Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Backloading the Season

After St. Anthony's I didn't have any races on the schedule and just figured I'd jump into a few local sprints throughout the summer. A hard interval run on a June morning was immediately followed by all day training/testing as we implemented a new financial system at work. When I got up at the end of the day, my right hip was super tight. I figured I needed to stretch and roll and it would be fine. It wasn't. It gradually got worse every week until I had to shut down running for most of July. I was very cautious coming back and did a lot of walk/jogging (and dry needling/stretching/yoga/standing more at work).

Marty and I decided to do a few late season races after it hopefully cooled down a bit and I could get my hip better. First up was the Outer Banks Triathlon which we had never done. Actually, all of the races we signed up for we had never done. Outer Banks was also an excuse for us to do a mini vacay at the beach since we could both race on separate days. No babysitter needed for Junior Awesome.

Outer Banks Sprint Triathlon
We had some friends also join us for this and stay at the beach house we rented in Nags Head. It was a fun and relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, all swims were cancelled for the races because of high bacteria in the water leftover from the hurricane that came through the week before. This was a bummer but I was honestly glad they were able to pull off any race that weekend. They started us in 4 different 'waves' where we self seeded in the wave and ran into transition to our bikes. Old ladies last, of course :/ They started with two waves of men, then two waves of women. I ended up 3rd in line for my wave but was first out of transition. The bike was crowded with cars, something I hope the organizers can work on for next year. It was down right dangerous leaving the first transition area since they allowed spectators to leave before everyone was out on the bike (there were two transitions). I went super hard on the bike since I knew the run was going to be hard for me either way - I just wasn't in good run shape yet. I was able to catch everyone in the wave ahead of me except for my friend Sarah. It was a very hot and humid day so the run felt pretty brutal. I knew it was going to be a tough one when after 5min into the run I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish :) I was definitely on the struggle bus out there - running is so freaking hard when you're not in shape! I did manage to win overall for females with Sarah not too far behind me.

Sandling Beach Formula 1 Sprint
This race was a crazy format and just down the road from us. It was also 3 weeks after the Outer Banks and I was starting to feel a bit more fit. Bike-Run-Swim-Bike-Run-Swim-Bike-Run
All the bikes were 5miles and the runs were 2K. The two swims were 500 yards.The format made this very fun with zero pressure as it's so different than most other races you'll ever do. The competition was great, but it was very disappointing how low the overall turnout was. The course itself - really challenging! The bikes were two loops with lots of turns and one moderate hill. I never felt like I could really get going on the bike. The run was out and back (uphill/downhill and then reverse it). The swim was calm and a perfect temperature. When I first signed up for this race my biggest concern was the water being cold (since I'm a total cold water wuss) but it felt great. I knew from doing the Old School Aquathons years ago that swimming after running is super hard, so concentrated on long, relaxed strokes. I ended up finishing second to a young super stud and had a really fun day.

The Dam Triathlon
6 days later was our last triathlon for the year: The Dam Triathlon in Lexington, SC, part of the South Carolina Triathlon Series. My sister moved to Columbia a few years ago and then bought a house a year after moving there. I discovered that their house was only 10min from the transition area of this race and it was a fun distance (they called it a 'sprinternational' since it is in between a sprint and international distance: 1000 meter swim, 21 mile bike, 4 mile run). Last year we couldn't make it because Marty had signed up for the NC 70.3 on the same day (which ended up getting cancelled) but we penciled the race in for this year.

I had taken a peek at the participant list and saw there looked to be a good number of open/masters open competitors which I was very pumped about. I didn't know any of them (except for Katie Malone) but was glad to see a healthy amount that would definitely mean good competition. Justin had also told me the prior week that the points were real tight for the series so it was going to be a good one. I mistakenly signed up for Masters Open instead of the Open division - I had remembered that back in the day for the North Carolina Triathlon Series that once you were 40 you were in Masters Open, no exceptions. But this was not the case down here - anyone could be in the Open division, and this is where all the fast girls were categorized. Luckily we all went in the same wave so it ended up not being a big deal.

