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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Catch Up Post

It's going to be one of those bullet point posts since a lot has happened and I do want to document this stuff as my once stellar memory is starting to fail me. I see the evidence when I play the game 'Memory' with Logan (who incidentally, has a fantastic memory).
  • We had lots of fun weekends and weeks during the summer, which included lake houses, a trip to the mountains, a Guns n Roses concert and a full week vacation to the OBX (Outer Banks for those of you not in NC)
  • Logan started kindergarten AND lost his first tooth on the first day!
  • My best girlfriends from college came to Raleigh for a long weekend. We had way too much fun and stayed up way too late.
  • Last weekend (ok, not anymore since I started and then stopped this blog) I once again was on a team for the Blue Ridge Relay (206 miles from Virginia to Asheville).  RUNNINGJUSTASFASTASWECAN and RUNNINGJUSTASFASTASWECAN2 both had 8 intrepid people on the team. I ended up running 26+ miles over 5 different legs. I am very sore still (3 days later) but had another fantastic time. I also kept it interesting for my team as I got lost on my 3am run and ended up getting picked up by another team (who also got lost). 
  • I signed up for Ironman Texas. 
Whoah. Wait. Back up. I DID WHAT?

Yup. Pulled the trigger. Put too much money on the credit card for something I really thought I would never do. And then had a pretty rock bottom meltdown at midnight googling on my phone "how to cancel Ironman registration"

It took about a week but I'm all good now :) So why did I sign up? I guess there's always that little inkling of wanting to complete one. I've watched Marty finish 6 of them. And it's pretty much impossible NOT to be a inspired. Even so, I knew the training involved and never felt that was something I really wanted to do. And you really need to want to do that training.

Enter in very good friends who started talking about it. Friends I train with a lot. This would be the only way I get this done, by having a hand to hold, shoulder to cry on, and partners in crime throughout the journey. I'm not interested in qualifying for Kona or racing it - I want to have fun with my friends and get to the start line in one piece. If I can get there, I can get it done.

So why Texas? The timing of the race enticed us all. Definitely not the winter training, but for the most part you can do the training outside in NC. There will for sure be cold days, but I've actually trained through the past two winters and it's not too terrible. Most of the time. Anyways, it was more the fact of getting it done and out of the way before summer starts and family time is at a premium. One thing I didn't want was to train through the summer and miss all the fun stuff with Logan and Marty. This way I put my head down in winter, do the IM in late April and voila! Summer time is fun time.

So yup. Pretty momentous for me. I still have one last sprint this weekend and Marty and I are teaming up for the SwimRun NC at the end of October (that should be interesting....) and then it will be a short down time before training starts back up.

Go read Marty's blog for more interesting life stuff.

Here are a few pics from the past month or so.

Cuties at Chuck E. Cheezits (as Logan calls it). Or Chuck E. Diseases, as one of our friends refers to it.

5 Family Beach week. Not my kid but we all shared responsibilities.

The solar eclipse is that way!

This one is either going to love me or hate me when we get through our Ironman training.

Family photo op

Riding our bikes to get some post dinner ice cream

Hole in one! For real life.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer Summer Summer Time!

Helllllllo, summer! July welcomed us with a blast of heat and humidity no one is ever ready for, no matter how long you have lived in the south. When your temperatures are in the 90's with 90% humidity it feels like "OMG I can't breathe" whenever you step outside. It is truly miserable.

So what do we do? Rack up money on the power bill and go to the pool. Accept that when you run, 1min per mile slower is actually fine, and drink water all day long to make up for the sweaty mess you became during the piddly 1.5 hour bike ride at 9am.

I'm still training, although no where near as seriously. Basically, I'm training so I can continue my dessert addiction and not be too self conscious about wearing a bikini out in public. I mean, I am 38. When does it stop being appropriate? (As an aside, when is it time for me to take out my belly button ring?)

I took some good rest and downtime immediately following the Chattanooga 70.3. This is, I believe, something many of us don't do right. Especially after an 'A' race. Sure, you take a few days, but dang it, you are feeling soooo good! Might as well keep on training; hard group ride? IN! Track workout? YES! I promise, this will likely lead to burnout or severe fatigue. After a long course race that you've been putting in some serious effort, your body needs a good break. At least 2 weeks. Don't be fooled by the 1 week honeymoon phase that happens after a short rest. It is a liar.

