Wednesday, May 1, 2019

SCAR Swim 2019

I've been bad about keeping my blog updated, so this is a long one. Hope you enjoy the read!

Back in October of 2018 I swam Swim the Suck, another post I have yet to do and probably will never get done. However, that's where my journey to SCAR began...well earlier than I was expecting anyway. You see, I came across the SCAR swim ( when I was searching for the best open water swims. It immediately went on my swimming bucket list. I had decided I would save up for it and do it the year I turn 40 as a "I'm still young and can do hard things" celebration. Then not only could I save up the money but could also work my way up to swimming that long on consecutive days and try to acclimate to some cooler water. The first thing that drew me in was the beauty you get to experience during the week in Arizona. For me, that's my number one motivation for doing it. If you want to read more on all of that you can check out the website. Briefly, SCAR is a four day swim challenge along the Salt River in Arizona. There are four dammed lakes along the river that are situated in the Tonto National Forest area. They are Saguaro, Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt (SCAR). You swim one lake each day and each lake is swum from dam to dam with the exception of Roosevelt. When measured down the centerline of the lake the total distance is about 40 miles (9, 9, 17, and 6.2). That's 40 miles over 4 days, which considering my longest open water swim is 10 miles is crazy. Unless you swim down the center of all the lakes you don't actually swim 40 miles, but are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 miles. So, what does Swim the Suck have to do with SCAR? Well, at the pre-race dinner entries to several popular open water swims are raffled off using the swimmers "bib" number. SCAR is the first entry raffled off. I remember saying to Chris and Lisa that "this is the swim I want to save up for and do when I turn 40." Lisa's response was "if you win that, I'll kayak for you!" My kayaker for the Suck said the same. As I'm distracted talking to them they call the number. As I never win anything, I wasn't fully paying attention, until Chris said, "isn't that your number?" I look at my cap and holy cow, that is my number!! I can't believe it! Of course I accept the entry. That's a $1400 entry and for a race I was hoping to do in the future. After giving them my contact info I went back to my seat feeling like I had just won a million bucks. I checked with Chris to make sure it wasn't the same weekend we were going to Disney for the Star Wars race. Thankfully it wasn't! 34 is the new 40 now.

Swim the Suck Cap and Shirt
Me accepting the entry for SCAR!

After Swim the Suck was over I immediately started thinking about how in the world I was going to be ready for SCAR in just 6 months. I'd have to increase my swim volume and start acclimating to cold water. Thankfully I already had the pilot (kayaker) part taken care of. John wasn't able to kayak for me, but I still had Lisa. She paddles for her husband, but since he isn't doing SCAR, she's able to be there for me! She suggested I hire a coach to get ready for the distance. I always just trained myself but also ended up messing up my shoulders when I do. She recommended JP over at TAC, he trains pro swimmers and coaches the Titan's Masters swim team. Thankfully he agreed to take me on as well and coach me through to the event. The main goal there was to get as prepared as I could be for the distance and to do so without injury. We would start in January and I was excited to see how it would all go!

Lisa and I after Swim The Suck

Fred and I waiting for the start of Swim the Suck!

John, my pilot for Swim the Suck

The hardest part for me was always going to be the cold acclimation. I HATE being cold. I'm the biggest baby when it comes to that. I did have the opportunity to go out to Falls Lake once in the fall to swim in water temp around 55 degrees, air temp in the 40s. Was in the water for about 30 min, which was okay, but man I was freezing when I got out. I prepared by buying a heavy parka and Yeti Thermos full of hot tea for after. I did do that swim with Charlie and Dan, though they went ahead and swam much farther/longer than I did. I opted to stay where I could see shore since there were no safety kayakers out there with us and as a personal rule I don't swim alone. That was the only cold water swim I would get in before SCAR. There was far too much Rain and runoff into the lakes that when I did have the day off or had time to go out there, the conditions of the lake weren't worth the risk. Cold showers it would be.

Falls Lake on the morning of my one and only try at cold water acclimation (Oct 2018)

Lisa and I picked out a VRBO to stay at, with plenty of room for the three of us and extra room in case my parents wanted to come, which they ended up doing. It was really nice to have both my parents and my sister come out to AZ for the swim. Not only would it be a nice warm vacation for them, but the moral support would be really nice. We also booked the same flights there and back, non-stop on Southwest. I know I'll need the 2 free checked bags with all the stuff I'd have to bring with me for 4 days of cold water marathon swimming. Non-stop flights because who really wants to deal with layovers/changing planes?

