Maggie Rusch

Professional Triathlete

Filtering by Category: Asheville

Racing Local!

I know, I know, it’s about time! I haven’t raced a ton this year as I was dealing with coming out from under the cloud of racing four Ironman races in six months the second half of last year. It was fun while it lasted, but turns out I was just punching my ticket on the express train to burn-out city. More recently I have shifted focus to rediscovering the love of training and made sure to hit up a few local races while at it. 

Two of those have been stunners, the Enka Sprint and, more recently, the Lake Logan Olympic triathlon. Both are super hilly, local Carolina races.  There was also a ridiculous "underground" tri that involved some kayaking. More on that below.

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Lake Logan Olympic 

This might have been risky one week out from my first big race of the season at Ironman Mont Tremblant, but the experience alone was worth it! I wanted to race the half last season but it was the same weekend as Norseman so I decided I would have to wait until this year to test it out. And, even better, it just so happened that the Olympic race included a pretty generous prize purse for overall finishes. Decision made, it would be the perfect tune-up for IMMT! 

I drove over with my coach Brian, who is in town in Asheville for part of the summer and was tagging along to spectate. On that note:

Pros of having your coach in town: someone to kick your ass on bike rides

Cons of having your coach in town: someone to kick your ass on bike rides

Just kidding, it's been awesome. We've also gone to the pool to do some stroke review and with a few minor recommendations, the lightbulb is *finally* clicking on my wonky right catch. One of these days I’ll have a race split that matches the swim ability I know I have… I blame my stupid volleyball swing/training for messing with my years spent youth swimming. 

But we showed up to the race and I had not brought my USAT card since I usually pull it up online. Turns out there is not a single bar of service in the Lake Logan area so I was frenetically trying to pull it up (fruitless), running wayyyy back to my car parked over a half-mile away to get the $12 and then barely racking, making it to the start line and getting my wetsuit on before the gun went off—talk about a warm-up! I was dripping sweat before the thing already began. 

(Supposedly, there were emails that went out about the lack of cell service but I went back and combed through my inbox and spam folder and was unable to find anything from Set-Up Events. Apparently I was not the only athlete who had to deal with one-particularly snippy and power hungry check-in person. Yes, rules are rules, but you don’t have to aggressively berate someone for assuming there would be basic cell phone service when said athletes were not otherwise notified. a-HEM.) 

But I had a decent swim, trying to stay with the main pack but zig-zagging off course numerous times along the first few buoys before giving up and sitting in on what turned out to be the feet of the lead female. She pulled me along and we came into and out of transition together, me hot on her heels. 

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This photo was actually from the Enka Sprint but love it. 

T1: worst mounting skills ever, end of story. 

Also there are few things more terrifying than your coach saying very zen-like as you’re pedaling out of T1, “have a nice ride.” Okay, Mr. Miyagi. 

The bike was great: if you like some good punchy climbs along a very scenic route, this is the course for you. Some might call it a quad-burner but it reminded me very much of my regular weekday ride.

Within the first mile or so I made the pass to move into first and cruised along without too much problem, though did have to deal with a little back and forth with a guy who was insistent on passing me. With each pass, I would watch my watts decrease and speed slow as I dropped to a legal distance—only to overtake him shortly after. This was frustrating but I eventually passed him and never saw him again somewhere after mile 18-20 on the bike.

And then the run! I was super happy with the run, though I almost wish I hadn’t gone into cruise mode with just over two miles to go. Part of me wish I had pushed it to get in the low 44 range for the (slightly long) 10K run but then again I’m happy to keep the tank slightly full for this weekend’s Ironman adventure. 

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It was three miles gradual uphill, followed by a screaming return trip. On that note, I now know where "@ChrissieSmiles" gets her twitter name—racing is fun when you’re crushing the lead and feeling in control!! I was all smiles as I flew my way back down to the finish on pretty sustainable effort giving the descent and decision to “shut it down” and conserve. 

I couldn’t be happier with a 2:12—what, what!! And am curious to see what I could have done if really gunning for it or really pushed the whole day. And I thought I was a long-course only kind of gal… I just might have to sign up for another one of these shorties :) 

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Enka Sprint

This is an AWESOME asheville race if you ever get the chance—if only this lake was available for swimming to non-residents, I would be out there all the time! Great swim, though very much redlining the entire way as I swam with a big pack of guys in our Open Wave. 

