Team River Runner Biathlon Recap

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The TRR Biathlon is also known as my favorite race of the year.  I run a lot of good great races but this one is always the winner when it comes to fun and doing a little bit of good in the world.

You know the story, right?  I found this race on accident when looking for a kayaking race.  And then I did it…and did it again, and again, and again….and will keep doing it.

Team River Runner promotes healing through kayaking.  They work with wounded warriors to teach them white water kayaking.  If this sounds amazing it is because it is amazing!

Last week the forecast for race day was sounding pretty terrible and I was following the forecast and the river gauges pretty carefully.  Luckily TRR decided to wait and make a last minute decision.  Many other races cancelled ahead of time.  The original rain predictions for the area were 8-10 inches…luckily the first storm brought less rain and Hurricane Joaquin turned away.  He knew not to mess with me!  I wanted this race to go on.

On Saturday afternoon I got two emails saying the race was still on…one for volunteers and one for racers.  I was super excited.

My buddy and I signed up to volunteer in addition to racing.  We think this organization is amazing and will do anything we can to help.  We count on it being a full day event but totally worth it and it has yet to disappoint.

We woke up early on Sunday and packed the car full of stuff.  It was lightly raining when we left our house.  We took extra clothes and extra shoes and extra food and tons of stuff just in case.  We were assigned to be parking monitors but they didn’t really need us to start that right away so we jumped in and helped moving tables, setting up, and moving kayaks down to the dock.  Once we got the kayaks lined up we move over to monitor the parking.  Basically it was our job to keep people out unless they needed handicapped parking.  We handled that until about 9 when the racing started.  Our heat was at 9:30 so we headed off to change into our race clothes and shoes and then headed to the dock.

Doing a biathlon is of course a little different than a running race.  We each received 2 bibs….one for running which we pinned on our shirts and one for paddling which we pinned on a PFD (personal flotation device).  I opted not to use my race dots even for my running bib because I didn’t want to worry about somehow losing one when putting my PFD on or taking it off.  I think they would have been fine but I just didn’t want to take a chance.

TRR supplies the kayaks, paddles, and PFDs so even though we have our own gear we are required to use theirs.  This makes it equal for everyone.  The paddle I got felt short for me and I hardly ever wear my own PFD (since I mostly do flat water) so wearing one was an adjustment.

The water was a bit choppy and there was wind blowing upstream.  When our heat was allowed on the dock, we got in our boats pretty quickly and seal launched off the dock.  We headed over to the start line.  I should have taken some time to warm up but we mostly floated around and talked to other paddlers.  Everyone was drifting upstream (wind or tide, maybe?) and they had to tell us to paddle back to start.  It wasn’t long before all the boats were in the water and we were off.

Butts in boats!
Butts in boats!

It was long after that that my left arm was burning.  Somehow I always hurt my arm paddling too hard at the beginning.  I will obviously never learn.  I was still paddling hard even though it hurt.  After a while to help me focus I started paddling 10 times and then taking a short break.  I was counting each stroke to focus on moving forward.  I felt like I got to the turn around pretty quickly and was hoping the downstream portion would be easier….unfortunately we had to fight the wind.

Between the wind and my arm feeling dead it was a fight to finish but I made it around the second buoy and turned back to the dock.  As I was approaching the dock a volunteer directed me and pulled me and my boat up onto the dock.  It was a bumpy ride it but I hopped out the boat as quickly as I could and made my way up the dock.

I stopped at the water table for a couple of sips of water.  And then headed to the trail for the run portion.  I was slightly confused as to which side of the trail I was supposed to be on and whether or not I needed to cross the timing mat.  I asked a volunteer and was directed over the mat to complete the transition and start the run.

I felt super sluggish at the beginning of the run and it was hard to hold my arms up.  My legs and lungs felt really good though.   I can definitely tell that my endurance training is paying off.  Short runs generally feel pretty good.  As I was running out I decided to just pace myself and not push too much until after the turnaround.  I kept looking for my buddy and finally saw him around 1.25 miles.  I asked how long the race was this year…often times it’s longer than 3 miles.  He said it was dead on so I knew I was close to the turn around.

