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.
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…..

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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.

distances
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?

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Yeeeep.

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'd say we'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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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NOW YOU TELL US.

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.

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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.

flag
Murica.

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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

pic2
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.

paddles
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!

2018-04-13_09-20-25
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!

finish
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.

results
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!

IMG_1794
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!

cute
Adorkable.

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.
Another Wow Event
(Anonymous)
Amy and Trista,

Your SwimRun adventure leaves me breathless. Maybe you are possibly a tad crazy, but you, nonetheless, had a remarkable (and adorkable) time in your Lake James SwimRun. I always love reading your blogs, Amy, and this time also enjoyed Trista’s added comments.

Well done, both of you. I admire your skill and enthusiasm.

Chris Brunette
Adorkable, indeed!
I couldn't think of a better crazy sport for you! Love the dueling race report and especially how much fun you both had!!
(Anonymous)
This write-up was great. I was the volunteer that alerted you to 2nd place female team. I am SO GLAD I was right! Congrats!! Y'all did great.