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Sydne Didier of Amherst, MA
When 46-year-old Sydne Didier’s car broke down in college, she turned to her bike for transportation and quickly realized she needed to increase her fitness if she wanted to survive. It was love at first pedal for the co-ed, who added swimming to her training repertoire once she entered graduate school. Naturally the now full-time swim coach/instructor started running to race in triathlons before moving toward open-water marathon swimming and running races exclusively. With more than 20 years of racing under her belt, Didier loves pushing herself by trying new types of races and increasing to longer distances every year. Check out her latest race obsession, a SwimRun challenge based on Sweden’s Ötillö events.
SwimRun races in the USA mimic the Ötillö (island-to-island) events held in Sweden since 2002. Teams of two run together across a section of land before jumping in the water to swim to the next land portion. The process is repeated until the end of the race. Participants should be prepared to run on trails and do some bouldering to successfully traverse the terrain, which can be remote. Though total distances vary by race, the events are categorized as endurance-level, meaning proper training is key!
Created for beginner and experienced athletes alike, the SwimRun event in Randolph, N.J., offers two distance options: Sport or Elite. Participants will enjoy swimming through crystal-clear lakes and running on a combination of trails and fast, unpaved roads.
Sport: 4.63 miles running, 0.82 miles swimming
Elite: 9.26 miles running, 1.64 miles swimming
Aug. 19, Randolph, NJ
With a shorter swim distance than some SwimRun events, this Danbury, N.C., race might appeal to athletes who are more runners than swimmers. As with any of these events, the terrain can be challenging, so practicing your trail running is key.
14 miles running, 3k swimming
Oct. 29, Danbury, NC
Centered on Red Top Mountain State Park just 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, two courses give a wholebody challenge not to be forgotten.
Long course: 9 miles running, 4 miles swimming
Short course: 6 miles running, 2 miles swimming
April 23, Cartersville, GA
SwimRun California offers beginner-friendly races throughout the year. Often featuring shorter-distance courses set in San Diego, the idea is to draw athletes in, make them fall in love with the sport and commit to racing a longer event.
Multiple dates, San Diego
Set in an incredible venue with the opportunity to explore islands few people have the chance to see, the Casco Bay Islands SwimRun highlights Portland, Maine’s finest. With two different distances to choose from, the event is incredibly popular and requires lottery application almost every year. Time to start planning for your 2018 season!
Long course: 15 miles running, 5 miles swimming
Short course: 6.5 miles running, 2.25 miles swimming
Aug. 13, Portland, ME
Unlike many other endurance events, SwimRun requires that you race alongside your partner. A well-matched race buddy will make all the difference. Training with your partner is key, as is discussing strategy. What will you do if one of you is tired and needs to walk a portion of a run? How will you handle being tethered together? Who will carry what gear for the team? These are the types of questions teammates should answer prior to the main event.
Practice Makes Perfect
The sport requires excellent swimming skills. Even if you have done triathlons, the distances and requirements may be different than you are accustomed to completing. Add in the reality of swimming with your shoes gear while being tethered to another person, and the challenge is even greater. Consider investing in a private session or two with a coach to have your stroke evaluated.
It is also critical that you practice open-water swimming with your partner. Without the black line on the bottom and the ability to rest every 25 yards, the activity is very different. The more you can practice outside, the better you will fare on race day.
Get The Gear
Wetsuit: The Orca Swim-Run Core ($199, orca.com) is a good entry-level suit. The front zip allows for unzipping on the run if you’re overheated.
Shoes: It’s important to have shoes that drain well—some racers drill holes in the soles.
Socks: You need these to avoid serious blisters since sand and dirt get in your shoes while running in and out of the water.
Goggles: I’m a big fan of goggles made specifically for open-water swimming. The tinted Aquasphere Seal XP 2 ($30, aquasphereswim.com) fits my face well.
Paddles and Pull Buoy: My partner wears a buoy and uses paddles, while I go without. Since we are tethered together, I can sight for both of us, while she concentrates on swimming.
Enjoy the Day! The key thing to remember for your race is to RELAX. This is about having a great time challenging yourself, and most of all, having fun!