There was a water table at the turn around so I actually stopped and grabbed a cup.  There were no trashcans along the course so I didn’t want to take the cup with me.  I drank a few gulps and got rid of the cup.  Even with that stop my second mile was 14 seconds faster than my first mile.

After the break at the turnaround my upper body felt a little bit better.  I worked on speeding up the entire way back.  When I hit the two mile mark and knew I only had one mile left I really started pushing.  My third mile was about a minute faster than my second mile.

As I was approaching the finish I could hear the footsteps of two guys behind me.  I just kept speeding up so that they could not pass me.

The finish!
The finish!

I was happy with my negative splits and overall very happy with how the race went.  We hung out for a while and grabbed some food after we finished racing.  We were treated to a fly over.

Lucky, unplanned, random event.
Lucky, unplanned, random event.

It was a long day but I’m already looking forward to next years race!

Me and my buddy after we finished racing!
Me and my buddy after we finished racing!


TRR Biathlon Race Report

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Today we did the Team River Runner Biathlon for the first time.  We stumbled on this race a few years ago when looking for a kayaking race.  It turned out to be one of the most awesome races ever and we just keep coming back.   This year we were able to recruit another team member which made it even more fun.

Team River Runner promotes healing through kayaking.  They work with wounded warriors that have lost limbs, eye sight, have brain injuries, etc.  They are absolutely amazing people who volunteer their time to teach these brave people how to white water kayak.

This year we decided to volunteer in addition to racing.  We got up early and made our way down to the river.  Because we were so early and it was a chilly morning we were able to find parking close by.  We found the volunteer coordinator and learned that our first task would be to put sponsor stickers on the boats.  We got to work right away helping with that.  After that we worked on setting up the breakfast table.  It wasn’t long after that we could check in and get ready to race.

It was one of the first chilly mornings in the area.  My teammates weren’t quite sure how much clothing to wear.  Given my racing experience I was pretty confident in my choice to go with a short sleeved shirt.  I get very warm when I run and paddle.  It worked out just fine for me.  Once we started the paddle I was plenty war

We wanted the “elite” heat go out first.  They were paddling super fast and we were all slightly worried….but we knew our heat would be a bit slower.  After watching the “elites” we took off in the second heat.  The beginning of the paddle is always a bit of a mess.  I call it bumper boats.  It only took a few minutes to spread out though.  I found myself in nice spot in the middle.  The water is rough from so many boats moving so quickly.  I worked on a nice steady paddle.  In the past I’ve really killed myself on the paddle but I didn’t want to do that this year.  My steady pace worked nicely.

We got to the turn much sooner than I expected.  At the turn I yielded to a veteran and let him have the inside line.  After that I passed him and thanked him for his service.  I tried to just keep moving with a steady pace.  The way back required a little bit extra because of the turn to get back to the dock.  The dock was a mess when I approached.  Two stand up paddle boarders came in just before me.  One had one foot on the dock and one on the board as the board floated away.  She jumped to the dock and left the dock helpers wondering how to get the board.  Luckily they were able to grab it.  They brought me in at an odd angle and almost dumped me out of my boat into the water.  After a second try I made it onto the dock.

I decided to walk the dock since I got yelled at for running last year and then I used the transition space to take a short break.  I grabbed some water and then made my way towards the run course.  I started running before I actually got there.

I focused on a steady pace on the way out.  I had my watch in multisport mode so I was able to see my actual running pace.  It was nice to know what I was doing and not have to calculate anything.  I was passed by a few people on the way out.  I kept chugging along trying to get to the turn around.  I finally saw my buddy and he told me I was close.  I walked the turn around because it was also the water stop.  After a few sips I threw the rest of the water and started running again.  I kept just focusing on one foot in front of the other and a steady pace.

Eventually I saw the finish line and tried to speed up.  I ran through and was nothing but happy to be finished.  I stopped so someone could remove my timing chip.  I met up with my buddy and waited for our other teammate.

