4 years’ studies in Trade and Commerce, I decided to make my dream 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 fund 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 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!

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Speedo Swim Miami 2005

This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

Already on my first weekend down in Islamorada with The Race Club, after a 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 Irvin.

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 Swimming as early in the morning as 9.00 a.m., the race started with an impressing 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 loosing too much energies already at the beginning (take it as a short warm-up).

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My time with Anthony

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

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 21,98s!

And exactly with this Anthony Ervin 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 generally imagine thinking of an Olympic gold medalist, 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 saw.

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My first week with Michelle

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

When Anthony left Islamorada, I moved to the Race Club house. As Gary left the house for a trip to the Bahamas with his grand-father and Bebe left for spending 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.

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Our swim with the Dolphins

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

There’s one thing, both of us (Michelle and I) always wanted to do. Swimming with dolphins. So we started to check the facilities we have 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.

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Fishing with Mangrove Mike’s

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

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) use 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 almost every morning after our morning session, we are 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.

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Welcome to the Evacuation Capital of the World

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

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

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

The first, named Kathrina, went through the Florida Keys in 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 ok. It started raining a bit, but none of us thought about something like a hurricane.

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Me and the Islamorada District Sheriff

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

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’m not longer a stranger for 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.

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Islamorada with Michelle Engelsman

This entry is part 9 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

Not a long time ago I was sitting on the coach and Michelle came through the door. And during these 3 weeks Michelle spent here in Islamorada, things were getting started

If you have followed my diary entries so far, you already know a lot of the 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’s, going out with the boats 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!

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Thank you TRC for pimpin’ my swim

This entry is part 10 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

My time here in Islamorada is almost over. At the time I am writing this diary entry, there are only a few more days left and then I have to go back to Switzerland (in the winter!). I feel very much “at home” here and I know I will miss everybody and everything!

But before I leave, I want to tell you what’s about The Race Club and how it makes me feel. I found a good example to explain what exactly is going on when you may once be in Islamorada as part of one of the Fantasy Camps. You may or you may not know the TV-Show Pimp My Ride. So let me give you a short introduction to this TV-show.

Pimp My Ride is a TV-show originally shown on MTV. The concept is simple — they take a car which is old, thought to be unfashionable, falling apart, or some combination thereof and WWC (West Coast Custom) “pimp” it.

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