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20th Anniversary European Bike Adventure Part 2: Initial Decisions

When planning any vacation or trip, you always begin with a somewhat overwhelming number of choices to be made. Once you start making those, though, each decision collapses down the subsequent decisions further and further until eventually it becomes manageable. Well, I hope, anyway. We're not quite there yet. Or even close.

But the FIRST and arguably most important decision we had to make was what kind of bike tour to take.

There are options on both extremes:

- On one side, you can book a tour through a bike tour company. They provide a bike, they figure out your lodging for each day, they give you a route, they provide support in case something goes mechanically wrong, and they have a van you can hop in at any time if you get tired and just want to be transported for a few miles or all the way to the end of that day's route.

- On the other extreme, you can be entirely self-sufficient. Bring your own bike, haul all your gear, carry a tent and sleeping bag, set up camp each night, make your own route which can change at your whim, and just generally rough it.

There were things that we found appealing about both of those options, but we didn't really want to do an organized tour, because we wanted to do our own thing, we had a definite desired start and end point, and didn't really want to end up tied to a group. But we also didn't really think we were ready to carry the amount of stuff you need to do a camping tour, with the tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, cooking gear, food, etc. We'd love to do that eventually! Just.. baby steps.

So we decided to go right in the middle, and do what's called Credit Card Touring. It's most of the elements of the camping option above, only without the camping. You ride on your own from town to town, and when you're done for the day, you find a place to stay in whatever town you're in. You still carry all your gear, but your gear doesn't have to include a tent, sleeping bags, or cooking gear. Depending on the size of the town, we may end up in a hotel, a bed and breakfast, or a hostel. Some bike tourers end up crashed on strangers' couches, but when you combine my misanthropy and Matt's misanthropy, pretty sure there's no circumstance that would allow that sort of scenario to happen. Duolingo definitely has not offered us a "couch surfing" section to prepare us for that happenstance.

And with that decision, many other potential decisions were removed from our list! No need to find a touring company. No need to figure out and procure the lightest, most minimal camping gear.

But now we were faced with the next huge decision: bikes. Do we rent bikes once we arrive? (And risk not finding one that fits me properly..) Do we buy bikes here and ship them over? If we box them up and ship them, since we're riding point to point, how do we get the boxes to our end point to rebox for the trip home? If we buy bikes, what bikes are good for touring? Do they have one that fits me? How do we haul our gear?

And I'll cover that.. next post.
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Capt'n Karl's Muleshoe 30k trail run 2018 race report.

How do these bad ideas come about?

In an attempt to maximize the time I have left to easily do dumb stuff with Karen before she moves to Florida, I've been trying to come up with as many weekend activities as possible. When Tejas Trails posted about the Capt'n Karl's night trail races for 2018, I thought, "Yes! That would be super fun!" Of course, what I really meant was "I love the Pedernales Falls race!" But unfortunately that race was 2 days away, and we already had plans for that weekend.

So what came about INSTEAD was we decided it would be a great idea to do an undertrained 18.6 mile run (neither of us had run any trails since our last 30k trail run 2.5 months ago, and our longest road run since then was 12 or 13 miles), we'd run at night when I have terrible vision, and Karen is possibly the only person with night vision WORSE than me, this would be Karen's first "real" night trail run (she paced for me at Rocky, but that was a much less technical trail, and a shorter distance), and it would be not on my beloved Pedernales Falls course, but instead the one Capt'n Karl's course I was on record as NOT liking, Muleshoe Bend! Oh, and it started at 7:30pm, which is nearly my normal bedtime, and it was 98 degrees. Which actually is fairly cool for one of these races!

What could go wrong?

Our only goal was to get through the whole 30k without injuring ourselves, and we managed to achieve that!

Matt always knows what to say.

It wasn't pretty, though. First it was certainly hot. We started out on a little out and back that we only did the first loop, and it was uphill on the way out, and it was sunny, and at first I was happy that it was fairly open so people could spread out, but that also meant that Karen started out running Karen Speed, and I had to reel her in real quick, so I wasn't dead by the time we even got into the woods.

After that out and back, we headed into the woods for basically the remainder of the run. Which was blissfully shaded and beautiful and also blocked the wind entirely. When it's 98 degrees and terribly humid, that makes for some still, gross air. For 18 miles.

It was "light" outside for maybe 3/4 of the first loop (it was two loops total). Night always falls faster in the woods, but every once in a while, we'd break out of the trees and find the sun again. We kept a pretty good pace while it was light. It was hard, and sometimes we'd get quiet on technical parts or hills, but we just ran and chatted.

It's still light!

Oh, let me dedicate an entire paragraph to my husband Matt. Before the race I was talking about driving back home after the race, tired and in the dark, and he volunteered to come out with us and drive us home. Which I said really wasn't necessary, but he thought it would be fun to come hike around and hang out at the race site, so he chauffeured us out there, and carried our stuff to the start line. Then he proceeded to be at EVERY aid station. Two per loop, plus the start/finish line. Every time we'd go through, there he was, cheering and helping us with whatever we needed. (More on that later.) We'd be running through the woods in the middle of nowhere, and then Suddenly Matt! To sum up: he is the best.

Anyway, once it got darker, things got a lot harder and a lot slower.

Also really pretty, though.

Turns out, Karen can't see well in the dark. And she extra can't see when her headlamp doesn't actually produce much light. It wasn't a huge issue on the first loop, because it was only at the end, and it didn't get super, super, super dark until the last few miles of the loop.

At the halfway point, we refilled our water, our nutrition (mostly), and switched out headlamps. We'd each brought two, one for each loop, so we'd be sure to have plenty of battery life.

The second loop was not quite as idyllic as the first. We'd learned exactly how technical the course was, and we were both super paranoid to run through it completely in the dark. And since our goal was only to remain uninjured, and we did not care at all about time, we were super cautious and walked anything that made us nervous. Which meant anything rocky, anything ledgey, anything where we couldn't see it well, anything where there was a dropoff that we might plummet over.. and that's a lot of the course, it turns out! Somehow the course got a lot more rocky the second loop. We were pretty sure there were NightRocks, that only appear when the sun goes down.

As a not helpful bonus, Karen's headlamp, even the new one, continued to be too dark for her to really see. She was staying as close to me as was safe, but still couldn't really see rocks and other obstacles well. That meant she had her first fall. And then several more. They were "good" falls. No broken skin, no blood, caught herself each time. But it was understandably incredibly frustrating, for both of us (me because I couldn't come up with a way to help it not happen, so I felt guilty, and her.. for obvious reasons).

Blissfully cold water at the aid stations. I told Karen I just wanted one of those water barrels and a couch. That's all I wanted in the world.

The next time we saw Matt at an aid station, I asked if we could use his headlamp, which is a much more expensive, fancy, brighter (and heavier) headlamp, and he graciously handed it over to Karen. And it made a huge difference! Suddenly she could see what was in front of her, and she didn't fall at all after that! Of course, it also turned out that this head lamp randomly turned itself off. If Karen stepped hard, it would just shut off. At first I would turn back each time and turn it back on (because I knew how this headlamp worked already, and she hadn't ever seen it in the light), but eventually it was happening so often that she figured out how to turn it back on each time. So our joy over having bright light was diminished by having that bright light randomly go away.

So the NEXT time we saw Matt, we asked him if he knew why this was happening (he didn't, but later he found out there was some corrosion that was causing it), and he ended up giving Karen his OTHER headlamp, which was just as bright, but didn't suffer from random offages.

Which would have been great, except now MY headlamp was fading. Even though I'd just replaced the batteries, and it had only been on for 1.5 hours or so, it was getting darker and darker. In the last few miles, I really couldn't see in front of me. And I was leading! Awkward. So now that Karen could actually see and felt more confident running through some parts we'd walked earlier, now *I* couldn't see, and still had to walk the sketchy parts. We were a delightful comedy of errors.

And just because we didn't fall doesn't mean we weren't beating the crap out of ourselves out there. We tripped over so many rocks and flew forward, but caught ourselves. Anyone who's done that while running before knows that that can be nearly as painful as actually falling, because the muscles you use to stabilize and catch yourself get stretched and abused terribly. I think my left hamstring is half an inch longer than it should be now, after a particularly bad almost-fall. (Alas it didn't make me any taller.)

So to sum up: we had bruised toes, pulled muscles, muscle cramps, severe dehydration, not enough nutrition, blacklung from the trail dust, were completely drenched in sweat, and couldn't see where we were going maybe 70% of the time.

Blurry finish line!

At the end I was like, "But.. it was sorta still fun, right? Right, Karen?!"

