So, I first heard of the Lake Skaha Ultraswim from Dan Benoit. He said he had done the swim many years ago and he thought it was pretty awesome. He said he was planning on signing up and they were only accepting 100 swimmers. That was last September.
The swim is an 11.8K point to point swim on Lake Skaha from Penticton to Okanagan Falls, B.C. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. Each swimmer has to have their own kayaker rowing alongside them. I asked Paul what he thought and if he would do it with me. He said, well he wouldn’t let me go by myself. I talked to Joy about it and she seemed kind of interested. Anyway, in time we decided we would do it together, training and all, and we signed up in October for the August race.
We started training in January by swimming 3 days a week, one day doing increasingly longer distances. That got to be pretty rough, swimming 100’s of continuous laps in the pool. We just kept looking forward to the sauna at the end. Our skin got so dried out and itchy too. It was so much nicer when we finally got to swim in the lake, even though it was freezing cold. We swam in Lake Morton mostly, starting at 1 time around and eventually getting to 5 times around, which we figured to be about 6 miles. We both swam at CDA the day before the CDA race and the water was super choppy, which really scared us, thinking there is no way we could swim 7 miles in that. So we started looking for choppier waters, swimming a few times in Lake Washington and quite a bit in Lake Meridian.
Driving into town and seeing the lake was quite overwhelming. It was huge, and we were going to be in the middle of it! Chris and Andriette Hall were also doing the swim. We all met at the prerace meeting. Joy, her husband and kayaker, Daryl, Paul and I, and the Halls. We also met Kiko, and some of her friends. Kiko is a friend of Dan and Chris’s from college days. Dan had told her to take care of us and she was great, The night before the race, I got sick. The morning of the race, I could barely eat or drink anything. Could have been nerves but I haven’t been physically sick from nerves before. We all made it to race start and we were off.
It was pretty cool, all of us (83) swimmers and their kayakers, spread across the lake, heading for the farthest mountain. It wasn’t as beautiful as it could have been because it was very smoky. The water temp was nice, 74 I think. It was pretty calm to start but as we got farther in it got pretty choppy. I finally had to stop and I started heaving into the lake. Maybe a combo of seasick and nerves? Anyway, I had very little nutrition for the whole swim, which took longer than I hoped, 4 hours and 52 minutes. Of course, I was so happy to finally finish! The race support was awesome, they really took care of their swimmers, including giving a little bio on every swimmer that crossed the finish line.
We all celebrated by going to a great place for dinner (Salty’s) although I still couldn’t eat.
I’m pretty sure Chris will want to do this again, as he was just 14 seconds shy of the age group record. Joy has already said that she would do it again, and hopefully there will be more friends that will give it a try.
Would I do it again? I’m thinking about it. I’d like to do it if I knew I would feel strong and not be sick. I asked Paul if he would do it again and he is on the fence, so far…
Big thanks to Joy, for doing this crazy adventure with me, she was an awesome training partner! Thanks to my husband, Paul, who always supports my craziness, and thanks to my family and friends who have been wonderful. You are all the best!
Best part of the race- meeting Joy at the finish!
By Holly Pennington, PT, DPT
It’s the middle of race season and 25-year-old “Stu” is collecting one PR after another. He is in the best shape of his life, and successful race days provide a much-needed reprieve from the pressure he has been feeling to prove himself in his new job at Microsoft over the past six months. The social connection he enjoys through RTB helped make his cross-country move to Washington much easier than anticipated. In the Black Diamond Olympic tri, Stu finishes the bike leg in third place and, just after T2, he notices a sharp pain in his right knee. He runs through the pain, finishing in third place but disappointed by his slowest race of the season. The next day, he wakes to a throbbing knee and has trouble walking down the stairs. Worst case scenarios run through Stu’s mind as he relives yesterday’s race and wonders how he could possibly have an injury right now.
Hidden in this story is one of the best predictors of athletic injuries, and it has nothing to do with strength, conditioning or flexibility. While “Stu’s” body was in prime racing shape, he had endured prolonged stress resulting from major life changes in the months preceding his injury. This means that, at the start of the Black Diamond race, Stu’s chance of injury was two to five times greater than competitors experiencing less life stress.
While causes of injuries can be as varied and numerous as the stars in the sky, researchers are able to hone in on a few consistent injury predictors that every triathlete should know:
Stress. Scientists have known that stress and injuries are related for decades. The Stress and Injury Model, developed by Andersen and Williams over thirty years ago, presumes that an athlete’s personality, stress history and coping resources all impact their cognitive appraisal of stress and may intensify the response to stress and therefore increase the risk of being injured. Stress results in generalized muscle tension, which causes decreased flexibility, increased muscle fatigue and difficulty with coordination, all of which put the athlete at a greater risk for injury. Stress also disrupts attention and reduces peripheral awareness, placing any athlete at a higher risk. For an athlete like Stu, all of these physiological byproducts of stress could have contributed to an altered cycling position or running gait, and ultimately led to his knee pain.
History of previous injury. A hard truth of the psychology of injury can be summed up with this: The athlete who has been hurt in the past is more likely to get hurt again. Factors such as incomplete rehabilitation, returning to competition too early and increased anxiety (in other words…stress!) about reinjury contribute to this phenomenon. If you have a history of a sprain, strain, tendonitis or fracture, seeking professional confirmation of readiness for competition and addressing associated anxieties and fears will mitigate the possibility of another missed race due to pain.
Type A Personality. In general, athletes with Type A tendencies push themselves harder and often compete in overly aggressive ways. For example, this athlete may be more likely to take a sharp turn on the bike course and sustain a crash-related injury. If you identify with the Type A personality and are competing, taking an honest inventory of how this affects your training/racing both positively and negatively may reduce your risk of injury.
