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SwimRun Connects Nature to the Concrete Jungle

One of the primary premises behind the sport of swimrun is connecting the athletes with nature.  If you ask Michael Lemmel, race director of OtillO, he’ll be quick to tell you that it’s about the athletes moving through nature and becoming one with it.  I’d have to agree with him.

So, when it comes to having a swimrun race, most folks wouldn’t think of having one right in the middle of a large city like Richmond and if I hadn’t raced XTERRAs in Richmond before, I would probably have thought the same thing.  When I stumbled across that there would be the SwimRunVA race held on some of the same trails of the XTERRA, it took me all of about 2 seconds to make a decision.  I had to do this race.

I reached out to Jim Fisher, local Richmond athlete and an XTERRA friend of mine to see if he was interested in teaming up for the race.  Being an avid racer and lover of adventure, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.  As the race approached, I received bad news that Jim tore some of those important tendons around his knee and would need surgery.  Of course, this knocked him out of the race, for sure.  After some further searching and pleading with folks on social media for someone as crazy as us, Keith Schumann, another XTERRA athlete stepped up.  With zero time training together we found ourselves at the start line before you knew it.


The race course looks a little something like this:


I’ll spare you the turn-by-turn details, but it was 6 separate swims and 7 runs totaling 3.37 miles of swimming and 15 miles of running.  We started the race at the 3Sports store parking lot and after a countdown, we ran across the Huguenot Bridge, down to the kayak launch, and started our first swim.  Right from the start, Keith and I established a pretty good lead and felt like we had a good, sustainable pace.


Once hitting the water, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise swim in some pretty foggy water.  The air temp was a balmy 50ish degrees with the water being around 60.  Even though we couldn’t see the buoys right away, there were plenty of kayak volunteers in the water for safety purposes and willing to guide if necessary.




Keith and I started our downriver swim towards Williams Island where we’d have a quick romp across the island in order to get around the “hydraulics”, a small dam in the river.


Once across the island, we had to pick a good line to make it across the river and to the other shore.  This part of the river was a bit more shallow and was strewn with large rock croppings and boulders.   Picking a bad line would not only bash you into the rocks, but could cause you to end up down stream past your exit point.  Here’s a photo taken by a person standing out where we needed to end up.  Keith and I are doing a quick assessment of where we needed to make our way through the varying currents and rocks in our path. 



There were numerous swims where reading the currents were vital.  Equally important was being able to adjust to changing current.  A good example is one swim where we crossed the river under the Westover Hills bridge where the current would get very swift and then very calm depending on where the rocks were.  One minute we’d be swimming straight across the river and the next we’re getting slammed by current.  To counter it, we’d have to turn almost 45 degrees from the shore to counter the current.  It was a lot of fun battling the river.




The runs were just as much fun as well with an interesting mix of pavement, concrete and trail.  We were constantly visually stimulated by trains, beautiful homes, canals, historic ruins and more.




The last swim was sort of a nice break from battling the currents since the entire leg was a downstream, flatwater swim.  We finished it off and headed to the last run leg.



The last run was the most interesting of the various “urban runs” which included a long stretch on a pipeline that ran underneath the railroad trestle that paralleled the river.  Keith and I were both commenting at how cool this section was while we were running it.  I much rather run trails than pavement or concrete, but the sections that weren’t trail were just as much fun.



We maintained the lead for the entire race and finished first overall.


Keith kicked arse in his first swimrun race!  I think we made a pretty good paring since our strengths are fairly close.  Where I was weak, he was strong and vice versa, so I think we pushed each other pretty good where we weren’t matched.  You’ll have to ask him if he’s been bitten by the swimrun bug.  I think he has.

I really think this race has the ability to be big with the swimrun community.  The crew did an outstanding job of laying out a course that was both interesting and tough.  My only wish is that they use the dry riverbed section (commonly referred to as the dry way or dry rock) on Belle Isle as part of the course next year.  I think it would take the difficulty up a notch and add even more European swimrun style to the race.  The course was well-staffed with volunteers and race staff that went above and beyond to ensure everyone was taken care of, including both water and land.

I can’t wait for next year.

Be a Warrior!


Race: SwimRun Virginia
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: Oct 15, 2016
Distances: Swim – 6 legs: 3.37 mi, Run – 7 legs: 14.95 mi
Result: 1st Overall
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Inov-8 Trailroc 245 shoes, First Endurance Multi-V.

I’ll Tumble For Ya in the Woods–XTERRA Whitewater

It was slated to be a hot one and with the torrential downpour the night before, it was also a slick one.  Hot.  Steamy.  Slippery.  Take those ingredients and mix it with a hard course and you have yourself one tough-as-nails race.

Photo by Deb Dandro

Showing up race morning, not only had it rained, but the winds had blown everything out of whack.  Cones were strewn, transition had taken a beating and pop-up tents were completely missing.  The folks at the Whitewater Center had their work cut out for them.  They quickly got things squared away and before you knew it, transition was beginning to fill up.

Photo by Deb Dandro

I knew that Caleb and Dwayne would give me a run for my money to get on top of the podium, with Dwayne being favored for the win.  My only chance was my intimate knowledge of the trails, knowing just about every root and rock out there.  With that said, we saw Continue reading

Adapt and Overcome – USAT OffRoad National Championships

One of the beauties of racing an XTERRA race is the fact that anything can change on a moments notice.  The majority of XTERRA racers just go with the flow and make the most of it while citing it as a fun aspect of this sport.  The same goes for the majority of XTERRA race directors.  Case in point:


I couldn’t have put it better myself.  More about the course changes in a bit.