I'm pretty sure she still had fun. I'm not sure I'm allowed to suggest fun activities anymore, though.

happy running

20th Anniversary European Bike Adventure Part 1: The Introduction

I don't remember the exact date that Matt presented this idea to me, but thanks to the magic of facebook (and persistence in searching through the unsearchable facebook), I can tell you that we first announced this idea to the world (well.. facebook) on October 16, 2015.

Matt posted "Time for us to start saving some vacation time." and this photo.


Matt has spent the last few years learning Dutch, then Danish, then Swedish, (then brushing back up on his high school German), then Norwegian via duolingo. As he's done that, he's learned more about the related countries, their cultures, looked at photos, scrolled around the countries on google maps, and generally fallen in love with the whole giant area. When he told me he wanted to go ride bikes somewhere over there sometime, I said, "Hrm. Sure!"

The idea was planted, then announced to the world, and then mostly put on hold. We had too much going on, too many plans coming up in the foreseeable future. But Matt kept looking at routes and searching google for other people taking such trips, and we both knew it was going to happen eventually. And then we thought, "Well, what better way to celebrate our upcoming 20th anniversary than to go ride bikes across some countries together?!" I mean, we'll either end up that much closer, or divorced in the middle of a herd of reindeer.

And so we had chosen a year: 2019. And after some searching on the best time to ride through that region of the world we had a rough time period: late May/early June.

Which is still 11 months away. But this is going to happen, people. We have begun planning, and have even begun purchasing.

Since we've spent so much time reading other peoples' blogs and watching their videos, I figured I'd document the whole process of our trip for others to enjoy if they are so inclined. In the next few months, I'll post about what kind of touring we're going to do and how we came to that decision, what bikes we're going to use and how we came to THAT decision, gear decisions we've already made, and ones we still need to make, where exactly we're going (no longer exactly matches google maps image above), how we'll get to each place, and any other decisions we make or need to make.

We're super, super excited about this trip, but also a little overwhelmed. We're going to be able to reduce that overwhelming feeling a lot in the next 11 months, but ultimately there's going to be some aspect of The Unknown on this trip, and that's part of the fun and adventure!

Also I was PROMISED reindeer.
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Texas 4000 2018 ride report.

I think this might be the first time I've done the Texas 4000 ride! Maybe. Not sure. Can't remember. I think it used to be elsewhere, but this year it was in Lampasas. Karen was out of town doing swimrun with Trista, and CC was in Houston, so I asked Matt to come out with me and do the 50 miler, and he consented. I told Karen I could try to add mileage on at the end or something, but she said instead I'd do the 50 miler and a 4 mile run off the bike. Sounded innocent enough.

The ride was.. mostly good. Much less wind than we had at Real Ale. Fewer hills than at Real Ale, though there were definitely hills (more rollers than the steep or really long hills at RA). But the main difference in the negative direction was the terrible roads for the Texas 4000. There were basically two sections of maybe 5 miles each (maybe) that weren't terrible, demoralizing chipseal, and the rest was just awful. Hard on the hands, hard on the average pace, hard on the motivation. I told Matt those Texas 4000 kids are gonna be riding this thinking "What have I gotten myself into?!" Hopefully they don't have 4000 miles of chipseal.

Otherwise it was pretty good. Great for the first 30 miles. Matt and I rode and chatted and had fun. Then Matt's back seized up, and between that and his hands being in pain from not being able to ever be aero because of his back, and those roads being terrible, he really suffered. I stayed with him for a while, but then pulled ahead of him at some point. I knew he was suffering, and probably didn't really want company to witness that, plus I still had to run off the bike (and it was HOT and sunny already), so I just rode in by myself.

I transitioned relatively quickly to the run, and then took off on the route I'd mapped out ahead of time. 2 miles out, 2 miles back. No problem.

The first mile was not really a problem. A little stop and start, because it went through historic downtown Lampasas, and I was crossing some biggish cross streets. Then a turn onto 6th street, where I'd spend the rest of the Out. Things went okay until I crossed the highway, and then there was a giant hill in front of me. I considered turning down a side street, but I KNEW this route would get me my distance, and I didn't know where the other streets went, so up I went. About halfway. Then I stopped my watch and stepped into someone's shaded yard and just tried to breathe. I considered turning around and going back. I felt BAD. The heat was just terrible, and trying to run up a steep hill in it was making me light headed. And I really had to pee. But finally I decided I'd try to do the whole 4 miles. So I started my watch again, but walked. At least I was making forward progress.

Well, I'll try not to draw this out TOO much. There were two more hills after that, each worse than the last. I really should have turned on the elevation feature when I mapped it out. I had good intentions, but I ended up walking part of each hill. Each direction, since I had to run back up those hills on the way back (it wasn't uphill on the way out, downhill back, each hill was a hump). Two more times during the run (so 3 total) I came to a complete stop in a yard where there was shade, and just talked myself through it. I was MISERABLE. And had to pee so bad I almost wet myself at one point.

When I finally got done with the hilly part and got back downtown, I decided to stop at a portapotty on the sidewalk. I knew it would be gross and hot, but I thought maybe it would make me more comfortable. I ran up, stopped my watch, set down my bottle on the ground, walked in, closed the door, tried to lock the door, and it was so hot, so smelly, so terrible, that I kinda wobbled a little as I tried to even get the door locked. I knew this was a bad idea, so I stepped back out, picked up my bottle, and started running again. (I now realize even after I got back to the car, I never peed; not until we got back to Austin.)

There were no more hills, but I was just dead at this point. I considered walking on this flat part. I did make my final full stop during this flat section. Just to be in the shade for a second. And to tell myself that I was proud of myself for doing the full 4. And that I was almost done. Then I made myself start walking rather than stopping. Just for a few seconds before I started running again. I wanted to be able to keep walking if I'm ever in a race feeling so miserable, not just stop. Walking at least makes forward progress.

I finally made it back to the car, and had to run slightly past to get to 4 (you bet your ass I was getting my full 4 after all that). Then I walked to the shade in the yard we were parked in front of, and just sat there breathing while Matt came out to make sure I was okay. And told me it was 97 degrees.

So yeah. I did my 50+4 (actually 48+4, but I wasn't willing to circle the neighborhood to get 2 more miles). And it was terrible. And I'm proud of myself.

My run splits were 9:06, 10:05, 10:40, 9:57. So yeah. Started out okay. Then slowly fell apart. Then sorta pulled it back together. I hope to never need to use the memory of that experience during a race with similar weather.
happy running

Real Ale 2018 ride report.

Since we're doing such a late-season (November) race, we really just started formally tri training, which means we missed all of the early season rides. (Well, Cecilia didn't, since she did the MS150, but Karen and I did). Our first opportunity was Real Ale, which is a hell of a ride to start with. Especially when the longest outdoor ride you've done was 11 miles at the Rookie, and the longest you've been on your bike was 75 minutes on the trainer. Once we decided to do Real Ale, we figured we'd do 65 max, 50 if it was really windy or we just weren't feeling it. At that point we had one weekend to try to cram for that ride, and we went out and did 45 miles on Parmer. And it was as painful as jumping from 11 miles to 45 should be. But at least it wasn't jumping from 11 miles to 65.

Matt decided to join us, and Ryan was threatening to. Cecilia was busy, so she couldn't make it. Then it turned out Ryan was busy, and Meredith joined us. She was sanely only doing the 50 miler, though.

And it was hard. It's still really hilly out there. I've done basically no hills. The first few, my legs were just fine, but my cardio and breathing were out of control. After maybe 4 long, steep hills, my legs got in on the complaining action, as well. It was.. a long ride. It was also windy, which started as a painful headwind, and then moved to a painful crosswind. There were times where it was just unsafe to be in the aerobars, especially on those downhills. A lot of people said they were almost taken out by crosswinds.

Matt had been told that we were doing 50-65, but evidently thought we had decided 50 (probably because Meredith was sure she was doing 50), so he was expecting 50. And was even more undertrained than me. His ride was a lot harder than ours. He ended up riding basically from 30-65 without stopping, because he was afraid his body would revolt if he stopped.

After Meredith peeled off at the 50 mile turnoff, the rest of us basically split apart. I couldn't stay with Karen on the hills, so she'd pull ahead. She'd wait at aid stations, and we'd wait to make sure Matt was okay, then we'd start up again when Matt went by, and then we'd split apart again.

It wasn't fast. It wasn't pretty. But I've now got a very hilly 65 mile ride under my belt. There aren't that many charity rides left until Fall starts, so now it'll be a lot of Parmer or the trainer.

Once we got done riding, Karen and I went for a 2 mile run off the bike. The day had started overcast, for probably 2-3 hours. Eventually, though, the sun came out, and it was out in full force for the run. And they haven't magically built pleasant places to run since I last ran from the brewery, so we ran up the highway, like normal. And it was miserable, like normal. But we got it done. Then we drank beer and ate gourmet grilled cheese.
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The Rookie 2018 race report.