High Anxiety/Poor Coping Skills. Athletes who tend to be highly anxious and those who have poor coping skills also get injured more often. Both of these psychological states lead to increased life stress, even without the presence of major life stressors, and the physiological effects of stress listed above affect the athlete’s health.
While we cannot change these scientifically proven predictors of injury, knowledge is power. Who knows what Stu could have done differently if he knew that moving and starting a new job would increase his risk of injury by as much as five times? Being aware of how the “rest of your life” affects your race-day body could be the difference between competing in your next race or cheering your teammates on from the sidelines.
Are you wondering if you are ready to return to training or racing after an injury? Physical Therapists at Outpatient Physical Therapy can help! Visit www.outpatientpt.com and contact a location near you.
I signed up for my first triathlon about ten years ago. I bought triathlon books, took a beginner swim lesson, and tried to train. However, my body was pretty banged up back then and was getting worse. I went through a rough time where I had more injuries and surgeries than I care to remember. My shoulders didn’t work very well and just walking was painful. I could barely use my right hand for a couple years because of nerve damage.
I don’t regret this period of my life one bit because this is how I learned that I was unequivocally the creator of my own reality.
One day, after a knee and wrist surgery, I decided that I was never going to complain about anything ever again. I was going to look for the positive aspects of whatever I gave my attention to. If I didn’t have anything nice to say, I was going to keep my mouth shut. I was very quiet for some time. After a few months, things started turning around. My wrist finally healed and my shoulders began working. By 2013, I was healing my old injuries left and right, top to bottom. I was working out again and moving about the planet in a lot less pain. There was lots of ice involved.
One day, the owner of the gym I trained at saw how hard I was going on the Jacob’s Ladder and said, “Dude!! With your tolerance for pain, you would make an awesome stair racer!”
I replied, “Huh? What are talking about?”
Next thing I know, I’m a competitive stair climber! It was the first time I’d ever been fast at any sort of racing. In 2015 and 2016, I placed in the top 25 overall at the Towerrunning USA National Championships, scaling the stairs of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas in just over ten minutes.
In the wake of my new stair racing success, I started thinking that just maybe I could try again to do a triathlon. So, I bought a super sexy bike named Demon and took it to Northwest Tri and Bike, where I met Brad and Julie and Gary. They were so nice and helpful and just totally awesome! I appreciate everyone there so much. Brad fitted my bike to me and installed a sweet set of aerobars.
I began swimming with a Masters swim team, and read all of the running books I could find. Born to Run is still my favorite. I also discovered Earthrunners, the running sandals I wear all the time. I’m still faster either barefoot or in sandals.
Prior to my first triathlon, I had never run any kind of K, a 5k, 10k, etc. Running has always been a challenge for me. In school, I always finished last whenever we had to run the mile. I don’t think I ever ran one in under nine minutes.
I swam with Blue Wave Aquatic in the mornings. I flipped out the first time I made it all the way across that pool, baby! Then one day I swam 300 yards without running out of breath! 300 yards!! Swimming was going great! Then I was introduced to open water. I have never been so freaked out in my entire life. This is still a challenge for me sometimes.
My First race was the 2016 June Lake Meridian Olympic distance triathlon. I finished, baby! Holy cow I still can’t believe I really did a triathlon!!!
After the race, I joined the best triathlon team in the galaxy, Raise The Bar. I had heard of RTB before, but was too shy to join a triathlon team. I was really self conscious about how slow of a runner and swimmer I was. I finally got over that nonsense. Everyone on the team was so cool and fun and are just the best!
Right away, I started rocking the Wednesday night open water swims and running at the Tuesday night track workouts. These quickly became my new favorite nights of summer. I still think it’s the coolest thing in the entire world that I’m on a triathlon team!
I raced the Lake Meridian course again in August and beat my time by three minutes!
I finished up my first season with the Black Diamond long course race. I finished that one, too! Woooooooo!!! That was hands down the happiest day of my life up to that point.
My body got a bit banged up that summer. I had to take 18 months off of racing. I finally bit the bullet and had one shoulder surgically repaired. However, I was on a mission. I got as strong as possible beforehand and I let every doctor, nurse, and physical therapist know that I have the fire of 20,000 dragons coursing through my veins and that I was going to come out of this stronger and faster than anyone they’d ever even heard of. I tied my physical therapy bands to the handlebar of my bike and rode on my trainer. I swam all summer with one arm. The time off of work and everything else allowed the rest of my body to heal at the same time. I also volunteered at every RTB race in 2017 and discovered a new passion: Volunteering! It is so fun and satisfying to me. I don’t plan on getting hurt, but if I do, it’s all good baby, cause I’ll be out there rocking that bike course so hard!
I’ll share a secret I’ve learned: Happiness heals.
When my doctor cleared me to race last November, triathlon season was over, but I traveled around the USA and Mexico and rocked five obstacle course races and conquered a 14,636’ volcano in my running sandals within the first three weeks. I wasn’t kidding one bit about the dragon fire. Now I’m part volcano, too!
This year has been incredible. I can now run a mile in UNDER SEVEN MINUTES !!!! Ah!!! Who would’ve ever thought!?! I have raced four triathlons already, including Ironman CDA 70.3! Woohoo!! I’m not even finishing last in my age group at races anymore, baby! I know I can finish in the top half at a race by the end of this season!
Then, I’m coming for those podiums, baby! This journey is awesome and I’m loving every minute of it!
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. See you at the next race!!
Raise the Bar
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