Monday, March 21, 2011

Tobacco Road Half Marathon

This weekend was my much anticipated Tobacco Road Half Marathon. A big group of swimmers joined me for this race including Billy, Karen, Sean, Jeb, Ashleigh, Robert, Amie, an my freindly archnemesis Mark Mendendorp.

I have run a half marathon once before in 2006, back before my chlorine doused running hiatus. My time then was a 1:33. I'm not running as many miles as I was back then, but I'm running faster, higher quality miles with a little speed work mixed in. So I was hoping to beat my previous time and was really REALLY hoping to break 1:30.

Of course Mendendorp didn't need to know this. I told him that my main goal in running was "not to fall down." Mendendorp was feeling chivalrous. He generously offered to spot me fifteen minutes in the race; I graciously accepted.

a camera trick turned me into the pink blur

In swimming, I have always had a hard time hitting tapers just right. In retrospect, I think that I never tapered quite enough. So the week before the race, I really took it easy, even taking a little break from jiu jitsu. By race morning I felt great!

I kept pretty even pacing throughout (my 2nd half was about 1 min slower than my 1st). I felt loose and relaxed, except for a brief lull about mile 9. The miles went by really quickly and before I knew it I was sprinting toward the finish line. I ended up finishing in 1:29.06 (6:49 pace). I was thrilled!

Karen also had an awesome run. She finished in a 1:39, which was also a PR for her. She celebrated by dressing like a baked potato.

Karen and I also celebrated by getting pedicures. At this point my feet were calloused, blistered, and probably a little stinky. I felt bad for the technician, but she fixed them right up!

I placed 8th out of the women, bringing home some very practical, conveniently-sized drinkware.

Kevin made the following comment about my venture into the world of running - "It's like the evolution of species. Started out in the primordial soup (aka Campus Hills Pool), then started writhing around on the ground (grappling), and now you're a fully evolved biped!"

I am happy to be evolving, but do miss my primordial soup encased swimming buddies. It was great to see you this weekend! Even Mendendorp, who proved to be chivalrous even in defeat.

Monday, March 7, 2011

St Paddy's Day 8K (5 mile)

This was a REALLY fun race! It was big (about 1800 people) , with lots of people dressing in green costumes. There was a fun expo with live music that continued into the evening. Of course, these things alone would not be enough to attract my swimming friends to a running event. But when they promised free beer at the end of the race, that convinced a big group of us to sign up.

I was using this as a tune-up race before the Tobacco Road half marathon in 2 weeks. My main goal was to maintain even pacing, since I have a terrible habit of getting excited at the start and going out way too fast. I was pleased to stay very relaxed for the 1st mile (I didn’t get my split because I was rocking out to my headphones, but I felt like it was even with my other splits, right around 6:35. The laws of mathematics agree). The course was pretty hilly, so I focused on maintaining even effort throughout.

I ended up placing 3rd out of the women, with a time of 32:57. I pushed it very hard in the last 100 yds because another woman appeared and it ended up being a sprint to the finish. When I crossed the finish line I felt like I was going to puke, but the free beer did wonders to settle my stomach!

My swimming/running/jiu jitsu friend Chris Castorena placed 3rd out of the men with a time of 29:13. We didn't know he placed so well until the results were posted the next day. As a hyper-competitive jackass, I always try to start races in the most favorable position possible. As a hyper-lascivious dumbass, Chris, however, had other priorities. He started in the back of the pack, where he could talk to the most girls possible. With so many people in the race, it was a full 40 sec after the gun when off before he reached the starting line. He was sixth when he crossed the finish line, but after subtracting the 40 sec he wasted at the start, his racing chip put him in 3rd. Way to go!

Lookin' good in green!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back again!

As most of you know, this blog was initially about the all-consuming task of training to swim across the English Channel. Then, as you also know, I came to my senses and realized that a Channel crossing would be a terrible, horrible idea. So I made this into a general swimming blog. That was all well and good - until last fall, when I fell into swimming hiatus. I had no swimming news to report, so I vanished off the blogosphere, never to be heard from again...until now!

[side note: My aquatic leave of absence is due to my new obsession with Brazilian jiu jitsu/grappling. I love BJJ because it is extremely skill based. As a beginner I have tons of room to improve (earning a black belt takes 10-15 years!) So, by showing up consistently and learning new skills, it is almost inevitable that I will improve. In swimming, on the other hand, I feel that all I have to look forward to is a gradual decline as I age. The only way for me to get faster would be to become more athletic (difficult for me at this point) or making big changes to my stoke (even more difficult after swimming hundreds of thousands of strokes a certain way). Plus, choking people is fun. I almost never get to choke my students - BJJ gets that out of my system.]