Last year I did the Rookie shortly after doing Ironman Texas. Having just done an Ironman, my body was a little beat up, but in great shape. This year was the exact opposite. This is basically the beginning of my Ironman training. I have a great run and swim base, but no speedwork for a really, really, REALLY long time, and no real work on the bike of any speed to speak of. So I really wasn't expecting much other than to remember where all of my triathlon stuff is.

To make matters worse, I ran a undertrained trail 30k last weekend, and it wasn't until Thursday that I could walk down stairs normally again.

But I love local events and I love the Rookie and I love hanging out with friends, so I headed out to Decker Lake looking forward to fun, not at all stressing about the race itself.

&quot;Triathlon is stupid&quot; was the theme for this race, but it was so much fun getting to hang out and laugh with so many friends. Congratulations to those who raced, and thank you to those who volunteered and cheered!
Swim 300 meters

It was wetsuit legal, but I wanted none of that nonsense. Not for 300m. Not when I'm heavier than I would prefer to be. Not with a wetsuit that I was already afraid last year was going to develop fingerholes.

When it was my wave's turn to line up, I ended up at the back of the wave, talking to Kendra. Heather came up and said we were too far back, but honestly it doesn't matter at all when it's a time trial start. There's going to be people in front of you no matter what. So I just waited my turn, and then they said go, I jogged into the water and dove in. And immediately jostled my goggles such that the right cup was a little out of place and letting a little water in. That's the eye I can see out of. Oops. I decided to just keep swimming and see if I could still see enough to get by, and I was fine the whole swim. I couldn't really see very well, but the buoys are big, and I didn't swim into any walls of people. Just did my swim, trying to stay as focused and strong as possible, since this was the one sport I actually felt okay about, speed-wise.

And it was over super quick, which is what's so wonderful about 300m swims.


I had left my Oofos on the path up to transition, but I learned last year that when I lube my feet up such that I can later run without socks, it means my Oofos are rather dangerous on my foot, especially while running. So as I ran by them, I tried to pick them up so I could carry them up, and didn't plan well, and almost fell over as the crowd watched me. Yaaaay.

Then I ran up the hill to transition, figuring I could put on my shoes if things were super-stickery, but it was fine.

Found my rack with no problem, ditched my goggles and swimcap, grabbed the Gu from my helmet and put it in my back pocket, put on my sunglasses, put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out.

Bike 11.1 miles

I had actually practiced the shoeless mount the day before (having a coach again means I actually do stuff like practice transitions), but there were so many people at the mount line, and not really much room, and people weaving everywhere, so after one rather abortive attempt, I just swung my leg over and pushed off. And then as I rode out to the road and turned the corner, I couldn't get my left foot into my shoe. The velcro was messed up, and I couldn't sort it out. Eventually I did, and then fastened the straps, but gawd, you can really tell when you haven't been riding a bike or doing triathlons. Just a mess.

Drank some water, settled into my aerobars, and rode my bike.

I originally thought Karen's wave started 10 minutes after mine, and figured I'd hold her off for as long as I could. Then I found out she was only 4 minutes behind me, and I figured I'd still try. And she passed me about 3 miles into the bike. So much for THAT motivation.

Otherwise the bike was pretty uneventful. Nobody did anything particularly dumb, nothing particularly noteworthy happened. The hills were all still there, and terrible. I ate my Gu around mile 9. I did a similarly crappy job of my dismount as I had with my mount. This dismount is always awkward, because you go up a hill, so you can't get your feet out of your shoes then, but at the top of the hill you're practically at the dismount line, and there's a speedbump you go over, and everyone is watching you. So I cruised through the crowds at about 5mph, dealing with my shoes, and then hopped off at the dismount line.


I initially went down the wrong row, but realized it pretty quickly, and found my spot on my rack. Racked my bike, ditched my helmet, crammed my shoes on, grabbed my race belt, and ran out. I fumbled a little with my shoes, but otherwise this was a fairly solid T2.

Run 2 miles

Julie had passed me at the end of the bike, and we came out of transition at the same time. She took off running and passed me, and I settled in to see what my legs were willing to do.

The course was different this year, because of rain in the few days before the race. They said it was still 2 miles, and there was still water at mile 1, but I knew nothing else about the course. It still started on the powerline downhill, but evidently since nobody was coming up, it didn't turn around and come back up.

I passed Julie back a little while later, which she said was because I was a trail runner, and I told her I wasn't a trail runner who ever tried to run FAST on trails.

I never really felt GOOD on the run. It's a tough course. You can't see the divets in the grass, and you constantly feel like you're going to turn an ankle. Makes it hard to trust pushing yourself.

I passed some people, some people passed me. We looped around and went into the woods where we usually come out of the woods to the finish line. I ran by the aid station for the first time, not yet at mile 1, and grabbed a cup of water. Looped around some more, by the aid station again, and then there was a dumb hill.

It's not THE dumb hill, the one of the end of Danskin, but it basically led down to the base of that hill. It was a steep downhill, on grass, and then you had to U-turn and run back up the stupid steep uphill. On grass.

It looked tremendously unpleasant from the top, and it proved to, in fact, be tremendously unpleasant. I tried to use the downhill as much as I could, without turning an ankle in one of the many holes. I turned around. Then I started back up. That hill just sucked. Full sun. Grass. Steep. Lots of people were walking, but I was determined to run up with no walking. There was a girl ahead of me that was super solid and I'd been following for a while, and I just tried to hang with her. (She was in my age group, but I was fairly sure that I was nowhere near podium contention, so I wasn't trying to beat her. Just use her energy.)

We went by the aid station one more time, and I really did want water, but I didn't want to deal with.. anything, I just wanted to be done, so I ran by without taking water. We exited the woods as we normally would, and the rest was the old finish line stretch. Well, the last year version, where it's all grass and you don't get on the road. Grr.

I came up behind Sharon, and I told her I'd been using her as my rabbit for a while now, and she should come with me now to the finish line. She stayed with me for a few seconds, then said she could only do what she could, and fell back. I tried to push myself as much as I could, but I felt very rough and awkward.

That last stretch took a thousand years, but I managed to get to the damn finish line, and was done. How in the world can a sub-sprint be so hard?


I really had no idea at all what to expect from my times. I hadn't looked at my watch, and while I was secretly hoping to be somewhat close to an hour, that was really an unrealistic expectation. I ended up ~1:30 slower than last year, which is probably about right.

Swim: 5:42 (1:54HM)
T1: 2:41
Bike: 39:02 (17.2MPH)
T2: 1:27
Run: 17:14 (8:37/M)

Not super impressed with my swim pace, but who knows how far the swim actually was. Plus I didn't wear a wetsuit. Transitions were fine. Nothing to write home about. I'm actually pleased with my bike pace! I've done very little riding, all on the trainer, and definitely no speedwork. I didn't deserve that 17.2mph, but I'll take it. Hopefully that means good things for my cycling when I actually.. cycle? As for the run, that's a significantly slower pace than I have run the Rookie run in the past, but for my current fitness, it's not too shabby. Of course, I also think the run was short, so it WASN'T that fast, but regardless, I felt good about my effort, and I think I have a good base to build on.

I was right about my performance not being podium-worthy, I was 9th in my age group, 6 seconds from 8th because I couldn't pass that girl in front of me.

And right after I crossed the finish line, I found Karen, and we met up with Todd and Cecilia, and we all cheered for Belle as she finished the bike, and then the run, of her first ever triathlon, at age 73. She would have won her age group no matter what, but she turned out to be the only person 70-74 who came out to do their first triathlon that day. Inspirational, and proud to call her my friend.

&quot;Triathlon is stupid&quot; was the theme for this race, but it was so much fun getting to hang out and laugh with so many friends. Congratulations to those who raced, and thank you to those who volunteered and cheered!

And now Ironman training has officially begun!
happy running

The Tangle 30k 2018 race report.

I was looking for a way to stave off Post-Awesome Depression after SwimRun Lake James, and what better way to do so than to do a severely under-trained trail race?! I poked Karen about it, because this is my Summer of Karen. I have to get in as much Karen time as humanly possible before she moves to Florida in the Fall. Since she'd done the first 30k in the Rogue Trail Series, she was totally on board for the next one, The Tangle. I figured.. I'd done ~13 (non-contiguous) trail miles at Lake James. Then 10 miles the next week, as a nod to recovery. The jump from 10 to 18 seemed pretty steep, so I did 14 road miles with Karen to bridge that gap the week before. And then declared myself totally ready for 18 trail miles!