The swim was barely wetsuit legal (yay!) and had some chop since it was a bit windy out. I seem to do better in these type of conditions and ended up coming out with the first girl (although I didn't know it at the time). We got on the bike at the same time but I was able to ride away pretty quick. The bike course was open to traffic but luckily I only had one close call (a car pulling out of a gas station right after I had a made a left turn onto the road). I was almost completely by myself on the bike except for a few slower male swimmers who passed me. The second lap had a few more people since I was now overlapping the later waves but overall it was very spread out. I thought I was in first but really wasn't sure until I got on the run where a spectator finally said something.

On the run I put it in a comfortable hard pace - I'm finally feeling better fitness-wise but didn't have the confidence that I could run all that fast for 4 miles. I knew I had a few more gears in me and was feeling good but wanted to see how far the other girls were at the turn around before deciding if I needed to drop the pace. I could see Marty not too far ahead but it seemed like I wasn't gaining much ground on him at all. After the turn, it looked like I had a pretty solid lead so no need to go to the well. Almost to the finish line and Marty was just a handful of seconds in front of me - he took a quick look back and because he's a nice hubby he slowed a bit so we could cross together, which I don't think we have ever done before! Jeremy, the race director (who we knew from the NCTS) said some real nice things about us when we crossed. First overall female with a course record to boot! Super fun.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

St. Anthony's Triathlon 2019

A race report? Why not. Maybe I’ll do just one a year from now on 😉

St. Anthony’s Triathlon is an iconic Olympic distance that was celebrating it’s 36th year in 2019. I had done the youth triathlon 5 or 6 times when I was young, and then the Olympic distance a handful of times post college. We hadn’t been back down there for this race for quite some time – maybe 2010? I could look it up but I’m feeling lazy.

My training was pretty good this winter in prep for this race. It was nothing crazy, and nothing terribly hard. It was training for fitness and to continue my cake/ice cream habit.
*REAL TIME CHECKING MY TRAINING HOURS*  Uhhhhh, so I actually thought I trained more than I did. Since my watch automatically uploads everything into training peaks, I can check this stuff (easier than old race results, apparently). My swim/bike/run average hours for the last 90 days was a whopping 6hrs 40min a week. This was typically 2 swims a week, 3 runs and 2 bikes (1 mountain bike on the bridle trails for ~1hr and one outside weekend ride for ~1.5 – 2hrs). That’s a far cry from the training hours this time last year when I was gearing up for IM Texas, but this was what I wanted to do this year. And I loved it. There wasn’t any pressure, it was just getting out when I could and enjoying it.

Let’s get on with this race report already. I decided to race age group (I had raced open several times in the past at this race) but was not feeling particularly speedy and frankly didn’t want to be racing 25 year old’s. The bad thing about racing age group is that my wave was one of the last to go. The pro’s went off at 6:50 and my wave went at 8:08 (two waves were behind me, women 35-39, so hey, I was 5 min ahead of my real age, and then novice). Going late sucks for many reasons: you sit around for a long time so have to make sure you are eating and drinking enough, there are lots of bodies to swim through, and it doesn’t get any cooler.

I made my way out into the water with my age group where we started in chest deep water (Sadness. We used to run in from the beach which adds a whole different element to the start of the race, and I was looking forward to it since that’s not a start you see much of anymore). It seemed like not many were interested in lining up front and center so don’t mind if I do. The cannon sounded and I went pretty hard for the first 50 yards with one another girl and we separated from the rest of the group quickly. The first part of the swim was fairly uneventful, except for the jet ski that went right in front of me to get to a distressed swimmer. That made it quite bumpy for half a minute or so. I started catching the wave ahead of me but was able to navigate pretty good through them until we made the left turn out to sea, into the sun. This is also where the waves got much bigger, which, not gonna lie, I was super pumped about.  It certainly slows me down but I’m also very comfortable in it so it doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother others. Plus, coming from our normal calm lake swims in NC, I was happy to have an honest swim. My time was right around 25min which is, I think, my slowest ever 1500 meter swims, but was 2nd in my age group. It was a slow day across the board (not just in the swim).

The bike had some wind, and the course has a lot of turns, but it’s totally flat. Starting so late meant that all I did was pass people. Literally, no one passed me the entire bike. I was that person yelling ‘on your left’ maybe like a jerk sometimes, but people, come on, stay to the right out there. I don’t actually have anything else to say about the bike. It was fine. My 5 mile splits were: 13:38, 13:22, 13:26, 13:30 so yay for riding even (12:30ish for the last bit which is less than 5). 1st off the bike for my age group.

