Open Water Swims

Be sure to join us for the next regularly coached swim workouts.

swim across america

Saturday September 3, 2016

7:oo am for advanced and intermediate swimmers
8:15 am or beginners
Lake Las Vegas

Swimming in the pool is COMPLETELY different from swimming in open water.  If you have a triathlon scheduled in your future I strongly recommend getting as much practice in the open water as possible.  I have done water support for many events and most of the people I have had to rescue reported that they either had not swam much in the open water or that they had not practiced in their wetsuit.  Another common problem is not practicing in race like conditions.  In other  words they had no idea how to overcome the anxiety that comes with swimming a group.  Our practices will take you through all the skills you need to be more confident in your open water swimming.

I work with athletes on relaxing their breathing.  Many actually hold their breathe while their face is in the water which spikes the heart rate sky high.  It would be hard for anyone to relax with that going on!  However, practice makes perfect.  Many triathletes do not swim straight.  Proper sighting can make all the difference and we work on the best techniques to allow you to stay on course.

I hope to see you at the next open water swim.

Drop In  Team XCELL

Drop In Guest

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One or Two Mile Open Water Swim

Join XCELL on Friday August 19, 2016 at the Village at Lake Las Vegas for a

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This is a timed open water swim.  One or two mile options available.  This will be an In – Water start.

The group will swim on a marked course with kayak support.

When: 6 PM start on Friday August 19, 2016

Please arrive by 5:45 pm

Where: The Village at Lake Las Vegas

Directions:   Once inside the resort take Strada di Villagio down to the water.  We are meeting on the dock.

Parking: Park in the garage and walk down to water front if parking lot by the village is full.

Bring: Remember your brightly colored swim cap, so I can see you; and your goggles.  I usually suggest bringing two pairs, just in case!  I can carry beverages or anything else you think you may need on one of the kayaks.  If you more comfortable wearing your own open water swim buoy please remember to bring it.  If you would like to purchase one click below:

Afterwards, we can hit one of the Village establishments for refreshments.

Big Swim – Team XCELL  Big Swim – Guest


Volunteers needed for timing and kayaking.  Please contact Jackie at jackie@xcellpg,com if you can help.  Thank you!

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Open Water Swim Groups

reflections bay 3              reflections bayreflectiosn bay 2

This year we have a new location, new times and more options to help you prepare for your best season yet. We are now operating out of beautiful Lake Las Vegas.

Every workout is organized and led by Jackie Arcana, certified US Masters coach and USAT level II coach.  Some of the Topics & Skills we’ll cover and practice:

  • Stroke technique tips for Open Water vs. Pool
  • Tips for practicing indoors
  • Sighting skills & technique
  • Equipment tips & tricks (wetsuits, goggles, etc.)
  • Drafting technique and practice
  • Starts
  • Turns & negotiating buoys
  • Exits
  • Racing strategies
  • Race specific training

Saturday September 24, 2016
Saturday October 15, 2016

7:00 am Advanced and Intermediate Swimmers

8:15 am Beginner Swim


Open Water Season Pass – Team XCELL ONLY

5 swims


Drop In Team XCELL

1 swim


Drop In (drop ins will not be available for sold out swims)


Should I come to the Beginner or Intermediate swim?  If you have never swam in open water before you should come to the beginner swim even if you are pretty good in the pool.  Most start with at least one Beginner open water swim.  If you have past open water swim experience including successful swim portions of triathlon races then you should be fine at the Intermediate group.


Contact Jackie for more info.

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Coach what do you mean by “dropped elbow”?

I tell athletes almost every swim practice to watch out for dropped elbow!  Keep the elbows up!  High elbows!  I overhear things like; What the heck is she talking about?  Most assume I am not talking to them despite my mentioning it while making direct eye contact every single practice.  At the US Masters swim certification class I recently attended the instructors said they had spent the last two months, with one more month to go, working solely on dropped elbows.  So to help explain this phenomenon I have turned to a very talented swim coach and writer who has actually already written on this. I doubt I can do better so let’s see what he has to say:

In Search of the Dreaded Dropped Elbow

by Coach Emmett Hines

Revised from an article which first appeared in the GMSC Newsletter in 1990.

