A Day with the Master

Emily Kunze, Antonio Argüelles, Susan Moody, Mauricio Prieto

This weekend we had a very special guest at our house in Sitges.  I’ll give you a hint: he’s one of the few people in the world to have completed the Triple Crown. If you’re wondering what that is, it’s membership comprises an elite few of marathon swimmers who have managed to compete the following insane swims: The English Channel (33.7 Km), The Catalina Channel in Southern California (33.7 Km) and The Swim around Manhattan Island (45.8K).  Oh, and I should add, he’s one of only two swimmers in history who’s ever done the Triple Crown twice!  Antonio Arguelles, the Mexican madman who we interviewed earlier this year. It’s really hard for me to imagine doing any single one of them–once!

Over an incredible paella in the Mediterranean sun, we got to sit down and explore our worlds of training.  Here are my conclusions:

We gotta gain more weight

Antonio did a once-over of Emily and me and pronounced (with some noticeable distain at what he saw before him): “Parecen un poco flacas para ser nadadoras de aguas abiertas”. You both look a little scrawny to be open water swimmers. And then added: “Tu no ves lobos marinos y focas anorexicas”. You don’t see anorexic sea lion or seals.  Ok, good point.  Mauricio seems to be ok though.

We’re total wimps

When talking about our training for Gibraltar, his perspective is that we are sufficiently trained and it won’t be that hard for us.   He asked our times in the pool and nodded appreciatively.  He said: “Bueno, 4.5 horas no es mucho.” Then he found out we are wearing wetsuits and he laughed and said: “No hay peor cosa que el wetsuit.” There’s nothing worse than a wetsuit. I really need a wetsuit so I don’t die of hypothermia, so I asked him about his definition of cold and he said: “La definicion de frio para un nadador de aguas abiertas serio es abajo de 16.” The definition of cold water for an open water swimmer begins at 16 degrees.  Ok, I can tell you that it would be close to impossible for me to swim in 16 degree water for many hours without a wetsuit.  Later when Emily and I said that maybe we’d consider swimming around Manhattan, but in a relay he said: “Despues del wetsuit, la peor cosa son los relevos.” After wetsuits, relays are the worst.  I guess everything is relative to who you’re talking to, right?

We haven’t practiced certain things I didn’t know about

Like vomiting in the water.  At one point in our lunch, Antonio turned to me and asked point blank: “Have you practiced vomiting in the water yet?”  I practically spit out my food while shaking my head no.  Then he said: “Teneis que aprender vomitar en el agua.” You have to learn how to vomit in the water. In all seriousness, he told us a tragic story about his friend who, while attempting to cross the English Channel, died because she choked on her own vomit.  He describes this horrible moment in his book,  “A Cada Brazada: el Azul Interminable“.

We also haven’t practiced enough eating quickly in the water.  He described a way that you turn on your back and while swimming backstroke you eat.   Emily and I have decided to turn our 10K Mondays at the tennis club into 10k pratices where we’ll try to eat while swimming backstroke. I can only imagine how bizarre we’re going to appear to the folks there.

The good news is that we don’t have to give up our glass of wine or Gin & Tonics:

In college, when we were getting close to swimming against our arch-rival, Harvard, we’d “go dry”, meaning we’d stop drinking for a couple of months before.  I love nice wine– hey, I live in Spain! And Emily and Mauricio are obsessed with the perfect Gin and Tonic.  Yet, I had planned on going “essentially” dry from April 6th till G Day- July 6th, three months out.  So I could remain somewhat social, I thought I’d allow myself some wine one night a week. According to Antonio, this is a mistake.  He told me that if I do that, I’d lose weight, which would be terrible because I’d get cold.  He recommended the following:  no alcohol the night before the race.  I’m not sure what I’ll do–what do you think?

It was an awesome day- surrounded by greatness that is rare to come by.  And– he brought us Swim4Good caps! Aren’t they good lookin’?  Antonio is a huge fan of getting more books into kids hands in the developing world and therefore is a fan of our cause….. Thank you Antonio for your leadership, insane level of sportmanship, advice, and for the caps!


Categories: Open Water, Training, Worldreader


7 replies

  1. Cool! Though US swimmer Tina Neill has also done the Triple Crown twice. She’s pretty low key and quiet, she won the marathonswimmers.org inaugural Female Swim of the year Award. I completely agree with Antonio about the importance of developing the ability to vomit while swimming btw.

  2. Susan…I read the piece as I was waiting for my plane to leave Madrid…I laughed so hard people thought I was crazy…abrazos

    Donald…thanks for pointing out the mistake, I have written Steven Munatones to mentioned the omission and in the process read about Tina. You are right, she is a very accomplished swimmer…saludos

  3. Your experiences and comments are so funny!!!

    I can’t imagine the “dry period” while in college…

    You are already famous for your 10k practice at the tennis club!!! lol… my aunt came last week and told me “Miki, hay dos chicas americanas que nadan en el tenis como bestias”

    Mauricio, is the jeep getting closer to the ferraris?

    Love the caps!

  4. Mauricio!!!

    I’m pretty sure that with your constancy and perseverance, you will make it without any problem!!!!

    Tomorrow in Marnaton a 40x100m training is waiting for us at 7.15 am… I will probably die!lol

    Sooz, my aunt is Mercedes (Meme) Orfila, Jose Maria Gay’s wife. But I have heard about your trainings from several people! Rosana’s cousins and aunts, and Carlon Galofre, who is also “dreaming” with the Strait. I think that all the tennis club members know about the american girls that will swim across the Strait of Gibraltar.

    Thanks for the cap!

    Hope to see you before June 1st in “La travesia de la Luna”

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