The training with JP went great and he was able to get me to SCAR without injuring my shoulder and confident in the volume that the distance wouldn't be an issue. I also got massages regularly which definitely helped keep injuries away. I swam the majority of my workouts by myself, but was able to make a few masters practice times and/or have company on the weekends thanks to Tom and Molly.  The last month or so leading up to the SCAR swim I started the cold shower routine after practice swims. It was long past time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Weekly yardage leading up to SCAR!

Alright, so it's SCAR time. Sunday the 21st I had to work in the morning, come home to finish packing then head to the airport. Of course, I start getting a sore throat that afternoon, so I quick went to Walgreens to pick up some Emergen-C. I also tried taking a nap, thinking maybe it was a bit of sleep deprivation from all the severe weather and quick turn around. It didn't help. On the way to the airport we get a text that our flight is delayed 2 hours but since Lisa is already at the airport we keep going and meet her there. I picked up some water and alka-seltzer in one of the shops and that seems to help a bit. We all went to grab some lunch/early dinner at one of the airport restaurants since we had about 3 hours to kill before our plane boarded. Good thing because service took so long in that place, but the food was good and we were out of there in time. Once on the plane I took my second dose of aka-seltzer to help with the sore throat and just tried to keep myself occupied watching movies and playin on my phone for the 4ish hour flight to Phoenix. Bags made it and we headed for the rental car place, which is not a short trip btw. Chris had rented a van so we could fit everyone for the week, though Lisa and I would end up renting a car of our own for travel the later half of the week. We stopped at the store quick on the way to the house to pick up some meds for me and some food for the next day. I got some more alka-seltzer and some Thera-flu tea. Since it was later in the evening when we arrived there wasn't a whole lot to do when we got in than get settled, relax a bit and go to bed.

Monday was a chill day with nothing rigid planned. Lisa and I went to lunch with a friend of hers that lives out there and Chris went to a different place to eat near the ASU campus. We ate at Snooze, which Lisa knows from Denver. The food was really good! We hung out there for a couple hours then met back with Chris and walked around campus for a bit. Even stopped at Starbucks. Afterwards, we just hung out at the house, Lisa made some guacamole so we had some snacks and just chilled. That night we had dinner at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. The food was really good, though I didn't partake in any beer drinking, I did sip some and thought they were pretty good. It was hot tub time back at the house, accompanied by a class of wine for Lisa and I. Training plan said to loosen up, hot tub and wine counts!

ASU Swimming complex, view from the parking ramp.

Lisa and I "loosening up"

Tuesday was the practice swim at Saguaro, but it's also when my parents were flying in, so Lisa and I rented a car so we could do what we needed to do and not have everyone waiting on us or vice versa. The lake wasn't too far from the house, we stopped at Starbucks along the way to get a bit of caffeine and chocolate (for me). It was gonna be that kind of week for me. I'll admit, I had been freaking out about the potential water temperature leading up to this, so when I jumped in and it wasn't terrible it really put my mind at ease. I think it was maybe 70-72 degrees at the surface and it felt really good with the air temp in the 80s. It was an 30 min out and 30 min back, we ended up doing 50 min total, but that was all I really needed to get relaxed and comfortable. There, Lisa and I met Jack and Dave. It was nice to finally get to talk to and meet some of the other crazy people doing the challenge this year! We hung out for a bit after the swim to chat, take pictures and whatnot, but once hunger set in Lisa and I headed out to find lunch. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant with authentic Mexican food and it was delicious! I got a tamale and a taco, so good! When we finally got back to the house I got to see my mom and dad, who had come from lunch and were just relaxing. We all hung out and just chilled for a couple hours or so until we had to get ready for the pre-race dinner at the Mesa Country Club. Mom and dad decided to stay at the house and rest while the three of us went to dinner. Lisa and I picked up our swag, took some pictures and found some seats. We were able to save 2 for Jack and Dave. Other folks at our table were the massage therapists Liz and Julie and fellow swimmers/pilots Amy and Kirk. Amy was nice enough to give me a tube of Headhunter sunscreen which is suppose to work really well at protecting against sunburn. Given my fair skin, I'm open to anything that will keep me from burning for 4 days in a row. The food was great, lots of different choices. I tried a bit of everything, I think. Top that of with some Tiramisu for dessert and I was all fat and happy heading into day one tomorrow. When we got back to the house we prepped everything for the first swim, feed bottles, water, change of clothes and of coursed the sunscreen and zinc. Still had a bit of a sore throat, so was continuing with the AS and Thera-flu, along with some Claritin and Emergen-C. The overnights were worst for my throat and for snoring so my throat was always most sore in the morning.

View of Saguaro Lake - practice swim
View of Saguaro Lake - practice swim
Patty's practice swim crew!
Lisa and I at the practice swim.