If you have read much printed material about swimming technique, you probably have been inundated with endless information about what the hands and arms do during the propulsive stroke portion of the arm cycle. Most books about freestyle technique spend chapters breaking the underwater motion into several parts, talking about angles and vectors and S-shaped motions and on and on. Then they spend a paragraph or two on body position and maybe nothing on what your hips are doing all the while. And, in general, it is hard or impossible to put what they tell you into practice.

The fact of the matter is that how you take a stroke is not nearly as important as the positions you are in and what you do while you are not stroking. Read that last sentence again because it summarizes my whole take on technique.

However, some people just won’t be happy if I don’t address the topic of what the hand and arm does during the underwater part of the stroke. Here it is: Get the stroking forearm vertical as far out in front of you as possible and keep it vertical for as long as possible as the arm moves down the length of the body. This is referred to as swimming with a “high elbow.”

Stalking the critter

One of the most common problems swimmers have is The Dreaded Dropped Elbow. This insidious beast rears its ugly head during virtually every workout in every pool in every country in the world. The coaching fraternity, in an attempt to exorcise this demon, can be heard chanting the following litany in unison (sometimes with four-part harmony): “Frmum pskuhium hstrmvkus HIGH ELBOW mskbulum jqzlfgmn.” Every now and again, if the coach gets every word pronounced properly, at the correct cadence and while holding his tongue just so…. the exorcism “takes” and the bane retreats.

Lets see if we can shed some sunlight upon this vampire that sucks the lifeblood from the strokes of so many innocent swimmers.

Let me describe the beast. Stand up and bend over at the waist. Extend your right hand out in front of your face as if reaching to full extension on a freestyle stroke (Fig. A).

Now bend the elbow slightly while lifting and rotating the upper arm at the shoulder. Imagine a straight line drawn through space from the shoulder to the wrist. For lack of a better term let’s call this the “horizon” line (dotted line in Fig. B).

Note that the elbow is above the horizon line. Gaze upon the arm and note the relationship of elbow to horizon and also note what muscles you are using to get into and stay in this position (i.e. what does it look like & feel like). Now, still keeping the hand in the same position, lower the elbow below the horizon. Doesn’t this feel wimpy and pathetic compared to the previous position? Again, gaze upon the arm and note the relationship of elbow to horizon line.

EEEEEEK! – That’s the Dreaded Dropped Elbow! Quick! Kill it before it multiplies! Pick that elbow back up nice and high and see how the loathsome critter disappears into the nearest hole. Good work! That was a close call.

Killing the critter

OK. Now that we have seen the pesky varmint and have him cornered, lets think this through.

With your elbow held higher than the horizon, slowly move the arm through a simulated freestyle stroke. Concentrate on achieving the position shown below as you begin the stroke, keeping the elbow higher than the horizon (in the water this may feel somewhat like rolling your hand and arm over a barrel). As you move the arm through the stroke concentrate on keeping the elbow above the horizon as long as possible (Fig. D-1-3), then on keeping the forearm and hand as vertical as possible throughout the rest of the stroke (Fig. D-4-6).

Canines and incantations

Once you have mastered this with a “high” elbow try it again with a “low” or “dropped” elbow – just keep it below the horizon and make the same stroking motion. Hmmm – do the words “wimpy” and “pathetic” sound familiar? Can you say “dog paddle”? Seriously. Watch a dog swim. You will note that the greatest advantage we have over our furry friend is the fact that our shoulders allow our arms to move in more than one direction (but dogs get more benefit out of a full taper and shave – win a few, lose a few). With a “dropped” elbow, the stroke creates lots of turbulence and very little propulsion. Keeping the elbow “high” allows for accelerating hand speed without “slipping water”, thus allowing continuous acceleration of the body as well.

Perhaps the Dreaded Dropped Elbow is not to be feared after all. Perhaps it should be called The Pathetic Wimpy Dropped Elbow and should be pitied and scorned instead. Hmmm – just to be on the safe side, repeat after me, in unison – “Begone Ye Demon – I cast ye OUT! – Return from whence you came! – There’s no place like home… There’s no place like…..”.

