Time Trials and Tribulations

I sat in the middle of the crosswalk, holding the back of my head, confused as to what just happened. People around me were talking but I couldn’t pay attention to what anyone was saying. As I saw blood now streaming onto my leg from the back of my head, my first thought was: “I guess I’m not going to get to run tonight”.

Minutes before, fresh off my muscle physiology exam, I was walking back to my car to go home for an evening run. I was excited. It was a nice evening, I finished my last class of my PhD program, and I wanted to go enjoy the nice weather while pushing some intervals track. As I was crossing the most dangerous intersection in Greensboro (in the crosswalk, with the “walk” light on), a vehicle struck me from my back right, sending me up and over the front corner of their car. I barely remember getting hit, but distinctly remember landing almost exclusively on my sacrum, catching a little bit of the weight with my elbows, and whipping the rest of my momentum through my head onto the asphalt.

Since there has not yet been a settlement, I will not go into much more detail. I’m about a week after the accident and still dealing with concussion symptoms and a broken sacrum. Needless to day, I’m not racing for a bit. Hell, I still can’t really bend over much.

I didn’t want to have to write another blog about being injured. In fact, it was supposed to be some triumph story from the last injury blog. Well, okay, I actually did have a good build from my last injury, which is the good part. The bad part is I only really got to race one triathlon since that accident.

But rather than an injury blog about ‘moving forward’, I’ll still do a short recap blog.  During major injuries, I find it is better to reflect on past experiences for confidence, rather than the uncertain future.

After my injury last year, I put in a ton of hours on the indoor trainer. I did a lot of Zwift racing, intense workouts, and recovery rides all from my home. It wasn’t what I pictured as glorious, but in the early stages of my recovery, it was really helpful to have my space. I was strong. I set a new FTP by a sizeable margin, even at a lighter weight than I used to be. Once I introduced running back, my focus was set on speed, and it sure came easier than I thought.

I did the Frosty 50k relay with a fast group of guys (12.5k each), and even managed to PR my 10k time and sustain it the rest of the 2.5km. I had a bit of plantar fasciitis after this race, but I was able to run through most of it. I shifted focus back to cycling for a bit and did a number of criteriums (just to accumulate race experience and get out of Cat 5 – not really to win), but still managed to be competitive in a number of them.

In April, I did the Riverlights TT triathlon in Wilmington. It was a 20km bike TT, a 1000m swim tt, and a 5km run TT, all separated by ~40 min. I loved this format. I am a big fan of ‘non-traditional’ multisport races – they allow you to try new things and come up with new strategies, rather than the standard formulas.

Of the triathletes, I had the fastest bike time, which is rare for me (one guy beat me but only did the bike, not the triathlon). I had been aggressive on the bike. I had sprinted out of every corner and really didn’t let off. I was worried about how that would affect my swim and run, but I just wanted to focus on one thing at a time.

They got to the swim start before I even had a chance to warm up so I went in “cold”. My legs were already vaguely wanting to cramp but I just sucked it up and went hard. I definitely held my own, only really losing time to the overall winner, who is a fantastic swimmer. Otherwise I had a fairly good swim, especially for my training.

My legs getting out felt exceptionally bad but I didn’t have much choice. They got started with the 5k a little early too, so I only got a 2 minute warmup and a couple of strides, which felt… bad. I just decided to give it whatever I had left. I caught and passed the race leader, but due to the timing system, I didn’t know how much of a gap he had on me in the standings. I knew a couple of guys were close to me in time, and they were literally right behind me from the start of the 5K. One of the guys (who usually beats me) made an early pass at the one mile mark and started stringing the race out. I could tell I overcooked the first mile at ~5:30, but I thought “whatever, just keep going as hard as you can in each moment until you get to the finish”. It was a reckless mentality but it paid off. I finished the 5K in 18:08 [on gravel]. Not my fastest 5K, but faster than I thought given the efforts I put in already.

Nobody knew what the final placings were, so there was about 10 minutes of us speculating and chatting at the end of the race. Then someone came and pointed “1, 2, and 3” at people around me, but not me. I was a little bummed – I felt suspiciously good. Then I found out they had trouble with my timing chip. Once they correctly located my chip number (which got mixed up pre-race), my name popped up in 2nd place. I was very happy about that. It felt like things were going right. I even pushed myself past what I thought was capable given my ‘untested’ fitness. I mean, I hardly raced last year so it had been quite awhile!

