Monday, December 4, 2017

2017 Waxhaw Beer Mile Worlds

Last year was my very first beer mile ever.  It was quite a lot of fun, and I looked forward to it again this year.  After re-aggravating my hamstring at Chattanooga in September, I took a full 2 months off from running and biking.  I only took 3 weeks straight off of swimming, as that didn't hurt (as long as I didn't breaststroke kick).
The People Gather
So the weekend before the Beer Mile was my first ride and run in two months. My hamstring felt sore, but didn't really hurt. I kept the runs short, at 3 miles. I figured that since this was only going to be a mile, it would be no problem.
Instructions are Given
It's about 25 minutes over to Waxhaw. I got there about 12:45pm to hang out and help set up.  We hung out a little longer, as there was a big wreck on Providence road that delayed several people.  We had a good crowd this year as again Karen invited the entire MSA swim group to the event. It was billed as the MSA Christmas party.  Mostly because we knew that Coach Patty wouldn't be up to it this year (more on that later).
MSA in the House
As usual, there were a lot of EPT Racing people there was well.  Although (thankfully) Laurent was unable to make it.  That Canadian destroyed me last year. Mostly on the drinking part.  Also 3rd place finisher Mark wasn't there either.  So the biggest competition was uber swimmer Jeremy.
"I Want You to Run the Beer Mile"
Since this beer mile is just for fun. We don't follow the official beer mile rules. First is the use of dixie cups. We just set up a table in the cul-de-sac, and fill up cups from a keg. Last year we some good Triple C Golden Boy. Evidently there were some complaints that it was a little heavy. I thought it was fine. I like good beer. So this year they got some Miller Lite Swill. (I added the 'Swill', that's not actually the name - I'm talking to you Trista).

Anyways, Karen gives everyone the instructions.  I would guess we had 30-40 people (counting kids doing the 'juice box' mile). Someone is the "Official" timer by using their phone. Everyone grabs a cup and gets ready. I have the cup up and ready to start my garmin and drink at the same time.  Someone yells go and we start chugging.
Heartrate and Pace

Jeremy in the lead
The first one, honestly, isn't so bad.  The worst part is that on this 4 loop out and back course, is that the "out" part is uphill.  So you slam the beer and then try to trudge uphill.  I'm probably in 10th place when I start running.  I don't really catch many people on the uphill, but once it hit the cones at the top and start coming back down, I start to reel people in.

Proper Form: Bent Knees, Head Up, Feet shoulder width apart
I see Jeremy is the first one back at the table.  We had all put our names on the cups that we started with. I see Jeremy looking around for his cup.  As I'm coming to the table, I decide that I can't waste any time on that.  I just grab the closest cup at the table and start drinking.  Even then Jeremy is still probably 10 seconds ahead of me.

Looking Rough
This time up the hill is much slower. Jer is several places ahead of me.  I am still catching people, so that was good. That 2nd lap was my slowest.  I get back for the 3rd beer, chug it, start running, and start burping like I may lose it. I'm like, Keep it Together, Man!

There's the Heel Striker I Love

The 3rd lap starts out the slowest, but I pull it together on the downhill some. At this point, I'm not sure I'll catch Jeremy.  I get back for the last beer, and try and chug like there is no tomorrow. I turn to run, and feel like total dog crap, more burping, and hard to get the legs moving. I'm like, 2nd place isn't so bad.