The run, ugh it was hot. I started off comfy and felt fine and it was literally just a slow burn. I slowed down each mile and started walking through the aid stations after half way (yeah, I walked, whatevs). I even walked at mile 5 where there wasn’t an aid station but I really felt like there should’ve been! I didn’t walk for long and somehow still managed to have the fastest run split in my age group, which is a testament to how hard this race is, even though you think it shouldn’t be.

Super fun race. Everyone should do St. Anthony’s at least once! We had a great time with our friends from Raleigh (also Florida transplants and St. Anthony’s veterans) and am so glad we got to go back there this year.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ironman Texas Race Report

Well, writing a race report for an Ironman is literally not something I thought I would ever do. But here it is.

How did this happen
Good friends (bad friends?) got me to pull the trigger. Beer was involved but not much so can't really use that as an excuse. I have never really wanted to do an Ironman, but the stars aligned that I would have an almost full time training partner (Carrie) and the timing worked out where I felt I could actually fit all this training in. It was now or never. Marty's excellent coaching got me to the start line feeling confident and injury free.

The travel, logistics, bags, packing, nutrition - these are all a royal PITA.

Swim: 1:01:17
Carrie and I were separated after dropping off our special needs bag because of bad communication and bathroom needs within our group of 7. Noooooooo. I surprisingly ran into Marty at the start who I was not expecting to see and he was able to call Whit and tell him where I had seeded myself for the rolling start. But it got crowded quick and I couldn't find her. I'm sure the people around me must have thought I was the most fidgety person as I was constantly spinning circles and standing on my tip toes looking for her. We were set to go off at 6:40am and at 6:38am I feel a tap on my shoulder! CARRIE! (she immediately got smothered in a hug - emotions were high). She said she spotted me because I was the only one (spinning circles) while everyone else was focused and looking straight ahead. We entered the water together and swam almost stroke for stroke the entire way. We had heard that the swim here was rough, but we stayed way to the right and didn't find it too bad at all. On the return trip things got a bit more crowded as we were surrounded by people swimming about at our same ability but nothing terrible. The final turn into the canal was a bit more rough as it was narrow and shallow and more like a washing machine. All this stuff doesn't bother me, though. I can only point to the many, many open water swims I've done throughout my whole life. Growing up in Florida doing triathlons in the ocean has some advantages - particularly when they NEVER cancelled swims back then. All in all I felt like the swim was super easy and enjoyable. I got out feeling like I hadn't done much at all, which was exactly my goal for this part.

Finding Marty and recreating the picture on his t-shirt

T1: 4:10
This was so amazing being in there early and having a personal assistant. I asked her to do things like take my socks out of my shoes and my sunglasses out of their case. She even put my socks on my feet like I was a 3 year old while I put my helmet on!

Bike: 5:11:57
My #1 goal for the bike was to keep my power at 70% or under of my ftp. Whenever I saw it get above 70% I told myself to back off. 112 miles is a long time to be on the bike and I knew how easy it would be to go too hard at the beginning and pay for it later (and I remember Marty clearly doing this at the Great Floridian back in 2004 - that was a mistake I was not going to make). Coming out around an hour in the swim means you get passed by lots and lots of people. I didn't worry about that at all. I only worried about keeping that power number in check.

Running to my bike

The first 18ish miles you wind around town until you get to the Hardy Toll Road which is completely closed off to traffic for 20miles. You do a down and back twice so you get 80 miles of mostly flat roadway with only 3 u-turns. We had little wind out there this year (it started to pick up at the beginning of the second lap) but all this meant supah-fast bike times. If you haven't heard by now, there were also MASSIVE draft packs that formed. For me, I would let them swallow me up and spit me out. This was not very hard to do as they were moving faster than I would've been so once I was out of them, I could go back to my own thing. I guess for someone who is faster this tactic would've been harder to do, but for me this worked. At Chattanooga 70.3 last year, it was not the case - I felt that there was almost nowhere to go, but I just didn't feel like it was like that out there. And it's very easy to see the people who won't make that decision to back off and race on their own. Most of the packs were men, but there were always, always a handful of women who were tucked in there getting sucked along at a faster time than they most certainly could really ride (and then of course they came off the bike with fresher legs). It's hard to not let this bother you, but my goals didn't involve a Kona spot or a podium finish. They were much more intrinsic. And I did not train this hard and spend all that $$$ and to come all this way to sit in a draft pack.

