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Slippery When Wet – SwimRunNC Report

Whew. Yep, it’s that time of year again.  Race season is winding down and 4th quarter at work is ramping up.  The end of the race season is usually filled with “A” races which means after-work training takes precedence over everything, including blogging.  I usually only have time for a Facebook or Instagram post, but that’s about it.  With work, ramping up, it usually means more travel and getting work done after-hours because travel time is not always productive time.  Now that the post-season break is here, I have some time for blogging (or blerhging as Rich calls it).  With that said, let’s get started with a SwimRunNC report-a-rooo.

Some of my regular readers (all 4 of them) might be wondering why I’m doing a report on SwimRunNC before I do one on the Virginia race, since I raced that one first.  Dunno.  Let’s just do em in reverse order, so be on the lookout for that one soon.

Caleb and I raced SwimRunNC last year and had a BLAST.  We battled it out in the last 100 meters (or so) of the race to win the 3rd place overall spot.  It was a tough battle, but we squeaked it out.  This year, we went into the race with hopes of doing just as good, or better.  We showed up to the pre-race briefing hosted by Jeff Beckelhimer, Jan Kriska and Herbert Krabel and attended by a ton of fast racers at the Green Heron Alehouse.

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We were presented with our racing jersey which had a number that gave us some big shoes to fill.  We headed out to get some eats and I ended up at Jan’s brewery, Thirsty Souls Community Brewing.  Their Octoberfest celebration was in full swing, complete with German outfits.  I couldn’t help but to snap a pic with Jan, his two beautiful beer maidens, wife Maria and daughter Paulina.  GREAT beer on tap!

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We arrived race morning and did the usual warmup and pre-race stuff and before you knew it, we were lined up under the beautiful, WOODEN start/finish arch.  With a countdown, we were off!

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With the mass start, there was a lot of jockying for position as we ran down the gravel road headed towards single track trail, averaging a sub-6:00 pace most of the way. Once on the single track, your options for passing are limited and you almost have to go off-trail to get around.  We wanted to be up near the front and had already planned on when/where it would be OK to pass.  In one such area, we decided to pass during a creek crossing.  In true Marcus fashion, I ended up on tripping in the water and going down briefly.  I managed to keep my face out of the water, but still ended up landing kneecap first into a boulder.  Within the first mile or two, we moved up to the lead and ran hard to extend the gap.

The first portion of the race involved a 4 mile (or so) technical run up (1000 feet) to the Hanging Rock Lake, with a quick run through Window Falls.  The race organizers included using the Window Falls as part of the course with several hand-over-hand climbs up the falls and over.

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We made it to the water’s edge ready for a dip in the lake where the temp was in the upper 50’s.  We hopped in and proceeded with two “laps” of a 500 meter swim and a short dip across the cove near the dam.

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Photo by Kim Baity

At the end of each lap, you have to traverse the spillway just below the dam.  This proves to be a bit of a challenge as you scale down the bank and over a very large, car-sized boulder.

On our second trip around, I almost went back into the lake for a third swim.  Between Jan and Caleb, they got me pointed in the right direction which was up to Moore’s Wall.  I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I had my goggles on and was ready to go.  Instead, we headed for Moore’s Wall.

From the dam, the top of Moore’s Wall is another two miles of running, but with another 850 feet of climbing up over 600 steps.  These “steps” are mostly rocks that have varying heights from a few inches to over two feet.  Also, they’re not evenly spaced apart, so it’s quite a challenge to get into any sort of rhythm.

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Once at the top of Moore’s Wall, we paused for a quick picture and then headed out for our quick, technical scoot back to the lake.

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When I say “technical”, this is the most technical section of the course.  For the two mile descent, you are met with jagged rock, after jagged rock.  Having sure-footing and strong ankles is key to being able to go fast through this section.  Since it had been raining and foggy all morning, they were all wet and slick.  One wrong step could end with a heavy penalty, especially if you like your front teeth.

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Once back at the bottom, we had to do the same two “laps” around the lake.  Again, the cold water was welcomed as we jumped back in for another short, 500 meter swim.

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Descending from the lake was the same trail/course that we ran up with the exception of Window Falls, descending the steps next to the falls instead.  Once back down to the Dan River, we had to run alongside the river for a short distance before meeting up with race staff at the water entry.  We dove in and began the last 800 meters of the race swimming downstream.

The Dan River is very shallow. Some spots are swimmable while others you have to stand up and wade/run.  It is also strewn with underwater rock croppings and boulders, so you have to “feel” your way through the river as you swim.  At one point, I rolled over on my back to spot where Caleb was and to warn him of an upcoming boulder just below the surface.  I glanced at my watch and noticed that we were only 3 hours into the race.  I quickly realized that we had a shot at beating the course record.  Caleb looked up at me and I pointed to my watch.  “We can beat the course record!  Let’s get it!” I yelled back to him and rolled back over to begin swimming again.  Once we hit a sandbar, I stood up, looked back at Caleb and again stated we could beat the course record.  We both took off running.