After we were finished racing we watched some other heats and grabbed some food.

Team River Runner puts on a great race and we were so glad to be part of it.  I have already put next year’s race on my calendar.  I can’t wait to do it again.

TRR Biathlon Race Report

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Sunday was the Team River Runner Biathlon. This is the second time me and my buddy have done this race. The first part is a paddle on the Potomac River and the second part is a run on the Capital Crescent Trail. The race this year was supposed to be at a new location but due to the government shutdown the new location was off limits. Luckily TRR was able to go back to the previous location and have the race despite the shutdown.

We decided to get up really early and get near the race site early in hopes to get free street parking. It worked out perfectly fine. There was a ton of parking and we were able to get really close to the site. We checked in at 7 am and then waited in the car for a bit before heading over to check out what was going on. Race announcements were supposed to occur at 8:00 but it was after that when it actually got started. We were in Heat 3 which meant a 9:40 start time. That's late for a race but since we weren't too concerned about our times we went with the flow and just hung out.

Plenty of boats and paddle boards were loaded onto the dock. The race requires that you use their kayaks. All the yaks are rec boats…..no one has an advantage by having a better boat. They do allow you to bring your own paddles but we have decided to just use theirs. There is no big advantage with ours….we just have basic straight paddles.

We watched the first two heats get into the water and take off. As the leaders from the first heat were returning from the paddle it was our turn to get ready and get into the water. The first boat I picked did not have properly adjusting foot pegs….so I had to jump to another boat and then get some assistance to get adjusted. I think the person helping me thought I was idiot but as I started to seal launch off the dock he realized that I knew was I was doing. He gave me a little shove and I paddled out to the start line.

The start last year was a big mess for me so I decided that I didn't need to start right on the line. The start was a big splashing mess! Paddles and water flying everywhere! We took off quickly and I settled into a steady rhythm quickly. I know for me this is definitely a case of slow and steady…..not to win but just to finish. On the way out I noticed that the turnaround spot was going to be further than the half mile they had indicated. I was the second female in my heat to make the turnaround but shortly after that I was passed. I'm not sure how many people were still behind me. I was probably in the middle of the pack.

The paddle was long and hard and the way back was upstream which worked against us. I did everything I could to just maintain a steady pace. As I got to the end I paddled up to the dock where the volunteers pulled me in. I tried to start running right away but was told to walk on the dock. As I made my way off the dock I ran to the water station and then took off down the trail.

I was hot and tired as I started running. My arms were like heavy dead weights as my sides. One of my shoulders was killing me. It took all of my strength to stay on my feet and keep running. I just kept plodding along and giving “good jobs” to other races. I kept hoping I would see the turnaround spot. Eventually my buddy passed me going the other way (he was quite a bit ahead of me).

I finally made it to the turnaround and grabbed some water. I was dead….and the run was long too so I knew I had to run more than a mile and half back. These people apparently do not measure the course. I kept plodding along back to the finish.

As I got to the very end people were cheering and I had one last kick to get to the finish line. At the finish line I was handed my “medal” and congratulated. My buddy was there waiting and I was dying.

My run was much slower than I wanted but I felt like my paddle was good. The course was 0.8 miles longer than advertised but I expected this based on last years' experience.

But who cares about my race…..how about the amazing adaptive racers? I'm sure they blew me away. They are amazing people that have fought for our freedom. I can never thank them enough for their service to our country. I can only hope that TRR is able to help them with their healing. I cheered the loudest for each hand cycler and blind runner. They are my heroes.

Running and paddling …busy weekend

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On Saturday I went out for my typical long run. I woke up really early….too early to even think of going running. I kept myself in bed for a while but still hit the streets pretty early. I ran a route similar to last weekend but took a turn up a different street to get home. It was nice route that was relatively flat in the beginning and then some rolling hills followed by a steady uphill and a largely downhill section to get home. It was a total of 5.75 miles.