In conclusion, it should be noted that neither the concept of avoiding the Dreaded Dropped Elbow, nor the propulsion potential of having the forearm and hand in the right orientation to the core body, is limited to freestyle. In fact, this concept is applied in nearly the same fashion to each of the other three competitive strokes.this, perhaps, is fodder for some future article. v

Copyright 1999–2009, H2Ouston Swims. All rights reserved.

Ok Coach, we understand what we are doing wrong.  Now how do I fix it?

 The correct catch and pull technique is beautifully described here by Smooth Swim:


hand entry

As your hand enters into the water, take care to make sure it does so finger-tips first, lengthening forward in front of the same shoulder with the middle finger pointing the way to the far end of the pool.

Avoid crossing over the centre line, this is critical to keeping a high elbow catch and pull through later on.


hand entry

As you reach forward with good body roll(roll being essential here), make sure you do so with the palm of the hand looking at the bottom of the pool, but with the finger tips angled slightly down.

This should be flexed from the wrist (not from the knuckles) we need to keep you palm flat and open, fingers closed loosely together.

Avoid “putting the brakes on” by dropping the wrist and pushing forward (you’d be surprised how many swimmers do this!)


hand entry

At full reach and without dropping your elbow, feel like you are tipping your finger-tips over the front of a barrel (again flexing at the wrist), which will start the catch.

At the same time start bending the elbow and pressing back on the water with the forearm in a near-vertical position.

This is what keeping your elbows high on the catch is all about.

A memorable way to think about this action whilst you are swimming is to visualise a smiley face drawn on the palm of your hand. As you start the catch, tip your finger tips down and show that smiley face on your palm to the wall you just left. This is like locking your hand in place, effectively feeling-the-water.

You will now be pressing the water back behind you rather than pushing it down.


hand entry

Concentrate your efforts on simply pressing water back behind you with the palm of your hand still looking back behind you.

Combined with good rotation, this pull through will lead to an efficient long stroke technique, but one that is not overly long.

Good job!


When you get the catch and pull through right it feels like a smooth flowing action, it feels easy but gives you great propulsion. You will have an awareness that you are using your larger pectoral and latissmus dorsi muscles (pecs and lats) to drive and time the movement.

Work on improving your catch and pull technique by avoiding the pitfalls and using the tips we described above.

Read more:


I hope this has shed some light on a pesky but common problem.

Coach Jackie

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New Year’s Day Polar Dip

Join XCELL for our

Annual New Year’s Day Polar Dip
January 1, 2017

12 Noon

The Village


Lake Las Vegas

What is it?

The Polar dip is a great way to start your New Year off!  Participants dip into the water at The Village at Lake Las Vegas.  Some may wish to swim a short 200 yard course.  It is a very energizing experience.  We have options for just about any way you would like to handle the challenge.


How do I do it?  

Sign up below and then show up on New Year’s Day.  The traditional way is no wetsuit: jump in and jump out.  You can warm up under the heaters provided by Lake Las Vegas and get changed into dry clothes in the Village rest rooms.

Finisher certificates for all participants and awards for best costume and special categories.

 Costumes strongly encouraged.  This is Vegas, I am SURE we have some creative types that pull off some fun ideas!  That has certainly been the case in the past.

Bring dry clothes, towels, confidence.

Leave home – doubts, sanity.

Seasons Market is generously supplying those who brave the waters

FREE  Hot Chocolate and Coffee.

Lake Las Vegas is supplying heaters.


A portion of your fee goes directly to Safe Nest.

Safe Nest is Nevada’s largest and most comprehensive charity devoted solely to domestic violence issues.  If you care to donate gently used clothing please bring them to the Dip and we will make sure they get to Safe Nest.


Cost: $10.00 prepay Team XCELL

$12 Guest

$15 on site

New Year’s Day Dip – Team XCELL


New Year’s Day Polar Plunge Guest



Paddleboard, kayak and lifeguard support will be provided.  Water temperature is approximately 60.

Tips for the Dip:

Do not try to get used to the cold water.  Just get in.  EXPECT to feel very cold at first and to feel like you can not breathe.  This is normal.  (Coach Mel finds none of this normal, by the way). Just force yourself to exhale.  Then either get out right away or start swimming.  You will be fine.  I will be participating as well.  Please bring a towel and dry clothes to change into.  If swimming bring a brightly colored swim cap and your goggles.


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