That’s what makes my current situation tough. I knew I was fit and I was ready to use that fitness for some races! I put in months of long, hard work. At the time, I enjoyed the challenge of building myself back, but it’s more fun to be fit. And now, I sit here, knowing that I’ll have to do it again. I know I can do it again, but this time seems different; partially because I just did it and I know how hard it will be, and partially because this time isn’t my fault – I went from a great fitness level to hospitalized all because of an inattentive driver.

I plan on posting again by the end of the year to hopefully have the real triumph story, but as of now, the path there is unclear. It’s hard to know exactly how long it will take before I can even think about training again, but I know it’s out there. Call it resiliency or call it stubborn, I will keep fighting my way back.

Titanium-man

clavicle2018 wasn’t the year I was expecting. This year, I had two bike crashes and some complicated injuries as a result. The first crash brought about an inflamed (possibly torn?) hip labrum and a broken rib. The second crash was even worse, and resulted in a broken clavicle requiring surgery and 3 broken vertebrae. Both crashes seemed like flukes, but in an instant, my plans, training, and goals all drastically changed.

In times of an injury or forced time off, it’s too easy to feel like you’re falling behind. I’ve been there before; I think many athletes have. I didn’t want to let myself go down that rabbit hole again. I could have written a whole blog post on what I went through for each injury. Being forced out of the sport for most of the year, I’ve learned a lot. In some ways have a new appreciation of triathlon. I thought about sharing this new view in a blog post, but it didn’t feel organic. I realized that everyone has their own views, goals, and desires for sport, and to share my ‘enlightened’ view felt too preachy.

Instead, I want to extend gratitude for all those in the sport who helped me in ways I couldn’t have planned on. I instinctively wanted to retreat and not acknowledge triathlon. After all, it’s hard watching people achieve your goals. But after discussions with other TMS-IOS athletes, employees at Inside Out Sports, my coach (Dave, of Triangle Multisport), and the kind folks at FS Series, I realized that almost everyone had stories like mine. No one wants to get injured; but the reality of it is if you do the sport long enough, crashes and injuries happen. Time doesn’t stop moving – injuries heal, training resumes, fitness comes back, and everything will work out. The most experienced and successful triathletes I know have all gone through a time like this, and hearing their stories (some a lot worse than mine) gave me confidence that I will be just fine.

And so, I look forward to next year. I am looking forward to having fun getting back into the sport and training with such a good group of teammates and being back in the triathlon community.

New Baby, New Races

Pushing a baby stroller is a great way to stay in shape, apparently. That is the only explanation as to why I was able to maintain any semblance of fitness throughout this year. Prior to my son being born I was able to train on my own time table. I could easily fit in long rides and run with friends throughout the week. Not this year! I knew this was going to be the case and, as such, determined sprint triathlons would be the best option for me this year (well apart from the beer-mile which is perfectly suited for me).

There will be a common theme throughout these quick race recaps: the swim was terrible, the bike was tolerable, and the run was painful. Add up those ingredients up and it makes for a fun race!

Season Results:

NC Beer Mile – 24th OA

Rex Garner – 1st OA

Rex Wakefield – 4th OA

Rex Knightdale – 1st OA

YMCA Wrightsville Beach – 8th OA

NC Beer Mile:

I entered this race having done three previous beer miles. I might have forgotten about how painful these races are! Four beers in 7:34 is not my typical drinking pace. My wife and son came to watch the race so IMMEDIATELY after the race it was time to go home and put my son to bed. This becomes a struggle when a wave of beer flushes over your nervous system the second you get out of the car from the ride back home. Needless to say, my wife thought I was less than helpful that night!

Rex Garner:

My parents were in town for this race so it is always fun to race with family supporting you. This race was in July. I had not swum one stroke since September. I was a little scared of what would happen even during a 250m pool swim. My worst fears were realized when I flipped at 150m in to the swim. My back was DONE. The rest of the swim seemed like a doggy paddle that took forever. Sign number one that not training is not the way to get fast. The bike is a straight forward out-and-back route that takes you over some rollers. I had a blast seeing all of my teammates out on the course since they were all so far ahead of me after the swim. I knew my only chance at these races was to chase everybody down on the bike and run so I just gunned it from the beginning. My bike time was slower than the year before but the effort was much higher. Again, training apparently is important when it comes to racing! Finally, we got to the run and my legs showed up! It was the first time I had run hard in a few months and most certainly the first time I had run without pushing a baby stroller in a few weeks. I felt as if I was running on clouds without the added weight of my son slowing me down. With the race only being a two-mile run, I knew I could push the pace and hang on.