I ended up finding the feet of a really big guy and just sat in and enjoyed the tow. (This is becoming a theme, isn’t it—yeah for smart swimming, finally!) I came up out of the water and sprinted towards the bike, being a sprint and all. As I turned the corner on the mat up to the tennis courts where transition was set up, I TOTALLY ate it! Full body wipe out, limbs flying, f-bombs dropped. Shocked, I picked myself up and kept on going but that was certainly a surprise. Definitely more stiff the next day from the tumble than the race itself…

This race was all about hammering it in—I think the first sprint I've done since living in DC back in 2012. I went all out on the bike, happy to stave off getting passed by Heath for the first few miles and tried to keep the guys in sight as we navigated the very cruel hills in the area; this is a very TOUGH course, let me tell you. At some point another female passed me and I did my best to keep her in my sights. 

It got a little frustrating because she was a little hesitant on the descents so I felt like I was losing so much time braking and unable to get around her since it was such a winding course and open to cars. Another guy actually tried to pass and she moved left surprisingly and he wiped out on a bridge, trying to avoid the collision—that sucked, but a decent heads up that I should be on high alert. 

We went back and forth a bit but she came into T2 before me and we headed out on the run. Let me tell you, a 5K is SHORT in a triathlon. I couldn’t get my watch started so first half mile I just focused on staying on her feet on the run. I caught my breath a little bit and realized I had a lot more to give so I put in a surge and just went all in for the pass and the lead. 

The run course is also no joke: a good portion of it is on a rolling dirt trail around the lake you just swam in, with a section that sends you up through a seriously steep neighborhood. That crushed my spirits a little bit and felt myself dying a little bit as I pushed to the finish. But managed to hold onto the lead and come in for a strong finish and 1st female, 13th overall, very happy with a little bit of novelty redline racing. 

Even Fuuurrrrther Back

Nothing much to say about this except it was a run—paddle—bike—run event... talk about something different! I used my old whitewater kayak which made things.... interesting and WAY WAY tough. I was happy hammering the short bike and then was semi-happy with a fast and hard run on our normal local Asheville route. Totally ridiculous to be doing a race that involved a kayak, let alone a silly little Pyranha playboat:

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But even through the ridiculousness, the awesome local Asheville camaraderie really made the event, the "Underground Asheville Tri", a total winner:

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Next Up! 

So I haven’t raced long course since my disaster of a race at Knoxville in May so I’m excited to see what unfolds at Tremblant. I had two 100-mile bikes on severely hilly routes (both over 10K in elevation) that were done pretty much at race pace that were successfully and I’ve been super happy with my running, so we’ll see how it all comes together on Sunday! I’ll be #56 if you want to follow along.

p.s. I'm not sure why the photos on this post are fuzzy (aside from some from my needs-to-be-replaced-ASAP iPhone5) but gonna go ahead and put it out into the universe.

Boone Gran Fondo

I ventured over to the Linville Gorge area this past weekend some of the best riding in the area. The Gran Fondo National Championship series was in town in Boone, North Carolina, home to App State! I'm two weeks out from Ironman Mont Tremblant and after six hour solo ride after six hour solo ride, I was really looking forward to having a little company out on the roads for my final hurrah on two wheels before taper time. And I couldn't ask for a better ride and route at 97 miles and 10,700+ feet of climbing, it was a good way to cap off the last two very serious weeks of training. I went into it with kind of dead legs and pretty sure the last 10 miles did me in. If you want a good challenge and gorgeous scenery, I highly recommend it!

The only thing I will gripe about is the weird way they do overall timing, and why I would not race this, only use it as a training ride. The overall time you do for the 100-miles is irrelevant, they only capture timed segments within the 100-miles, ranging from four to eight miles, with the last timed segment ending around 70-miles. Technically, you could finish the ride at 70 and sag home and still place first overall. The goody-two-shoes-always-play-by-the-rules in me hates this.

