So here’s the thing; I’ve been busy. Really, effin, busy. Is that the correct use of a semicolon? Who knows? See? That’s how easily I get distracted when things get busy. It’s hard to even keep a straight thought, much less get a blog post or a video out. The weekend after Swimrun Austin, I raced the Oak Mountain 24 hour adventure race. The weekend after that, I raced the WTF Ultra marathon event. After that, there was the American annual make-me-fat event, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. So pretty effin busy.
Speaking of videos, I had fully intended on carrying my GoPro during the Swimrun Austin event. I already had grand plans of what sort of video I would shoot, some angles that would look awesomely cool and wow the pants off of all 11 of my subscribers. Those plans would be foiled with unfortunate events. Want to know more? Keep reading.
After completing OtillO Catalina, there was a pandemic (or something) that hit the third rock from the sun. It threw a big wrench into the 2020 racing season, right along with everything else that was somewhat normal in peoples lives, like cookouts, large picnics, and toilet paper. Restrictions went from 14 days to weeks and then to months, but why am I rehashing this crap? You already know. As for racing, we kept waiting for another one to be possible. One race, after another, kept having to cancel. And another. And another. Finally, by October, things started looking promising. Then comes Swimrun Austin.
I partnered up with Lee Greene for Swimrun Austin as team Swaggy Zaddys. We were already doing some running and mountain bike riding together, trying to maintain some semblance of fitness. One discussion led to another and next thing I know, we were signed up. We put together a few swimrun sessions, continued running together and even got together to swim at the pool (thank goodness they opened back up). We even had an opportunity to practice some high jumps, with gear, to prep for the cliff jumps that Odyssey had advertised.
We showed up in Austin and I took advantage of being in the same town with friend and owner of Orange Mud, Josh Sprague, and headed over for a visit. For the unfamiliar, they create the most comfortable and useful running packs on the planet. He showed me around his digs and I got to see some really cool technology in action. Not only is he running Orange Mud out of his facilities, but he’s also running a new company, Seven Clay, which makes custom hats, shirts, and other swag. Looking like a goofball, I trotted all around their shop taking GoPro video of their equipment in action, one machine cranking out 7 or 8 hats simultaneously and other cool sewing gear. But, like the plans for video during Swimrun Austin, the video would go to waste. Keep reading.
After getting settled into our accommodations at Pace Bend Park, Lee and I headed over to meet with Odyssey Swimrun co-race director and photographer extraordinaire, Aaron Palaian. We wanted to get some cool pictures of doing some cliff jumps, and boy, did Aaron come through with some amazing shots.
During the photo shoot, I set up my GoPro to catch some of the footage of us and a couple of other teams (the Adorkables and Mexi-Cali) jumping from the cliffs. At the end of the shoot, I grabbed the GoPro, inserted into my newly acquired “floaty” and jumped off the cliff. The floaty didn’t float. Instead, it sank to the bottom, completely out of sight, before I could acquire it’s location. Lee and I searched for a bit and dove down to try and spot it, but to no avail. GoPro (and footage) gone forever.
After Aaron made us feel like celebrities (that we’re not), we headed off for a quick run to shake out the travel from our legs. We liked what little of the course we got to see and decided to get cleaned up, head to dinner, and preview a little bit more of the course on the way out of the park.
The course laid out for us was to be 7 runs and 6 swims totaling altogether to be about 18 miles of fun. There were some last-minute course changes due to low water levels, so the exact distances were unknown. But the course looked a little something like this:
Following some of the course markings, we checked out some of the swim entrants and exits.
The next morning, we arrived to the race course fairly rested and ready to race. The Odyssey folks did an outstanding job of making sure everyone had masks and promoted distancing. One of the changes was a time-trial start where each team would start individually on delay. They even provided disposable masks and a bucket at the start line so you could drop your mask right before you started. Lee and I didn’t want to start up front and attempted to position ourselves several teams back. Said teams started giving us a hard time and were literally pushing us to go up to the front. Not helping our cause were the two gold bibs we were wearing.
In 2019, the U.S. race directors got together and implemented a plan thought up by Herbert Krabel, Lars Finager and Kristen Jeno to award teams for finishing top of the U.S. Points Series, based loosely off of the 2018 gold bib program of OtillO. I raced 4 of the points series races, Lake James, Boston Harbor, Casco Bay and NC with Jeremy Walton, Dan Kimball and Caleb Baity respectively. Since swimrun is still fairly fresh to the U.S. and trying to get racers to commit to numerous races in the season, they decided on a team captain concept similar to adventure racing. This allows a team to maintain points as long as the team captain races while allowing team members to change. I was de facto chosen as the team captain for our team since I did all four races. For 2020 (and for 2021 thanks to covid), I’ll be racing in the gold bib with my teammate(s).
Thanks to the gold bib, we were pushed to the front of the Swimrun Austin line and started first.
Having cooled down from our warmup, we tried to settle into a good pace that allowed us to warm back up without blowing up, while at the same time, not too easy of a pace. By the time we hit a downhill stretch of pavement, we were already wanting a cool swim. We opted to start the race with wetsuits up and this quickly turned into a sweatfest before hitting the water. It didn’t take long for a couple of the other male teams to catch us in the water and before we got out along with Greg and Bronwen Dierksen of the Boston Wetsocks, who zoomed past us like motorboats. We joined them for run number 2 and chit-chatted along the way. On one turn, Greg began to go straight and I told him, “No, this way… on second thought, yes, you go that way.” We all laughed and kept running. At one point, I told Lee that if he wanted to have a conversation with Greg and Bronwen that he better have it then, because they’d drop us in the next swim.
Slamming back into the water for swim number two, I found one of my goggles fogging and the other filling with water. I had to sit up and clear them allowing a couple more teams to pass us. Coming out of the water, we managed to get filmed on the Odyssey Swimrun Facebook live feed. Listen carefully to the exchange with Lars.
Like the color.
We came out of that swim and clawed our way through teams as we scrambled towards the single-track trails. Most of the trails were fairly smooth and flowy but littered with technical rooty and rocky sections. We found that we could keep a pretty fast pace, since the technical stuff is where we’re pretty comfortable and even caught back up to the Dierksens several times only to have them pull away from us in the swims. Some of the swim exits were also technical, with hand-over-hand scrambling of jagged rocks, just begging for you to trip so you can have that special visit to the dentist.
One of the unique things about racing with a partner is how you have to be a cohesive, supportive team. This gets completely lost in other sports that are more individual, such as triathlons, marathons and the like. There were several times during the race where one of us would be hurting a bit, slowing down, or mentally checking out. During these times, we would offer each other encouragement, or a joke, or a distraction; whatever it took to keep the team moving. Whether it was Lee scrambling up the rocks ahead of me (like in the picture above) saying, “let’s go” when I was getting a little tired, or whether it was me telling him to walk through a cramp and encouraging him to just keep moving, it was about working together as a team. This is what makes swimrun so unique and magical.
By the time we hit the last swim, the wind began to pick up and created choppy waters. Although I enjoy swimming in water that’s flat and smooth like glass, there is something appealing about adverse conditions that just trips my trigger. Even though I was tired from pushing a fairly hard pace for the entire race, a smile still came across my face while swimming that last choppy swim. Pushing through the last run, we came across the finish line in first place men’s team and second to the Boston Wetsocks.
Showered with beer, and…
Podium… Texas style:
Race Recap: Odyssey Swimrun Austin
Location: Austin, Texas
Date: Nov 7, 2019
Distances: 6 swims, 7 runs, 3.5 miles of swimming, 13 miles of running
Result: 2nd Overall, 1st men’s