Rex Knightdale:

I had not done this race before so the course was new to me. I looked at the course map online and decided it was simple enough and that I would just “hammer it out” and hope for the best. That was a mistake. This course had many more turns and hills than Garner did. It was fun and fair but I wish I had driven the course at a minimum. The swim was even worse than my previous race! My back decided after 100m it was done so my swim time ballooned and my heart rate followed! I tried to push on the bike and run but my body never recovered from the abomination that occurred in the pool. I was happy to start my run prior to Dwayne finishing his run. This, however, was the first race I was at that the IOS-TMS team showed up in full force. The team had a great day as we had five of the first six men and two of the top four women!

Rex Wakefield:

A swim finally was not a complete disaster! I seeded myself higher in this race to avoid the pool zombies (triathletes who start walking during the swim portion) and it worked! I made it to the 200m mark before my back decided to quit on me! I am not proud to admit it but I was thrilled to have made it that far. It is wild what a difference a positive attitude can have on an entire race. Since I had seeded myself higher, I expected to be able to catch the front of the race during the bike portion. The legends, Dave Williams and Marty Gaal, were both having great races up front and kept a gap on me the entire bike leg. From my experience at Knightdale, I knew the importance of nailing my transitions in such a short race. I made it my goal to have a quick transition and get on to the run as quickly as possible. As I was running out of T2 I put my hat on and started to clip my race belt when it snapped. I had to stop, turn around, and tie it in a knot around my waist before starting to run again. This blimp in the race actually helped fire me up and jump started what was a very good run for me.

YMCA Wrightsville Beach Triathlon:

I was VERY nervous about this race. Not only do total studs show up to race but it also has a 1,350m swim! How in the world was I going to survive that? Hurricane Florence took care of that for me. However, it also took care of my strongest portion, the bike, as well. Hurricane Florence caused massive flooding and damage throughout the area and as such the race organizers were using the race as a community building event. They collected goods and donations for those impacted by the storm and also gave the families a chance for normalcy by hosting the 5K portion of the triathlon as a standalone event. It was great to be able to take part in the race even though this was my first open 5K since high school cross country! I always swore I would never race one again but I had to make an exception under these circumstances. The weather was perfect and the course was fun. I was able to maintain a very consistent pace and finish my season on a high note.

Time for beer and rest. On to big things in 2019!

Thank You!

Throughout my many years of training and racing triathlons (this year was my 28th consecutive season!), I’ve had many great training buddies, unforgettable teammates, and made countless friends. In general terms, this year was no different. But, on the other hand, there were some stark contrasts.

For several reasons, before this season I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to race and, after two years of very little training, came into it in the worst shape of my life. But, after finding out in April that I was going to be staying in the area, I was excited to start thinking about trying to jump in some races. In addition, I’ve struggled with a very painful hip issue for numerous years which made running difficult. However, when Monette asked me to run with her as she started to get back into it after several years off herself, I noticed that if I ran at a pace that felt really slow I could run more often and relatively pain-free. Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but I had to learn the hard way, I guess. While I could go out and average sub-7 pace, I wouldn’t be able to walk normally for days afterwards if I did so. I let go of the ego, or as much as I could, of running faster and embraced being able to do what I could without pain and while staying healthy. No, I didn’t miraculously run faster at races. Not by a long shot. But, I was able to enjoy training runs more and get outside more often, which I always appreciate.

That leads me into the big difference this year. I’ve always had a blast training for all three disciplines, and that hasn’t changed, except possibly that I appreciate the gift of being able to do what I do even more so than before. What is different, though, is that I didn’t stress about my own workouts at all, choosing instead to take advantage of training with friends and teammates whenever possible. Don’t get me wrong. I did put some great work in, especially on the bike. But my goal was more about enjoying the time with whoever I was with, soaking in the sunrise or new route, sticking with and supporting a friend who may be struggling during a workout, and embracing the occasional stoppage when someone wanted to chat in the pool, rather than making sure I was training as hard as I could/should be or doing whatever workout I felt was best for me personally. And, do you know what? It was so much fun!