Sprinting for all I was worth
I push to the the turnaround and decide I'm not that far behind. So I try to sprint back down the hill. I catch Jeremy less than half way back down, and push through the finish for the W.  I just put my hand on my knees, tried to catch my breath, and keep my beer down.  That is a rough feeling.  For such a fun event, you really feel like crap for a bit.  Then your stomach feels better, and then you start feeling reeeeally good.  It may have something to do with putting down 4 beers in less than 7 minutes.
Male Winners
So that's why we all hang out for a couple of hours afterward and eat until we can drive home.  After everyone finishes the race, Karen does the awards and provides the top prizes.  I had brought some six-packs from my local Brewery, Full Spectrum, for 2nd and 3rd place prizes.
1. Me, Bell's Brewing Kalamazoo Stout
2. Jeremy, Full Spectrum Carolina Blue Pale Ale
3. David, Full Spectrum Upstate Orange Wheat
Female Winners
1. Karen, Bell's Brewing Hell Hath No Fury Belgian Dark Ale
2. Jen, Full Spectrum Carolina Blue Pale Ale
3. Shannon, Full Spectrum Upstate Orange Wheat
Kid's winners
Karen gets Bell's Brewing from Kalamazoo, MI as that is where she is from.  Fun Fact: I was born in Kalamazoo as well. Whoah.
That guy looks like he had 4 beer in less than 7 minutes, and he sweats a lot
We all retired around back of the house for the food.  Karen's husband was grilling up some burgers and everyone had brought a bunch of food.  I hung out for a little bit letting everyone else get some food before I jumped in. That way you can tell what the good stuff is, and what people are passing over.  I thought all the food was really great.  It was nice to hang out and talk to everyone.
The Winners
Coach Patty came out and brought her husband Tom. He had a stroke a few weeks earlier.  Physically he seemed really good, but he is still having issues speaking and forming sentences.
Those were some good burgers
All in all a fun event, even if the actual beer mile can be a little miserable at times.  Next year, I may take this event a little more seriously. It would be nice to actually be in shape to run it.   I had the drinking part down this year, but wasn't in very good running shape.  Maybe next year I can be in shape for both. Thanks to Shannon for the pre and post race pics. Thanks to Judd for the in-race pics.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

2017 Swim Across America Charlotte

I've never really done any charity work (other than at church) or any charity fundraising.  I just donate monetarily to support local charities and occasionally national/bigger ones.  So when our swim coach challenged our masters swim team to raise money for this 'Swim Across America', I initially just thought I would do the same as always. I would support my friends' fundraising, but just watch from the sidelines.
Swag when we first signed up
Swim Across America runs Cancer Research fundraising swims across the country.  They started more than 30 years ago raising money in Nantucket, MA.  It has now grown to over 15 open water swims and 100 pool swims each year.  The organization is now based in Charlotte, but ironically this was the first year they had an event in Charlotte.

My lanemate, Kelly, is a cancer survivor. I have chronicled her journey before.  We swim together all the time. At Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 this year she mentioned she was going to do this swim. For obvious reasons.  She wanted me to do it as well, and I was quite hesitant.  Well, because, I am not good at raising money, and I don't like swimming.  Finally though, I said if you sign up for it then I will too.

Of course she signed up for it, then I did as well.  The minimum fundraising threshold is not that high ($400), and your entry fee ($25) goes to your fundraising effort as well. That part wasn't too bad. You then had a choice of a 0.5 mile, 1.5 mile, or 3 mile swim.  I went with the 1.5 mile. I thought a half mile was too short (who are you??), but then 3 mile is too long and not fun.  Plus I've never swam further than 2.6 miles in open water. (That's what my garmin said from that swim in October a couple of years ago.)
Lake Norman
The other nice thing about this race is it doesn't start until 4pm.  So I spent 4 hours in the late morning/early afternoon selling boy scout popcorn. (Let me know if you need a hook up).  So I didn't leave the house until about 2:30, that got me into the parking lot after 3pm.

I had never been to the Lake Norman Y.  It's pretty popular among the tri crowd as they host open water swims all summer long.  It's a pretty far drive for me, and since Nivens is so close for OWS, I've never had to venture up here.  I went straight to check in at the main pavilion.  They had my name on the list, and my fundraising dollar amount right next to it.  That was a little embarrassing.  I'll do better next year, if I do it again.
My Team!

After checkin, and grabbing all the stuff, I headed over to the other of the sand to where my MSA teammates were setup.  We had 22 MSA'ers signed up.  So with everyone's families, there was quite a crowd. We just hung out for a bit, but pretty soon they gathered everyone at the pavilion before the 3 milers were to go off at 4pm.
Coach Patty
"The Big Check"
They talked about the many swims they were hosting across the country.  They had a girl speak from Queens University that was a cancer survivor.  Then they had Coach Patty come up and speak. She was the 2nd biggest individual fundraiser for the Charlotte swim.  Probably more importantly she had inspired our MSA team to be the #1 fundraising team in Charlotte. By a mile. Like more than double the second place team.
Swim Start Chute and Beach

Patty spoke for a while, and got pretty emotional speaking about Brian.  Brian was a member of MSA that lost his battle for cancer last December.  I didn't swim with Brian at practice, ever.  I had only seen him a few times.  I did get to be his teammate on a relay at the 2016 Sunbelt Swim meet.  He led off and I was anchor leg. Because, well, I a really fast swimmer. #anchorleg  Our team is named after Brian's famous quote after he signed up for Sunbelt "I'm so far out of my box I can't see it anymore!"

