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by Jim Harmon

March 19, 2001

Back in the swim after ocean lifeguarding

AGE-GROUP EXPERIENCE: By age seven, Tracie Moll was a regular with the Cape Cod Swim Club in Bourne, Mass. A national caliber prospect in her early teens, she went south to train at Winter Park (Florida) High School. She competed in her first Senior Nationals at 15—swimming the 100-meter butterfly in 1:06—but lost her enthusiasm to homesickness. "I missed my family," recalls Moll, who left Winter Park after her junior year and went home to Malden, Mass., where her father was dutifully collecting her medals and trophies. "I said, 'Dad, get rid of all this stuff,'" Moll remembers.

COLLEGE CAREER: She trained half-heartedly on her own for a while before drifting away from the sport, skipping college, and eventually moving back to Florida—not for swimming but for lifeguarding. Since 1988, she has been a full-time ocean lifeguard in Fort Lauderdale.

POST-COLLEGE FITNESS ROUTINE: One of the annual rites of guard re-certification is a 225-yard swim for time. "The first few years I always cruised in at around 2:20, but the last few years it was closer to 2:40," Moll says. Faster swimmers began to get her attention, and then to get her goat. "I'd think, 'this guy's beating me? enough's enough.'"

BACK IN THE SWIM: The day after the participants in the College Swim Forum left the International Swimming Hall of Fame pool in January 1997, Moll jumped in and swam her first workout in 18 years. Then she joined the Fort Lauderdale Masters club, under the direction of Nobutaka Tan. "I started in the putt-putt lane, and all these guys kicked my ass," Moll says. "After that practice I said to myself, 'these people are not going to beat me again.'"

TRIALS SUCCESS: As her competitive instincts re-engaged, Moll made her intentions clear to Tan. "I told him I wasn't into socializing or swimming an hour every once in a while," she says. Last summer, after two and a half years of hard work, Moll swam the 50-meter free at the Masters Nationals in 26.66 seconds, which, she found out later, qualified her for Olympic trials. "I couldn't swim, I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything—I just jumped up and down," she recalls. "I wanted to try for the 100 fly, too, but Nobu said, 'Tracie, you're old. Stick with the 50.'"

How she trains her body

TRAINING REGIMEN: Moll swims only in the mornings, less than 5,000 yards a day (perhaps 7,000 or more in the offseason). Her relationship with Tan is partially framed by new challenges, which Moll seems to thrive on. When she asked Tan if he thought she could break 30 seconds in the 50-meter fly, he said probably not. She did it in her first attempt at the distance, going 29.07 in 1997 and breaking a Masters world record. (She's since improved to 28.77.) "I told him, 'don't ever tell me I can't do something,'" Moll says. Now 12 world records have her name on them in the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups. "I guess there was something buried inside me waiting to come out," Moll says. "People were saying, 'Who the hell are you? Where have you been?' I don't think Nobu was ready for me. I put 100 percent into everything: plyometrics, dryland, weight training, eating properly. I wanna go 25.2 (in the 50-meter free), so now he gives me a hard time: 'You need to be going faster than that if you wanna go 25.2'"

TECHNIQUE UPDATE: Since she's been back in the pool, Moll had had to relearn sprinter's freestyle. "I used to come up short on the follow-through and drop my shoulder and pull up my elbow," she explains. "I never learned to breath on both sides and my head used to be way too high—I even breathed too high."

WEIGHT TRAINING: Moll uses free weights and exercise machines, plus she does plyometrics and uses a medicine ball.

BIGGEST TRAINING CHANGE: Moll swims more consistently intense yardage than she did as a younger swimmer. "When I was a kid, if there were five 400s, we'd always save up for the last one," she says. "Nobu says, 'Tracie, I know you can go hard to the end.' So if we do, say, 25-50-75-100 x 4, he does not want me to do three OK and one really fast, but all four fast, all the same."

BIGGEST TECHNIQUE CHANGE: Head position in freestyle. "I have an old picture and a new picture of me swimming freestyle," explains Moll. "In the old one you can see my whole face as I'm taking a breath. I was a mess. But that was then."

BEST SET: 100 long-course 100-meter repeats on 1:30. A few days before New Year's Eve, Moll and six other swimmers did this special workout in honor of the millennium. When it was suggested by triathlete Gina Derks-Gardner, Moll thought she was crazy. "Nope, I'm not doin' it," she said. Coach Tan took Moll's reaction as a challenge. "We'll see who has the (guts) to show up," he told the group. That's all Moll needed to hear. "I thought, 'That's it.' If someone puts a challenge out there, I have to do it," she says. It was the longest set any of the swimmers had ever attempted. They started at 5:30 a.m., and Tan's only advice was to do as many 100s as they could, skipping one occasionally if they had to. If anyone had to go to the bathroom, they could take a break when they reached their age in 100s.

The swimmers averaged 1:20 to 1:25 most of the way. "At the halfway mark Nobu said, 'You need to start pickin' it up,'" Moll recalls. "I was thinking, 'pick it up? What are you, out of your mind? There are 50 more."

