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Old 01-23-2011
trekcenhoj trekcenhoj is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 5
Default My Maho Bay Open Water Experience


I just have to tell everyone about my open water swim at Maho Bay, St. John VI. It was the most gratifying seven days I can ever remember having! Why? It was the total experience. The coaches, the swim campers, the venue, TI Technique and oh yeah, I learned to swim!

I’ve always lived near water, grew up in Michigan and live near Oneida Lake north of Syracuse, NY now. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to swim freestyle. Swimming out to a buoy, an island, forget it. January 2010 I decided to do something about it. I signed up for my first triathlon and told everyone that I know about it. No backing out. Now I had to learn to swim. The local ‘Y’ was offering swim lessons for newbie’s. The coach says OK jump in and swim a lap, 50 meters. I made it about twelve and had to grab onto the side.

Lessons continued for the next six months and I practiced almost every day. After all the lessons, four coaches, several videos and all the practice I could still barely swim 50 meters. In June, two weeks before the Tri, I had come to the grim conclusion that I couldn’t do the swim. I was depressed. At the next lesson my coach told us to show up next time with a wetsuit. When I suited up and jumped in the water I couldn’t believe it. It felt like I was floating in outer space. For the first time I felt absolutely safe in the water.

My first tri was fantastic! I didn’t drown, but the swim took all the energy I had. I was 394th out of 400 for a half mile swim, but I did it. Ended up, 197th overall. Yahoo!

After the June Tri my priorities shifted away from swimming until November when I signed up for the TI Maho Bay Swim Camp. When I contacted TI, I explained that I swim like a cement block and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other ‘campers’. The kind voice at TI assured me it would be OK. He said the instruction would accommodate new as well as experienced swimmers.

I arrived at Maho on Saturday, 1/8/11, and the first swim was Sunday afternoon. There are about 30 of us on the beach. It turns out that about twenty or so of us are campers and the rest are from TI. That’s a nice ratio, two students per instructor. We all get swim caps with our names on them, students in green, instructors in pink caps. TI Coach, Celeste takes videos while each of us swims alongside Terry. After the swim we get to relax and have dinner and get acquainted. At 7:30 pm we meet at the ‘F Pavilion’ to view our videos, discuss open water swimming and have some fun.

For the next five days we generally swam twice a day for 1.5 to 2 hrs each. Based on the videos and our preference we joined one of three groups – one, two or three. I was put into group two, but decided that group one was for me. My group worked on technique in the morning doing drills, pretty much one on one with a coach and in the afternoon we did full stroke longer swims.

The typical day went something like this for me: breakfast (have to have coffee), hike down the ‘Goat Trail’ to the beach for the 9 am lesson, 10:50 head back to the camp and get in some recreation and lunch, ‘Goat Trail’ it back to the beach for a 2:30 swim, 4:00 R n R, 6:30 dinner with the gang, 7:30-8:30 group discussion at the F Pavilion. The actual scheduled was a bit more fluid, one evening we skipped the 7:30 discussion to go into Cruz Bay for dinner instead. On another day the afternoon swim was replaced with an hour or so hike to the ruins above Waterlemon Bay. Our group decided to meet at the beach and work on technique instead. It was very accommodating of TI coaches Helenita, Betsy and Shane to give us that one-on-one time.

The coaches seem to just love what they do. They just might like coaching better that swimming! Any of the TI coaches could easily spot an error in technique and explain it and then provide a solution to remedy it. Sometimes (OK, a lot of times) I would fall back to my old inefficient ways and I’ll be reminded of the correct technique. Lot of good feedback. All the coaches were on the same page. I never got a different story; it was always consistent among the coaches. One of my big frustrations with learning to swim is that EVERYONE has a different opinion on every aspect of swimming. After last year’s experience with four different coaches and as many techniques it’s nice to have TI to focus on.

Vacationers would often comment on how graceful the ‘swimmers’ looked. One even asked if we were training for the Olympics.

What a great group of folks to swim with. Campers hailed from at least a dozen states and three countries. Half a dozen of the swimmers had done the Alcatraz swim and two had completed the swim across the English Channel! Everyone there had a great story to tell. And here I am, swimming along with all these accomplished people.

Maho Bay Camps are basically canvas and screen covered 2 by 4 framed structures on a 20 x 20 foot wooden deck. The ‘tent’ is ‘L’ shaped, leaving one quadrant of the deck open or outside. It’s about as close to sleeping outside as you can get in a permanent structure. It had a nice Zen about it. There are also more elaborate accommodations for those that desire them. They had everything I needed right at the camp. I was quite satisfied with the food. The menu changed every day. Portions were large. They also have glass blowing (they recycle all bottles), pottery and art classes.