The good news is our only goal was to stay upright and have fun. Mission largely accomplished!

The race was out at Flat Creek Ranch, which I'd never been to. However it was right next to Pedernales State Park, which I had been to. A couple days before the race, Karen said she'd heard it was supposedly an easier place to run than the Maze had been (Walnut Creek). I didn't tell her that everything I'd read said "beautiful, challenging, and technical", nor did I tell her about Paul T's race report where he turned an ankle out there and couldn't run for weeks. None of that seemed like it would be useful information.

And it WAS (in my opinion) more technical and challenging than Walnut Creek, but it was also beautiful and fun.


It was 3 10k loops. The first loop we just took nice and easy as we figured out the course. Karen and I have completely non-complementary skills when it comes to trail running: she's awesome and fast at the flat, non-technical trails and fields. She has to slow down to not leave me behind on those parts. But she's also very new to trail running and understandably cautious on rocks and technical uphills and downhills, so I had to hang back a bit on some of those, or pull ahead a bit until she caught me on the flat after the hill. Had we been able to combine our skills into a single person? We probably would have won.

Instead we just enjoyed ourselves and laughed and told stories and tried not to fall over.

We stopped at the start/finish aid station after our first loop and refilled our water, grabbed another gel, then headed back to the second loop. I was awfully tired for only being 1/3 done, but still having a grand time.

The second loop we just settled in to enjoy what we already knew. The most exciting part of loop 2 for me was hearing Cow Feeding Time. One cow was SUPER EXCITED about food, and yelling constantly. I was sad we couldn't see them through the trees, but glad we got to hear them.

Otherwise we ran and ate and drank and took salt. And started getting a bit tired. We got less chatty in the last half of the second loop. It was starting to get warmer, and a lot of the rocky uphills were completely unshaded.

This is also where we had our only small mishap, where Karen fell forward slightly on a steep, rocky uphill. Fortunately she just scraped her knee up a little, and it didn't bother her.

As we'd run through one particularly beautiful part of the course on the first loop, we said it was a shame that we didn't have a camera. We decided at the end of the second loop that loop three would be the loop we took the camera with us. A victory loop to just enjoy and not worry about how fast we were going. I was very happy with that news, because I was already approaching the longest run I'd done since Rocky.

As we ran by our stuff to start loop 3, I grabbed my phone and shoved it in my pack pocket. It doesn't really fit there, and it's a pain and not comfortable, but it worked out just fine. We then hit the aid station to refill water, and drink a couple cups of Coke, courtesy of Paul the aid station sommelier.

Then out for our victory loop! We just had fun on that loop. A couple stops for pictures.

The Tangle 30k 2018
Love this picture.

Some videos through the most beautiful parts.

A fake tunnel!

A treacherous bridge.

And then cows! I was so happy to see the cows I ran completely the wrong way, and Karen had to reign me back in to go the right way.


The last few miles were a little rough. It was very warm by this point, and very sunny. We started passing other people doing the 30k who were looking rougher than we were.

The Tangle 30k 2018
Action shot.

It seemed like every time we thought we might be getting close to the end, there'd be another steep, rocky, exposed uphill. But we soldiered through, stayed strong, and got to that finish line once last time!

We are not wearing timing chips here. That's because we crossed, they took our chips, we handed the camera to someone, then we went and crossed again. #fakenews.

It was a lot of fun. I'm so happy that Karen has finally joined the trail world, so we have yet another venue for doing dumb shit together. It's so much fun to run through the woods like kids. And I felt pretty okay at the end, if intensely salty. Including eyelid salt.

Eyelid Salt.

Of course, then I woke up the next morning and my legs reminded me that I had not trained up for those distance. Ow. Sorry, quads and calves.
happy running

SwimRun Lake James 2018 race report.

Editorial Note: This is my first time co-writing a race report! I wrote up my experience, then I gave it to Trista who went through and added her comments. This is me. This is Trista. I loved seeing how her race differed from mine, and I had to fight not to go back through and comment on HER comments, because then this race report would never, ever end. It's possible she expected me to remove some of the comments she made, like the ones where she asked if I forgot to mention something, then I mention it in the next sentence, but really it's just funnier if I leave those in. From here on out I want to do every race, and every race report, with a partner! Hope you guys enjoy.

Just about a year ago, Trista mentioned that some of her Masters friends were registering for something called SwimRun Lake James. I’d heard of this swimrun phenomenon, and was very intrigued, because you’ll note that it does not mention a bike anywhere. Only the two sports I love! I told Trista I wanted to do one of those someday, and it turns out that it’s a partner race. One thing led to another, as these things do, and suddenly Trista and I had submitted an application for SwimRun Lake James 2018.

Pre-race tradition.

Yes, an application, because you have to submit a race resume proving that you have endurance experience in swimming and running, and aren’t likely to die out on their course. And they didn’t want just any experience. They wanted relatively recent experience. We could only submit events that took place within the last 24 months. We were excepted (this typo was in our acceptance email, TWICE, so it was a running joke all through our swimrun experience), and Team Adorkable was born.

SwimRun Lake James packet pickup.
Team Adorkable!

Well, our official name was Team Adorkable. Pretty early on we renamed ourself Team Shitshow, because we never had any idea what we were doing, and anything we tried to do typically went wrong in some way. While we are pretty adorkable, Team Shitshow really described the beautiful disaster of our partnership more accurately.
SwimRun Lake James packet pickup.
Team Shitshow!

Okay, so, what IS swimrun? I’ll try to keep it short. LIES! She never keeps anything short. Basically it’s like an aquathon or like splash and dash, except it’s splash and dash and splash and dash and splash and dash, etc. That is how a triathlete would describe Swimrun. You and your partner run across an island, then jump in the water and swim to the next island, run across that island, repeat ad infinitum. The rules are pretty open as to what equipment you can use, but anything you start with, you must finish with. That means most people wear a wetsuit (required for most swimruns, including Lake James), goggles, swimcap, shoes, a pull buoy, and paddles the entire race. Yes, we ran in a wetsuit and we swam wearing shoes. It’s a ridiculous sport where you have to just embrace looking absurd. To make things even more complicated, you have to stay within 10 meters of your partner at all times. That’s not too hard when running (as long as one of you isn’t significantly faster and also very impatient (not a problem for us ONLY because Amy is patient. She is a significantly faster runner than I am, and has trail experience which I’m sure we’ll cover later)), but staying together while open water swimming in the middle of a lake can be challenging, so many people choose to tether themselves together with a rope for the swims (which we did).
If we need photos we could insert some of the ridiculous gear people have tried in races. Like the fins tied on top of shoes from Florida. Or inflatable shin guards. Or…..

As you wish.

Each race has different numbers of legs and different total distances, depending on the geography of the race site. Lake James is what would be called a "long course" event, with 13.1 miles of running and 6200 yards of swimming.

This is what we did, and the order we did it in. We also had to carry a little laminated copy of this during the race.

Unfortunately with Trista living in North Carolina and me living in Texas, we never actually got to train together. Which is not to say we didn’t train! We both had big run events in the late winter (Rocky 100 for me, Oak Island Marathon for Trista), so we had a great run base. Trista never stops swimming, and I managed to ramp my swimming back up after Rocky, plus we’re both comfortable and competent swimmers, so that wasn’t an issue. I got in several good open water swims, which Trista couldn’t really do, because her open water was frigid, but she did sneak in one 51 degree short lake swim. Trista managed to get several swimrun practice sessions with a borrowed partner, to test tethering, which I couldn’t really do, since nobody else down here was training for my race. So we came to the race feeling fairly good about our swimming and our running, and maybe slightly less good about the fact that neither of us had done a workout that lasted longer than 90 minutes for a month or so, and this swimrun race had an 8 hour cutoff. Ha. Surely we’ll be fine. We can fake endurance, right?
Add ridiculous training pics here?


One thing everyone was nervous about was the water temperature. It wasn’t really even on our radar as a concern when we signed up, but as the race got closer and the water didn’t get any warmer, we started to get a little concerned. Neither Trista nor I had any real experience with cold water swimming, and even though the air temperature at Lake James went up the week before the race, it was only really enough to get the water temp up around 55 or 56. Probably not a big deal for a short swim, but with several longer swim segments in our race, we really had no idea whether we were going to end up hypothermic or not. It did help that the promised front which was supposed to bring a 100% chance of rain and drop the temps into the 30s didn’t end up arriving until several hours after the race ended.

SwimRun Lake James: the day before.
Testing the water temp from our vrbo. I was like "It's not so bad!" and everyone else was like "IT'S FREEZING."

