By Abby Huggins
Triathlon season is over for this girl. Time to take a break, regroup, and enjoy the off season, right? Apparently not the case this year, as I switch gears (or better yet, drop gears altogether) and shift my focus to preparing for the SwimRun NC event in Hanging Rock, North Carolina in a few short weeks.
Frankly, it’s all Tony’s fault. If my Podium teammate Tony Orru hadn’t posted the amazing video of the OtillO event in Sweden, I would never have known that such an incredible event existed. Watching that video got my blood pumping like that Nike alarm clock ad does (man, it gets me every time), and I knew at that moment that I would jump on any opportunity to compete in a similar event.
For those of you unfamiliar with SwimRun, it is a relatively new endurance event, spawned from a bet in Sweden in 2002 with the OtillO (Island to Island) race. Each course is unique in its distance and terrain;
essentially the topography determines the specifics of each given race. The race rules, however, are the common unifying theme. It is a team race with 2 athletes per team, and the teams can be composed of all male, all female, or gender mixed. The teammates must be within 10 meters at all times and must race with the following mandatory equipment: a wetsuit, waterproof map holder, safety whistle, and First Aid pressure bandage. Because participants swim in their trail shoes and run in their wetsuits, it is also recommended that competitors race with swim hand paddles and pull buoys. The caveat is that you must carry all equipment with you from start to finish.
At present, only two such events exist in the US: the Casco Bay SwimRun Maine (held this past August) and the SwimRun NC with its inaugural race the last weekend of October. When the NC race was announced, I immediately thought of Allison Leppke (Atlanta Triathlon Club race team member) as my
perfect partner. Both Allison and I come from a strong swimming background and both love to run. We pace very similarly as well; remarkably, regardless of the distance of the triathlon event (sprint, Oly, HIM), our swim and run splits are often within seconds of each other. For an event that requires you to be within 10 meters of your teammate at all times, this sets us up nicely.
To enter the event, there is an application process for which the teams must submit a list of their past 24 months of racing accomplishments. Fortunately, we were selected on merit and Team Atlanta Amphibians was born. We will toe off for a combined 14.7 miles of total running and 2900 meters of swimming on October 30.
As for race-specific preparation, the clock is ticking. Admittedly, up until today, I have been focused on triathlon season. Granted, swimming and running are already part of the base I have established, but swimming in trail shoes, running in a wetsuit, and switching between these two disciplines multiple
times throughout a race are entirely new skills to master. Additionally, these skills need to be practiced with Allison, so we can approach this race as prepared as possible as a team.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll keep you posted on our training and discuss the unique gear that we have selected to use during the race. One of my personal focuses will be improving my strength on a steady stair climb, as the NC race boasts a 642 rough hewn granite stair climb (“The Wall”) and descent about midway through the course. This morning, I tackled a run up and down Stone Mountain after a 5 mile trail run…woobity! I anticipate some stadiums in my near future!