Over a four-day period in the Arizona desert, Grous and her 52 colleagues will attempt to complete all four stages of SCAR: 9.5-mile (15.2 km) Saguaro Lake + 9-mile (14.4 km) Canyon Lake + 17-mile (27.3 km) Apache Lake + 6.2-mile (10 km) night swim in Roosevelt Lake.
The 34-year-old originally from New Jersey was a competitive swimmer from the ages of 7 through 22. “I retired from college burnout and became a runner, running all distances from 5 km to the marathon until 2015 when I got severely injured with a torn labrum in my right hip that required surgery and two severe herniated discs in my back at L4/L5 and L5/S1.”
Grous found her way to the rugged American southwest desert at the S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge due to those injuries. “I decided to return to swimming in April 2016 after almost a decade of retirement from swimming. I put running to rest for awhile and immediately fell in love with open water swimming and the freedom and peacefulness that comes with being one with nature.”
After a few shorter swims, Grous was the fastest woman at the Highland Lakes Challenge where she swam 17 miles in 5 lakes over 5 days in October 2017. “I decided that I needed another race after I finished Highland Lakes – purely as motivation to keep practicing.
I need to have something to train for in order to actually swim. I also met my friend Patty Hermann, a Houston-based open water sensation, at a Highland Lakes. She talked me into switching and training with her under Greg Orphanides at Houston Cougar Aquatics and into registering for SCAR since I did so well at Highland Lakes.”
She started building her base with Coach Orphanides in November, swimming approximately 5000 meters 6 days a week for 3 months. “In February, I started ramping up my training each week by both increasing my yardage and intensity. During my peak week during the last week of March, I swam about 30 miles (48 km) in 5 days to help simulate race week while also practicing nutrition, totaling just under 100 miles (161 km) for the month.”
Her training schedule is focused, not surprising given her background as an age group and collegiate swimmer. “I swim 6 days a week in the afternoons from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm with Houston Cougar Aquatics, averaging about 5000 meter in a session. Two mornings a week, I also swim from 5:15 am – 6:45 am by myself or with some other local swimmers in League City, at The Fitness Center, home of the South Shore Sails where I am the head age group coach. I also do weights with my strength coach Gabe Moreno, formerly with the strength team of the Houston Astros, at least 2 days a week from 7 – 8 am. On Fridays, I like to go to Twin Lakes in Manvel and do 5-10 km open water practice, as well.
On the mornings that I do not swim, I coach 5 – 7 am. I also coach every evening from 3:30 – 7:30 pm so I fit all my swims around my coaching schedule. I also am the JOLYN Texas representative based in Houston (@jolyntexas and I manage @jolyntexasrunning), so I do most of my shows on weekends, also around my coaching and training schedule.”
She is certainly ready to swim 64.3 km starting tomorrow – with lofty goals.
“I want to do SCAR because the challenge of completing something so massive while also doing it well. I don’t want to just finish, I want to place at least in the top 3 and leave everything I have to give in the water with no regrets. The race is a good gauge of my fitness and will help me figure out if a Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming is in my future. This is my first international race and I’d like to get on the FINA professional 10 km circuit this year or next and maybe make the Olympic Trials in 2020 in the 10K.”
She is also leaving nothing to guesswork. “I have been working with a fantastic nutritionist, Shay Robertson who is also a marathon runner and swimmer for the last 5-6 months. She’s helped me learn about my macros and how to feed appropriately before, during, and after my swims.
Before, I was severely underweight for my height, due to years of depriving my body of enough calories and proper nutrients. Battling both anorexia nervosa and anorexia athletica are always a struggle, but I’ve learned not to let it control me anymore. With the help of Shay, I finally have control of my body, and I want to help other struggling women get control of their lives.”
Over the next four mornings for her pre-race feeds, she will make oatmeal with ripple milk for breakfast. “I also add a tablespoon or two of peanut butter to help increase my protein intake. This or eggs with toast and peanut butter are my breakfast staples. I also eat a banana or another piece of fruit closer to getting in the water.
During my long swims, my nutrition plan is to alternate fat-based energy gels (F-bomb) with electrolyte gels (E-Gels), to ensure my body is getting enough of all the macros and enough calories throughout the swim. I also have some liquid Ensure packed, in the event I need quick liquid calories.”
Photos above were taken at the last S.C.A.R. pre-race practice swim in Saguaro Lake.
The results from Day 1 in Saguaro Lake are here (Stefan Reinke Outduels Serbo Simeoni On SCAR Day 1).
The results from Day 2 in Canyon Lake are here. (Reinke Hangs On, Jamie Ann Phillips Swimming Strong).
The results from Day 3 across Apache Lake are here (Jamie Ann Phillips Forges Into The Lead In Apache Lake).
The overall results and results from Day 4 in Roosevelt Lake are here. (Night Falls, So Do Records. Jamie Ann Phillips Leads Way).
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