Austin Swimrun! What a way to cap off the swimrun season! It’s been a long one for me having done nine swimrun races this year, all but two of them as Team Envol Spam Fika, with my friend Kawika Tarayao. By the time we got to Swimrun Austin, I was tired. Spent. Sore.
[ Want to skip to the good part? Scroll to the bottom and watch the video. :) ]
But as the race approached, I got more and more excited about it. I was excited to see the swimrun family again. Being such a niche sport, you get to see the same racers again, but you also get to meet new family. This race was no different. I got to visit with the Odyssey race staff (which in and of itself is a family affair), regular racers like the Adorkables, Mr. & Mrs. B, Team
PB KB & Bannanas, Batman’s Parents, The Low Tide Boyz, The Kalamanders, folks from Traverse Fitness and so many more. I met a TON of new people and had so many conversations, helped rig buoys, answer shoe questions, hydration questions and you name it.
We started off the trip with a sunrise swim at Barton Springs organized and put on by the Adorkables. It was a beautiful morning even though rain was moving in. We met up with several teams and solo racers. Afterwards, we hit the trails and ran a bit. It was great to meet Alex and Tim. So much laughing and fun!
That night, Jarrod Shoemaker, my teammate for this race, rolled into town and we wasted no time and got together to talk a little race strategy. We hadn’t raced together before, but we’d definitely crossed paths at other swimruns and adventure races. Jarrod comes from a triathlon background and even competed at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. No pressure.
After a couple of shakeout sessions, we firmed up tether usage, tether length, how we would handle leading swims, transitions and gear usage. We went over course maps in detail and tried to formulate a plan that allowed us to work with each other’s strengths. The temps were warm and I opted for the Ark Vigg as a suit, along with the Ark Carbon Blades and Keel +. All great choices for this course and temps.
On another note, I had brought my new drone, a “first-person-view” drone that you use goggles to fly. It’s a ton of fun and you can get some really good footage. Designed to work in tight spots, and do so with speed, I had planned to take it with me to the race. After finishing my race, I was going to take it out on the course and get footage of people racing, specifically the rock scrambling. I had scoped out some good exits that I thought would make for some epic footage of racers coming out of the water. Here’s one of the exits I scoped:
Well, on one of my practice runs over the lake and towards one of the cliffs, I was coming in low over the water. I had made several passes to see what it looked like and on one of the passes I went TOO low. So much so that it decided that it wanted to try a submarine view. Yep. I am now two-for-two with losing some form of electronics in the lake. Last time I raced in Austin, I lost a GoPro. Needless to say, this one stung a little more. I was a bit upset that I wouldn’t get some good racer footage, but at least I got a good intro to the video below.
Race morning, after the usual chores of paperwork and warmup, we found ourselves at the start line saying hi to all the great racers. I really, really love the swimrun vibe. Unpretentious. Friendly. Fun-loving. So NOT triathlon. Love, love, love.
Jarrod and I shot off the front along with Adrian Cameron and Chris Wright, both of them racing solo. On the run to the first swim, we joked with Chris on how him and Adrian should team up. Adrian definitely has the home-field advantage since Pace Bend Park is literally his back yard. Having intimate knowledge of the course is a huge advantage of any race, and Adrian certainly has it, not to mention being fast to begin with.
Lake Travis water level was very, very low, totaling about 20-25 feet lower than normal. This exposed shoreline is all rocks, cliff faces and other technical goodies that makes for, what I consider, a fun-ass race. Lars even commented on his live feed that I usually complain about the courses not being technical enough. Bring on more technical. Always more. :)
We made a few transition snafus here and there, but nothing majorly time-sucking. We could have certainly gone a little faster, but I think the costs were minimal. After the third swim where we swapped leads, we finally opted to stop using the tether altogether. We were not having any problems staying on each other’s feet, so the tether became a little more of a hinderance than helpful.
Even though we were pretty well-matched from a swimming perspective, our runs differed. I was comfortable and fast on the technical sections, so I would hop up front and pick the lines through the rocks and boulders. However, as soon as the terrain opened up, Jarrod would open up as well. There were numerous times I felt like asking him to back off the speed just a tad. Keeping up with him was a chore. At first I thought it was because I was tired and offseason eating had already taken control, but no, it’s just because he’s so damn fast. I’m sure the extra Halloween candy didn’t help.
We ended up winning the overall team spot. Although we were probably closing the gap on the swims and catching up to Chris, once on land, he would regain his gap. Adrian took the overall win with Chris close behind. Congrats, fellas on a great race!
Check out the video I threw together so you can see the technical aspects of the Texas countryside and the hectic nature of the transitions:
If you haven’t tried this race, you definitely should.