Before the rains, the course was in beautiful shape.  Racers began showing up about mid-week in order to get some time on the course.  I had the opportunity and managed to Continue reading

Hulk Got Some Upgrades XTERRA Myrtle Beach

One of the beauties that makes XTERRA so much fun is the change.  How boring would it be to go do that same road triathlon, with the same boring course, that never, ever changed? Again.  And again. And again.  One thing that keeps me coming back to XTERRA, year after year, is the fact that some races are constantly evolving.  Take XTERRA Myrtle Beach for example.  The first year it was held, the swim course was a rectangular course in the intercostal waterway.  This meant that if the tide was on the move, you’d be fighting it on one of the sides of that rectangle.

Rear from left: Danny Pagan, Pete Dizon, Ornela Vazquez Rivera, Jim Dandro
Front from left: Caleb Baity, Marcus Barton

The next year it was a one-way swim.  Last year, I raced Myrtle Beach for the first time and I thought the trails were a blast.  I wrote about them last year, so I won’t rehash that over again, but the run was Continue reading

Rabid Muffin Monkeys – You bunch of clowns

What a great team name, huh?  Yep.  That’s the name we chose.  Well, some of us on the team may have forced it on others.  At least at the end of the series, Neal Boyd himself even asked where the hell did we come up with a name like that.  Sorry folks, but it’s going to remain a secret.  If I tell you, I’d have to pull you out back and beat you with a sock full of potatoes.  Ever seen what a sock full of potatoes will do to a person?  It’s not pretty.

Anyhow, a couple of us monkeys started this all by thinking about doing the Winter Short Track Series. For the unfamiliar, it’s basically, a loop of about a mile in length consisting of a mix of single track trail, gravel road and a little bit of parking lot. Depending on your class, you may be racing for 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour. The goal is to go as fast and hard as you can on your mountain bike to get as many laps as you can in that given time period. Of course, you get your own personal bonus points by not throwing up in the process. Not including throw up points, you accrue points at each race in an attempt to win some goodies at the end of doing this for 5 Sundays in a row.

Anyhow, me, Jim and Margo were the original clowns thinking of doing the series.  I reached out to Caleb to see if he wanted to and after some himming and hawing, I think we finally talked him into it.  As we dug into the details, we discovered that there was a team competition which set us on a course of scheming.  This meant that we could not only accrue points individually, but that we could also accrue points as a team and have a little more fun in the process. At first, we thought of joining an existing team, but in the end we decided to pull together our own little band of misfits.  When it was all said and done, we ended up with this good looking bunch (except for that ugly one on his knees):

From Left to Right: Danny Pagan, Margo Pitts, Steven Pugh, Some Dork, Jen Barthel, Jim Dandro and Caleb Baity.

We all had a blast racing the series, hanging out, cheering each other and even wallering in Continue reading

Back in the Saddle

Whelp. I’ve been on a short hiatus for a while, taking some much needed downtime after the WC-50 race that was a fun, but tough 50k for me.  Despite what your eyes see, I was NOT wearing a skirt.  Thanks Stephanie Moore for the awesome photo.  It captures the cold of October with the steam coming off of the water a lot better than my pink legs.

I ended up in 3rd place overall. After leading the race for the first 27 miles, a couple of experienced, fast boys taught me a few things and proceeded to spank me pretty good.  I spent quite a bit of the last-half of the last lap walking. I was fried. It was still more fun than a hog hollering contest.

After a long season of some GREAT racing in 2015, including some fun, fun action in the XTERRA points series, a couple of trips overseas to do the Rockman and OtillO, I was ready for a break from training and racing. So I spent the next couple of months just doing fun stuff and stuffing my pie hole.. well… with pie.

But here we are again, time to get serious as race season is right around the corner.

If you haven’t noticed, the website has gone back to its roots and with some of the old comes a few new things, like product reviews. I figured since folks are asking about a few racing goodies I’ve picked up, I might as well share with everyone.  I also plan to blog about a bit more than just race reports. Expect a few that include tips and tricks for the new folks starting out and maybe even a review on some trails to ride.  Who knows.  And as always, I’m open for suggestions. So, pony up ya’ll and speak up on what you’d like to see.

2016 will be full of fun again. The race calendar is shaping up and includes a bunch of XTERRAs, some oldies (but goodies), some new ones, an XTERRA trail run or two and yes, a swimrun in there to keep it interesting.

It’ll be challenging, downright grueling at times and with a sprinkle of chaos thrown in for good measure, it sounds like fun, right?

Let’s get this party started.

Cold Water and Wetsuit Running – OtillO Swimrun World Championships

For those of you that haven’t been following the blog or my Facebook page, we set out to do ÖTILLÖ which is touted to be one of the toughest races on the planet.  It’s a swimrun race that consists of traversing 26 islands in Sweden, swimming a total of 6 miles in the Archipelago and running 42 miles across the islands.  To give you a quick synopsis, check out this map (all lengths are in meters):


Dan prepared me the best he could, and frankly, I felt I had made huge strides in my fitness. Cheryl Reinke also worked hard and helped me to make big improvements to my swim. By the time we hit Sweden, they had done as much as they could. I’m thankful to both of them for really taking the time to invest in someone who can’t possibly repay them.

We took our better halves and boarded the flight for Stockholm. To say I was a bit nervous was an understatement. It was nervousness, excitement and anxiousness all balled up in one tiny package.  Once we got to Stockholm, we parted Continue reading