Saguaro Lake - Wednesday - Day 1 of 4:

I woke up early so Chris could put the Headhunter sunscreen on me before I put my suit on. I wanted to have time to let it dry before I tried dressing. Once that was taken care of Lisa and I got all our stuff together, loaded up the car and headed for Starbucks before continuing on to the lake. The meeting spot was the same as where the practice swim was and we got there really early. It was a lot of waiting around, going to the bathroom and taking pictures before they finally got us all organized and on our way to the staging area. We couldn't really do much until we got there. They split everyone into 3 separate waves. I was in wave 3, the last to go out. They boated everyone to the staging area, so it was awhile before our wave headed there. We still had quite a bit of time once we got there to get everything ready to go. We picked out a kayak and got everything situated. Lisa loaded me up with zinc oxide to try to protect me from burning. It would be 3-4 hours in the hot AZ sun and my Irish skin has an issue with that. Lisa headed out in the kayak before the boat took wave three to the start, she had a little ways to go to get close to the start so she had to get out there ahead of me. We all jumped off the pontoon boat and swam to the buoys for the start. Was able to pee before Kent started us and away we went. The water was fine, a little cool, but okay. It wasn't long until Lisa found me, then we were on our way. Feedings were every 30 min or so. A few swigs of fuel and one or two of water each time. Now even though the lake was measured at 9 miles, it swims more like 7.5 because we don't swim down the center of the lake the whole way. I figured it would take me 3-4 hours to finish. My watch stopped recording my location/distance after an hour and a half or so, but thankfully the timer was still running so I knew when to feed. I got the final distance from Lisa; 7.5 miles. Final time was 3:38:30. This was probably the easiest of all the swims, though it was the hardest to figure out where the finish was. I probably pushed a bit too hard too early, but it wasn't so bad. You can't really see the finish buoy's until you're right on them because they're around the last bend, but when I got close to the marina I knew I was close. As I touched the orange buoy and finished the first lake I was grateful to be there and was looking forward to the days ahead. I had to swim just a little ways to the pontoon boat where a speed boat was waiting to take swimmers back to the meeting area. Lisa had to kayak back to the start, about a mile or so. I took some of our stuff up to the benches before making my way back to help her bring the kayak up. Man that feels heavy after swimming for 3.5 hours. As we set the kayak down and brought our stuff to the car it began to hit me how tired and spent I was. I was hungry and thirsty but was also a bit nauseous. I changed into some dry clothes and grabbed some water and food. They had burritos and chips at the finish which were pretty good! After food was a massage. A much needed massage. Julie was able to work on my shoulders, arms and back and it helped a ton to make me feel loosened up. After the massage we headed back to the house. I was still out of it and really tired. I also got sunburned, despite the sunscreen and zinc oxide, not a good sign of things to come for the next couple of days. Back at the house we hung out for a bit before I got a much needed shower and we all headed to dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. I almost fell asleep reading the menu. Got some eggplant parm and water. We didn't stay really long because Lisa and I still had to get everything ready for the next 3 days since we wouldn't be coming back to the house until late Saturday night. All I wanted was sleep, so once we had everything together I bid everyone goodnight and hit the sack. A quick check of the results, I was 10th overall for Saguaro! One of the benefits of still being on EDT is that 8 PM feels like 11 PM and 530 AM is more like 830 AM.

Wave lists - I'm wave 3, 8th one down.
Swimmers and Pilots getting ready at the staging area
Lisa and I posing for a quick photo-op while waiting to leave for the staging area.

Canyon Lake - Thursday - Day 2 of 4: 