I mean, don't hate the player, hate the game but you had a lot of riders sand-bagging the non-timed segments. The overall winning team that won $1000 was on the side of the road with a mechanical for 20-minutes. I finished nearly an hour earlier than some of the girls that placed ahead of me in the timed segments. I totally get handing out primes for segments but the overall seems silly. Okay, end rant.

So I ignored the rules of the game in the name of getting in a good training day and hit it hard all day. Only problem was on the first timed segment I thought I could still maybe hit these and ended up with a good 20-minutes in the 300w average range during the first ten miles, which made the rest of the ride considerably harder. Note to self for IMMT: don't be an idiot, like this! ;)

But I met some great people to ride with and draft off of in the second half and then eat pizza with while swapping war stories after the ride, including my new friend Mike from Wisconsin who also came down for the Hot Doggett a few weeks back. There's just simply nothing like North Carolina riding!

There were also some hilarious moments, like a black lab mix running alongside a pack of 7-8 riders for literally close to two miles. He was running next us, not trying to nip but just tongue out, happy as a could be having company for his morning run. Then there were some not-so-hilarious moments, like the 8 total dogs that chased us, not so happy and trying to bite. Four of them were Jack Russell Terriers, which are fast little buggers! I'm a dog lover but I had no qualms about squirting a little guy with water after he kept making advances on my ankles.

The race then closes with a brutal climb back up to Boone. I was in my easiest gear and about to fall over as I grinded my way up one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, passing a guy walking his bike. I almost always assume these long races end with a downhill of some kind back to the start so this was a bit demoralizing but good finish to the day.

Oh yeah, they also had the best chocolate chip cookies ever at the aid stations. With the heat, they tasted fresh out of the oven. If you're okay with the sprint segments, I would highly recommend this race for some great riding in a beautiful area. I think I'm still partial to the Hot Doggett 100 race that was held a few weeks earlier in the Mars Hill, NC area closer to Asheville but this one was also top-notch.

But even with the weird timing, I ended up 3rd in my 18-39 age group for the timed sections, a great training day and managed to score a Rudy helmet at the pretty sweet raffle they held during the award ceremony for all finishers. Breaking even on the entry fee for a cute helmet and setting some close-to-record power numbers two weeks out from an A race after a brutal past few weeks of record training? Sure, I'll take it!

Happy Riding, y'all! Depending on taper, there may be a few more posts in the coming days about some past races, changes I've made and things I've been excited to share but was just too exhausted/busy/focusing on the things I need to focus on to do so! Less than two weeks to Mont Tremblant—oh my gosh!!

Frosty Foot 50K

I did it—my first 50K! It was an early season experiment of sorts. I can sit on the couch for months yet head to the track on moment's notice and knock out a 6:30-mile no problem—short-course speed has never been a problem. Endurance on the other hand, historically has been just a tad bit out of my running wheelhouse.

So HPB and I set out to find a semi-local 50K that I could test out and try the ultra-running thing on for size. Let me tell you, at first glance it fit like the best of comfy sweaters—I was in my element, enjoyed the woods, the cruising, Lucy’s pitter patter on my heels out on the local Asheville trails—only to have it get itchy and uncomfortable sort of unravel come race day to realize that trail running is NOT for me. Never say never but “probably never” is what’s on my mind right now! I'm a triathlete at heart, plain and simple.

In the lead up to the big day, we slowly amped up trail time: first 90-minutes, then 2-hours, then 14- and 16- milers out in the woods. I got really sick for a week-and-a-half after New Year's and missed one of the big weekends. The some of the steep mountains I was tackling ended up less like "running" and more like 5-hour endurance extravaganzas, broken up by having to hike up some of the monster inclines.

I visited the Appalachian Trail. Got overly familiar with the Mountain-to-Sea trail. Finally found a happy path down at Bent Creek. All places I highly recommend you explore if you're ever in this part of the country.

By the time Jan 17th and the Frosty Foot 50K rolled around, it was go-time.

Heading into the run, there was no question I would be able to finish—but I wasn't quite sure about how I would be able to keep up the pace or the motivation as the miles ticked on. There's nothing like staring down a new distance PR, especially since this was my first open race outside of Ironman longer than 13.1.