I was planning to do a 5k in June but the race I was eyeing moved to July….now I'm not sure what I'm doing in June. I might end up doing two races in July. I need to figure out how everything fits with my training plan for August.

The weather has been crazy. Last weekend it was in the 60s when I ran. Then 80s during the week and on Saturday morning it was in the 40s. I almost felt like I had to break out my winter gear again!

I've been running with my SPIbelt and carrying my phone. It's been working out quite well. I really don't even notice the phone there and the belt doesn't move around at all.

I still haven't figured out how to carry water. I really need to make that my goal for June.

On Sunday we went paddling. Here's how you know you are getting close to the river…

We went to Algonkian Park to paddle on the Potomac. There is a reasonable current there so it is definitely a place that you want to paddle upstream first and take the free ride back.

I think it was idiot boating day because we saw a lot of idiots trying to get into the water. That happens in the beginning of the summer and it's always pretty entertaining.

The wind was strong at the beginning of our paddle. It felt like we were barely moving it but it was definitely a good workout. After paddling around an island we beached ourselves for a bit and took a break.

It was a beautiful view.

There were lots of shells where we were.

After the break we headed further upstream until we got pretty tired and the wind picked up. We decided to head back and got a pretty nice free ride back.

The views were beautiful and once we got out on the river we got away from the idiots.


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Every day when I pull into the garage the boats look at me and beg me to take them down and find a puddle for them. Today was beautiful and those boats were just screaming to go out and play….so we gave in! We threw them on the top of the car and headed for the nearest puddle.

Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the road was still completely torn up and there was a sign saying “No Reservoir Access.” We assumed the sign didn't apply to us. We couldn't drive the car close to the reservoir but we could carry the boats. It was a long carry but it was worth it.

We got down to the water to find out the dock had been moved and was in pretty bad shape. We tested it out first before carrying the boats on to it. Because the water is still cold I decided to wear my sprayskirt even though the water is flat. I put it on and got into my boat and then had my buddy help me with a seal launch. (Basically you get in the boat and then throw yourself and the boat off the dock.) It worked quite well and I didn't take on too much water.

It was extremely windy so we paddled into the wind. The wind was actually making waves so I was really glad I had my sprayskirt. The water was cold and my boat would have been filled without it. It was a rough ride on the way out but it was awesome. I love playing in choppy water. We headed to a cove to check out the conditions there. We found it was totally blocked from the wind so the water was truly flat there. After paddling around the cove we headed out further into the wind.

We ended up paddling pretty much to the end of the reservoir. We knew it was pretty much a free ride back because of the wind.

On the way back it felt like I was surfing on the waves. I was getting thrown around quite a bit. I paddled more for steering than anything else.

So today marks the first day of my biathlon training. I felt pretty good. Despite the wind I felt like I moved pretty well. The weight-lifting, push-ups, and attempts at chin-ups must have kept me strong throughout the winter. :-)

Updated Plan and Goals

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My training plan page is now updated with the Reston 10 Miler Plan.

Goals for 2013:

1. Run 500 miles. This is not far for many runners but much more than I did last year.
2. Race enough of the =PR= Trophy Series races to qualify for a prize.
3. Ride 500 miles. Once again not hard for a biker but I haven't been doing much biking. We'll see how far I can get.
4. Kayak – a lot….as much as I can get my boat in the water.
5. Run the Nearly Naked Mile – I have been wanting to do this race for the past two years but I had conflicts. I'm hoping it works out this year.

2012 Team River Runner Biathlon

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We arrived early (as always) for check-in. The process was smooth and the heats were posted. We were in the 2nd heat – right after the “elite” heat. Being in the 2nd heat was nice because it was early but also because it gave us time to figure out how the race was going to work. After walking back and forth to the car a few times we were ready for the instructions and warm up.

The boats were ready too.

And here is a picture of me before the start.

We learned that due to the current height of the river all boats would start in the water. And assistance would be provided to get in and out of the water. This brought me much relief. I usually pick an easy launch spot or get help if we are using a dock so this would be exactly what I was used to….which on race day is very important.