Since we pretty much had everything ready to go from the night before, we woke up about the same time as Wednesday, same sunscreen routine, dress and load up the car. Made our daily Starbucks stop along the way, something we'd miss out on the next two days. The drive up to Canyon Lake was beautiful! I only took a couple pictures and instead opted to just take it all in instead. Pictures wouldn't do it justice anyway. The ride was just a little longer than to Saguaro so we still made it there pretty early. The routine was similar to the previous day, arrive at the marina, wait to be boated to the staging area. I tried to get the GoPro I borrowed from a co-worker to work, but the video recording wouldn't stay on, so I got a few short videos and that was it. Kind of a bummer, but we didn't have the time to really mess with it. The boat ride to the staging area was also stunning. So much beauty out there. It was a decently long boat ride to the staging area, and when we got there we had to wait quite a while for the rest of the wave to make it since everyone was boating from near the finish, 7+ miles or so. The plus side we had plenty of time to zinc up and get Lisa's kayak all set, the down side was standing in the small area of shade that was available for about 30-45 min while we waited for the rest of our wave. We did get to see the first two waves swim by while we were waiting though, so that was kinda cool. Unfortunately once we are all covered in zinc oxide and destine we can't really sit on anything without getting it all over, so we stood the whole time. Finally we were ready to be boated to the start. Canyon was suppose to be the coldest start, so I was a bit worried about that. It was cold when we jumped in and swam to the starting buoys, but not terrible. Once we all had our hands on the start we were off. Met up with Lisa not too far down the lake and away we went. I tried to take in a bit more nutrition with each feed and also added BASE Salt to try to help with both the fatigue and the peeing frequency. It seemed to work. I did pee once at the start and once during the race, an improvement from Saguaro. I will say that the water temperature throughout the swim varied the most in this lake, anywhere from 65ish to what felt like 90 degrees at one point. Not complaining as the warm broke up the cold enough that I never really felt too cold during the swim. The other thing I noticed was that I was still able to enjoy the views throughout the swim, which I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do. Canyon does live up to the hype in the beauty department! I'd paddle that one next time to get more of that. This was probably the easiest of the 4 lakes for me. The only tough part was right at the end. Once I saw the finish, I picked up the pace but it felt like I was hardly making any progress. Every time I took a breath I saw the same thing. It seemed like forever to finish that last mile or so, but I did it and it was awesome! I finished just behind Abby, who passed me in the last half mile or so. I was able to take in the view some swimming the short distance to the pontoon boat and while waiting to be boated back to the marina. Lisa had to kayak back, so I waited for her there and just soaked it all in. Finish time was 3:21:04, good for 11th overall. Distance was about 7 miles or so. Still hanging out in the top 10 among those swimmer's who've finished both lakes so far.

Canyon Lake Marina
Canyon Lake Marina - Transporting kayaks via pontoon boat 
View from boat to staging area!
More views from the boat ride to staging area

All done, two thumbs up!

After the race we continued on toward the Apache Lake Marina and "Resort." Along the way we stopped at Tortilla Flat for lunch. Food wasn't bad, but did leave something to be desired. Beyond Tortilla Flat, the road transitioned from paved to dirt. The dirt road was narrow, with a few one lane bridges, and very winding with lots of incline and decline sections. Needless to say this is not a road I would drive at night. Thankfully I don't get carsick. It took about an hour or so to go 12-15 miles down the road going a max of 15 mph. Despite being a dangerous drive, it was quite beautiful, though that wasn't a surprise by this point. Everything was beautiful...except for the inside of the room at the "resort." Checked into the room, 106. As pretty as the outside is that's how unappealing the inside was. The carpet was stained and grungy looking and the comforters looked about as old as the resort itself. It was a place to sleep and shower, so for that I was thankful. And hey, the toilet flushed and the shower worked, so it wasn't all bad. After we both got showered and dressed I found my way to Julie's room to sign up for my next massage. It would be an hour and a half or so, so Lisa and I went up to the main building to grab some food and hang out with Jack and Dave for a bit. I felt much better after this swim than the last, actually having energy to eat and be social. The problem was that I had lost my voice the night before and could barely talk, which if you know me is kind of like torture when there are so many new friends to make. I tried though! I had to leave in the middle of dinner for my massage. Totally worth it. She worked out my sore muscles and put some stuff on my sunburn to help with the discomfort. The rest of the night I just chilled in the room and mentally prepared for the long day ahead. Lisa brought me back some quesadilla for dinner. We prepped our things for Apache and headed to bed with an early wake-up of 5 AM.

The dirt road to Apache, one of the "gentler" sections
View of Apache from the road to the Marina and Resort

Apache - Friday - Day 3 of 4:

The big Kahuna! This is the one most people stress about, for a number of reasons. If the weather doesn't cooperate, you'll be in for a really long day. If you haven't prepared for the distance, it will get you. Apache is measured at 17 miles long down the center of the lake, but swims more between 13 and 15 somewhere depending on the route you take. Don't forget about the water temperature.