The week before the race, we all ended up panic-buying all the neoprene we could find. Then at packet pickup the day before the race, we all panic-bought a neoprene heat vest to add to our costume. (We decided the swimrun motto was “Everything new on race day!”)

I&apos;d say we&apos;re suited up and ready to go, except we still only have half our gear on. This sport is ridiculous.
Heat vests! In front of one of the many weird mirrors in our fancy Vegas vrbo.

All told, I ended up wearing: a tri top and tri shorts, a sports bra, a neoprene heat vest, a swimrun wetsuit, compression socks, trail shoes with lace locks, neoprene sleeves (came with the wetsuit but are a separate piece), neoprene gloves, a swimrun belt, a pull buoy strapped to my thigh, hand paddles either on my hands or carabinered to my belt, a swim cap, and goggles. I carried a neoprene swim cap (shoved into my wetsuit), but never wore it. (Oh, and a one-size-fits-none singlet with our number on it. This thing was GIGANTIC.) This turned out to be absolutely perfect for me. I was never cold, and while I got a little warm on the runs, it mostly wasn’t so bad I had to take anything off. I basically wore the same thing, only difference was that I made Amy carry the tether, and instead of a tri top I had a swimrun top over my heat vest. The swimrun top is similar to a tri top but it also has pockets in the front. 3 giant, easily accessible pockets that held our course map, mandatory compress bandage, water bottle, and the neoprene cap I didn’t end up wearing.

SwimRun Lake James, before and after.
Obligatory jazz hands!

We also had matching braids. Partly because they are adorkable. But mostly because it was practically impossible to get just your head into that damn neoprene swimcap, and there’s no way anything ELSE would fit, including your hair.

Adorable braids, and carabiners to try to make our one-size-fits-none singlets not fall off during the race.

Race morning we completely took advantage of our close-to-the-park vrbo, the tiny size of the race, and the laid back atmosphere, and Team Shitshow and Team Blonde (Meredith and Laura, also not their actual team name) rolled into the parking lot around 7:35am. For a race that started at 8am. It was AMAZING. We parked, finished getting suited up, took some pictures, and then at 7:55, I realized I should probably hit the bathroom one last time. Which meant Trista had to help me take half my stuff back off, and then put it all back on afterward.

SwimRun Lake James, before and after.
Obligatory jumpshot.

And we STILL made it to the startline with plenty of time to spare! Swimrun is basically the anti-Ironman at this point. We’ll see if that lasts.

Pretty small field. Pretty big scenery.

And then we were off! The first leg was a run, which we were very happy about. As much as Trista and I both love swimming, we both have a lot of anxiety tied up in triathlon swim starts. Somehow running first and then swimming removed all (okay, most) of that particular anxiety. Yes I completely agree with this. But in its place there was Garmin anxiety. I needed a quick last minute lecture on how to start/stop/lap the run segments since I was in charge of those, and Amy was in charge of the swims. Plus we’d be able to build up a little warmth before we had to brave the cold waters.

Unfortunately the first run was also probably the most boring part of the entire race. It was the only run leg that was actually on a road. Well, the kind of road that cars regularly drive on. Actually the very road that we had driven on to get to the start of the race.

Starting out! That's us in the purple socks in the middle.

But it was a nice, calm, mellow way to start the race, really. Teams had plenty of room to spread out and find their paces and their positions. Trista and I settled into an easy pace and watched all the other teams pull ahead of us and leave us behind. This was not unexpected, as neither of us are aggressive runners, and neither of us are fast starters, and our plan the whole time was to start out easy and taper off. It also gave us a chance to see all the different gear the other teams elected to wear. And show off our adorable matching Swedish GoCoCo socks!

So the first run leg was pretty uneventful. It was almost 2 miles, and with an air temp of ~55, I got a little warm. I actually took off one glove a couple minutes in, to cool down a bit. I couldn’t really take off the other glove without also taking off my Garmin, so that one stayed on. Swimrun is a sexy, sexy sport. Indeed.

Then we ran around a bend, and could see cars! And a bridge! And a blaze! (blaze is a trail term, one of many I’ve learned in this adventure. It’s the little ribbons they use to mark the course so we know what to follow) The blazes were pink or pink striped ribbons that they used to mark the path on the trail runs (ugh, I can’t even). We had driven by this one the day before and stopped to take a picture and peer down the steep dirt goat path that went down to the water. And now here we were! Which meant our first swim was imminent. Aaiiee!
You gonna add that pic? I never actually saw that pic. I forgot it exists! Yay

That pic!

We turned left onto the path, and it went straight down. (The day before, Laura was like, “There’s a RAMP right there, why do we not take the ramp?!”) It was steep, but all dirt, no rocks, so I barrelled down the trail, and Trista was like, “What?! What are you doing?!” as she cautiously made her way down the hill. Did I mention this was Trista’s third trail run ever? Whee! Not entirely true. I stopped at the top EXPECTING us to cautiously make our way down the hill. But then I watched Amy go right on down, not skipping a beat. So….trusting fully in her and her decision, and not having a better idea of how to approach it, I went all in and did exactly what she did (after yelling at her for doing what she did). First lesson of the day in trail running, yay!

We ran down a path next to the water, and then suddenly the path ended. At the water. Our first swim!


We had discussed ahead of time, when talking about expectations and goals, that we weren’t going to worry too much about Efficient Transitions (because….team shitshow). We had both done some swimrun race simulation, but not really focused on transitions. And since our only goals were to finish and have a good time, we really didn’t want to sweat the details. Which is good, because this was our first time to really embrace our Team Shitshow nature.dammit! You can erase both those. lol

We ran straight into the water (um, no we didn’t), which was chilly but not so shocking as to bring us to a halt. We actually stood on the path above the water for a bit, next to Team Blonde while trying to stay out of people’s way as other teams tried to move around us to get into the water. We fiddled with equipment and when we thought we’d done a good enough job we got into the water. Turns out, we weren’t the only teams struggling through the process. I unwrapped the tether from my waist, and we had to kinda spin both our belts around to get the clips on the correct sides (both in front). Trista clipped the tether to her, and then we were ready to swim! Except.. we didn’t have our paddles on. So we had to unclip those from our belt and put them on. And then we were ready! Except we weren’t wearing our goggles. Which we had to remove our paddles to use our hands to put the goggles on. But THEN we were ready! Except we hadn’t actually swung our buoys around from outer thigh to inner thigh. We were laughing pretty hard at how poorly we were doing, and kept throwing our hands up in the air and yelling, “Team Shitshow!” A random spectator on a log (or was he a volunteer?? I’m not sure) offered encouraging words (while laughing at us) saying every team in front of us had also forgotten their buoy.

FINALLY, though, we were actually ready, and we started our first swim.

This a view of the bridge where we STARTED the first swim, on some other day where there was actually sun.

Again, the water was cold, but it didn’t feel terrible to me. After the initial 90 seconds or so, any skin that is exposed goes numb so nothing feels cold. For us, this was our face and our knees. It helped that there was a LOT of stuff to deal with. I had to figure out how to deal with the tether, since I’d never practiced tethering. I kept ending up with the tether on my far right, outside of my right paddle, and so grabbing it with my paddle. After getting frustrated with that for a few strokes, I realized I needed to adjust my belt so the tether was RIGHT in the middle of my waist. Once I fixed that, it was mostly a non-issue. Then I was dealing with paranoia that I was going to have to basically race the whole time to keep up with Trista. I knew she was faster than me, especially in the pool, but I didn’t know how much faster, or how that would equate to open water. This also turned out to be a non-issue. Trista swam smooth and steady, and I was able to sit in her draft with some effort, but not a prohibitive effort. It felt good and sustainable. So then the last issue that we were encountering, that was distracting me from the cold, was that we were dodging and weaving through a lot of other teams. I was cheering for Trista in my head and she led us up to and around half a dozen other teams in that first 800 yard swim. Despite the fact that her goggles kept fogging up, and so she had stop several times to clear them so she could see where she was going. Awe, you were cheering for me! I love that. I learned that one of the best things about this sport is how great it is to have a teammate out there with you the whole time. Now that I know you were cheering for me in your head, I won’t even bring up the fact that after our first swim when I asked you how it went you said I was inconsistent, and it was a little hard to keep adjusting your speed to mine. See….won’t even bring that up.

Okay, so this is where I have to make a confession. Normally my race reports contain every single detail of my race in the exact order that it happened. I can’t do that here. This race had 14 run legs and 13 swim legs. I honestly can’t even remember the end of the first swim, much less every single 0.05 mile run across a tiny island, or whether the third swim was a beach exit or an island ledge exit. Whew, she’s sparing us some detail….

Which is GREAT news for you, because now you don’t have to read about 14 run legs and 13 swim legs!

