The sport of swimrun sounds like it should be straightforward to train for: a bit of swimming and bit of running… simple right? But with its paired buddy system and unique equipment requirements there are several techniques you can employ in your training to ensure you are getting the most out of your time and are well prepared for your swimrun adventure.
Here are the key things we’ve learnt from training and racing in this exciting event format.
1. Train regularly with your teammate
Most swimrun race rules state you should not be more than a few metres away from your racing partner at all times. Therefore, one of the most important aspects to master in training is the team dynamic. It’s likely that in any swimrun pair there will be a mismatch between running and/or swimming ability so although it may be cliché to say “you are only as strong as your weakest link”, this is especially true in swimrun.
It’s also worth noting that although one team member may be stronger over a certain discipline, in endurance racing this can easily change. Being tuned in to how your buddy is performing at any given time and adjusting the pace accordingly is a big part of the sport. The more you train together the better you will be at gauging this in each other. Bromance or team work: whatever you call it, make sure you embrace it.
- Ensure the weaker swimmer is comfortable drafting on the feet of the stronger one. This can save the drafting swimmer up to 30% of energy output
- Likewise, a stronger runner marking out foot placement when moving across technical terrain closely followed by his teammate can make a big difference to overall finish times
2. Get used to the equipment
Swimrun has some unique equipment requirements. Being comfortable running in your wetsuit is crucial, as is swimming in your shoes. But arguably the greatest challenge with equipment is building the shoulder strength needed to use hand paddles over long distances. In post race chats with other athletes it is common to hear reports of sore, tight shoulders. Don’t be put off by this though: although not mandatory, hand paddles (coupled with a pull buoy) are invaluable as they minimise the drag effect from swimming in trail shoes.
- Try a variation of the following session in the pool using paddles and pull buoy to safely build up shoulder strength:
20 x 100 on the same cycle (for example one rep every 2 minutes)
- 10 x swim
- 10 x paddle and pull buoy
- The first half of the set naturally fatigues your shoulders so that when you come to using paddles you should notice the advantage they provide. Focus on keeping stroke length long and smooth throughout this part of the set
- The set can be progressively built over a number of weeks leading up to the event until you are doing 30 or 40 (or more!) x 100s in total
3. Find a training location to replicate race length transitions
Racing for several hours with more than a dozen transitions between swimming and running is a feeling no amount of big swim sets or long training runs can prepare you for. To help your body adapt, find an outdoor training environment where you can easily switch between disciplines.
When close to home we use a lake just out of London which has several swim courses marked out with buoys and an off road running route around the lake. European holiday destinations also make excellent training locations with beaches and lakes never far from a hiking track or a scenic esplanade. On your next summer holiday ignore the bemused looks from the locals at your amphibious outfit of wetsuit/shoes/hand paddles and take advantage of one of the best aspects of swimrun: being in the outdoors and experiencing a unique perspective of the natural landscape.
- Write the swim and run transition distances of your target race on your hand paddles
- Use a GPS watch to replicate your target race course over a number of training sessions
- If training for hilly races don’t forget to incorporate some elevation
- These sessions can provide useful feedback on:
- When to take on nutrition/hydration;
- Identifying potential issues with race equipment; and
- How you work together as a team
Hamish is one half of Clapham Bruderwunderz, the winners of the inaugural Breca Buttermere in 2015. His teammate is fellow Clapham Chaser and Embrace Sports coach Alan Scott. The Bruderwunderz will be back in Buttermere in July this year to defend their title.