Remember the dirt road from yesterday? Well we would take vans to the staging area from the resort...via the dirt road. 15 people piled in 4 vans, the rest of the swimmers and crew boated to the start. I'm not sure which was worse. The van ride was not fun, but we were warm. The boat ride was probably pretty chilly, but likely very pretty. We get to the staging area, walk down the dirt and gravel path to what used to be a large beach area but is now a very small beach because the water levels were so high. Lisa and I set our stuff down then walked back up to get our kayak. After we found a spot to get situated, we loaded the kayak, used the woods to potty, then got going on the zinc application. The sun was still hidden behind the mountains at the start, so the air was a bit chilly. This was probably the quickest start of the three so far. It didn't seem like very long until Lisa was off on the kayak and we were headed to the starting buoys via boat. What's pretty cool about Apache is that you can see the Roosevelt dam from the starting buoys, and it's very tall. Now remember how Canyon supposedly had the coldest start? I beg to differ! Apache not only had the coldest start, but was also the coldest throughout the swim. The start was probably around 60 degrees or so, with an avg temp around 65 degrees, at least for the first 5 miles or so. Now, it could be the early start, or the cold air and water, but I had a particularly bad attitude for the first couple hours of this swim. It was pretty and all, but I just felt negative. Even the songs I was trying to distract myself with were negative. I had to search my brain for a positive song and landed on the song from Trolls "Get back up again." It may have worked as my attitude improved during the swim. I remember getting to where we could see the resort and marina on the left and it seemed like it took forever to go past that. I think I had two feedings where I could still see the marina. Mentally, this was a tough lake for me from that standpoint. I was frequently wondering how much farther. I knew it would take me about 6 hours or so to swim it if it was between 13 and 14 miles, so I knew about how much longer I had to go. Still didn't stop me from wanting to ask. Instead I just went from one feeding to the next, peeing every 3rd or so and overall feeling pretty good. My shoulders started to get a bit tired during the last 4 miles or so, which is about when the water got more choppy. It was about 3 miles to go when Abby and her paddler came up on Lisa and I. I was grateful for the company, even though I was starting to hurt. At one point Abby stopped swimming, turned to me and said "I know you're tired, but let's go!" So, I went. I stayed with her, both of us swimming between my pilot and hers the rest of the way. As we neared the end I was eager to see the orange buoys that mark the finish. I knew at this point I would finish Apache, but I wanted out, more because I was cold and my shoulders were getting tired than anything else. As we rounded the last bend the buoys were right there, so Abby and I pushed it to the end, her finishing just a little ways ahead of me. A little high-five at the end to celebrate the accomplishment and appreciation for her keeping me going. Now, if there's one thing that pissed me off this week it was the fact that they made all the pilots kayak the 5 miles back to the marina instead of loading them onto boats and the kayaks on boats back to the marina as they had in years' past. It was hot and had been a long day already, I felt so bad for all the pilots who then had to turn around and keep going. I'm not sure the reasoning there, but it really ground my gears. I grabbed my dry bag and feed bottles from Lisa to take some weight off the kayak before she headed back. I didn't grab the car or room keys though. So, when I got back to the marina, I got a ride up to the main building where I changed and waited for Lisa to get back. Probably about an hour or more. Thankfully Jack and Dave stopped by and were nice enough to buy me some Snickers to hold me over (didn't have my money on me) and Abby came by on her way to go get her pilot. She offered me a ride down to get Lisa, so I took her up on it. Great timing, Lisa was coming in just as we parked at the ramp!  Abby was nice enough to also give us a ride back up to our car so we didn't have to walk all the way back, she was truly a lifesaver that day! I had a massage set for that evening, so when we got back to the room I showered and got dressed, then waited for Lisa to do the same. She went up to the building for dinner while I got my massage. Julie, once again, was awesome! She had a friend bring a lemon and made me some tea with fresh lemon juice to help my throat, which it did. She also used CoCo and Jojoba on my sunburn to help with that as well! She was also a lifesaver this week! I walked up to the building after my massage to grab some dinner with Lisa. We ate with another crew from Mexico that Lisa had met earlier in the week. I was finally able to talk some, so I got to get to know them as well. So many nice people, it's always nice making those connections! We hung out for a bit while we ate and after, just enjoying the company before heading back to the room and getting ready for bed. Man it was a long day. One of the nice things about staying out at Apache a second night was really being able to take in the scenery and the night sky. It's amazing how many stars you can see out there. I even saw several shooting stars. It was pretty cool and one of the more memorable things about the place.

While I felt accomplished for finishing the big one, for some reason it was almost anti-climactic. I know that sounds negative, but it's just the way it felt for me. I was happy to have finished. I enjoyed most of the swim and the scenery, but it just didn't have the big sense of accomplishment I though I might feel. Maybe it was just all the being sick and stuff taking a lot out of me that it masked things. I dunno. Thankfully we will be able to sleep in, get some breakfast and relax before we have to head out to Roosevelt on Saturday. Final results for Apache, 6:22:57, 10th overall for the day and still in the top 10 amongst those who've finished all 3 so far. I can't complain there! Only one more to go!

Everyone getting ready at the Apache Staging area 
View from the staging area 
View of the dam from the finish

Boat ride back to the marina

View from outside of our room at the Apache "Resort"

Leaving Apache...I did it!

