The Wild Bunch

“You are safest in a lightening storm in the water…think about it…do you ever hear of lightening striking water?”

That is a direct quote from the race director of the Lake Travis Relay- a six person 12 mile relay swim completed by the above “Fort Worth Wild Bunch” this weekend. No, seriously…that was said out loud.

When we all attended the mandatory captains meeting, I have to say I left more than a little confused. There are boats, Kayaks, swimmers, buoys, timers, rules, maps, trees and old cars under water…danger Will Robinson Danger!!! It was a little disorganized to say the least. I just kept hoping that once we got on the water, everything would become clear. That we’d have the “enlightenment” moment. So, we turned in our order card and went to dinner at the Iguana grill for some fajitas and live music.

The team- although previously ringered to the gills, had been modified due to the last minute resignation of some swimmers. (Don’t get me started…) But, having replaced the cancellations, we were loaded and ready to go. Meet the team…

Carrie Bransford- badass triathlete and fireman
Stacy “Mer” Fennell- super stud triathlete and swimmer extraordinaire
Rob “borderline Ped” Jones- Multiple Ironman stud muffin
Me- chunky girl triathlete and slow and steady
Bo Fennell- Bo “who knew this stud could swim so fast and have perfect form at 68 – thanks for making me look slow” Ironman Fennell

Julie “Jules” Sellars Rosiek- future IM AZ finisher

And our illustrious anchor- Hugh Parmer- former Mayor, former state senator, former Clinton appointee, former Yale 50 Meter free sprinter..and my Dad.

Wow- awesome right. Here the deal, you have to swim in the same order in intervals of 20 minutes, then 15, then 10 until you are done. Doesn’t sound too hard does it. Yeah. Wrong. It was tough. Add to the mix that I was swimming with a lidocaine patch on my back. Ouch.

So anyway. We arrive at Lake Travis at the marina to pick up our pontoon boat. Shawna is our kayaker. She chooses that moment to say “Hey, this means I’m going to be kayaking twelve miles, and I’ve never kayaked before.” We just stared at her. Was she really just now figuring this out. Into the water Gibson and practice.wild bunch

We loaded her up- including her beef jerky bag (stupid paleo) and she finagled her way around to the middle of the lake for the start.

What a cluster! There were boats and a start buoy. But we needed to “check in” before the race, and there was noone to be found. Finally we located the lovely Sandy in a speed boat. “Check in” apparently simply meant we yelled “we are here” at her as she flew by. Ok. Done.

Carrie jumped in- goggle less- did I mention she doesnt wear goggles- and swam to the start buoy. Shawna paddled into position and the horn sounded. Off they went.

The start looked a little bit like an IM start, only with fewer people. At first, Shawna was in the front, but it quickly became apparent Carrie was in trouble. Like big trouble. The race boat was over by the kayak. Ultimately we found out she had a combination panic attack/asthma attack and was freaking out a little.

Look people. Don’t judge unless you have been in the throws of a mass start, you have no idea how TERRIBLE they can be-especially if you can’t breath. The other boats were about 300 meters ahead of us. If Carrie even touched the kayak, we were out. Well, bless her, she fought through it and managed to swim intervals. I could hear Shawna calling out the strokes. Here’s the thing, when that girl swims- she FLIES!!!!! her intervals made up 100 meters on people who were swimming straight ahead!!!! Before we knew it, we were 200 meters back with Stacy Fennell in the water.

Wow. If you have never seen someone like Stacy or my friend Nicole swim open water, you should. She was like a dolphin. And, not that she is competitive, but she CAUGHT the boats ahead of us in one interval and we were back in the game. STUD MUFFIN.perfect form

Anyway, next was the power house Rob Jones- he swam strong and steady-doubtlessly to impress his 19 year old girlfriend. We were looking good.

Finally, it was my turn. The first twenty minutes sucked. I couldn’t kick with my left leg. But, as Shawna said “just put your head down and sight off me and go.” I managed forward progress, and my back loosened up a lot. Not bad.

Then Bo Fennell Stacy’s 68 year old dad hit the water. UMMMM WHAT!!!!! Look at that turn over and form. I’m not going to lie, Bo caught two more boats!!

Finally, it was the master himself that took the water. I think my dad may have the slowest turn over in America BUT he also may be the most efficient swimmer with the best stroke. His extension is unbelievable. We actually began to put substantial distance between the boat behind us.

Suffice it to say, we were on a roll. That’s when Carrie took back to the water for her redemption. Redeemed????Um YES. That girl flew every interval from then on. Watching the transition from Carrie to Stacy was AWESOME. They are amazing. Beautiful even.

We made the first turn buoy with Rob. Then something strange happened. It was like Rob was suddenly swimming in an endless pool. Or on a swim treadmill. Current from hell. And the next swimmer in was me. Shit.

Well, I jumped in and the water current literally pulled me backward as I was waiting for Rob on the countdown. Not good. But, I decided to simply increase my turn over and focus on the third turn buoy as my sight. “I will pass that freaking buoy” was all I thought. Longest fifteen minutes ever. Bo and Dad had the same issue, but we made the second buoy- which meant Carrie and Stacy were going to get to swim with the current. No joke, it looked like they had little propellers on their butts they were going so fast. Carrie made 1/2 and I would bet money Stacy swam 3/4 of a mile in ten minutes. It was so cool.

Oh, and add to that Texas was wooping OU on the radio. The mood on the boat was merry to say the least.

We made the last turn buoy and headed in. About 700 meters from the final turn, Rob took the water. We were told in the race that if you made the turn into the marina there were no more substitutions. I told Rob “Rob, you freaking better make that buoy, cause I’m not swimming again.” He was razzing me saying he was gonna pull up 100 meters out, but he didn’t. In fact, my little Jones had his best swim trying to save me. But alas, it was no good. I was in 200 meters out to swim the final leg to the buoy.

I touched the giant pumpkin buoy at 6:07. The team that finished nine minutes ahead of us told Shawna they had done the relay five times previously and never finished.

First time. Respectable finish.

I’m going to make a final shout out to Shawna- who freaking killed herself kayaking for us, Andrew and Janice- for the loan of the kayak, Travis and James for driving the boat, and MarMar- mama Marsha for organizing this fantastic race.

Finally, let me say this. My dad is 74. He lifts weights and swims every week. Check out this picture. hugh angelsHe looks like Charlie and his angels, right? If you think exercise won’t keep you young, you are wrong. I have never been prouder of my father than I was watching him gut through that current in the open water. It was awesome. Now, if I can just get him to relay the hald IM in April…he’ll be officially an ironman athlete! Come on dad- You can have a team, and maybe Carrie and Jules will relay with Travis and we can get him to swim.

Team Parmer and the wild bunch ride again.

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4 thoughts on “The Wild Bunch

  1. I have a lump in my throat! Great story, I felt like I was there! Awesome and so proud to call you all friends! Way to go.

  2. Lump in your throat! I got a lump in my deltoid where Shawna ran into me with the kayak! Actually she was terrific as was Marsha at org., Travis and James at boat driving, Betsy at putting the team together (two or three times) and my great teammates, Betsy(again), Stacey, Carrie, Bo, and Rob. Got a little tired in that badass current but made the buoy and turn by repeating my secret mantra “Swim or die, swim or die.” Gotta do it again!

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