After some silly warm ups ….a beautifully sung national anthem…..and final preparations, the first heat was in their boats and ready to go. We watched them take off and realized that the start was going to be wild for us. As the boats paddled out of view we waited for them to come back. It took much longer than we expected and we realized that we might be in trouble. As the first boats finally came back we started cheering for the leaders. One by one each boat was pulled up and people started running. After the last boat got up we were able to go down to the dock.

At this point we had picked out PFDs and attached our race bibs (very stupidly in my case…more on that later). We also had bibs pinned on our running shirts. We opted to paddle in our running clothes so that no changing would be necessary at the transition.

We got down to the docks and picked out boats and were assisted into the water. We lined up at the start line and immediately noticed a serious headwind. We were pointed upstream (best to paddle upstream first…glad they thought of that!) and had to paddle a little bit to stay at the start line. Someone yelled “GO!” and the craziness began! Water everywhere. The water was choppy and everyone was paddling hard. I was taking on a lot of water. And then someone crashed into me and wouldn't move. I yelled at the guy to move and somehow we got away from each other. After that it was smooth sailing…ur, um….paddling. I tried to just do steady paddling. It was a fight to get out to the turn around spot. The wind was hard and water was choppy. At some point I realized that I had hurt my shoulder. I'm guessing I pulled a muscle paddling too hard.

I saw my buddy turn before me and we yelled to each other as I approached the turn. He was paddling fast and hard. I made it through the turn and did everything I could to get back. I could feel the wind and the river assisting me. I eventually caught up to a guy that had brought his own boat….this made me feel pretty good. I drafted behind him to get to the last turn. I made the turn and paddled hard to the dock.

I got a free ride onto the dock….the volunteers pulled my boat up as I threw my paddle and started working on my PFD. Here's were I realized the mistake I had made earlier. I had made sure to leave access to the buckles but I had pinned my bib across so I couldn't open the jacket. I quickly ripped the bib and got the jacket off. Rookie mistake that I won't make again. Fortunately I realized quickly and the bib easily ripped. I threw my jacket down near the water station and grabbed a cup of water….while running. I came out of the boat running. It never occurred to me to do anything else. I choked on my first swallow of water and decided to let it go so I threw the full cup and finished running up to the trail.

On the trail I really started running harder trying to get to my normal running pace (or better). I didn't notice anyone around me at this point. My arms were heavy and I realized that stringing together two sports was hard. The first bit of the run was hard but I was excited and focused and just kept going. I eventually caught up to a guy that I had seen paddling. He was stretching his arms and I could tell he was struggling. He started running with me and I told him he could run with me but he would have to talk to me. After a brief conversation he dropped back to walk. I kept running. As I was approaching the turn I was able to see my buddy up ahead but I knew he was too far away to catch. I saw him make the turn and I moved towards the center of the trail to give him a high five. I then made the turn myself after fighting with a kid desperately trying to give me water that I didn't need. It's a very bad day if I have to stop for water on a 3 mile run.

After the turn I started to pick up my pace. I knew I had run out more than 1.5 miles. I knew the course wasn't certified and everything was just an estimate but I had a sense of how much I had to run back to finish. I just kept going. I never once considered walking.

As I got to about half a mile left I started to speed up more and as I approached the finish I could hear people cheering so I kept running harder. To get to the finish I had to cross the timing mat for the start so there was someone telling me not to stop….but luckily I knew this and was sprinting all the way to the finish mat.

Right after crossing the finish I was handed this dog tag…

I had no idea they were giving these out and I was super excited to receive it. We made our way to the water table and then I went back to the finish to look for the guy I passed. I went up to shake his hand and congratulate him on a good finish.

Normally at this point I would get food and leave. I got food but I just couldn't bring myself to leave.

I tried to leave once because I had intense pain in my shoulder and considered a trip to the hospital. Whatever happened during the paddle caught up to me and I could really feel the pain. I got all the way to the car only to determine that I really wanted to stay and cheer for the other people. This race was in support of Team River Runner (www.teamriverrunner.org) . These people were amazing and I wanted to stick around and celebrate their amazing fundraising efforts and cheer for the remaining finishers and the winners during the awards ceremony.