Roosevelt - Saturday - Day 4 of 4:

Even though I had set an alarm for 11 AM, just in case we slept that long, both Lisa and I were up before 7. We took our time getting ready and headed up the the main building for breakfast. The breakfast wasn't bad. We chatted a bit with Jack and some other people Lisa had met while paddling back yesterday, then headed back to the room. It didn't take too long to pack up and be ready to go. I stopped quick back to Julie's room to return her mug I borrowed and thank her again for all her help. I really don't know that I would have gotten through the week feeling as good as I did without her. We stopped to take a few pictures before heading back out on the dirt road toward Roosevelt. We stopped at the overlook to take a few pictures of where we'd be finishing that night, then continued on to Globe to meet up with Chris, my parents and sister for lunch. We ended up at a really old bar and it took almost an hour for our food to come out, and that was after waiting a good 10-15 minutes to order. By that time, Lisa and I had to take our food to go so we could make it back to the Roosevelt Lake Marina in time for the race briefing. That was a bit of a cluster. We got to the Marina restaurant and parked around 2, which was when the briefing was suppose to start, but walked the wrong way and it ended up taking 15 minutes to find the bridge to the marina. It was another 5-10 min walk from there, all in the sun. I hadn't put sunscreen on yet, so I was freaking out a bit given how burned I already was. It was 2:30 before we made it to where the meeting was, thankfully it hadn't started yet! I went to the bathroom fast to change and by the time I got back they had just started handing out the black caps for everyone who finished Apache. Yay for my black cap!! I put on some sunscreen and waited for my family to get there. Lisa had to trek back to the car to put my feed in my bottles, I forgot to do that earlier. Thankfully she didn't mind going and even got to ride back via golf cart. The rest of my family was close behind. We got as organized as we could and visited for a bit, while waiting to board the boats to the start. They still did that by wave, so we had a bit of time, but before we knew it we were off to the start. Unfortunately the start was in the sun, so even though I had sunscreen on and put even more on, I still felt like I was getting burned. We did our best to light up the kayak, rope lites all around it, glow sticks all over the kayak, Lisa and myself. It was still pretty light out at 4:30/5 PM when we started. I figured if conditions were good I'd be done in about 3 hours, so it should be dark when I finish. The beginning was alright, we swam around a small island then headed west toward the bridge. Then it got choppy. Really choppy. Not white caps or anything, but choppy enough that my shoulders were in pain after an hour or so and half the time I turned to breathe it was water, not air, that I took in. It also got cold, especially after dark. Thankfully after the sun set the chop settled a bit, but by then my shoulders were screaming and it was everything I could do to keep from complaining. I swear the bridge didn't get any closer over the next hour and a half. At least when the sun went down I could site forward and actually see the red light on top of it. Thankfully Lisa kept me going in the right direction, I'd have been lost without her. The bridge finally started to get closer, it was completely dark aside from Lisa's amazingly well lit kayak, complete with blinking Christmas lights all around it. I honestly think it was the lights on her kayak that kept me distracted from the pain, as much as they could anyway. The worst was the last quarter mile or so from the bridge to the finish buoys. There was so much lake trash all over that it grossed me out, and that doesn't happen easily. Normally I swim with my mouth open, but had to concentrate on keeping it closed for that part. I was getting twigs, dirt and other scum in my suit and my ears. I couldn't wait to touch the buoys and get the hell out of the water. It was really disgusting and put a damper on completing the entire challenge. It sucked being in a bad mood and feeling out of it and miserable at the end. I really wanted that to be my favorite swim and enjoy the sunset and starry sky, instead I felt disgusting, cold and miserable. Negative I know, but it's the truth. Don't get me wrong, I felt good about completing the challenge and doing so in descent times and all, I was just hoping for something a little different at the end. To top it off, the boat taking us back overheated in front of the marina, so we had to get on another boat that came by to get back to land. Thankfully when I got off the boat the first person I saw was Laura, then Doug. It was such a pleasant surprise that I immediately felt better. I gave them a hug and thanked them for coming. It was really nice. I saw my family shortly after and made my way over to the table they were sitting at. I finished changing into dry clothes and tried to get warm, though I still felt disgusting with all the lake crud on me. Unfortunately the bar was closed because some of the bartenders didn't show, so sucks for them cause they would have made a good bit of money off that night. We were all pretty beat at that point, so we headed back to the cars and were about to drive down to the dock to get Lisa as she's walking up to the car. We loaded everything up and tried to find someplace to eat. Ended up going to the Sonic on the way back to Mesa since it was one of a few places still open at that time and was relatively quick service. My family headed back ahead of us and were at the house when we got there. I brought my stuff inside and made a bee-line for the hot tub. I'd had enough cold and was ready to be warm and relax a bit. Lisa joined me and brought some wine with her. She gets me! Danielle joined us too, while Chris and my parents hung out on the patio. Despite how late it was and the early morning and long travel day ahead of us, I was just enjoying the moment, getting warm and spending time with my people. I grabbed a quick shower, hung out some more, then headed to bed. I'd pack in the morning. Final results. Roosevelt finished in 3:21:23, good for 14th overall. Overall results, 8th overall, 4th female overall in a total time of 16:43:55.2. That's roughly 35 miles in under 17 hours over the course of 4 days. My longest swim before this was Swim The Suck at 10 miles and that was just one day. I guess it really is something to say that I did it! I completed the SCAR Swim Challenge! I'm happy about that, excited to have had the opportunity and to share it with so many. Hopefully I'll get to come back and give back in the future, not sure I'll swim it all again though. I never say never and I'm sure every year is different. Thank you's after pictures.

