Nothing wakes you up like a 5 a.m. dip in the pool

Before school -- and even before the sun comes up -- swimmers from Crimson Aquatics practice at Watertown Boys and Girls Club


Raider Times photo / Li Ping Titterington

The author competing for the Crimson Aquatics swim team during a meet at WPI.

Li Ping Titterington, Raider Times staff

How it all starts; beep, beep, beep my alarm goes off and reads 4:15 am. The struggle of getting out of my warm and cozy bed is the worst of it. The change into my bathing suit means I officially have to really get ready for the day.

The walk to my driveway is in pitch black and it feels like no one in the world is up except for my mom and I. My swim club, Crimson Aquatics, has its morning practices at Watertown Boys and Girls Club. During the drive to the pool, even though it’s only four minutes long, I am surprisingly able to still use that time to the best of my ability and take a nap.

As I walk into the the Boys and Girls Club, I see my coach and my mind immediately knows it’s time to work hard. The first dive into the pool feels like the water is below freezing and we are swimming for our lives in the Atlantic Ocean. When coach tells us the workout for the day, the only thing going through my mind is “How is it only 5 a.m.?”

The pool inside the Watertown Boys and Girls Club is busy at 5 a.m. with practice going on for the Crimson Aquatics swim team.
Raider Times photo / Li Ping Titterington
The pool inside the Watertown Boys and Girls Club is busy at 5 a.m. with practice going on for the Crimson Aquatics swim team.

Crimson Aquatics is a USA Swimming club that I’m fortunate to be on. USA Swimming is made up of swim teams from all over the United States. Crimson gets its name from Harvard University. The team swam at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool in 2010.

From September until early March is the short-course season in swimming, meaning the meets are held in pools that are 25 yards long. During short-course season, one of the pools Crimson Aquatics uses is the Watertown Boys and Girls Club. The long-course season goes from late March until Aug. 1 with meets in 50-meter Olympic-size pools. During the long-course season, we have the opportunity to practice at MIT’s Zesiger Pool.

Crimson is made up of boys and girls from age 5 to 18. My training group, Senior 2, is with kids 14-18 years old and practices six times a week. This going to be my third season.

Our motto this year is “1 percent”. The hope is that everyone is going to get better even by 1 percent every practice, every meet, and every workout. It is home to a former Olympian, Alex Meyers, and multiple Junior National team members. Plus, one of my coaches, Adriana Marmolejo Schack, was a three-time Olympian (2000, 2004, and 2008) for Mexico. 

It’s hard waking up really early every morning. It also interferes with my social life. But it’s totally worth it.”


Many swimmers on Crimson are off competing with their high school teams now, but since Watertown High School doesn’t have a team I swim for Crimson all year long. We have morning practices because our coaches hope that kids will go to both Crimson and high schools practices.

Since many students are just doing their high school team right now, practices are very quiet. But once they come back that will change drastically.

And going to early-morning practices is not for everyone.

”It’s hard waking up at 5 a.m. because during the night you have to stay up late and do homework,” said Mary Kilcoyne, who goes to Belmont High. “I stay motivated by talking to my peers and thinking about what I want now versus what I want later.”

There are pros and cons to being on a club swim team.

“There are great people and the coaches are motivating. The practices are really hard but can be fun,” Mary said. “It’s hard waking up really early every morning. It also interferes with my social life. But it’s totally worth it.”

The 5 a.m. practices every weekday are tough. But our coaches are motivating, plus my teammates. When one person is completely crushing the set, it makes me want to work hard and do just as well. During meets, the idea of beating past times is always my priority and training hard at practices is how I can do so.

The biggest benefits of being on such an intense swim team are definitely having the opportunity to train with so many amazing swimmers, and making so many friends. Practices are every day (and sometimes twice a day), so we are constantly surrounded by each other.

The downside for me is the amount of time it takes out of my social life. After school I’m so tired and just want to nap, but there’s homework and sometime a second practice at night. I ask myself multiple times a day how I’m awake and functioning properly.

–Oct. 6, 2016–