I migrated to the TI approach to swimming after watching a kazillion uTube videos, reading a dozen books and doing it all again and again. What I liked most was Terry’s description of perpetual swimming the idea that it shouldn’t take a lot of energy. The fact the he holds long distance swimming records. Here’s a guy that not only talks, he walks the walk. Errrrr, should I say he swims the swim. I’m also impressed that Terry continues to fine tune the technique, to go further, to go faster and to make it easier for me to learn.

OK, so you’re probably wondering how I did. Well I thought I’d be at this point in the second paragraph. Guess I got a little carried away, here goes.

I think it was Tuesday around lunch time I was considering throwing in the towel. As mentioned, I started swimming again in November and had gotten to the point where I could swim a few hundred yards. Not pretty, not fast. Now I’m here at Maho and I’m trying to unlearn all that old stuff and replace it with the new. The drills are going great, but I’m not integrating them well into full stroke. Although every once in a while it clicked, it felt like I’d shifted out of first and into second gear. When it happened it was fantastic. Then I’d go into the next swim lesson all upbeat, but I’d lost it, stuck in first gear. I couldn’t get the feeling, couldn’t shift into second. Bummer.

TI Coaches to the rescue. They don’t let repeat mistakes for long. Coach Helenita had me do a set of drills moving from one to another only after it felt second nature. Probably no more than ten minutes each. Next thing I know I’m covering the same distance in three strokes as I was twenty minutes before when it took seven. An ‘aha’ moment.

Wednesday afternoon we swam about a half mile and Thursday about a mile and Friday two miles. We did regroup and rest at some of the buoys though. On Saturday our last official swim we did a continuous swim, maybe a half mile and I turned on the gas a bit. It was wonderful. I may have gotten into third gear once or twice. Huffing and puffing - gone.

On Sunday my last full day on St. John (most of the other campers had left) I took the hike to Waterlemon Bay to see the ruins. From these ruins the panoramic view is absolutely breathtaking. I’m guessing the ruins are at least a thousand feet above the bay. After scanning the horizon I looked down and saw a key off the shore below. I could see a group of four of five people swimming out to it. I just had to do it. It was calling me.

When I got down to the shore I realized that the people heading to the island all had on fins and snorkels. All I had was TI. It was my best swim ever!!

Thanks TI.

Happy Laps,
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Old 01-23-2011
naj naj is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 624

Congratulations John and thanks for the write up. I have been studying Ti for over two years and I was where you were when i started. No idea how to swim and was frustrated by the coaching i had received before TI. I normally swim open water and envy you for having so many well seasoned coaches to bounce things off of

Lately I have been really concentrating on TI being a moving meditation. This concept was shared with me by Terry and Dave Barra ( a recent Channel success story and TI coach). My goal is to do away with struggle and make each and every stroke a pleasure even when I'm to my limit physically.

Again, congratulations on doing so well in Maho Bay and I wish you well on your - hopefully - life long journey with TI!

keep Swimming!
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Old 01-24-2011
westyswoods westyswoods is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Rio, Wisconsin
Posts: 564
Default Nice John

John thanks for the Mahoe write up. To all who read John's words, having also participated in the camp, they are an accurate a portrayal of the week as one could write. My experience was as rewarding as John. To all who are interested, the video captured during the longer swims is edited and will be posted shortly. For those who may be thinking of attending this camp, it is worth viewing. Sorry but no video of the long 8k swim.

I am not sure what format it will be posted in yet, any suggestions will be appreciated. Come back to this site within 24 hrs to get a link.

Thanks To All who participated
Swim Silent and Be Well
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Old 01-24-2011
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default John's Maho Memoir - and his swim to Waterlemon Cay

Thanks so much for sharing such a vivid recollection of our recent week at Maho. I read it with a big smile and a warm heart (in the midst of arctic chill that I know you're experiencing in Zero-cuse too).

My favorite part was the one I didn't witness - your hike to the ruins above Waterlemon Bay, looking down from there to see tiny figures far below, making their way out to Waterlemon Cay in the turquoise waters of the bay. I can so vividly picture that scene.

Is it not almost immeasurably cool to be able to look out at a 'desert island' -- then swim to it? Speaking personally, I can't think of any swimming experience more memorable than swimming from one land mass to another?

PS: Also read about the engineering insights John shared with me on Perpetual Motion Freestyle technique. The most exciting insights into technique I've gained in years. Find them here on the Freestyle conference.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 01-24-2011 at 05:04 PM.
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