Throwback Thursday: Those Miserable Training Trips

As members of the WVU swim team, we would sacrifice our Christmas vacation to go on a 2-week training trip someplace on the globe that was warm and sunny. During my years in college, that included St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Those trips were like “boot camps for swimmers,” with every day featuring triple sessions. The first session was an early morning swim practice lasting two hours. The second involved weight training, calisthenics, plyometrics, and/or runs on the beach for about 90 minutes. The third was an evening swim practice lasting two more hours. 

On Christmas Day they lightened up on us, mandating just one two-hour practice in the morning; then they gave us the rest of the day off. (Thanks for that.) I remember how dreadful and depressing it was to have to practice on Christmas morning!

Below are some snaps from the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center. Once a week all the teams who had gathered to train swarmed the pool for what they called “Fifty 50s.” It was only a 2500m parctice, but the lanes were crowded, and there wasn’t much time between sprints. Finding a place to dive safely was a challenge. The whole thing was exhausting and annoying, even for this sprinter.

Between sessions we hit the beach or went out on the town, and after the 14 days of agony, we enjoyed a trip to Disney World. The rest of the time we ate or slept.

The dreaded Fifty 50s practice session. That’s me under the red arrow looking for a safe place to dive for the next interval.
C’est moi in the lower left getting ready for another workout. I have no idea why I’m smirking.
The International Hall of Fame Aquatic Center in Fort Lauderdale, a place of memories and miseries for NCAA Division-1 athletes.

Throwback Thursday: My Earliest Pictures

My apologies for the fading, but these photos go all the way back. They are, in fact, the first pictures ever taken of me as a newly minted Valentino. I’m not aware of any photos that were taken prior to #1 and #2 below.

1. This picture is the first day in my new home. I was thirteen months old at the time, and fresh out of foster care. The blond curls have since given way to brown waves.

2. Jumping on the bed is a skill every little boy should master. Apparently I’m not too upset here that my new parents were acquiring photographic evidence of my crime. Maybe I’m accusing them of fake news.

3. Eight months later I had my first Christmas in the Valentino home. I adored my Nana (mom’s mom), who lived just four houses down the street from us. That allowed for many visits and lots of love shared between us.

4. I’m shown here with my older brother, Bob, who passed away far too young in 2004. Note the aluminum Christmas tree and color wheel in the background that I’ve written about recently on TNL. I seem more eager to open gifts than my brother.

Throwback Thursday: The Water Polo Kid

I once told a student that most high schools don’t offer water polo as a sport because it’s too hard to get the horses out of the pool. When she said, “Really?” I replied, “Yes, and did you know the word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?” She wasn’t too happy with me.

Her confusion was understandable, though, as water polo is largely unknown, despite the fact that it’s an Olympic sport. I can tell you firsthand, it’s exhausting. Players are constantly in motion, and you’re not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool, even if it’s shallow enough to do so. Fatigue sets in quickly. That’s why substitutions are made throughout the game, much like the line changes in hockey.

It’s a brutal sport, too. A lot happens under the water that the refs never see. That’s why you’re required to wear two swim suits and trim your nails for inspection before every match. It can get rough out there. I once took a shot during a co-ed league game and broke a girl’s nose doing it.

That’s not happening in the picture below. I’m only in 7th grade there and hadn’t hit my growth spurt yet. I wasn’t able to break anything with those arms, let alone somebody’s nose! Water polo was a great run-up to the swim season, so it helped keep us in shape. 

Throwback Thursday: Is That Really Me? (Part 4)

All are invited to have a chuckle at my expense (for the fourth week in a row). This shot is from my sophomore year at West Virginia University. At a meet in Ohio at the end of the season, I swam 51 yards in a 50-yard race. Actually, I lunged at the wall as we always do to finish off a sprint, and I hyperextended my right arm. The timers had to pull me out of the water because I couldn’t get out myself. It was a little bit of embarrassment on top of a whole lot of pain. 

Fortunately, we were close to the Cleveland Clinic, which had a top-tier sports health center for which they were well known. They casted me up quickly, gave me some good pain meds, and minimized any damage to the ulnar nerve. My arm was numb, and I was out of commission for a few weeks. So much for swimming not being a contact sport.

Throwback Thursday: Is That Really Me? (Part 3)

All are invited to have a chuckle at my expense (for the third week in a row). This is my freshman year as a Reading High Red Knight, making me 14 or 15 years old at the time. Notice I’m breathing to the left in the top picture. In the bottom picture I’m just catching my breath after the race. I’m loving those twig-size arms. And the bug-eyed goggles. 🙂