But I've found that I don't like blogging about BJJ. Swim races are easy to write about in an impersonal way (you can say, "I placed 2nd in such and such a race. I made some navigational mistakes, but had great pacing, blah, blah blah" without mentioning any specific people who you competed against). But BJJ matches are limited to 2 people, which automatically makes them more personal. It is me vs. her. And that makes it hard to talk about in a public space. I don't mind saying general things like "I won 3 matches out of 4," but I don't think it's nice to discuss specific matches with specific people. You win some, you lose some. But if I found someone's blog talking about the specifics of how she armbared me, I don't think I would like it.

And as it turns out, a lot of my swimming friends are taking aquatic breaks of their own. So when Billy invited a group of us to run the Tobacco Road half marathon this March, Karen signed up, as well as my archnemesis Mark Mendendorp. Obviously, I couldn't resist. I also signed up for several shorter running races this spring and had a blast competing in them. Since running is not tied to my identity - I don't think I will ever feel like "I'm a runner" the way that I feel "I'm a swimmer" - I don't feel any pressure with it. No one expects me to win running races -especially after seeing my shoulders!

I wrote a race report for the Bull City Running Club, a local group that I joined, and thought - hey this reads a little like my blog! And that made me nostalgic. This is a slightly more colorful version of that race report:

Raleigh Run for the Roses 5k

What made me sign up for this race was its pump and run contest. I love to run, but get passed quite often by slender folks who I can bench press. I thought, “finally, a running event where I can use my swimming shoulders to my advantage!” People who entered this contest participated in a bench press competition before the 5k (guys had to bench their body weight. Girls had to bench half their weight. Each rep takes 30 sec off your net time). The contest used a smith machine, which I found to be much easier than using free weights (you move the bar up and down, but the machine limits lateral movement).

The woman in front of me (a flat chested gal) joked about how big-breasted women had an advantage in this contest, since they wouldn't have to bring the bar down as far. I laughed and agreed that this was indeed true. But then she decided to take nature into her own hands.
When it was her turn at the bench press, this lady mentally inflated her A cups to double Gs. She brought the bar down less than halfway to her chest. She got in a whopping 28 reps - 2 more than I had done in practice - and the race officials counted every cheating one of them!

This made me mad. A wave adrenaline-fueled fury shot straight to my biceps. I was NOT going to lose to a cheater. I used every drop of my strength to get 45 reps in- legitimate reps, all the way down to my more ample bosom.

After that, I found it impossible to loosen up before the run. My adrenaline was going and I got caught up in the early excitement of the race. I went out way too fast.

Mi 1: 5:45

Mi 2: 6:30

Mi 3: - I dunno; But I finished in a 20:08, so you can see my pace went down hill. (Actually, the last mile went uphill. It was tough! I wasn’t used to it). I was a little slower than I wanted to go, but I learned important lessons about pacing, staying loose, and running my own race. I placed 3rd out of the women in the 5k, and 1st in the pump and run.

pre-prom, circa 1999

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A first and a last

Last weekend was one with two exciting events, in two separate states. On Saturday, I had my first ever grappling tournament in Wake Forest, NC. Then on Sunday I went to Smith Mountain Lake Virginia, for my last open water race of the season. I had very different approaches to these 2 events:


As you know, I have been around the lake a few times. So when I swim I am pretty cool and collected. Whether I am in shape or not, the open water is my element. I go into races relaxed, believing that I will do well. This confidence can be beneficial but on the flip side, I have a hard time getting myself psyched up. I approach the race start with a resting pulse rate of around 60. I listen to some aggressive rap music, take some quick, shallow breaths, and maybe - just maybe - I can get my pulse up to a pounding 65. Hell Yeah!

The mat, however, is a different realm. I went into my first tournament shaking in my rashguard. I had a crazy dream the night before that I was retaking calculus and forgot to withdrawl from the class and now had to cram for tomorrow's midterm, lest I fail. Now, you might argue that this dream is about sucking at math (true, I scraped through calculus II with a less than stellar B-) but the inner psychologist in me attributes it to performance anxiety (no, not that kind. Get your mind out of the gutter).

The morning of the tournament, my heart felt like it was racing along at about 312 beats per minute. I paced around, chatted incessantly, and couldn't touch the breakfast I had packed. In an open water race, you might get swum over or slammed into a buoy, but this was stepping it up a notch. These gals were out to choke me or break my arm.

Once I was on the mat with the clock running, however, all I was aware of were my opponent's limbs and my coach's voice telling me how to bend those limbs the wrong way. I won both of my matches by submission and left the tournament wishing I had more matches to roll. And my team won for overall team points! Here are the videos from my 2 fights:!/video/video.php?v=567078423251&ref=mf!/video/video.php?v=567077739621&ref=mf!/video/video.php?v=567074975161&ref=mf

Now, in the grand scheme of things, I still basically suck at Jiu Jitsu. I will continue to suck for some time, because it takes a really, really long time to get good. But among novice women, I seem to do ok! So, if you are a female of low skill level who's been thinking about attacking me, all I can say is DON'T!! There's a very good chance I can take you. However, if you are a dude or a chick with some skills who's been thinking of attacking me, well, still please don't. Chances are you can take me, and I don't want to get beat up.