As for racing, it was a similar story. I went to one race at the last second simply because a friend asked if I wanted to go down with him. And, at every race that I did, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have friends and teammates that make this stuff so enjoyable. As an example, I had what I’d call one of my worst races ever at nationals after hoping to bring back some old magic. But, when I think back on that weekend, that’s not what comes to mind. No, instead I first remember meeting up with an old friend and his family, my teammates and clients crushing it on the course, and hanging out before and after the race. Each race was a similar story in terms of the fact that what I remember most is sharing the experience with familiar and friendly faces.

The team aspect of the UNC Triathlon Team and the Triangle Multisport-Inside Out Sports Team made this year very special for me during a season that I didn’t know was even going to happen. I wish to extend a heartfelt and sincere THANK YOU to everyone involved, to everyone that joined me in a workout, to the race directors, such as our sponsor FSSERIES, that put on amazing events, to the phenomenal athletes on the team that continue to inspire me, and to our amazing sponsors that offer much appreciated support. You all are amazing. You make me realize how extraordinarily lucky I am. Let’s keep it going!

It’s a Journey

A journey is the act of travelling from one place to another. That can apply to many facets of life from the big metaphorical journey right down to the journey from Swim to Bike to Run and Finish. One of the things I love about volunteering for races at packet pickup is meeting new triathletes at the culmination of their journey for their first race. It wasn’t really that long ago that I was there myself. Despite the number of races in a season or many I’ve done over time, I still get the nerves and excited anticipation before the start of the swim. There are so many ways to mix it up in the season too– sprint/olympic/half (not full for me, ha!), pool/lake/ocean swim, flat/hilly course, tried-n-true/new-n-different… Everybody’s journey is different and I love seeing that despite those differences, we all come together on those race mornings to race our hearts out.

The motivation of having those dates on the calendar is a huge push too. Last year I had a baby and the big challenge this year was working in training despite the hectic family life with 3 kids, husband, a home, and part-time work to hold up. It didn’t always work. It felt good when it did. Some seasons are better than others and we are all human. Fellow teammates’ and athletes’ stories of the trials they have overcome are heartening and inspiring. I draw from those when talking myself into and through the tough times. I also remind myself that every stage of life is so different from the next. My first half-iron feels like it was ages ago but really it’s only been a few years! So much has changed. Maybe I need to give myself the same advice I pass on to those nervous first-race athletes. Have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, it’s a great accomplishment no matter what.

There’s that quote about ‘ it’s not the destination but the journey.’ In my experience, that finish line is great but pales in comparison to all that happens along the way. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I could get all sappy and deep here but the gist is how much more of a journey I’ve experienced through the triathlon part of my life than just training for a race and for that I’m forever grateful. Looking forward to seeing everyone on the course!

Ten Reasons Why I Ran an Early Season Marathon

Here are the reasons. Read to the bottom to find out what happened…

Ten. My friend Spencer was doing the half, so we encouraged each other along the way and did a few workouts together. It really helps to have someone to talk with, to share your ups and downs.

Nine. I googled “Can I run a marathon in 4 weeks?” and a lovely “4-week Marathon Training Plan” popped up. It seemed to make sense, so I took that as a sign that I should go for it, even though my triathlon guru friend advised against it.

Eight. This was the first winter where I continued to run, bike and swim a little each week. Previously I have taken a few months totally off to rest my body (and catch up on emails). Keeping the fires burning during the off-season gave me confidence that I could run a decent race. Would my aerobic base from the end of last season carryover at all??

Seven. I live right next to the course. I literally run on this course every time I go running. I know every mile intimately, every hill and undulation.

Six. This time of year (February and March) is a wonderful time to run. It is not so cold that you need to wear your ski gear, but it is still cold enough to use all of your fun/cool winter gear. I love using my imagination, letting my mind wander when I run. If I have layers and fancy technical clothing, I pretend that I’m on a mission, like special ops or something.

Five. Curiosity. I have never run a standalone marathon. Also, I am curious to see how I can perform with such short time of specific preparation. This can give me an idea of how I could do with the proper amount of time and a training plan etc.