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I drove out to Tsali in the Nantahala National Forest, where the run was taking place (highly recommend for both trail running and mountain biking—go visit!). I had last been to Tsali as a mountain biking teenager and don’t remember the trails being particularly technical—so I didn’t really look into any elevation charts or specifics about the course. Adopting the laid-back ultrarunning mentality was nice for once—no gear bags, no bike, no wetsuit and goggles and million other things to weigh the planning down.

Instead, it was just me, my shoes, a hand-held water bottle and a handful of gels. I was parked three cars down from the starting line and only left my cozy heater with 5-minutes to go.

There was an unceremonious send-off and everyone jockeyed for some decent positions in the half-mile we had before hopping onto the single-track. I settled in behind a man with a long black braided ponytail, who I would tail for quite some time before he ended up dropping out sometime after the second loop.

This video really captures the run perfectly—scenic, lots of climbs, amazing aid stations and volunteers and a picture-perfect day:

For a while a man, breathing heavy, sat on my feet, which was fine but a bit annoying, and (EVEN WORSE!) someone just up ahead who was singing “Shake it Off” at the top of their lungs every so often in the first few miles.

Guess what I had stuck in my head for the rest of the run?

Yep.

Shake, Shake, Shake.

Based on starting positions, some switchbacks and a few passes, I was pretty sure I was holding strong in second place. I was in my little pack of three and every so often I would see the little sprite of a runner a ridge ahead as we rounded the corner. I slowly pulled her into to about 200m but then lost contact over a series of climbs.

Slowly it warmed up and my legs got heavier. While my average pace for the first 15-miles was below 9 min/mile pace, it started to get harder and harder to hold and I stopped caring as much. Around mile 23, I got passed and dropped back into third.

I wasn’t breathing heavily but the uphills and downhills (never-ending!) were doing a number on my legs. I had to walk some of the downhills because I thought my muscles were going to explode from this weird cramping sensation that was going on. I passed more and more walkers and got passed by a few with strong finishes. I wasn’t quite sure where the finish line was, so when it appeared out of the blue no more than 400m ahead, I felt a sweet sweet relief… I could STOP! :) I jogged under the little banner, and the race director ran over to help undo the timing chip. There were awards but I had to sneak in a post-run swim and drive to pick up Lucy from Elizabeth and Jared down in Greenville, so I booked it out of there.

Top three and 4:49—not too shabby for a one-and-done kind of deal.

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Driving away, before a stop at a gas station for some much needed refueling, I kind of just sat there like, “holy cow—I just ran 30 miles” and let it sink in on the two hour drive. No medals, no crazed cheering, no "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" madness bringing you in—just a step across a threshold, nothing fancy. I can’t imagine the feeling after a 100-miler or some of the other endurance challenges out there but let me tell you, even for just a 50K the feeling is AMAZING!

For starters, it will really test your endurance—just as much mentally as physically. "Half-marathon down, only 17 more miles to go...." But oddly enough, the time flies by and you look down at your watch and somehow 2-hours have already passed and you're shoving powerbar gel #4 down your throat. And the whole time you’re "racing" there’s a nonchalance and absurd politeness about it all—in the start, in the finish, in passing people, in letting people behind you pass, in chit-chatting at an aid station before moving on, in not caring about your pace or finish time or final standings. Or, in my case, pretending that I was nonchalant about it all when really on the inside my OCD self was checking pace, fixated on standings, caring way too much to be “real” ultra-runner.

Despite the sense of accomplishment, maybe next time I’m searching endurance, I’ll just stick to a marathon. Preferably one with pacers and mile markers and a well-marked finish line. ;)

In Good Company, With First Bourn

You've heard me talk about it before—and we're back! I'm so excited to be partnering with First Bourn, a company, group of people and soon-to-be world-class experience starting right here in my very backyard: Asheville! Of course, it doesn't stop there—there are talks of Boulder, Arizona, Australia... it's like they're targeting all of the cities and places that make my heart sing! And when they say "world class", they mean it. I'm so excited to be joining this amazing crew of athletes that I've either idolized or will have the very privilege of racing against next year as an elite (and I think a few more extremely exciting announcements still to come—stay tuned)! You can check out my profile here or click the image below to see the full list of athletes excited to see First Bourn grow!

