Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Came, I Swam, I Almost Threw Up - Nevis to St. Kitts Channel Swim Race Report (2018)

On Sunday I completed my first island to island swim in the West Indies, specifically from the island of Nevis to the island of St. Kitts (the Nevis to St. Kitts Cross Channel Swim). It's about 2.5 miles (4400 yds/4023 meters). Do you even know where Nevis is? Most people don't...

Here's the story:


I have no clue how long I've been out here, but it feels like an eternity (okay, that's a bit dramatic, but it does feel like at least two episodes of This Is Us). Somehow standing on the shore and looking across the channel to St. Kitts didn't look that daunting. But, looks are deceiving. And, most of the time, objects (aka islands) are further away than they appear. I keep having to pinch myself that I am actually swimming in the crystal turquoise blue of the Caribbean. I see no resemblance to my indoor chlorinated pool at home with its floating hairballs and band-aids.

Image result for nevis to st. kitts

I am struggling to move forward with these waves, this current. The swells have my not-usually-seasick stomach feeling kind of pukey. Unintentionally taking in swigs of salty sea water does not help. I try not to remind myself that I am now alone, where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean and where the water is at least 80 feet deep. But it's hard to see land through the waves and I can't seem to track any other swimmers. I know I won't die out here, but it's lonely and I am just a tad freaked out.

Backtrack. The day began at 7:30 a.m. as I strapped on my ankle tracking device (hopefully the only ankle devices I will ever wear are for races and not because I robbed a liquor store specializing in Chardonnay and am now on probation). Ken hops on the spectator boat where he will have a sweet rum drink and take pictures while I swallow salt water and aim to make it 2.5 miles across the channel. The start area is organized and energized. I am just taking in the beauty of this place.

I meet lots of people while waiting to start. We are all a bit nervous as the wind kicks up and the waves look like they might give us a run for our money as we swim between islands. I love the  jitters of a race start - where everyone trades some last minute war stories and fears.

We are on "island time" so the race starts at least 30 minutes late. Who cares? I'll swim as long as it takes me then I'll drink Carib beer and lay in the sun. I notice most people have tied the optional bright orange buoys to themselves as a safety precaution so they can be seen. I don't reckon' I needed that. But half way across the channel and feeling vulnerable, I kind of wished I had something bright orange signaling that I was out there - just a speck of bright orange in that big ass and vast ocean. Help Me Please, if I need it.

The start was typical enough for a mass swim. You get kicked, swam over and all the while trying to get your bearings. In this race, things spread out quickly and comfortably. I got in a groove, choosing to breathe only on one side rather than bilaterally given the position of the waves. All was well and I just thought I'd cruise along to the finish.

Then we hit "the channel," i.e., the place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean. The Atlantic is like, "Hey, what's up Caribbean? I'm gonna shake the shit out of your mellow ass." At this point we are out in the open sea and the chop starts. Living in Colorado, the only chop I get is in my bathtub when I fart.

The swells were not huge I guess, but they felt monstrous when you were inside them. Every time I tried to look forward to St. Kitts where I was headed, I would get thrown to the bottom of a swell and couldn't see. I knew I was off course and kept trying to correct. But, the current made it kind of exhausting. The water was so clear I could see all the way to the bottom - lots of schools of fish and sea urchins. I swam into hundreds of piles of sea grass that stuck to my face. At first, like a Caribbean newbie, I tried to swim under it and realized that was futile. Other people saw sea turtles and sting rays.

At this point I see no other swimmers, no kayaks, no buoys. I am spoiled by Ironman races where there are millions of people and buoys the whole way. I know if I got into trouble I could wave someone down. I hoped. At some point I realize it is just me, my swim suit, my swim cap and my goggles and that is what is going to get me to St. Kitts. I just had to keep moving forward towards land. I was not tired at all. I was just....uneasy.

I continued to struggle with my sick stomach and was mentally fatigued as I could see land ahead but did not seem to be getting any closer to it. I felt like I was not making any progress. I had a conversation with myself that went something like, "Get your shit together. You know how to swim. You know how to do hard things. Stop being a baby and keep moving forward." So, I did. I also kept reminding myself what a spectacular thing this was that I was doing.

That is about the time I spotted on orange buoy attached to a swimmer about 100 yards ahead. I decided to stop fixating on land/finish line and to just follow this dude/gal and assume they knew where they were going. That was a little life line and boost. Turns out they did know where they were going cause I finally saw the orange blow up finish line chute in the distance.

Finally I was there and welcomed by a large and loud crowd. I felt slightly self conscious stumbling onto the beach, trying to find my legs again and wobbling into the finish. They pulled me aside to interview me on the loud speaker and I have no clue what I said (probably fuck and mother fucker) as I was trying to not spew what little breakfast I had eaten.

My time: 1:35.

My favorite (and only) support crew member

Like with any race, your moods shift like an adolescent girl on her period while you are in the midst of it. I love this! I hate this! What am I going to eat later? I am scared! I am brave and amazing! I suck! I'm tired! I might throw up! But also like with any race, you finish, have a beer and start to feel like a rock star. The sense of accomplishment sinks in and you remember why you do these things in the first place.