Four. I decided to do more run volume this season, compared to last. So this was a great way to get some miles in the legs early on. We’ll see if I can stay injury-free…

Three. Positive results from Nov.-Jan. physical therapy for a knee problem has given me even more confidence that I can push myself and still be in-tune with how my body is responding. The knowledge of specific issues gives peace of mind that I can stay aware of them and manage any flare-ups etc.

Two. This race is a qualifier for the iconic Boston Marathon. I have two friends who recently moved to Boston and assured me I could sleep on their couch next April, should I finish within the qualifying time.

One. My wife was pregnant with our 2nd child (who has since been born. 4/28/18 Christian George Stam! 9lbs!), and she strongly encouraged me to sign up for the race because it is much easier to spectate/cheer with one child than with two. And did I mention the race course goes literally right by our house?

So what happened??? I felt great! I ran faster than predicted for the first half! Then I decided to put the pedal to the metal, which was not smart because I began to fall apart in the last 8K, losing quite a bit of time, BUT I QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON (yay!). I was incredibly sore for a long time afterwards. 

I fell short of my rather modest time goal by only 1 second, which was disappointing, but it was a valuable lesson learned; Stick to your race plan and don’t go guns-blazing in the middle of a marathon.

The Tobacco Road Marathon was a wonderful experience and a very well-run event. The race organizers, communication, expo and volunteers were all top-notch! I highly recommend it, but register early because next year is the 10th anniversary and promises to be the biggest and best yet.

 

I am an Ironman

I was reminded of something the other day. Every success starts somewhere, and things don’t always come easy. I was sitting around with a group of friends, and we decided to scour the internet and see if we’d done a race together back in the day. Thereby we found the result of my first triathlon, circa 2008:

Kure Beach Double Sprint

Granted I changed a tire for the very first time in that race but, regardless, I got 100th out of 150 women. One hundredth. Every success starts somewhere.

Ten years later…Saturday, I completed my first Ironman. WTH? That’s impossible! Ironman is for superhumans. Not for people like me–middle aged moms, working full time, and trying to navigate at least somewhat sanely through life. But I did it! And not only did I finish, I smashed it.

tx

But it didn’t come easy. I worked hard for that. I put in the hours–hours which I took from my kids, my job, my husband. Man, I was surrounded by heroes who picked up my slack. I’m humbled.

The weather in NC was not particularly cooperative. Much of my training months looked like this: snow

and this:trainer

and if I did make it outside, I was usually dressed like this (it was 25 degrees for this ride):coldride

I can count the number of runs I did in temps over 50 degrees on one hand. The one open water swim I did two weeks ago was in 62 degree water, after which I looked like this: swim

It all sounds like rocking preparation for a race in Houston, TX, right? I wasn’t sure. I did all the things, but could I really finish respectfully? Would I even know how to fuel in 80 degree temps?

The swim:

IM Texas has a rolling, self-seeded start. I expected this to be a cluster. 2500 nutty triathletes self-seeding? I expected mayhem. Turns out, I was wrong. I got in the front, rolled right into the water with Bri Gaal (superhuman training partner and dearest friend), swam to the outside and found clear water. We swam stroke for stroke the entire swim, and really didn’t hit much mess until the backside (some sloppy swimmers running over us from the side) and in the canal, which I’d liken to a dishwasher with all the water sloshing around in such a small space. My favorite part, though? The volunteers who pull you out of the lake and up the steps to the T run! No trying to find my land legs on my own for this swim! Wonderful. Oh, and total bonus was this text afterwards from a swimmer teammate from college (I dove at the University of Kentucky and, um JSYK, divers can’t swim):

swimtime

T1:

I felt like royalty. I had two volunteers doing everything for me. “Please put on my shoes. Can I have that chamois cream? Oh, water? Sure, don’t mind if I do.” I realized I was getting a little too comfy in there when I saw Bri run out of the tent. Thanks to her, I got in gear and ran out too. I missed the sunscreen tent, though. Um, oops. What can I say? I was busy gesticulating frantic happiness to a friend working in transition. I was. Doing. An. Ironman! Holy crap!