Soon it was time for the 3 milers to go off.  They left a few minutes after 4p. It was pretty casual start.  Everyone kinda mosied into the water.  Some people jumped the gun. Some people hung out for a few seconds after the gun went off. I can only presume it was that they didn't want to interrupt a good pee.  This is a 1.5 mile loop, so they had to do the loop twice.
3 Miler Teammates

Eventually then us that were swimming 1.5 miles started gathering together. It was a balmy 88 degrees, and I just wore my regular swimsuit. I opted to skip the swimskin. I walked down with CarolAnn and Trista, and we waded in together.  I really didn't have much of a plan, being that this was a charity swim.  I did want to beat CarolAnn. So there's that. She was 3rd out of the water in her age group at Ironman North Carolina 70.3 last year. If I was ever 3rd on the swim in an Ironman Event, I might have it engraved on my tombstone.
The 1.5 Milers
Go Trista, Go Trista!
The gun goes off, and I start swimming.  Pretty soon, I'm not really sure exactly where I'm supposed to be headed.  I mean I had looked at the course map, but somehow the way we started in this mini bay, I thought we would go a bit differently.  We kinda had to swim out a tiny bit, before heading west. I thought we would head straight west from the beginning.  Anyways for the first 500 yards, I really wasn't sure where I was going.

Instead of making a beeline southwest, I kinda looped around.  then I finally kinda saw the turn buoy.  The other buoys were kinda misleading. If you followed them closely, and not the shore, you would go a long way around.  I felt better now that I (kinda) knew what I was doing.  Then all of a sudden this pack just swam over me. About 6 people surrounded me and swam through me.  Stupid fast 3 mile swimmers on their second lap.  We should have started earlier.

The first turn is about 1/2 mile into the race. Right after the turn at that first buoy, I notice CarolAnn right next to me.  I thought, well at least I know where she's at.  That spurred me to a bit of surge, and I believe I started to pull away from her then. Of course that didn't stop me from being stampeded by a second group of 3 milers swimming through me on that second leg.
Pace and Strokes
There were several cool sections of the water.  You would kinda go in and out of cold spots on that stretch. I did think it was kinda cool how close we were swimming to I-77 there.  I have rode across that bridge many times.  I practically live on 77 for my daily commute.  So it was enjoyable to me to be swimming in the water, not a care in the world, as people had to drive on the 77.  As Tim Krabbe wrote "the emptiness of those lives shocks me".

I tried some 2 stroke breathing to try and quicken my turnover. Maybe it helped maybe it didn't.  The second turn buoy was about a mile in.  I made the turn and started to head home.  There were several low spots in the water. I saw many people walking.  I didn't at all.  I'm like, this is a swim, I want to swim.  I did brush some branches and almost hit a stump. But I kept swimming.
The Finish

I finished and felt pretty good.  Fellow MSA'er Trudy was at the finish, and I asked her if I had won. She said I did and directed me over to the check out table.  They wanted everyone to signoff when they got out of the water, just to make sure they got everyone.  They handed me a towel and got some hugs from some teammates.

I just kinda hung out near the finish and watched the 3 milers finish.  When Patty came through, I gave her a big hug.  Then I went and changed. Then I got some food at the pavilion.  We hung out at the pavilion for a little bit. Then everyone started to head out.  Some of us met up at the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill for some food and beers.  I was mostly interested in the beers.  We had a good group of 15 of us there.  I sat next to Tom, Patty's husband, and mostly talked to them and Trista, and John, and Bill.  We had a really good time. Even with all that, I was home by 9:30.  Big night out for me.

I'm glad I did this event.  We raised a lot of money for cancer research that will be used locally here in Charlotte.  Honestly, though, I only signed up for this event because my lanemate Kelly was doing it and encouraged me to do it.  Unfortunately she had an emergency with one of her friends that she had to attend to and did not make it.
Really Nice Big Finisher Towel
I will do this again next year, if the schedule works out.  I don't like swimming, but I like hanging out with my swim friends.  Sometimes it's the smallest things in our lives that make the biggest difference.
My Swim 'mates Trista and CarolAnn