Anywho. Took some rest. 4 weeks later I raced in the 3 Little Pigs triathlon (my 4th time). I ended up having my fastest time ever on that course, so that was neat, although Marty beat me by 11 seconds (damn time trial start!). Then it was off to Boone for our 8th Boone Camp!! I love, love, love Boone Camp. And I love, love, love the people who join us. It is always super fun with some crazy hard hill training.

After Boone, Marty and Logan continued on vacation-ing while I went back home because, work. The week alone was nice and very busy so it flew by even though I really missed my boys (and missed a bunch of fun vacation things, too). And here we are in July already. No tri's for me until late September. Although I will do our open water swim race in a couple of weeks, and am on a team for the Blue Ridge Relay again (early September). The one 'race' I haven't been thinking about AT ALL is the SwimRun NC that's at the end of October. Marty signed us up for this last year after he volunteered. Mostly I'm worried about cold water and blisters. But the race does seem like it will be a fun adventure.

View from our bedroom in Boone
We went tubing down the New River this year

One of our campers climbing Snake Mountain

Sitting on the edge thinking about every excuse to not swim while Carrie pretends to dive in

We made it to the top of Snake, too!

Climbing to our house. This picture does not do the hills justice AT ALL

Before our Friday ride

That's the Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the upper right of this pic. We climbed up there and then road the Blue Ridge back home.

We always make a visit to the App Mountain Brewery. This year, we made two visits.

Everyone flex. Except Marty. You just grab Bri's butt.

Heading off around Bass Lake before we ran up to the fire tower

Seriously. This is where we ran. Crazy beautiful.

Competitive game of Hearts on Steroids Saturday night.

So happy to see this 5 year old after 8 days!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report

This went well: 2nd age group, 7th amateur female, PR 4:28:07*

This guy gets the credit. Super dad – letting me train until my heart was content for this race. Super coach – writing me an awesome plan. Super supporter – taking the bulk of the work while in Chattanooga so I could relax.

My training squad is a group of awesome ladies who are so motivating and supportive. Carrie-Anne-Morgan-Michelle-Amanda-Cari (and the boys who we call fast girls). You guys are awesome.
Theme music for the weekend: Anything from Trolls, which Logan watched no less than 6 times in the car ride over and back.

Video of the week: endless pool swimming in the Tennessee River the day before. That’s me in the front, sighting and thinking, “But that buoy isn’t that far away? Why am I not getting any closer?”

My taper went perfectly; I immediately got sick :) I was on a constant diet of airborne and zicam and literally by the day before the race I had cleared out all the congestion. We stayed in a condo right on the river away from downtown and the nerves/high strung personalities that these Ironman races tend to attract. My own obsessiveness revolved around checking the weather every hour. 100% chance of thunderstorms – oh please don’t cancel anything! A bad thunderstorm rolled through the night before, but, and I’m no Al Roker, the line just wasn’t that wide. Surely it would be through before the start of the race?
Swim: 16:02
Flanked by the best couple to be around, Anne and Dave Mac, we made our way to the swim line up very early so we could get a good spot. No rain, just cooler temps and cloudy skies (amazing! Maybe I am Al Roker!). All queued up in an orderly fashion, we sit down and wait. But then an Ironman worker comes walking by and yells, “OK everyone! This is a self-seeded started! So if you’re a fast swimmer, move to the front!” Instead of a line, people rushed to the front and it now looked like a street concert. And this self seeding business was total bs - people were lying their faces off worse than a pool swim back home. But no worries! It was still 1.2 miles, some of it upstream so it would get sorted out. Or would it? Dun dun dun!!!!!!

Apparently, the officials decided the pro's were taking too long to make the first initial upstream turn and didn't think us weak age groupers in our wetsuits could handle it so they took that part away and we were now only going to do a very short, downstream swim. Forget about getting much separation from the competition - people I probably would've gotten 6+ minutes on I might get 1-2min now. And there were so many people ahead of me, AUGGHHHHH PANIC!!!! Anne must've read all this on my face and firmly talked me off the cliff (thanks, Anne). I then turned to Dave and told him I was moving up, so the two of us were able to leapfrog probably 100 or so people.