So instead I’ll just give an overview of the legs, how they worked, and anything notable I can remember! I promise, it’ll still be a stupid amount of detail and way too long. Don’t you worry. Wait, she’s NOT sparing us detail...

Though I can’t remember the end of the first swim, I do know that we swam to a giant American flag. Each swim had a giant American flag at the end, usually visible from the swim start, for you to sight off of. If it was a particularly long swim leg, or if it had a turn, the swim leg might also have one or more buoys guiding you until you could see the flag. Some particularly long swim legs also had a strobe light at the exit to help you sight. Super, super helpful. Also helpful, is a partner who stops when you stop so you can ask her “Where’s the blinky? Do you see the blinky?” And then she points you in the right direction.


The islands had all sorts of terrain, so the entrances and exits of the swims varied wildly. Some had a beach that you could swim up to, or walk down onto to get into the water. Very civilized-like. Some looked civilized, but once you got into the water, there were underwater trees or rocks that you swam into or walked over. Painful and unexpected. Not like triathlon, where you have volunteers and a carpeted exit. (New swimrun motto: “There are no carpets in swimrun.”) And then some swims had a tiny little parcel of land to stand on while you tried to haul yourself bodily up a muddy, rooty, tall, impossible embankment, using a skinny little insufficient rope! We DEFINITELY hadn’t trained for this part. And we definitely weren’t good at it.

This is one of the beach entrances, I think the one where the chatted with the kayak guy for so long he felt obligated to take our picture.

Amusingly, for several of the first swim exits, we had another team right behind us that had to wait for us before they could climb up. Trista was in the lead, since she was leading our swims, so she would start to climb up, and I’d push her up by the butt. Pick your partner wisely, people! Then I’d go to try to pull myself up, and suddenly someone would push ME up! Or one time just pick me up by the waist and lift me up! We came to find out this was Team Ramses and Rebeca (not their actual team name, but we only knew their names at the time, so that’s what we called them), and though Ramses claims he was just trying to get us out of the way so he could get through, it was a HUGE help for a short girl trying to scale a tall, muddy incline. Let me add here that this would NEVER happen in triathlon. I loved seeing teams help other teams out there. I didn’t feel any “you got chicked” mentality or the super aggressive attitudes like I’ve come across in triathlon. It was so refreshing. Eventually they pulled ahead of us for a long time, and Ramses was sorely missed when we got to one exit that had a single flimsy ROOT that you had to climb onto, and then pull yourself up and over onto a slick, muddy ledge using a rope that was actually more a cord. I swear, it took us 5 minutes to get up that stupid thing (and most of that was me failing). Where’s the GoPro when you really need it?

Team Ramses and Rebeca, after the race. They are evidently siblings, so kudos to them for not killing each other.

We found out pretty quickly that there was definitely no staying clean in swimrun. We had to grab handfuls of muddy cliff, or slide in mud on our butts or our bellies, and then try not to rub that mud onto our faces when we forgot, and our face itched. (Hi, Trista.) The good news is, even if we got muddy, it was only a matter of time before we got back in the water and could wash some of it off.

So that mostly covers transitions. Other than to say, even though we never really got our act completely together, and had an element of Team Shitshow every time we went from swim to run and back to swim, we actually did a pretty decent job. We managed to run down our checklist each time, and move onto the next sport. This is notable because we’d often pass people DURING these transitions. We’d come out of the water, unhook, turn our buoys, raise our goggles, split our watches, all while walking purposefully, and then start running as soon as we were able. Meanwhile the team that came in at the same time as us was still in the water.

Equally true when starting a swim. We would come out of the woods to a beach and find 2 other teams standing in the water already, getting ready to swim, looking like they’d been there for a few minutes. We’d wade in, get ready, and take off, either with them or maybe even before them. I think a lot of that was people who were cold and didn’t want to go back in the water, or people who just didn’t like swimming and wanted to put it off as long as possible. Whereas Trista and I were like, “YAY, swimming!”

Speaking of swimming, we kinda rocked the swimming. Trista led the whole time. I had expected this to be the case, because I expected to be struggling to stay with her. When I figured out that I wasn’t that much slower than her, I offered to take the lead for some swims if she wanted, but she was comfortable at the front, so she led for every swim. Some other teams used the tether to let the stronger swimmer on the team physically pull the weaker swimmer, but we were close enough in speed that I could just stay right on Trista’s feet with the tether slack, only using it to keep me from having to sight. (I still sighted. I have control issues when I swim. It took me forever in Ultraman training to trust Matt to guide me with the kayak rather than sighting myself.) Other than goggle problems that made her have to stop a few times throughout the race to clear them, our swims were almost completely drama-free. What?!? No...do you not remember the damn speed boat?

The “almost” is because we did witness one speedboat (oh, carry on) that was speeding across the lake, not noticing all the kayaks and boats that were out there to keep us safe, and it got DANGEROUSLY close to some swimmers. We were just about to start our swim when we saw that, and it definitely made us a little more timid and cautious in our swims after that. Amy had to push me into the water after this incident. I think I would’ve stood there for another 10 minutes or so making sure he wasn’t going to swing around and come back for us. Thankfully she kept us moving. Fortunately we didn’t see that guy again, and we never had any other indicidents.

My mental checklist for the race basically had three parts: the 7.7 mile run, the 1600 yard swim, and the 1300 yard swim. Everything else was relatively short, at least comparatively. Once we got through those 3 things, the race would practically be over and it was just celebration through to the end.

Of course, that 7.7 mile run felt like it was 15 miles. OMG it was never ending

Aside from that first almost-2-mile run, most of the run legs were SUPER short. Like 0.05 miles short. That’s where we swam up to an island, ran across the tiny island, and then immediately got back in the water. It was ridiculous and fun. But that meant that the runs longer than 0.05 miles felt really long. Which meant that the 7.7 mile run was almost interminable.

And it had a dramatic start. Thanks for catching the most dramatic part of my day, Patti. It’s Patty. With a Y. She’s a damn local celebrity. Get her name right, would ya?

Glorious, but I feel like it could be even better.

Ohyeah, that's the stuff.

After my dramatic-looking but entirely injury-free faceplant, we got to our first aid station. I still haven’t stopped laughing about this. There were very few chances for water on the course, so we spent a few minutes there, taking our first gu (~1:10 into the race, not really ideal), drinking a ton of water, and getting prepared to do our first and only real run of substance. That meant taking off our swimcaps to stay a little cooler. Unfortunately when I took mine off, it ripped. In a manner that meant there was no way that it was going to actually ever go back on my head. Trista asked the aid station volunteer if she had any replacement caps, but she did not. There was nothing we could do, so we just started running, figuring I’d just be capless from then on, and hopefully wouldn’t get DQed. Good thing we had our hair braided adorkably

And spoiler alert, I didn’t get DQed, because I never had to swim without a cap. Maybe a mile later, we had to run across a road. They had a volunteer on the road to make sure cars stopped so we could cross safely, and that volunteer had a swim cap on his hand, because the caps were neon green, and he was trying to be visible. Which he was, until Trista ran up to him and said, “Hey, do you need that?” and pointed to the swim cap. He said, “... No?” and she said, “Okay, thanks!” and took the cap off his hand and we ran off. Yay, I had a new, whole swim cap! Which survived the rest of the race unripped. Race saved by Trista!

Otherwise the interminable 7 mile run was good. It was BEAUTIFUL, through majestically tall trees and on pine needled paths and across this ridiculous mossy bridge. It was also hilly, and Trista got her introduction to “walking with purpose”. She complained that walking with purpose wasn’t appreciably different from running, according to her burning leg muscles. Fortunately (?) she also couldn’t feel her feet most of the time, so hey, maybe it didn’t hurt as badly as it could have! It really was so beautiful. We kept high fiving and commenting about how great it was to be out in nature, on these trails, doing this crazy fun thing together. Me, not having any trail experience, loved the stark contrast to road running. We were having SO MUCH FUN!

Evidently they dubbed this part Ferngully. It was stunning.

Aside from Trista’s feet, which she said felt like peg legs for most of the runs, we really didn’t ever have any temperature problems. We warmed up on the 7 mile run, and I did unzip my wetsuit a bit (swimrun wetsuits are front zip for this very reason), but I never had to take off my (thin neoprene) gloves or (thicker neoprene) sleeves. And my feet weren’t really even a problem. Yeah, I couldn’t feel them really but the rest of me was warm which was so much better than I could have anticipated after checking the forecast all week. I was happy to not be shivering!

Next up was my second checklist item, our longest swim. It was allegedly a mile, though based on how it felt and how long it took, we suspect it was shorter than that. We think we had a wind assist on that one, and we just zoooomed across the lake. So much fun. I’m going to be honest. At this point, after the long swim, I was kinda sad. We’d gotten thru our big obstacles and I mentally knew it would be over soon. I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet.