Roosevelt Dam on the left, buoy line on the right. Look at all the fishermen!

Buoy line on the left, bridge on the right
Roosevelt Bridge

Lake Swim Maps from Lisa's Garmin since mine dropped out on all of them.

Saguaro Lake Swim Map
Canyon Lake Swim Map

Apache Lake Swim Map

Roosevelt Lake Swim Map

Final Results

Sunday: One last "reward" for doing SCAR. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but when I woke up on Sunday my face was swollen and I had what looked like a rash all over me. Turns out it was most likely swimmer's itch, which I probably picked up from all the crap I swam through the night before. I loaded up on the Benadryl and Advil, along with the Claritin I'd been taking, which seemed to help some.

Fast forward to today (Wednesday) swelling of my hands and lip have gone down and the rash is gone. I still have a bit of weirdness in my right ear, but otherwise it's largely cleared up. Looking back at the experience as a whole it went by so fast. Between all the getting ready and traveling there was so much going on that it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. I'm proud to have completed the challenge. I enjoyed all the beauty the challenge had to offer and all the friends I made along the way. SCAR is definitely a challenge, one you'd need to be prepared for if you ever want to do it. It's worth it though, as long as you can be flexible and just go with the flow. Bring people with you who will help get you through it and remind you to enjoy the moments. I'm grateful for it all, everyone and even everything. Life has a way of presenting opportunities and if you're able to seize those that are given, you just may learn a bit more about yourself and have a good time. I believe everything happens for a reason. There is a reason I won the entry for SCAR this year instead of waiting until 2025. I'm not sure what the reason is, or if I'll ever find out, but I feel blessed enough to have been able to do it. I don't know what's next for me and my swimming bucket list. I'll probably do the postal swims but for now that's all I've got planned, for this year at least. Maybe something in the ocean next, I'd like a bit of a break from lakes.

Thank You's:

In no particular order and I apologize if I forgot anyone. Abby for encouraging me through the swims and for all your help at Apache. Julie for being such a lifesaver for me throughout SCAR. Jack for the Snickers bars! Lisa for everything. Volunteering to be my pilot, and being such an amazing one at that. Helping me pick out a house to rent for the week and everything else you've done for me. Fred for taking care of the pups and things at home for a week while she was away. Karah Nazor and Kent Nicholas for raffling off the entry so I had the chance to win this amazing prize. Jamie Ann for all the encouragement, advice and guidance. Steve for all the massages to help keep me injury free and relaxed enough to keep training. JP for coaching me and getting me ready to swim this insane challenge without injuring myself along the way. Jean and Kristen for being the most awesome friends, helping me stay positive and even making that amazing blanket, you're the best! Tom for keeping me company on my longer training swims so I didn't have to do them all alone! Doug for coming to watch my last swim and for lending me that book, I did finally read it and it was helpful. Plus you're also a great friend. The rest of my RAM and TAC teammates, coworkers and family for all the encouragement, well wishes and positive thoughts before and during the swims. It was appreciated more than you know. My mom, dad and sisters for supporting me both from home and coming out to AZ to be there for me. I love you guys. The rest of my family from Buffalo to Slidell and everywhere in between. And Christian, for putting up with all my training, complaining and lack of cleaning I've done since January. For escorting my family around AZ and keeping me sane. I love you and appreciate all you do for me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

It's Been a Minute, I'll Do My Best "Reader's Digest" Version of 2017 and 2018

First things first. I met and surpassed my goal of swimming one million yards in 2017, earned enough points to earn the 2017 USMS All-Star award in my age group and I swam all 5 postals and earned that award as well! All three goal achieved! Now for a bit more on the details, and there's quite a bit.

Starting in April, there was the Dixie Zone Championship meet, hosted by RAM at TAC. I competed in several events, working toward swimming all events as part of the Postal Swimtathlon. I swam all 100's of each stroke and the 200 IM. I had several pretty good times, highlighted by my 100 breaststroke, which was almost as fast as I swam it in college (I think the tech suit helped though).