I felt great on the bike. Keeping my power where it should be and getting all my nutrition certainly helped. The miles clicked off and soon I was at 100 and getting off the toll road to head back into town. This was probably the worst part of the bike course, the last little bit back to transition. Ironically, I was completely by myself through this part. It was so weird to be in this huge race by myself for the last 10miles. And yes, that was only 10 miles. Turns out the bike course was 'only' 110 miles.

T2: 3:54
Again, rock star treatment in the changing tent. I had a semi circle of 5 women around me asking what I needed. The volunteers were simply amazing.

Run: 4:17:51
Time to go do my first marathon! The first 3 miles I had a knife-like cramp in my side. I could only drink water at the aid stations not sure what else to do to get rid of it. I knew stomach troubles were possibly going to be a problem as I just in general don't have the strongest stomach. I never got nauseous or sloshy stomach, it just hurt. Also - the weather. I keep hearing, oh wow you guys had such amazing weather. Let's be clear here. It was a high of 84 with zero cloud cover. The humidity was ok (in the 60% range) but this is by no means a 'cool' day. I think what people mean is it could've been so much worse (agreed) but it got very hot out there. My entire jog/walk was a pretty typical first IM marathon, I think. I jogged to each aid station and walked though getting all the water/ice/coke/gatorade I could. Sometimes I walked a little extra. I took one bathroom break that was a "don't trust that fart" scenario. The run course was awesome, though! I thought 3 loops might be monotonous but the volunteer and spectator support was truly amazing. There was hardly any length of time that you didn't have someone cheering for you. There were some serious low points for me out there, however. At mile 7 I couldn't fathom how I was going to run another 19.2 miles. My right hamstring tried to fully cramp on me about 2 dozen times. In all honesty, I never felt good the entire run. But I just put my head down and got to the next aid station. I high fived everyone who offered. I hit any poster board that promised me I would power up if I did. I stomped on chalk drawings on the ground just so I could hear the girl there yell, "BOOM!" every time. I wish I could've run faster, and I certainly know I'm capable of it, but not that day. I did what I could with the hand I was dealt.

Jogging with a smile

The Finish: 10:39:08
I had a few people around me as we were nearing the finish line so I slowed up a bit to get a bit of space for my own finish picture. Of course I end up with "I'm-foreign-and-need-to-wave-my-flag-guy" in front of me. And Mike Reilly didn't even say my name as I crossed the line but I did it. I did the damn thing! And no, I didn't trip right after the finish line, that was just my leg giving out on me. That's also the quickest way to get a bunch of volunteers to rush at you, in case you're wondering.

Fantastic racers from North Carolina!
Post Race
I had a fantastic time and have zero regrets. I'm so glad I signed up for it and did it. BUT. I'm still one and done. IronBri OUT!!!!! ;)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

3.5 weeks to go

I felt like I needed to blog about the training that has happened (as this training is never to happen again! Hahahah). Ironman Texas is 3.5 weeks away so the hard stuff is done at this point. And I’m here at the other end of it in one piece and still smiling! I mean for the most part anyways, there were times where I wasn’t smiling. For instance, during round 2 of the triple brick, when it was 42 degrees and we were getting rained on and I was feeling awful – the good news is my initial reaction is all captured on a Go Pro. I’m putting my bike up in the middle of this round and look at the camera: I…….(very long pause. So long you think I might be done talking)….I don’t like this.

But what have I accomplished? Enough to think that I may actually be able to finish this thing.
  • My first 100 mile ride (106 miles to be exact) was amazing because it was mostly flat and had a 10 mph tailwind. Zooooooooom.
  • The next 100 mile ride was imbedded in the aforementioned Triple Brick (yes, that needs to be capitalized). 3x33 mile bike, 30min run. Oh, what, that doesn’t add up to 100? It’s called rounding, bitches!
  • The third was 112.8 miles on a Friday where I needed to burn a vacation day because our weather has been really very crappy. It has been so unseasonably cold here – which is awesome as Texas is most likely going to be 90 degrees. More on that later. This ride had anywhere between 4200 – 4900 ft of climbing depending on who’s Garmin you are looking at. This was not what we wanted, but what you get if you ride long around here.
    • You all should know by now, but when I say “We” or even “I” you need to assume I’m including Carrie because we have literally done about 95% of this training together. Also, this caption from an earlier blog was fortuitous as she may have wanted to kill me at some point this past weekend but, l’m still alive and we are still besties. 