I think maybe this is the long swim? That's not us, though.

After we got through that one, we had a long series of shorter runs and swims. A dash up and over a tiny island, then a short to medium swim across to the next island. There were three notable things during this time. Is one of these things my braid?!? Because we’ve gone through a substantial part of the race and you haven’t once mentioned my braid. I had a braid go rogue that I couldn’t stop talking about. It’s like Amy was able to block it out or something. The left braid got caught on the velcro of my wetsuit and it turned into a fishtail type braid, and kept getting shorter and shorter as the race went on. Apparently, it was bothering me. And if it’s bothering me, I talk about it.

One was what we dubbed Shitshow Island. We swam up to the island, started following the blazes to the other side, but as we started to turn right to follow what was obviously the right path (we could SEE the beach for the next swim just through the trees), another team ran by us going off to the left. Not on a path. Not following blazes. Just running the wrong way. What we THOUGHT was the wrong way. We were looking around in confusion, but then Race Director Kristen appeared (out of nowhere! How did she get on this island?) and said, “Ignore them, they’re just warming up!” Which made no sense to us, but she was telling us to go the way we thought was right, so we just kept going. As we ran by her, she cheered for us enthusiastically and aggressively, like “GO GO GO AAHHH!” and it was inspiring and also somewhat terrifying, so we took off. Only to find ANOTHER team of guys running toward us, the wrong way! What is going on?! Why is this island so weird?! Finally we got down to the edge of the island, to find that there was a steep dropoff and muddy descent to get into the water for the next swim. It was one of the only (maybe the only?) descent that had a rope; mostly the ropes had been for climbing OUT, not sliding IN. Once we got down to the water, we found an all-female team down in the water, trying to climb OUT. We couldn’t understand why, because THAT’S THE WRONG WAY, PEOPLE, but when we apologized for using the rope to come down while they were trying to go up, she said it was okay, because she was cramping, and had to wait before she could go back up anyway. So .. I guess they were trying to get out of the cold water to get the cramping to stop? I have no idea. We dubbed them Team Crampy. And then took off to get as far away from the confusion of Shitshow Island as possible. Meredith and Laura said their experience there was odd, too, so we decided maybe it was the island from Lost. And maybe we didn’t survive the crash after all.

Some other team running through the beautiful forest.

The next notable experience I mentioned was far more pleasant, and everyone I talked to afterward agreed it was one of the best parts. I couldn’t even tell you where we were, but at some point a volunteer told us to run up the road a tiny bit and then follow the blaze into the trees. Even with that instruction, I ran right by it, but Trista said, “It’s here!” I hadn’t seen it because there was no path there. Because this part was 100% bushwhacking! No trail. It wasn’t cleared at all. The only way that you knew where to run was following from blaze to blaze. Through tall grass, between bushes, over felled trees, UNDER felled trees, it was like being a little kid running randomly through the middle of the woods! I told Trista I expected to come out at Narnia at any moment (and was a little excited about the potential for Turkish Delight). It was SO much fun. SO MUCH FUN! Best part of the race. Not fast, certainly. We had to walk a lot of it, we had to backtrack slightly a few times when we tried to go the wrong way. We had to swing one leg over a tree trunk, sit on the trunk as swung the other leg over, then hop down off the trunk. It was ridiculous, and I was sad when that part ended.

And finally, the third notable experience was during one of our ridiculous water exits. It was probably the hardest one, where there was really no obvious way to navigate it; a very tall ledge that was all mud and no footholds. There was a rope, but with no footholds, it was really hard to get up. They had a volunteer at the top, but all she could really do was offer advice. Finally I shoved Trista up and then she pulled me up, and we tried to wipe off some of the mud and grime we’d accumulated. As we prepared to run off into the trees, the volunteer said, “Good job ladies! I think you’re the second female team!”

Wait, what? Trista and I both immediately laughed, because that was so improbable as to be ridiculous. We told her that probably wasn’t true, but thanked her for letting us know, and ran off laughing. We decided that since we had no way of knowing, we’d just pretend that it was true for the rest of the race. Why not? Team Shitshow, Second Place Female Team!

Shortly after that, we came upon Team Ramses and Rebeca again! We hadn’t seen them in several hours, so it was delightful to find them. We were all going roughly the same pace for running and swimming at that point, so we just stuck together for the rest of the race.

The last long swim, the 1300 yard one, somehow felt longer than the 1600, and had more chop. I think the wind assist we’d gotten earlier was now a wind impediment. 2 notable things happened for me during this swim. The main one was that it was the first time I had to think about race rules. Team Ramses and Rebeca were close enough in front of us, that based on my triathlon experience, I felt it would be a smart strategy to draft behind them. They were going about the same speed as us so I went for it. But as soon as I did it, I questioned if it was legal. But I couldn’t spend much time dwelling on it because I suddenly was smelling cucumbers. Weird right? Am I having a stroke? Is this early onset hypothermia? What. Is. Happening. From that point on all I could focus on was trying NOT to smell underwater. But we cruised through it with no problem (yeah, no problem), and then we were nearly done!

This might actually be the long swim again? And it's not us. But LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS.

Trista had written the swim and run distances on her paddles, so we’d have some idea what came next without having to dig out our course map, and as we went to consult the paddles to find out what we had left, we suddenly heard the finish line.

Such a great idea that we stole from someone else on the internet, and we referenced them constantly.

We were right there! We did one short swim where we didn’t bother to tether (for anything 200 yards or less, tethering took more time than it gave us benefit, so I just drafted with no tether, or swam beside Trista), a tiny little 0.05 mile run across on island in a little train with Team R&R, and then suddenly we were there at the water’s edge, looking across at the boat dock to the final island and the finish line! We’d stood over there the day before looking at this spot we were at now, knowing it would be the last swim!

Last swim! We swam from over there to here where we were standing!

And it was LINED with spectators all cheering loudly for us! It was the most amazing feeling! In every race I’ve done before this, I’ve been super excited to hear or even see the finish line. And while it was exciting to see the spectators and know that we had survived our first swimrun event, I was a bit sad for it to end. We were having so much fun out there.

It was only 100 yards, so we didn’t bother to tether, just waded in and swam across; our last swim! Then we crawled out of the water, ran through the cheering tunnel of people up the road, and up to the finish line!

Heading up the road to the finish line. Great posture, ladies.

Which honestly was a little disappointing, after the insanity of the boat ramp. The finish line had two volunteers and an announcer who I couldn’t actually hear, who was announcing to nobody, since everyone was down the road at the water. But still! The finish line! We DID IT!

Once we crossed the finish line, the first thing we learned was that the promised warm showers weren’t actually warm. That was a bit of a bummer, since Trista’s plan had been to basically live in the shower for a few hours after the race. There were warm showers up the road a bit, but we weren’t willing to travel that far. Instead we immediately headed for the car and changed out of our wet clothes and into warm, dry clothes. (Well, after more pictures, of course.)

After that, we learned there were burritos, so we went in search of those. On our way we found Meredith and Laura and talked to them, then we found burritos, and we ate burritos, and we took more pictures, and ate cookies, and chatted with other people, etc. All that to say, a while later, when someone came up to us and congratulated us, we had completely forgotten about that volunteer who told us we were second place female team. But evidently it was TRUE! Still kinda didn’t believe them.

Proof for the disbelieving Trista. 5:11, and 400 calories consumed. Nutrition failure!

That was an amazing and delightful cherry on top of an already amazing race. All we wanted from the day was fun and completion. We were not aiming for a podium spot. It wasn’t even on our radar. And in fact Trista says this is her first podium ever! Go, Team Shitshow!

With our swag! (And ridiculous warm outfits!)

I’m glad we didn’t know for most of the race, though, and that we didn’t believe it when we did find out. We felt no pressure the entire race. We chatted with volunteers and other teams. We took forever to get our act together in transitions. We chatted with each other during some of the swims. We stopped to pose for pictures. We spent a ridiculous amount of time at the aid stations having our water cups refilled so we didn’t waste cups. I feel like we probably could have shaved off a good half hour from our time just by taking the race more seriously, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We had a pretty perfect race, and a perfect weekend. Trista had the unenviable task of cramming two different friend groups into one house/weekend/event and hoping they got along. Turned out to be a complete non-issue, because Team Blonde and I were already kindred spirits, we just hadn’t met yet. We’ve rectified that now. I love happy endings.

SwimRun Lake James: the day before.
Team Blonde and Team Brunette!