Bike:

The bike was my second area of apprehension. For all the usual reasons: too many people, slower swimmers hammering by me on the bike trying to make up time, silly mistakes and potential crashes, penalties, etc. But I was rested and the course is FAST, so it was going to be totally fun, too! At first, things were pretty spaced out. The road wasn’t too crowded, and I could do my own ride. As more people entered the course, though, that changed. Packs formed. Pelotons formed. You can get the idea here: pic.twitter.com/TWUgRKbQJ6 (they aren’t even in aero!). At one point, I saw a pack of people with 4 women tucked in, all in either my age group or the one above. I let them go. I came to do an Ironman; I didn’t want to draft my way through the bike. For the first loop on Hardy Toll Road, things were manageable. Packs would roll by fast and move on. But by the second loop, smaller groups formed too, and they would work like crazy, go around me and then pull up out of aero, drink, and talk. So, I’d drop back out of the draft zone behind them and slow down. A few times I passed back so I could ride my own pace but every time I did, they surged, passed me and again, slowed down. It was so frustrating, and I was disheartened that there were no marshals doing anything about it. I’m proud of myself for staying out of it. But because of all the mess and constantly dropping back from groups, I didn’t bike as hard as I’d have liked. My final FTP was only 62%. But my bike was respectable, and I was still happy (that is, to get off and run 😉 ).

T2:

There was a super long run around into T2 (I took my shoes and socks off and did it barefoot; no coordination here for a flying dismount), but again I had two dedicated volunteers to get me together and out on the run. It was awesome. In the madness, I missed the sunscreen station again, but shortly into the run found a woman putting sunscreen on her baby who kindly squirted some in my hands; she saved the day.

Run:

I can’t say enough about this course. It was hot, but it was pancake flat. That was fantastic. I’m not used to running on concrete, and that took a toll on my legs, but the lack of hills made up for it. Second, the fans are insane. And I mean, possibly in some cases clinically insane. Right out of transition, I ran through the Moxie Multisport cheer group. That’s these certifiables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ngl_D4YmGoo. It was incredible, frightening, and hilarious all in one! After that, there’s some shaded running, some sunny running, some running through a lakeside neighborhood of the biggest homes I’ve ever seen–where the kids line the aid stations, and then back to the canal where the fans are out of control. In Hippy Hollow, I was chased by hippies banging on metal trashcans. In the Hoka zone, I think I high-fived about 30 people each lap. Kids cheered for me by name, adults cheered for me by name. It was a real high, and a hell of a way to round out an Ironman. Three loops. Each a little slower than the last, but at the end of the day a great marathon.

The finish:

I saw 10:15 on the finish clock and was ecstatic that I’d done so well. I did a 10:15! But I forgot that the clock was for the pro start. After I came down the chute, I saw my husband who announced, “Oh my god, you went 9:59!” I lost it. What an incredible day. What an accomplishment. I freaking did it!

 carpet

Sampson County Supersprint

FS Series puts on some of my favorite races! This was my second time racing in Clinton, NC with FS. It is a small town with big charm and friendly faces. Our race packets included handmade drawings from local children. Nice touch! Thankfully, this was an indoor pool swim because the air temperature was around 39 degrees that morning. It was just a tad chilly coming out of the pool to the transition area. I was glad that I took the time to throw on a jacket before heading out on the bike course. Despite the cold temperatures, I had a blast racing and getting to cheer on fellow teammates and friends. Thanks again for a fun race FS Series!

Specialized Turbo Cotton!

I recently received the weekly email from Inside Out Sports where Cid Cardoso recommended Specialized Turbo Cotton tires. I have a full ironman coming up in 3 weeks, so I decided to go ahead and give them a try. Yesterday, I did my last long ride on the new tires, and I agree with Cid. These are indeed “special” tires. They provide a smooth ride with very little rolling resistance. Thanks for the tip Cid. And thanks to Cory at IOS for installing them for me. Thanks to Specialized for making them! Now I’m ready to rock and roll at Ironman Texas!

SwimRun Lake James: Adventures of Trail Running and Ice Baths

You may be wondering whats with the title but believe me you’ll understand by the time you get done reading this race report! Kory Gray and I (along with a group of others) decided to enter into a sport thats hit the U.S. and caught on very quickly, its called SwimRun and it may be one of the toughest races I’ve done in awhile.