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Some of you have been asking "what exactly is First Bourn?" since there has been so much chatter. Well, you can check out their website here, email or message me directly or here's a quick glance into First Bourn's vision and goals in creating this community of endurance athletes:

First Bourn aspires to become a widely recognized network of world-class training destinations for endurance athletes. With many supporting higher altitude training, we are focused on providing athletes the experience, accommodations and support needed to be successful in achieving a wide array of goals. First Bourn is fueling the multi-sport and endurance lifestyle and helping athletes improve and perfect individual performance – no matter what the level of fitness. Our focus on continuous improvement goes beyond just ourselves, but to each and every community we’ll inhabit. We will dedicate commitment, time and resources to those around us.

I'm serious when I say don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions at all—I love talking about this venture and what it will bring to the Asheville area and the triathlete community in general in the near future.  And, as always, you know I love chatting up my little AVL town!

Here's a Toast to what was an EPIC 2014!

There is no way to describe 2014 other than “NON-STOP!” In all, 2014 involved...

  • moving to five different houses/apartments,
  • racing four Ironmans,
  • winning two overall Ironman amateur titles,
  • finishing second at the toughest triathlon in the world,
  • placing # sixteen in my very first professional race,
  • moving 1200 miles half-way across the country,
  • taking on three different jobs at my company and
  • adopting one precious and precocious black lab mix.

While it was still a whirlwind stop that took all of December (and finally staying in one place for more than 2 weeks at a time) to recover from, I can't say I regret a moment of it!

If you couldn’t tell, my blog has been quieter this past year than most and this entire post kind of captures why! 

January

Ran the 3M Marathon to set a new 13.1 PR in 1:31! And re-stocked all of my office supplies for the new year while at it. Everything else was enjoying my first full and only mild Austin winter (well, aside from that one time it baby-snowed).

January
January

February

Adopted my lovely Lucy on Valentine’s Day and couldn't stop raving about her for the next few months (oh, wait... I still am). Ran my 4th half-marathon with a slightly sub-par race at the Austin half-marathon but a good way to celebrate my one-year anniversary of getting hit by a car. Then closed out the rest of the month by driving clear across ALLLL of big ol' Texas with Dawn to join the rest of Team HPB at Smash Camp in Tucson, Arizona. From 110x100 yard swims (helloooo, lightning) to the most epic summit of Mt Lemmon ever (ft. snow at the top and getting stranded at the cookie cabin) to train runs through the desert and just awesome biking all around, it was the best of best #smashfests.

February
February

March

Just one week after returning back home from SmashFest, I entered a local Texas duathlon on two days notice and won overall female—the prize was a bag of walnuts! By the end of month it was already feeling like summer—with a Friday post-work ride finishing at Sonic for a little fruit slush ending! (one of the big things I miss about Austin—warmer weather!) Lucy and I became dog park regulars and she learned how to swim with the biggest of labs. And then it turned into gorgeous bluebonnet season, my rides featuring seas of blue.

March
March

April

April was good to me! Most of all—I was first overall amateur at New Orleans 70.3! The perks of a hometown race included pre-race bike rides with the #OCDSherpa and post-race beignets. But before that, I kicked off the half-ironman season early Tri Tyler Half Ironman, doing half-decent on one of the hardest courses I had done up to that point! (IMCDA and Norseman would soon change that, however). Oh yeah, despite a slow start, Lucy also graduated from Puppy School :)

April
April

May

Ended up spending most of my May shuttling between New Orleans, Asheville and Austin. Two weeks of Asheville hill training sandwiched the Rev3 Knoxville AG Championships where I ended up 3rd overall in their funky hybrid Olympic/Half distance, second to HPB teammate and fellow baby pro Leslie! There was also a pre-Knox moment of panic where I couldn't find my bib but got a little creative with things... Sadly there was never a race report about Knox since all of May was pretty hectic and depressing as it was spent saying goodbye to my grandmother. On the brighter side, both Lucy and I fell in love with Asheville and decided to make it our mission to move there as soon as possible. I rode every hill I could find, including a trip or two up Mt Mitchell and soaked up the Asheville love and wilderness until it was time to head back to beyond bearably-hot Austin.