The Smith Mountain Lake swim was fun as usual. My DAMA teammates represented well in the 5K. We camped out in a cabin, took a good old-fashioned snipe hunt, and told some very frightening stories around the campfire. The 1 mile swim was on Sunday morning. I was the 1st one out of the water in my wave, the age 20 and up old farts. One girl beat me from an earlier wave though, a scrappy 16 year old.

Now, the weather is getting colder and there will be no more open water races until spring. Boo! There will, however, be more grappling tournaments. Next time I will try to woman up and be less chicken.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nuclear swim

Two weeks ago was the last race in the FS Triangle Open Water Swim Series. As with last year, it was a very well run series of races, with chip timing, good post-race refreshments, and fast awards.

In this race, there was a $100 cash prize for the male and female overall winners, which made things a bit more competitive!

The guys started 10 min ahead of the ladies, which was good for Kevin, since he would not have the option of hanging back to draft off of me.

I won the ladies' race by the narrow margin of 1 second. Sheesh! Way too close for comfort. Here is a tape of the finish:!/video/video.php?v=438323353704&ref=mf

Kevin lost the guys' race by a heartbreaking 3 seconds (don't tell him, but I think the ladies finish was a lot scrappier)!/video/video.php?v=438325513704&ref=mf

I also want to give a shout out to my friend Cynthia Aguilar, who attempted to break the world paddleboard record by paddleboarding 130 miles from Cuba to Key West. Here at Channel drop out, we are supportive of all those who attempt crazy endurance events, especially those that are water-based.

After spending 17 hours on the board in the middle if the ocean, Cynthia was pulled out of the water, short of her goal. Man of wars and hypothermia cut this attempt short, but Cynthia will be getting back on her board, giving it another try! To support her efforts and raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation, go to

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lake Gaston

Last weekend was the Lake Gaston Crossing, a wonderful community affair in which practically every lake resident crosses the 1 mi lake. Folks get to choose their preferred mode of transportation - some walk across the bridge, some cross in man-powered vessels. and the truly aquatic inclined swim across.

I was introduced as the "target" for swimmers to chase.

I felt a little silly, especially when a young kid zapped me with his evil eye. I joked that this was a perfect swim for a navigationally challenged gal like me, since we had a lane line to follow the whole time. It would be impossible for me to get lost - famous last words!

We then piled into a World War II era amphibious landing vessel, which added to the swim's bad-ass factor. The landing vessel took us past the rocky shoreline so that we could enter the water safely. Certainly, it's a privilege to use such a vessel voluntarily, for a recreational swim. I'm grateful to those who boarded the vessel under less desirable circumstances, protecting a way of life that makes swims such as these possible.

We dove into the water and hightailed it to the shoreline. Being a directional dufus, I started to swim on the wrong side of the C-shaped lane line, leading me off-track. But I was the swimming target, with a bulls-eye on my cap. So the rest of the swimmers followed me off course! We went the wrong way until the support crew intercepted me to tell me where to go. Sorry guys, my bad!

I was happy to be the first person out of the water, despite my directional snafu. Local newspapers covered the event and wrote some very nice articles:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Little Uno and Big Deux!

This weekend was the Little Uno and the Big Deuce, 1 and 2 mile open water races put on by the FS series. My mom was in town for the weekend, and to avoid any family feuding, I opted to do the 2 mi, while she did the 1 mi.

My mama and Matt Davis before the 1 mi

The course was well marked and the field spread out quickly. I tried to draft off of my fast friend Kevin, but he didn't like that very much. So, in a very brilliant maneuver, he slowed down his own pace so he could draft off of me! That makes A LOT of sense. Of course, he could have pulled ahead easily, had he been willing to take the lead himself. But THAT would have been no fun! And truthfully, I really don't like swimming by myself, so I was happy for the company. Until, of course, Kevin and the superfast, crooked swimming overall winner took off at the end.

I ended up winning the women's race for the 2 mi and my mom won the women's 1 mi. Go Rices!
Me, looking scary after the Big Deux

I wasn't the only menacing creature looming in the lake this weekend.

::insert Halloween music::

While the scary music is playing, let's flash back to the Jordan Lake 1 mile swim, last month:

Here, my fast friend Kevin (the tall dude in the white cap) out-muscles a fiesty 13-yr-old (the little dude in the white cap) at the end of the 1 mi race.

Guess who took his revenge in the Little Uno? Guess who was the only one to beat my mama, whose accomplishments include swimming the 12.5 miles around Key West butterfly and being one of the fastest women to ever swim the English Channel?

This pint sized bad ass! The same pint sized bad ass who gave Kevin a run for his money at the Jordan Lake swim. Why don't you pick on someone your own size, son??

In other race news, my kickboxing friend Lizzie swam her 1st ever open water race AND won her age group. Way to go!