I'm not sure what my next adventure will take me, but I know they'll be a next.

And, what I have to say to you is - if you are looking to combine a chill beach vacation with a dose of culture/history and a touch of adventure/fitness - this swim is for you. It tends to fall near or on lots of kids' spring breaks, so that's an advantage too. You can find more info HERE. This race is organized and well supported with an emphasis on safety.


Thank you to the lovely Island of Nevis and the Nevis Tourism Authority for hosting me on this trip and for supporting me in doing the swim. Your hospitality is second to none!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

13 Things I Never Said Before I Started Running

Running has changed me. I fart in public unabashedly. I can aim a snot rocket like no one's business. My thighs don't fit into my jeans. And, my idea of a fun Saturday morning is running for three hours in the wilderness. So, not surprisingly, there are many things I now say that I never would have said a few years ago before I was a runner. Here are a few: 

  1. "Did you remember to put lube on your nipples/balls/inner thighs?"

  2. "I can't wait to pay $100 to wake up at 3am and run 26.2 miles."

  3. "I guess if I pee myself I'll just rinse it off with water at the next aid station.

  4. "What do you mean your GPS says you ran 9.91 miles? Run until you hit 10 bitch!"

  5. "No I don't think $150 is too much to spend on (running) shoes.

  6. "I'm not leaving the house for a run until I poop."

  7. "Why bother with underwear? These shorts/tights have a lining."

  8. "Two of my toenails just fell off."

  9. "No, I'm not jogging, asshole"

  10. "I cannot get a fucking satellite."

  11. "I think it makes sense to run for 50 or 100 miles."

  12. "My tampon fell out at mile 12."

  13. "I don't care how nasty that porta potty is. It's better than shitting myself."


Monday, March 19, 2018

Save the Neck for Me, Clark (and my first podcast interview)

You know what over-used expression I hate (among so many others like, "at the end of the day" and "my bad" and "sorry not sorry")? This is the one I cannot stand: "Stick a fork in me, I'm done." I think it's because it's so cheesy and dumb. But, for some reason on yesterday's 8 mile run I could not get that eff'ing phrase out of my head.

Because by yesterday I was SO SO done with running, much like that turkey on Christmas Vacation that Clark cut open and it was just a pile of disintegrating bones (although I do recall that Aunt Bethany liked it).

Image result for turkey christmas vacation
Save the neck for me, Clark!

Maybe I'm just a pussy, but this ultra training is hard for me. Lots of back to back intense runs and I've been throwing in swimming in there to get ready for my race upcoming on Sunday. Here's what last week looked like.

Monday: Hike 4 miles (1,100 vertical)
Tuesday: Run 5, steady (200 vertical)
Wednesday: Run 9, with 3-4 miles at tempo (459 vertical)
Thursday: 6.5 miles, hill workout (500 vertical)
Friday: Swim 3,500 yards (2 miles)
Saturday: Run 15, trails (2,800 feet of vertical)
Sunday: Run 8 miles, slow and steady (416 ft. of vertical)

Total: 49.5 miles, 5,475 feet of vertical

This week is a recovery/rest week and will be mellow. I'll run tomorrow and Wednesday, then we leave for Nevis/St. Kitts on Thursday. Friday is a pretty intense hike up Mt. Nevis (3,500 feet). I'm not sure of the actual distance, but I do know it involves lots of mud and ropes you use to pull yourself up. Should be an adventure. Sunday is the big Nevis to St. Kitts Channel Swim.

Here's a picture I took of Mt. Nevis last time I visited (11/2015).

Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

In other exciting news - Kate Nesi from the Life Long Learning Podcast interviewed me recently...if you'd like to give a listen, you can find it here. I had a great time talking to Kate, a mom/runner/podcaster. She is relatable, easy to talk to and has a great podcast voice! You can find her podcast on iTunes as well, searching Life Long Learning

Are you going anywhere for Spring Break?

Tell me your favorite podcast. I have a few - Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss, How I Built This, No Meat Athlete, Ali on the Run...


Monday, March 12, 2018

All 50Ks Are Not Created Equal

I went to a "happy hour" at a running store in Golden, CO last week all focused on the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty (50K) that I'm running in June (happy hour to runners = free craft beer, kale salad, gear reviews and lots of race talk). This will be my first ultra. I learned three important facts:

1. This is the second hardest 50K in the nation (probably due to vertical gain and technical conditions - 7,250 vertical gain. lots of single track with the highest peak reached at mile 26. Ouch)

2. An award is given ($100) to who is the bloodiest and most torn up at the end (I think I'll bring some ketchup and a butter knife just to jack myself up. $100 buys a lot of chardonnay).

3. All first timers are given a green shirt to wear. Volunteers are specifically instructed to not let the newbies quit (they probably threaten them with a butter knife).

You all know I'm not afraid of a good challenge, so bring it on. Any race that has a sign like this (taken at last year's race) is my kind of race. Yes, I just may be that one out of 100.

But, I will tell you that I am going to train my ass off to make this race go as well as possible. This week was #6 of 18 training weeks. And it kind of kicked my butt. But, at the same time I'm adapting to the challenge and can feel myself getting stronger.