May was a pretty yardage filled month and my shoulders started to feel it. I was prepping for my two races the first weekend in June and a combination of doing so much and bad posture and recovery led to some pain. It wasn't too bad to not swim, but it was becoming uncomfortable. Did the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge on the 7th, 1.2 miles and finished in 00:58.35. Good enough for second overall female. Overall at the end of the month I had done 133,692 yards for the month, which makes for 566,095 yards (321.65 miles) for 2017 so far. That more than half way to the million yard goal.

Chattanooga Swim Fest was June 3rd and 4th. A 2.4 mile the first day followed by a 9.2 mile race the second day. The current was really strong for both races. The first day I was a little too far to the inside, so I didn't get as good a push as I could have, but still super quick. The 9.2 mile swim took me a half an hour less than the 7 mile swim around Lido Key. I drove out from Raleigh with Tom and John, Tom was swimming both and John was piloting for Tom in the 9.2. I had the race peeps assign me a pilot, which worked out great! My pilot's name was Dawn and she was awesome. We met up the day before the race at Whole Foods. It was good to talk to her a bit and get to know each other. During the race, I was just starting to pass people and it was over. The current was so strong that even though I trained for a 4 hour swim, it took half that time. Overall I came in 4th place for both races, which came with a pair of cool medals.

The weekend after the Swim Fest was the Swim Across America event at TAC, in memory of Brian Goldman, one of the RAM coaches until he passed away due to cancer. So many people came out. We even got to swim a bit with Ryan Held! Elaine Breeden and Erika teamed up with Ryan and taught a stroke clinic, which was really cool of all of them. I even got to help out Ryan during the clinic and check out his gold medal afterward.

Mid-June the shoulder pain caught up with me and ended in a cortisone shot and a weekend of rest. Hello rehab and taking int easy for a bit. Thankfully it's just some rotator cuff tendinitis and not a tear. Add it to the list I guess.

Next was the Growler Invitational in SC, just north of Charleston. A two-day, short course yards meet. This time I swam the 200's of each stroke and the 400 IM, the last 5 events for the postal. I swam an alright 200 fly and 400 IM the first day. In the 200 Free my goggles filled with water off the start, which made judging the turns difficult. As a result, my time wasn't the greatest so I re-swam it later in the year to make up for it. The second day I swam the 200 Back (for the first time ever) and the 200 breast. I think my breaststroke time was pretty good, though it had been a long time since I'd swum it. My 200 back was way better than I expected and was almost a second faster than my 200 fly. My backstroke is NEVER faster than my butterfly. I even got a compliment on my backstroke start, which Erika had helped me with leading up to the meet, so huge thanks to her. Chris even came along with me to the meet and made it to the pool in time to see my last race. It was a lot of fun!

I did the last 4 postal swims, but don't remember any of the specifics of them with the exception of the times (because I keep those).

I don't really remember what else I did last year, aside from the additional yardage to meet that goal and waiting to see the official All-Star and All-American listings.

In 2018, I didn't set a lot of goals, just kind of wanted to reset a bit. I had one swim race planned and one run race I signed up for; those I'll detail in another post. My yardage was significantly lower, which was planned, but I did start running again, slowly. With my nephew arriving in March, I knew I'd be spending a lot of time visiting and not swimming, so I didn't want to set a goal I knew I wouldn't achieve. I also purposely didn't sign up for or do any races the first half of the year for the same reason. Man oh man Dylan is so worth it and the cutest kid I've ever seen. Hello baby fever! By June/July though I had gotten my yardage back to a respectable level and my running was going okay, so can't complain. The only downer of the year thus far though is that I never did get my 10K postal swim done. All the pools switch to short course in the beginning of August, so I just couldn't get it done by then. Oh well, there's always next year! I did manage to get my 5K done with the help of Susan timing me and I will still be able to get the 3000 and 6000 done, hopefully!

Swim The Suck 2018

This will be short, copied and pasted from my Facebook post for brevity.

What a weekend! Traveled to Chattanooga for Swim The Suck. At the pre-race dinner I won an entry into the SCAR SWIM this coming April, a swim I had planned to save up for and do as a 40th birthday celebration. 

The swim, which is approximately 10.4 miles was the following day. There was a descent current at the start, but outflows were cranked down just after the start, so the race swam like a 10 mile race. My first Suck, finished in just over 4 hours (4:00.27). It was tough but fun and overall a successful race weekend! 

Many thanks to John for being my pilot, Chris for coming to cheer me on, and Fred and Lisa for doing the race with me. Can’t wait for April! 

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