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We made our way to the stair exit just behind the Green Heron Alehouse and with a quick run up the steps, ran across the finish line.

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Photo by Kim Baity

We ended up breaking the course record with a finishing time of 3:06:28.  We had all but dismissed our chances of breaking it and it was a total surprise when we were in the Dan River and determined it was possible.  We were just too pre-occupied with being chased.

Our friends, Jim Fisher and Michael Harlow from Richmond, Virginia, came in second and the third place team was Jade Costen and Tim Starets.

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Here’s the winning male, female and mixed teams.  For the female team, it’s Kristen Jeno and Jennifer Ledford.  For the mixed team, it’s Amy Krakauer and Marcus Carson.

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SwimRunNC is one of the events I was really looking forward to this year.  We had such a good time last year, but this year Jeff, Jan and Herbert stepped it up another notch.  Their combined passion for this sport and this event is unsurpassed. They are equally passionate about the venue, purchasing a mobile firefighting apparatus for the park with the proceeds.

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You could really tell that they tried hard to improve every aspect of an already great race.  Some things were easily noticeable like the beautiful start/finish arch, while other small details, although not as immediately apparent, were not overlooked.  Trophies and swag were improved upon as was the after-race food and drink.  Another improvement was an increase in fresh, crisp Benjamins for the top three teams in each class.

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We really, really love the laid-back, unpretentious, non-elitist atmosphere of swimrun and this race proves that even further.  If you have thought about giving a swimrun a try, if you’re tired of pounding the pavement, if you’re ready for something fun and different, you should definitely give this race a shot.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and smiles were abound.  Why would you want to go to a race where the racers are all so serious?

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Unless otherwise specified, these great photos came from Brian Fancher photography.  Brian and his son took AWESOME photos.

If you want more information on the race itself, head over to the SwimRun NC website, which has good info, but the BEST information is continually posted on the SwimRun NC Facebook page.

Race Recap: Swimrun NC
Location: Hanging Rock State Park, NC
Date: October 29, 2017
Distances: 11 runs, 9 swims, 14 miles of running, 2 miles of swimming
Result: 1st Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane, First Endurance Multi-V.

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SwimRun in North Cackylacky USA

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this..” was the only quote that came to mind going into the SwimRun NC race.  Despite my best efforts to be prepared, with previewing the course, training pretty consistent and everything else I could do, it only took a sprinkling of real life to get in the way and attempt to derail things.  Life can be funny that way, throwing you curve balls and all.  Heck, sometimes it can be downright cruel.

Right after the SwimRun VA race in Richmond, VA, I headed home to be with Mom as she went into surgery.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I HAD to be there, because it’s family.  You know how that goes.  Even though sleeping in a hospital chair off and on over the next 10 days (not to mention all the driving) and the stress of worry put up a huge brick wall approaching the final days before the race, I don’t regret it for a millisecond.  Quality time was spent with all of my family, and frankly, sometimes that has to take a precedence over everything else.

So, as we all gathered at the Green Heron Ale House for the race briefing, the butterflies began to start.  There was nothing I could do now but give it my best shot.

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SwimRunNC, if you read their website, was the brainchild of Jan Kriska and Jeff Beckelhimer.  Although this is true, Herbert Krabel had his paws in on it, too.  With those three minds together

Continue reading

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.

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The race course looks a little something like this:

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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 Continue reading

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):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0qM3w3mSgI

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

Rockman–No One Will Ever Believe It

We were about half of a mile into a 1.2 mile swim across the fjord in 56 degree water when my legs began to shake and shiver. This was swim number seven of the day with two more after it. We were just a little under 7 hours into the race and I was beginning to tire a bit. I had lost Dan’s draft so I resorted to sighting since I couldn’t see his shoes or bubble trail anymore. As I looked up, through the rain, the power station we were swimming to didn’t look any closer. “Damnit. we’re not even halfway there yet and I’m shivering,” I thought. Just about that time, Dan stops, turns around, looks at me and says…

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Photo credit: Matti Rapila Andersson

Wait a second. I’m getting ahead of myself. First off, I know it’s been three weeks since this race. I must apologize at my slack-assedness. However, it’s been, work, train, eat, spend time with the family and somewhere in there squeeze in some time to sleep. I know, I know. Waaaah. You have no place for whiners.

Second, in order to even begin to talk about the “impossible” race, as dubbed by the locals that live along the fjord we raced, I have to give you the backstory of how I got pulled into this race to give you some context. Here comes a flashback… Continue reading