  • The final was 111.7 miles at Beach Camp this past weekend (rounding, bitches).
  • Not one, but two 20 mile runs. Also, a 17 and 18 miler.
  • Swim has been consistent and definitely did a 4200 yard workout (plus many others near there) but I’m not worried about the swim at all. I also don't know why these bullets are not indenting but I'm not spending anymore time trying to figure it out. I also don't know why the next paragraph is two spaces down instead of one.

  • So, the weather. If it’s 40-50 degrees I am confident I will have a good run and nail my nutrition. Because that is literally all I’ve been training in. OF COURSE IT’S NOT GOING TO BE THAT. So who knows what’s going to happen? I will get to that finish line one way or another.

    Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    I'm still doing this Ironman

    A little over 10 weeks to IM Texas, my first (and only) Ironman. I do truly believe I am one and done. With this statement you might think I’m hating everything about this ‘journey’ (blargh I just threw up in my mouth a bit) but I’m actually not. There is something to be said for having a plan and trying to (mostly) go full force in and do what it calls for, even when a lot of it stretches all of your boundaries. If it weren’t for the other ladies, particularly Carrie, there wouldn’t be any way I would be getting all this done. Especially since Mother Nature has been giving us everything she’s got ranging from snow to uber-cold to all weekend rain. There have been many trainer rides, and yeah, I realize we signed up for an early season race but our winters in the south are just not usually that bad.

    I’ve been setting all sorts of PRs: longest trainer ride (4.5hrs), longest run (15 miles), longest outdoor ride (80 miles) and maybe longest swim? (3.9K) That one I’m actually not sure of, but at least longest swim in the past 7 years. All of those, except the trainer ride, are very soon to be eclipsed again (I mean for gods sakes let’s hope that trainer PR doesn’t get any longer). We did get through the whole season of Ozark as well as other movies and shows.

    It’s weird to even begin to explain to other people what I’m training for – obviously people outside the triathlon world. They think I’m straight up crazy, which in all actuality, this endeavor is. Without the full support of Marty, there’s no way I could get all this training in. I literally feel like my world is slightly askew, trying to fit the workouts in. Someone at work asked how long it takes to train for an Ironman and I literally didn’t have an answer for them. I mean, I did my first triathlon when I was 8, so I guess for me 30 years? But some people can do it in 6 months :P

    With 10 weeks to go we haven’t even hit the BIG stuff yet, and that definitely scares me. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread and things will come crumbling down any second. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been sick twice, had some calf strain scares and what is probably a neuroma in my foot. Many days, I’m just hoping I make it to the starting line as doing that seems like a win. And for the record, I’m not trying for a Kona slot, I’m not interested in a Kona slot, and if a miracle happened and I somehow got one (people, 4th place in my age group last year was 10 flat. That is sick fast and I’ve never even run a marathon before) I can’t even imagine taking it. 

    One day at a time, one foot in front of another, one stroke blah de blah blah -- you get the point. 

    Cheers, fools!

    Thursday, December 7, 2017

    What’s Up

    The Thursday after SwimRun NC I went in to have PRK done on my eyes. Earlier in the year I had gone to get a LASIK consultation, but I wasn’t a candidate for LASIK because of the shape of my eye. In LASIK, they cut most of your cornea so they can flip it back and use the laser to correct your vision. The doctors felt that cutting that flap was too risky so they recommended the safer, older version of LASIK called PRK (it’s actually called something different, but most people know it as PRK so that’s what I’m sticking to). The main difference is instead of cutting your eye, they use a solution that dissolves the top layer of your eye, and then use the laser to correct your vision. With LASIK they flip that cornea back over and you walk out with perfect vision. With PRK, the top layer of your eye slowly grows back and you have really good vision within a week, and perfect vision within 1-3 months.