As they neared the end, visiting collegians and members of the Fort Lauderdale Swim Club joined in the counting: "Ten more to go!" Tan says, "Tracie got quieter, actually, but she managed to pick up the pace to between 1:10 and 1:15 for the last ten 100s.” Tan thinks the workout pushed Moll's competitive envelope, because Derks-Gardner was lurking behind her throughout the set. (Moll didn't let Derks-Gardner beat her on a single 100.) "Tracie needs to be pushed," Tan says, "but at her level, it's hard to find a woman who can go side-by-side with her for that kind of set. She doesn't want to get beat by anybody—male of female, young or old. I think that workout really got her ready for the year."

How she trains her mind

MENTAL TACTICS: After she takes just a couple of days off, Moll needs to get back into the water. She wants to go to practice every day. "I belong here, and I deserve to be here," she says of her status of trials qualifier. Her thoughts on her younger competitors may seem arrogant but are logical. "I look at them and think, 'I have such a great advantage over you guys. I have so much more experience. You're just in the way of my accomplishing what I want to do.'"

COMPETITIVE URGE: "I may be even more competitive now (than when I was a kid)," states Moll. "My mother used to tell me I was too nice on the blocks. That has changed. Now I'm intense, focused. It's just me getting up on the block and looking at the other end of the pool. Talk to me afterward, when I'm sitting on the side." Moll is still hungry and fresh, she believes, because she never burned out the first time, never found out how fast she could go. "To do what I'm doing now, going as fast at my age—I had no clue that I could do this," she says, "Now I'm just trying to see where it can take me, where I could've gone years ago."

PERSPECTIVE: Moll thinks of her swimming as a pyramid. She was maybe three-quarters of the way up the pyramid as a teenager, but never got to the top. She has focused on a time of 25.2 for the 50-meter free at trials but says she'll be stoked at anything under 26 seconds. At the same time. she insists there's much less at stake now then there was when she swam as a teenager, "For the kids, this is the most important thing in their lives," she says. "Everything's riding on this one shot. For me, this is just a chapter in a book; I have another chapter to write after the trials. There are always more Masters meets."

by Jim Harmon, published in Fitness Swimmer Magazine, July-August, 2000


Tracie's bio from The Victor

Fort Lauderdale Beach Lifeguard Tracie Moll at age 36 has become one of Master swimming's most amazing swimmers. In 1997 after an 18 year layoff she joined the Fort Lauderdale Masters Swim Program under Head Coach Nobutaka Tan. In her very first Long Course Masters Nationals Tracie broke her first Masters world record. She has since qualified and competed in USA's Swimming Senior Nationals and the US Open—placing her not only with the elite Masters but with the best swimmers in the world in any age group!

While Tracie continues to excite the swimming world her career highlight so far has been qualifying for the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle with a blazing 26.66.

Tracie started when she was seven for the Cape Cod Swim Club and then joined the New England Barracudas. She finished her age group swimming chapter in Winter Park, Fla., with the Blue Dolphins, where she lived with several families in order to swim. Missing her family brought Tracie back to Cape Cod and out of the sport. She would not dive in and compete again for 18 years.

All this excitement brings lots of questions from other swimmers as to what makes Tracie a champion.

Behind her beautiful smile you will find the heart of a tiger, a mind that never quits, a very competitive personality, and the willingness to put in the hard work necessary to reach her goals. Under Coach Nobu's guidance Tracie swims five days a week from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. at the Fort Lauderdale Swimming Hall of Fame Pool. A very important part of her program is pre-workout stretching. She will stretch every morning using the Fraid-Not program developed by Tom Drum. A believer in cross training, and depending on what part of the season she is in, Tracie will incorporate into her training the following: weight training; swim bench; running on the beach; wind sprints; running stairs; and plyometrics, including the medicine ball. When she is close to a big meet Nobu has her in the water every day.

Because she eats almost every hour Tracie cannot classify her meals into breakfast, lunch and dinner. The first thing in the morning Tracie enjoys a glass of orange juice then right before workout the supplement "GU". During workout (AND all day long) Tracie drinks lots of water. After workout a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, cup of coffee and multivitamins including extra antioxidants. In addition the supplement Creatine is used. Other favorite foods include dry cereal, chicken or fish sandwich, black beans and rice or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lots of fruit, and for more protein a White Chocolate Mousse Pure Protein Bar. While she doesn't pig out often she does enjoy giving herself a treat and of course lots of chocolate cake on her birthday (one more reason to age up!).

On motivation Tracie notes that when she got back into the water it was to train hard, give it her all and push herself to her limits. After reaching the qualifying times for the Olympic Trials her next step is to continue training hard, and to continue to break world records. "In this sport you look forward to aging up!" Tracie adds:

" I am having fun and am enjoying this journey that has come my way. I am lucky to have a great job as a Fort Lauderdale Beach Lifeguard that gives me the benefits to do what I love—swimming, going to meets, meeting new people, and being involved with the greatest group of people in the world: United States Masters swimmers."