May
May

June

June was ALL about Coeur d'Alene, where I won my FIRST AMATEUR IRONMAN TITLE! Of course, this also meant a podium with teammate Laura and sealed the deal for a return ticket to Kona World Championships! Of course, I was ecstatic! But I went into this skeptical after a few weeks of sub-par training. Lots of driving, lots of tortured training in the Austin heat (but, oh, the sunflowers!) and lots of distractions—including a new family member (welcome nephew Lex!) and a family reunion in New Orleans, that featured a trainer ride in a stuffy hotel room while all my cousins were out partying in the french quarter and a few 5am runs down (still-beer-drenched) Bourbon Street and along my favorite streetcar tracks.

June
June

July

Less than 20-hours after winning Ironman Coeur d'Alene I had to forget about that high since I was back in Austin and frantically packing and painting my apartment—my move to Asheville was OFFICIAL! Lucy and I drove a stuffed car 1200 to then settle into our temporary new home, a cabin in the woods with amazing views. I had less than 4 weeks to officially prep for Norseman and crammed accordingly. No lie, thistrainingwasbeyondtough. My new whip, a BLUE Triad (aka #bluecrusch) arrived and I got to set breaking her in. From there, it was off to Norway, the land of fjords, ferries, trolls, historic sea towns and churches and battle sites, beautiful views and overpriced, well, EVERYTHING! But I was here and my dream was coming true... it was time to conquer Norseman!

July
July

August

In the race and experience of a life-time, I finished second at Norseman. Beyond that, I slowly got back into training and life was nothing but puppies and gorgeous sunsets.

AUgust
AUgust

September

To be honest, all of September I was in a bit of a funk. Looking back, I barely remembering it because it was a mix of kind of quiet and kind of hectic and juggling work and training and some other oddities. I moved into a cute little house, then quickly  moved out for safety purposes/it was falling apart. Training was all about Kona: in prep I rode with friendsElizabeth and Jared and Corey and Meghan through some killer hills in South Carolina, climbed Mt Mitchell on numerous occasions (if you ever need a fun, long route - let me know!) and got in my solo Birthday swim one weekday morning before work (set if you're interested here).

September
September

October

All about the KONA Ironman World Championships! Leading up to it, I was on local television in a segment for being a "game changer", featured in a SELF Magazine post about the "Top Inspirational Women in the Ironman World Championships" and featured in the local newspaper with Elizabeth! In Kona, we swam the course with all of Team HPB, rode on the queen K and just in general questioned whether it would be feasible to move to Hawaii ;) Race day wasn't what I wanted but raced hard on a tough day and ended the run in an all-out duel with new friend Erin for a well-earned medal and lei—what would I have given to be able to bring the flowers back to the mainland to dry an frame somehow. To think, next time I race IM KONA, it will be in the pro race—just give me a few years, just you wait!! While the legs were still de-puffing post-race, I traveled straight from Kona to San Fran for Dreamforce, where I spoke at one of the sessions on platform adoption. While there, I also got in a few good trolley rides, got to see Bruno Mars in concert and snuck in a run in along one of my favorite routes in the world!

October
October

November

We woke up to nearly six inches of snow on November 1st! Lucy's first snow and a shock to me as well! Along with a few other athletes, we braved the snowy day taking place in a photo shoot with First Bourn, including some of the awesome people I got to meet and ride with a few weeks before when I was introduced to this awesome venture kicking off right here in Asheville! With a quick bounce back from Kona and onto Arizona, I raced my first professional race at Ironman Arizona!

Nov
Nov

December

Much like it was a struggle bouncing back after Norseman, I spent the next few weeks after IMAZ slowly easing into things. Lucy and I used the down-time to finally make our new home cozy, both inside and out. There was the epic proposal ride where I was the secret photog for Duran and Laura and some hilarious puppy sitting that followed. I started the project of trying to become a serioustrailrunneremphasis on "trying". :) And to cap off all of amazing 2015 in a poetically fitting way (with a full post to surely follow shortly), I headed down to Atlanta for New Year's Eve and swam FIFTEEN KILOMETERS with the Dynamo Masters Crew. Nothing short of epic.

Dec
Dec

What's Next?

Who knows, but I'm excited to create it! Oh, yeah, and I ended up featured in 220 Triathlon's yearly calendar insert for their magazine—check out August! :)

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