    Not cutting the flap makes PRK safer, and FDA studies have also shown that long term vision is more stable than LASIK. But everyone wants instant gratification so hardly anyone opts for PRK – you get it if LASIK won’t work for you. The first few days after the procedure are not awesome, and your vision isn’t very good until around day 5-7. Which is why I decided to delay it until after the season. I was training for the Chattanooga 70.3 at the time of my initial consultation and wasn’t entirely sure how this would affect that. I figured I’d waited this long already so what was another few months.

    I got the procedure done early in the afternoon on Thursday and they have you take half a Valium for relaxation and the other half when you go home so you can sleep. And boy did I sleep! We were home at 3pm and I slept until 9pm when Marty woke me up so I would eat. I had a pb&j and then went back to sleep until 7am the next morning. Friday and Saturday were not super painful, but I just literally couldn’t open my eyes for more than a second or two. It felt like my eyelids had ten pound weights on them and they were very sensitive. Mostly I laid around and listened to audio books. Shout out to Marty, husband and father extraordinaire. By Sunday I was able to open my eyes fine, but my vision was pretty awful (probably around 20-60). At my follow-up that Tuesday it was 20-40, and Thursday it was 20-30 in one eye and 20-40 in the other). My coworkers laughed at my screen resolution, but other than that everything was good. At my one month follow-up, I was 20-20 (but I did miss one letter) and they said that over the next 2 months my vision will continue to get crisper.

    This all coincided with a mini break which worked out nice. I hadn’t really done much riding since early October and now I wasn’t going to be able to swim for over 2 weeks. The remaining part of November was very much do whatever you want type things as Ironman training was set to begin in December.

    I ran enough to make sure I could complete a half marathon on Thanksgiving without any problem – I ran with a friend who is also doing IM Texas and we talked the whole way on a chilly morning. It was a great start to the holiday. We had our traditional friends-giving that evening and then on Friday we drove out to the mountains to spend the rest of the time with Hughston’s. We rented a small cabin, hiked the Appalachian Trail, played lots of cards and ate and drank too much. It was tons of fun.

    Ironman training has officially started but all of December is going to be about consistency and trying not to miss much with the holidays. Luckily, I’m surrounded by great friends who are also training, and great husbands who are all very supportive.

    Next week – Logan turns 6!

    And now a few pictures to commemorate Thanksgiving and the fact that Logan can now take our picture pretty good.

    Then he wanted me to take his picture

    And finally he wanted to take a selfie.

    And the reason why his hair looks funny above is because Marty let him get his hair cut with a double mohawk. And it obviously couldn't stay like that for too long.

    Wednesday, November 1, 2017

    SwimRun NC

    Last year was the inaugural SwimRun North Carolina at beautiful Hanging Rock State Park. We had two friends participating so Marty decided to head over with them and volunteer at the event. When he arrived home he declared: We are doing this next year, Bri!

    So what is a SwimRun race? From the website:

    SwimRun races are team events with 2 athletes per starting team, and these teams can be either all male, all female or gender mixed. Athletes on the same team have to be within 10 meters of each other at all times, and they are allowed and encouraged to help each other.

    Typically teams swim with the running shoes on their feet, and run while still wearing the wetsuits. With so many transitions in SwimRun events, it makes no sense to get undressed and dressed over and over again. Pull buoys, tethers and paddles are legal in these events, but when used must be carried from start to finish.

    This race was 14 miles of running and 3k of swimming broken up into 11 runs and 9 swims, plus a lot of elevation gain for some added fun.

    Not going to lie, this was not ever something I was super excited to do. #1 and this is a big #1 - I hate cold water. And the water was no doubt going to be cold (it was under 60 at the main lake we swam in and probably mid 50s in the river we finished in). I also kind of suck at fast trail running. Going up is no problem but I'm a Wuss coming down (yeah, I capitalized that).  And the whole thing seemed a bit ridiculous with the whole swimming in shoes and running in a wetsuit....but I also knew doing it with Marty would be fun. He is the best training/racing partner; he won't get angry, he doesn't care about place and besides the race, we would be able to have some 'dates' while training for it (Never mind we spent a small fortune on babysitters preparing. Some people do dinner and movie, we SwimRun out at Jordan Lake while people hiking the trails look at us like we have 7 heads).

    We made our way to Danbury, NC on Saturday with Jess who would be meeting his partner for the first time (Erik) who had raced last year. Packet Pickup is at the Green Heron Ale House and there are many tasty brews on tap.