We had chili for lunch and baked goods made by volunteers. We were entertained by the Hooligan Race. Here is a picture….

It was a bunch of people in costumes assigned to do crazy tasks while racing each other to complete them. It proved to be very entertaining. We then stuck around for the awards.

Here is where the race took place.

Apparently Team River Runner is looking to pair up with the Washington Canoe Club to do training for the paralympics which I think is awesome.

Overall it was an amazing day. We raced with some amazing people who have inspired me to keep running and paddling. I'm already planning to do this again next year. While it was hard I felt like my training had paid off. I ran really well even after the difficult paddle. We had so much fun and know that we raised money for some amazing people. I definitely believe in the healing power of sports. I know how great I feel after a great paddling trip or a terrific run. I'm so glad that Team River Runner is giving these opportunities to those that need it most.

What a week

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Got some sad news on Sunday morning. A family member had passed away. While it was expected …it's never really expected. We decided to keep our paddling plans anyway. Last opportunity for a training paddle before the biathlon. When we got close to the spot we saw this….

Hmmm….crap. We weren't expecting this. But we decided not to let a closed road stop us. We noticed a bunch of cars in a close by church parking lot with yak racks. So we decided we would do the extra long carry to the put in spot so that we could paddle anyway. It was a nice day and nice to get out on the water for a while to clear my head.

On Monday I convinced my buddy to run with me so we did 3 miles together. He hates running with me and didn't want to run but I convinced him that I would just run easy. Of course with my recent improvements easy doesn't mean as easy as it used to be. Anyway it was a good little jog and I was glad he went with me.

Tuesday brought a crazy storm….literally. It was not safe to go out on our bikes….which is really too bad because we just got new helmets and it would have been nice to try to them out.

Wednesday brought intervals. I managed to actually complete almost 3 miles. I ran harder intervals during the first two miles and I tried for a steady pace during the last mile but I kept feeling myself speed up so I walked a couple of times just to try to gain control of my pace.

When I recorded my run with Nike+ it showed me this….

This makes me feel pretty darn good. I know there are a lot of people logging a lot more miles than I am but obviously I'm ahead of someone. And I feel like I'm really starting to see improvement in my times and I just feel better overall …while I'm running and while I'm not. I'm hoping to keep this momentum going so that I can see some improvement in my race times. I know that I have to push myself a little harder when running shorter distances because I tend to fall into the same jog that I do for my long distance runs.

I'm planning to do my long run a day early this week due to the biathlon being Sunday and the need for extra recovery time. Plus I gotta go to the funeral on Saturday morning when I would normally run. At least I had the run shifted in my head for a long time so I'm ready to do it tomorrow.

Pre Issac Paddle

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The left over rain from Issac is supposed to hit us for the next few days so it was really important to me to get out and paddle today before I got stuck inside. It was cloudy this morning but we took our chances and headed to the Occoquan River.

The river seemed very calm today which was unfortunate because I was hoping for a free ride back. We paddled out further than we normally do. It turned out to be about 3.5 miles out. It was a long, steady paddle back trying to beat the rain that we knew was coming. We made it. It started raining as soon as we drove out of the parking lot.

Here are some pictures from the trip.

Sunday Afternoon Yak

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After much activity yesterday I was extremely tired but couldn't pass up an opportunity to get out on the water. We took the boats to the reservoir which is pretty close. I started off with a decent paddle and then decided it was time for some floating action so we just relaxed on the water for a while.

Here was our view….

It really was a perfect afternoon ….not too hot.

To ensure I actually got a workout I did some Olympic Flat Water racing. There are now buoys in the water there (a crew team has pretty much taken over the location). I paddled to one and then raced to the next. After a short break I raced back. I have no idea how far apart they were but I'm confident that I got a workout, splashed myself, and ended up soaking wet. And it feel great! I need to work on my skills because I believe a kayak race is in my future…if only I would sign up.