What were your three most important Swimrun training sessions in the lead up to your event?
1. Run-Swim-Run session: The last session I did with my partner a few days before the event was a 3km run, 500m open water swim, 3km run all at a relatively steady pace. It wasn’t very long, but we put all our kit on and it allowed us a final chance to practice whilst carrying all the gear.
2. Hill reps… and hill reps in a wetsuit: our swimrun course was anything but flat and running hill reps was a great way to build strength and endurance for the event. Doing this in your wetsuit might make you look a bit silly, but it really helped having practiced this come race day.
3. Long fell run: I was lucky enough to be in the Mourne Mountains a few weeks before the event where I did a 2hr fell run with some technical climbs and descents. The descending practice in particular came in really handy on some of the steeper sections of the run.
What are your top three training tips in preparation for a Swimrun event?
1. Spend time training with your partner. The better you know each other and your strengths and weaknesses, the better you can work together.
2. Train the way you’ll race; Practice swimming in your shoes, with paddles, pull buoy or any other gear you plan to use. I swam in my shoes for the first time only three days before the event and it certainly took some getting used to! For the majority of us, swimming long distances with paddles on is also pretty foreign and requires plenty of practice.
3. Transition Practice: just like in triathlon, or perhaps even more so due to the number you’ll do, transition is the place where you can save the most time for the least effort. Just practicing repeated transitions from swim to run and back again with your partner can take minutes off your time.
What were you biggest Swimrun mistakes? If you don’t have any, what do you think are the most common Swimrun mistakes?
1. Nutrition nutrition nutrition. Fuelling your body in any endurance event can make or break your race, and swimrun is no different. Nutrition can be extremely personal so practice in advance and find out what works for you.
2. Be totally honest with your partner and admit your weaknesses. If you’re struggling half an hour in, it’s much better to tell your partner and ease off than suffer in silence and pay for it later on.
3. Don’t go off too fast- you’re going to be out racing for several hours so if you’re still feeling good, you can speed up later on. Pacing yourself at the start is key.
Can you describe your largest Swimrun training session in the lead up to the event?
The largest session I would aim to do in the lead up to a ‘sprint’ event would be a 3 run/ 2 swim session with 3-4km runs interspersed with 500m-800m long open water swims. This gives you a real feel for how long you’ll be out, how hot/ cold you might get and how often you need to take on food and drinks.
What were your top three Swimrun specific nutrition strategies?
1. Find out what is available at the aid stations in advance and practice with these foods/ drinks in training so you know what your body gets along with and what it doesn’t. You can, to an extent, train yourself to be able to take on certain foods and drinks whilst running.
2. Setting a regular alarm on your watch can be helpful to remind you to eat and drink often. I found that the aid stations were close enough together that I didn’t need to carry a drink in between them, but I did take several gels.
3. Take gels before you swim, not before you run. I particularly struggle to stomach gels and this is only made worse when running so taking them just before a swim meant they went down a little easier and my stomach was settled when I came to run again.
What were your top three tapering strategies in the lead up to the swimrun event OR your top three general tapering tips in the lead up to any event?
1. Listen to your body. You’re not going to gain any fitness in the final week before an event, and in fact you’ll gain more from resting than panic training. If you’re feeling tired and needing an extra rest day than you had planned, take one.
2. The 2/3’rds Rule: having just told you to take it easy, in the lead up to any event, it’s also important to maintain some intensity in your training albeit at a reduced volume. I like to do 2/3 of the main set in each of my hard sessions but at the same intensity as normal. Eg. Instead of a set of 6*200m threshold swim reps I would do 4*200m threshold.
3. The day before the race, especially if I have been travelling, a very short, very steady run plus 6 short fast strides makes me feel race ready.
What do you think are the three hardest aspects of Swimrun?
1. Dealing with the weather conditions. We were lucky to race on a beautiful day in the Lakes, but that doesn’t mean the water wasn’t freezing, plus you’re out for several hours. Regulating your temperature and deciding what to wear can be really tricky.
2. Nutrition: I’ve mentioned it a lot, but that’s because it can really make or break your race and getting it right can be tough. As with anything though, practice makes perfect and trialling different options in training is key to finding what works best for you.
3. Sighting long distances on the swims: I’m usually pretty good at sighting and swimming in a straight line, but as I got more fatigued, sighting some of the longer distances was something I found quite tough.
What are your favourite aspects of Swimrun?
1. The scenery has to be number 1. You get to race in beautiful locations that you might not otherwise get to experience and that’s really special.
2. I love the team aspect of the race. Coming from triathlon which is a very individual sport, being able to race with a friend who will encourage you and tow you through the hard parts (yup, my partner literally towed me up a hill) makes it so much more fun.
3. Sustainability: I’m passionate about the environment so its great to see race organisers taking responsibility and trying to create zero waste events and looking after the beautiful places we race in.
What swimrun event(s) and distance(s) have you completed?
Breca Coniston Sprint 2018
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One final tip- Research the course and use a permanent marker to write down on your leg/ arm/ pull buoy the order and distances of each leg of the race and location of feed stations. This will come in super handy and you can also make a note of any particularly tricky looking sections.
Coach Ashia Fenwick is a Level 2 swim teacher and Level 2 tri coach, having coached for 8 years. “I was a swimmer and cyclist as a child and started competing in triathlon at university 4 years ago. I got the bug straight away and never looked back. I'm currently a part time student and part time athlete training in Bath. I mainly race Sprint and Olympic distance triathlon in the British domestic elite races, but I love going off and doing slightly crazy or unusual events too. I did my first swimrun in October as a bit of end of season fun at Breca Coniston and absolutely loved it!” For more information, check out Ashi'a’s website, instagram and twitter.
Photo Credit - Col Morley