    Tasty brews

    Erik told me to pose and this is the unfortunate outcome
    Jess and Erik opted for the 'Groomsmen Pose'

    We stayed in a cabin at Hanging Rock State Park, which is awesome because it's a short drive to the start. The closest hotels are ~40min away. The cabin was great and had everything you needed and a lot you wanted (like a TV to watch college football). Instead, we resorted to listening to the radio, doing silly card tricks, and (gasp) talking.

    Breakfast after listening to it rain heavily for 2 hours
    As a side note, it's really pretty great to do a race where there are zero expectations except to have fun. I had a great night's sleep and then we were up with the sound of rain as a front was moving through the area. The outside temperature was close to 60 early on and would continue to fall throughout the morning (ending somewhere in the mid to high 40s).

    Pre race selfie with Marty's giant dome front and center

    As none of us were going to warmup, we got to the race site with just enough time to get in our wetsuits and line up with the other racers. The countdown began and we were off on the first run which was 4.4 miles and mostly uphill on a single track trail. It was crowded, as expected, but we were able to move past some people who started off a little faster without any problems. Every racer we encountered was super nice and awesome.

    It was on this run where you get to go under a waterfall and then climb up a bunch of boulders before returning to the trail - that was really cool.

    Photo by Brian Francher

    That's not us, but just wanted to show some of the terrain (photo cred Brian Francher)

    We finally made it to the lake where we took our time getting our arm sleeves on, saying hi to our friends, hugging Logan, etc - literally teams were streaming past us. And yes, I did say hugging Logan! Our friends, the Hughston's graciously watched him (umm actually a lot of times prior to this race. Logan might think his last name is Hughston right now), AND they drove 2hrs in the morning to come cheer us all on. I can't tell you how much more fun this made the race knowing I was going to see them all, and so many times with how this course was laid out. It was so awesome to have our own cheering section. I can't thank them enough for being so incredible and getting out there to support us.

     I sooooo didn't want to get into the lake!! But I did, because what else was I going to do? This leg was 500 meters to the other side of the lake, onto a short 1/4 mile trail, back into the lake to cross a 25 meter section and then back on a downhill (extremely muddy) trail that was also short which took you back to the beginning where we initially got in. We did this twice before continuing up and down Moore's Wall, and then we did that whole circuit (swim-short run-short swim-short run) twice more, before heading back down the mountain.

    Also not us, but great shot of the lake (photo cred Brian Francher)

    Aid stations were pretty crowded in the beginning

    Slapping hands with the fans

    Logan and Campbell contemplating the view

    The beginning of Moore's Wall tricks you into thinking the stairs will be NBD
    Second round at the lake and Logan was dehydrated and required some Gatorade.

    Climbing up Moore's Wall was beautiful! And getting to the top was awesome. I'm sure some teams ran up it but Marty and I chose to mostly walk. The 'stairs' are all big and uneven and not easily runnable. I was supah-slow coming back down. It was technical, rocky, rooty and very slick. But we both stayed upright.

    Top of Moore's Wall (photo cred Richard Hill)

    Back in the lake we go for our last two rounds and then we were heading back down the trail towards the finish. Before you get to the finish, though, you get into the river for ~800 meters which takes you back to the start/finish area. This was by far my least favorite part of the race. The water was frigid and not deep at all. It was tough to swim - we tried short strokes, sculling, anything to get through the water. There was enough current and tons of rocks that getting up and walk/running was also not a good idea. Marty would yell out ahead of me, "ROCK!" and I would try and avoid it or at least try not to get smacked in the face. I did totally get stuck on a rock like a beached whale and could not get myself off of it! I finally shimmied enough to get back into the water but then my pull buoy was around my ankles and trying to get that back up (with paddles on, in this river) was no easy task. Finally, we saw the finish area. Just have to navigate more rocks before we climbed the steps up to the line.

    It looks deep. It is not (photo cred Brian Francher)

    That is us. And that water was about 55 degrees.

    Navigating the finishing section

    Yay, almost done!

    Hurry up, Bri!

    What do you think? 2017 Christmas Card picture?

    Post race and I was still freezing
    So all in all, a fantastic event. The organizers do an incredible job and I love my trucker hat and will wear it proudly. I loved doing this with Marty and I loved having friends there racing and cheering us on. I will not go so far as to say I loved the race, but definitely a top notch event and a great time.