We had this bright idea last fall and at the time sounded like a great one! SwimRun Lake James is a combination of 14 run segments and 13 swim segments totaling about 3.5 miles of swimming and just over 13 miles of trail running (done is teams of two where you stay together the entire race). This doesn’t sound too bad until you hear more about the details…

We all woke up bright and early Saturday morning with the usual pre race jitters except this feeling was a little more intense (something didn’t seem right with Kory but you’ll find out more about this as the story continues…). A combination of both excitement but also extreme fear of the unknown as this was something completely new to us all, oh and the water was 55 degrees Fahrenheit which didn’t help! We got to the race site about an hour before the start as there’s really no setup and its a matter of just getting dressed and warming up. SwimRun attire consists of an outfit that resembles that of a not-so-cool superhero with accessories to aid in the race.Say Cheeeezzee You’re allowed to use paddles, wetsuits, swim buoy, and fins if you really want but the kicker is you have to finish with whatever you started with. We opted for the paddle/buoy combo along with neoprene caps and calf guards to protect the legs and head from the cold. After suiting up, documenting this momentous occasion with a couple pictures and a short warm up run, me and my partner were ready to head to the start.

Race StartThe race started promptly at 8am with a total of 52 teams consisting of all men, all women, and mixed gender teams. The gun went off and there we went. Two teams took the early lead on the first 2 mile run but Kory and I knew we needed to pace ourselves for what was to come. After about a mile or so of being in a pack of 2-3 teams we decided to break away to have to space getting into the water. As we neared the water we started preparing ourselves for what was sure to be a major physiological swimrun imageshock to the body, jumping into 55 degree water and hitting that first swim segment. It was somewhat of a relief as the 2 mile run in the wetsuit and cap warmed us up quite a bit. The first swim went well and we quickly closed the gap on the first two teams. We hopped out for the first short run and then straight back into the water. Thats when Mr. Gray’s stomach finally woke up and said STOP!

Once we hit the third run segment Kory’s HR shot up and his stomach turned upside down. We stopped for him to gain his composure and then started at it again. We got through that run segment with a couple teams passing us. However we hit that next longer swim and passed them all and even passed the 2nd place team in the water! We were now onto the 7.7 mile long run of the race. Again we hopped out and Kory started having stomach issues. We took it slow and steady through the long run doing a combo of jogging/walking and it seemed liked he was good to go. We got some nutrition in and kept chugging along. We had been passed by several teams at this point but knew we would make the time back up in the water.

We neared the waters edge and caught up to a team who had removed the top half of their wetsuit and were struggling to get them on. We threw our goggles on and off we went. Crushing the longest swim of 1600 meters we made all the time back that we lost in the run and were back in 3rd place. Everything seemed to be going our way and we were making time back quickly until the stomach struck again. We had a short run straight back into an 800 meter swim and this put the body into shock as it was extremely cold and the HR fluctuated quite a bit. It was from this point that stomach issues continued and Kory’s body temps seemed to be affected. I should have maybe mentioned this earlier but he was wearing a borrowed wetsuit that was much thinner than mine, was not designed for these cold temps, and he wasn’t wearing the calf guards like me which made a big difference. Okay back to the story…

After a series of short swims and island hops we were back onto a longer run where we could warm up some but it wasn’t enough and at this point Kory had almost no nutrition in his system. We knew we only had a few more run and swim segments to go which is what kept us going. We neared the last run and could hear the sweet sounds of people cheering and finish line music but it was a trick. As if the amount of cold and short swim segments wasn’t enough already the race directors added one final 100 meter swim to the boat dock which would take us up the the finish line. Kory came to a sudden stop and said “give me a minute!” I could hear a team coming behind us so I reach up, slapped his goggles on for him and said “get your ass in the water, we’re almost there!” (said with the utmost respect and love 😉

We got through the final swim, ran up the hill, and took our last few steps to get across the finish line. We. Were. Done! I have to say I’m very impressed with my partner Kory for persevering through what was already a tough race without having any issues. We ended up 7th overall male team in a time of just under 4 hours. Congrats to Marcus Barton and his team for absolutely crushing the course. We’re motivated and ready to come back for redemption so you better watch out Marcus 😉

Anyone’s who’s not tried one of these races should give it a go. Hope to see you all out there soon!