This swim was a mess. I passed people the entire time; there were bodies everywhere. I never felt great and couldn't get into a good rhythm (and Dave and I lost each other immediately upon jumping into the water). It was over quick.

Logan relaxing with a nap and cartoons at Hotel de MacDonald after his initial wakeup at 3:45am

Bike: 2:27:18
I felt awesome on the bike! So, so good that there were times I felt like I should push a little bit more but then reconsidered (reminding myself that I did still have to run a half marathon after this). A couple of girls passed me in my age group but I wanted to ride my race, not theirs. And I wasn't even thinking about placement in my age group.

The bike was also very crowded and absolutely we all got the benefit of having so many people on the road - whether you were drafting or not. It's like a vacuum pulling you through, and with virtually no wind and a rolling but not difficult course, the times were smoking. There were for sure draft packs out there - sometimes you didn't have a choice in some of the tighter sections to be blocking someone or in the draft zone, but I also feel like you definitely had the ability to decide if you were go to blatantly suck wheel and take advantage of it or try to get out and race clean. I was mostly around guys and boy there were some that clearly had low moral standards with regards to cheating. I didn't see a ton of girls, but the ones I saw I can at least put in the camp of trying not to draft. But if you start 3000+ athletes within 20min of each other, in an easy swim that takes no time, the bike is going to be packed.

I really enjoyed the bike, though. I just felt SO GOOD. I was literally smiling at mile 50 thinking, I love this! This is awesome! I was diligent about my nutrition and took everything as planned. I don't have power or use a heart rate monitor, but my Garmin was beeping every 5 miles and I knew I was holding an excellent pace. I guess I'm still a little old school with that aspect. For a race like this, I go to the point where I feel like I'm pushing just a little too hard and then back off. It works for me.

Run: 1:39:19
No joke, I heard 'Can't Stop the Feeling' from Trolls at the beginning of my run (that's my jam!). The first few miles were all smiles and high fives. They were easy and smooth. I did ended up taking my gels earlier than planned as I needed a boost but the first lap was relatively uneventful. I was definitely getting tired but also felt like I was going to have enough left in the tank and mentally I was on point and ready to fight through any tough spots. I was so happy to finally see Marty and Logan!

The temps were cooler, but the humidity was sky high and I allowed myself to walk through the later aid stations so I could grab coke and water (wow, coke, you're awesome). I also thought about my friends back home tracking me and Marty sacrificing weekends for this (self-centered) pursuit. And then when it really started to hurt, I thought of a friend who recently got some scary news - this girl is an amazing athlete (and person) who never quits, and is always digging to get it done. I often found myself saying, "Would SHE quit now? Would SHE go slower?" It helped tremendously.

There was one short but steep hill that I gave myself permission to walk up the second time around (Would SHE walk up this hill? Hmmm, actually I think SHE might :) ) but anytime I was running I was moving pretty well. I really feel like I weathered the low points well and was able to push out of them and hold it together, which is something I have struggled with in the past. I did start dealing with some quad cramping which was completely new to me and freaking hurt like hell. But then I was at mile 12 and knew I could pick it up a little bit and finish strong. Yay to getting to take the turn to the finish instead of starting another loop and double yay to slapping Logan's hand in the final stretch. 7:34 average pace - I'll take it!

Post Race
I collected my award after showering and having a late lunch with friends. I passed on the World's slot and hopefully made someone else's day letting it roll down. I'm happy with how it all went and had a lot of fun training and racing for it, but now I'm ready to get back to more low key training and having a fun summer with family and friends.

Waynesville has a great recreation center with a splash park for the kids we went to on the way back home

*Big asterisk next to this PR since the swim was so short. Who really knows where I would've been, but I could guess my swim would've had another 12min to it. Which would have probably also slowed down the bike a bit. I'll say I may have still been under 4:50 but eh, doesn't really matter at this point.