Monday: Swim 3,200 yards
Tuesday: Run 5
Wednesday: Run 7 (intervals)
Thursday: Run 8, steady
Friday: Run 3, easy
Saturday: Run 14 - hills/snow
Sunday: Run 6 easy

Total: 45 miles

The hardest day was obviously Saturday. We went up to the famous Magnolia Road, which starts at about 8,000 feet and goes way up from there. The challenge was made even more of a bitch because it was windy and started snowing really hard. I was in shorts because it was 20 degrees warmer at my house. Colorado, you kill me.  I've lived here for over 20 years and still can't dress right.

I wish you could see my legs. They are a few shades redder than my face.

This week is also high mileage, but the following week when I'm doing the Cross Channel swim in the Caribbean (Island of Nevis) is a recovery week, so perfect timing.

Image result for nevis cross channel swim
2.5 miles of Caribbean bath water. No one will even know if you pee in it.
I had a choice for this race - to RACE, i.e, be eligible for age group awards or to not race, which means you can use snorkels, fins, wet suits, arm floaties, anything to get you 2.5 miles from island to island. While floaties sound fun, I opted to RACE. So, we'll see how that goes...

What's the hardest race you've ever done? Mine was probably the Leadville Marathon. But, it was also one of my favorite races ever.

Would you consider a long swim from one island to the next? 


Sunday, March 4, 2018

10 Things Runners Are Better at Than Everyone Else

I am not good at too many things. I can't play a musical instrument (quit the flute in 6th grade, something about all that practicing when the Love Boat and Fantasy Island were on) and I have absolutely no rhythm when it comes to dancing (although I still do it a lot in public, sorry Ken and all of my friends and family). I could never get the hang of knitting and the last time I skied (like REALLY skied) I broke my wrist and had to be carried down the mountain on the stretcher of shame.

But, running? Well, that's something I can do reasonably well. And, it turns out - many of us runners are not only skilled at running. The truth is, most runners have multiple talents that range from drinking while running to over-sharing. Here are 10 things runners do better than most people:

  1. Spending lots of money to get up at the ass crack of dawn, run really far, suffer and get a dry bagel at the end. This is also known as a race entry fee. While it might seem crazy to non-runners, runners generally love to attend races and will pay a hefty fee to do so.

  2. Knowing weird distances. Runners can tell you the exact distance from their house to the nearest lake, the 7-11 or the closest trail head. A specialty is also knowing where any and all public restrooms are. Preferably clean and heated.

  3. Tying our shoes. If you aren’t a runner you may not be aware that there is an art to typing one’s shoes. Any runner will tell you to double knot your laces or you will constantly be tripping over untied laces and stopping to tie them.

  4. Drinking and running. While runners don’t condone drinking and driving, we do allow drinking and running. If you’ve done a race then you’ve encountered this thing called the aid station. That’s the place that has little Dixie-sized cups of water or sports drink. In order to drink yet keep running, the runner gets very good at pinching the cup so that the drink efficiently and quickly goes into his/her mouth without major spillage.

  5. Controlling our sphincters. Yes it’s true that many runners suffer from runner’s trots. This happens because when you run, the blood in your body stops helping with digestion and starts pumping to the arms and legs. In addition, running jumbles up the gut causing the urge to poop. Unfortunately, this urge does not usually happen in convenient locations where a bathroom is readily available. Therefore, runners get very good at holding in turds until they can find somewhere to drop them.

  6.  Rolling on cylindrical things made out of foam. If you’ve ever visited a runner’s home, you’ve probably seen this item laying around on the floor. Children love to throw them around. Sometimes you might actually witness a runner rolling a body part on the cylinder.

  7.  Getting injured. And talking about it. At one time or another every runner gets injured. The repetitive motion of running and the impact can lead to a variety of ailments from shin splints to stress fractures to plantar fasciitis. These injuries cause the runner to become adept at whining and self-pity.

  8. Talking to ourselves. Out loud. Running can be a solo event. Runners get lonely. They need support, encouragement. Trouble is, there are not always others around to do this. That’s when the runner starts to have conversations with his/herself about how far they have left to go, the fact that they can finish this and the knowledge that the pain is hopefully temporary. Runners also might remind themselves that there is cake and pie at home waiting to be devoured as well as a nice, clean toilet.

  9. Over-sharing. Runners are very good at providing people with Too Much Information (TMI). This is likely because over time the gross things runners do get normalized to the runner and he/she forgets it might be disgusting to others. It’s pretty commonplace for a runner to tell you how many times they poop in a day or that they started their period during a race or that their nipples bled because they forgot to apply Vaseline before their run.

  10. Using social media. Runners love to let people know how far and how often they run. Posting race times is also a priority. What better way to do this than social media?

Are you good at these things? I used to be good at getting injured, but now I suck at it and I'm glad. Controlling my sphincter continues to be an issue. I am still good at foam rolling but now use a new torture device, the R8 Massage Roller from Roll Recovery. Holy Shit. Have you used this thing? It's amazing and miserable all at the same time.