I think Trista and I got super lucky, in a lot of ways. We hit the partner jackpot! We never trained together, but our abilities ended up being nearly perfectly matched. We both had a good race physically, not having any problems with the cold water, no (real) falls, no blisters, no stomach problems, no cramping. And we both had a good race mentally, as well. We smiled and laughed the whole time, we never argued or disagreed, every decision was made as a team with no dissent. You know how in most races you get annoyed at other people? Or maybe get annoyed by yourself? Or the course, a volunteer? Something!?! I was never once annoyed with my partner. I was so thankful and happy to be doing this with Amy. I couldn’t have asked for a better match for my first swimrun. I think I turned to Trista 20 times during the race with a giant grin on my face and said, “I am having So! Much! Fun!” We still liked each other at the finish line!


Would I do it again? Oh hell yes. We were already discussing what was next while we were still out there. My dance card is already pretty full for the next year, but Trista and I have pencilled in SwimRun NC for next Fall. (We’d get to run by WATERFALLS!)

How do you celebrate finally being home, warm, and dry after spending all day in 55 degree water? That's right, you strip down and cannonball back into that same water! Meredith always has the best ideas.

Plus I now own every single piece of swimrun gear, so I have to justify buying all this shit.

We are Serious Athletes
SwimRun is Serious Business.
happy running

Rocky Raccoon 100 - after.

I've intended to write this post for a while, but I just haven't made the time or had the motivation to do so until now. I know I'll wonder in the future, though, about post-Rocky, and I've had people ask how it's gone. Easier to just point them at this point. Hi, anyone I've pointed here!

I actually felt pretty okay once I crossed the finish line. People started breaking down the tent and the supplies and packing up cars, and I just stood around talking to my crew and pacers and friends and being generally useless. I figured that was an acceptable time to be useless. We took my shoes off, and I finally got to check out the state of my feet. They were pretty gross, but also so much better than they could have been. I had blisters under ever toe tip, which is what had been causing me so much pain while running, and also blisters under maybe 4-6 of me toenails. Impossible to tell at that point. But miraculously, not a single blister had popped during the run.

My feet felt much better after I put my Oofos on, and then I stood around chatting more. I had considered, before we left home, packing up a recovery drink for after. But I had nothing to really recover for at this point. I figured if I needed post-race food, there would be something at the race I could eat. After so many months and miles of meticulous planning, I was ready to just wing it once I crossed the finish line. And I wasn't feeling the urge to eat anything at that point, so I didn't.

After standing around for a while, I started to feel a little wobbly and surreal, so I asked Robyn if I could put my gross body in her folding chair (all of ours were already packed up), and she let me because she's a good friend. After sitting for 5 minutes, I felt normal again, and got back up to go cheer in the final finishers, high-five the other runners who were still around, and then cheer in the people who finished not quite under the time cut-off, including the amazing 14 year old everyone spent all day cheering for and encouraging.

Once everything was packed up, we headed back to the car, and back to the hotel. I still wasn't hungry or craving anything, so I let Matt choose our post-race meal, and he chose some fast and easy McDonald's. We drove through and took our food back to the hotel, where I immediately jumped in the shower. It felt SO GOOD to be clean, and I really didn't have much chafing to speak of.

After the shower, I ate a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, maybe three french fries, and a couple sips of Diet Coke. It was neither appealing nor unappealing, and that was all I felt like putting in my body. Matt laid down at that point and took a nap (it was maybe 5pm at this point?), and I tried to do the same. And failed. My body was completely jumpy. All of my muscles kept firing randomly, and I couldn't get comfortable. After a while I remembered that I should elevate my legs, so I shoved some pillows under my feet for a while, but that wasn't very comfortable, so I just tried to toss and turn until finally I gave up. I tried not to glare at the sleeping Matt. He had been awake just as long as I had at that point, and I needed him to be rested so we could actually go home the next day.

Eventually Matt woke up, and we went out to get Chipotle for dinner. That's usually my go-to when I want something I like and know I can tolerate, but even though I was able to eat more than I had from McDonald's, I still just wasn't really hungry or inspired to eat. I ate part of a bowl and called it good.

At that point, the SuperBowl was probably on, but that's not something that interests me on the best of days, so instead I took an ambien, and finally, blissfully, fell asleep.

The next day my legs felt much better than I would have figured. I was a little scared of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but it really wasn't terrible. Which is good, because our hotel room was on the second floor. We hobbled to breakfast, and then into the car for the drive home. I was also a little scared of what 3.5 hours in the car would do to my legs, but they really weren't even all that uncomfortable in the car, and our car normally kills my hamstrings, post-run. We probably should have stopped periodically to stretch our legs, but we both just wanted to be home, so we drove straight through, no stops. Behold, the power of dehydration.

I had taken Monday and Tuesday off work, and mostly we did a whole lot of nothing for those days. Tried to put away all the race stuff, and do laundry, and apologize to the dogs for being gone for a few days.

I had no idea what my body would be like after running 100 miles, and I was actually surprised that my legs weren't bad at all. I would say it was comparable to post-marathon soreness. The first day I was back at work, Wednesday, I still had trouble walking down stairs normally, and had to use my hands to lower and lift myself off the toilet. By Thursday, though, the soreness was fading, and my legs felt fairly normal. Again, very similar to what I experience after a marathon.

My feet, on the other hand, were a disaster. First there was the blisters, which made walking very painful. Once I got home, I pushed a (clean) needle under 4 of my toenails to drain the blisters there. That helped SO much. I also tried to drain some of the blisters under my toes, but most of those weren't as cooperative. Some had become almost a hardened callous+blister, and were incredibly painful. I had to wear socks to sleep each night, so that my feet didn't touch the sheets directly. Too uncomfortable otherwise.

The first night I was back home, my feet ached a little bit, apart from the blisters. The second night, though, I fell asleep, and then suddenly woke up a few hours later because my feet ached SO BADLY. The internals of my feet. My foot bones and tendons and whatnot. This was the kind of thing I had really expected to experience after stupidly running 100 miles, but when it didn't happen in the first few days, I thought maybe I'd magically get to avoid that kind of thing! Not so much. Matt very kindly rubbed BioFreeze on my feet and gave me ibuprofen and pat me on the head and told me I wasn't dying. And eventually I got back to sleep.

I basically lived on ibuprofen for a few days. My body was a big inflammatory disaster.

But then pains started to fade, and things started to feel more normal. That was maybe Friday. Once my blisters and foot internals started to feel better, though, I realized I had some slightly alarming discomfort in my right foot. 5th metatarsal area. You know, one of those places it's very common to get a stress fracture. I was pretty nervous. I realized the first two hot showers I took, that exact site was super heat sensitive, which can be a sign of problems. I spent that first weekend assuming that on Monday, I was probably going to try to find someone to check out my foot and tell me if I should be worried. But then.. it faded. And hasn't been a problem since. Yay!

I ended up taking a week completely off everything. I tried to convince myself that a swim might help me recover faster, but my heart just wasn't in it, and so I did nothing. One week after Rocky, I finally convinced myself to go do a short swim. And it did feel good. And it helped me feel slightly less like I was going to go into SwimRun Lake James completely underprepared, and Trista would have to drag me along in the swim.

I ended up swimming Saturday, Sunday, and then the next Wednesday, all short and easy.

Before Rocky, I'd had no idea how I would feel afterward. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I decided that if my body was just wrecked, I would take all the rest of February off running, and start running again in March if my body felt okay. The longest run segment at SRLJ is 7 miles, so really I only needed to work up to that, and a month was plenty of time to do that. I wasn't concerned about getting back into running.

I hadn't really anticipated how much I'd MISS running, though. I was sad not to be able to run. So after 10 days, when my feet felt normal again, and my legs had no residual soreness, I went out and tried to run. And it was fine! I was prepared to turn around immediately if it felt bad, or do 1 mile, or turn around after a mile and do 2. But I did my standard 3 mile loop, and it was fine. No pain, no soreness, no regrets.

So now, 3 weeks after Rocky, I have run 6 times, the longest being 6 miles. Taking it nice and slow and easy. And things have felt great. I've had slightly less success with my swimming motivation, but I'm trying not to pressure myself too much on that front. I've already warned Trista she'll have to wait for me, which she'll have no choice but to do, since we'll be tethered together. I just have to build a little swim endurance back up, but I have over a month to do that.

I officially declare myself mostly recovered, though I will continue to do everything slowly and easily and with a lot of recovery time.

How do I feel now about the possibility of doing another 100 miler? Still one and done? Unknown at this point. I still feel no urge to do Rocky again. I'm still not googling "100 milers". But I'm not saying I wouldn't maybe do a more scenic 100 miler that was just one loop, or an out and back...

For now, though, my race card is full for the rest of the year!