• Sponsors

  • Schwalbe
  • ESI Grips
  • American Classic
  • First Endurance

SwimRun Connects Nature to the Concrete Jungle

One of the primary premises behind the sport of swimrun is connecting the athletes with nature.  If you ask Michael Lemmel, race director of OtillO, he’ll be quick to tell you that it’s about the athletes moving through nature and becoming one with it.  I’d have to agree with him.

So, when it comes to having a swimrun race, most folks wouldn’t think of having one right in the middle of a large city like Richmond and if I hadn’t raced XTERRAs in Richmond before, I would probably have thought the same thing.  When I stumbled across that there would be the SwimRunVA race held on some of the same trails of the XTERRA, it took me all of about 2 seconds to make a decision.  I had to do this race.

I reached out to Jim Fisher, local Richmond athlete and an XTERRA friend of mine to see if he was interested in teaming up for the race.  Being an avid racer and lover of adventure, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.  As the race approached, I received bad news that Jim tore some of those important tendons around his knee and would need surgery.  Of course, this knocked him out of the race, for sure.  After some further searching and pleading with folks on social media for someone as crazy as us, Keith Schumann, another XTERRA athlete stepped up.  With zero time training together we found ourselves at the start line before you knew it.

14711390_867821876651095_7003872996585397710_o

The race course looks a little something like this:

download

I’ll spare you the turn-by-turn details, but it was 6 separate swims and 7 runs totaling 3.37 miles of swimming and 15 miles of running.  We started the race at the 3Sports store parking lot and after a countdown, we ran across the Huguenot Bridge, down to the kayak launch, and started our first swim.  Right from the start, Keith and I established a pretty good lead and felt like we had a good, sustainable pace.

14612462_873150362784913_678487141708660594_o

Once hitting the water, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise swim in some pretty foggy water.  The air temp was a balmy 50ish degrees with the water being around 60.  Even though we couldn’t see the buoys right away, there were plenty of kayak volunteers in the water for safety purposes and willing to guide if necessary.

14691228_1552928658065855_3840759852980484488_o

14612417_1552928654732522_8648066852058692217_o

14691305_1552928661399188_6757415220189499475_o

Keith and I started our downriver swim towards Williams Island where we’d have a quick romp across the island in order to get around the “hydraulics”, a small dam in the river.

14853116_873149612784988_8231547230236696702_o

Once across the island, we had to pick a good line to make it across the river and to the other shore.  This part of the river was a bit more shallow and was strewn with large rock croppings and boulders.   Picking a bad line would not only bash you into the rocks, but could cause you to end up down stream past your exit point.  Here’s a photo taken by a person standing out where we needed to end up.  Keith and I are doing a quick assessment of where we needed to make our way through the varying currents and rocks in our path.

14691903_1552928674732520_1995441387703387909_o

14706770_1552928754732512_6248879474234897149_o

There were numerous swims where reading the currents were vital.  Equally important was being able to adjust to changing current.  A good example is one swim where we crossed the river under the Westover Hills bridge where the current would get very swift and then very calm depending on where the rocks were.  One minute we’d be swimming straight across the river and the next we’re getting slammed by current.  To counter it, we’d have to turn almost 45 degrees from the shore to counter the current.  It was a lot of fun battling the river.

14711091_10210579905323591_503396613996190270_o

14556743_873150142784935_7296850251079995778_o

14589610_1552928951399159_6721288027545690228_o

The runs were just as much fun with an interesting mix of pavement, concrete and trail.  We were constantly visually stimulated by trains, beautiful homes, canals, historic ruins and more.

14570375_865705263529423_5593849857541481056_n

14725665_865800206853262_5987285151101273208_n

14731166_865800160186600_8135321680694989258_n

The last swim was sort of a nice break from battling the currents since the entire leg was a downstream, flatwater swim.  We finished it off and headed to the last run leg.

14753407_867823236650959_1481959883132078977_o

14707937_867823423317607_4385330570727786378_o

The last run was the most interesting of the various “urban runs” which included a long stretch on a pipeline that ran underneath the railroad trestle. The entire thing paralleled the river which gave us a beautiful view. While running it, Keith and I conversed at how cool it was. I’d much rather run trails than pavement or concrete, but the sections that weren’t trail were just as much fun.

14680902_867824059984210_3008077048431210171_o

14706924_1552930671398987_7853882195263877014_o

We maintained the lead for the entire race and finished first overall.

14680822_10210579905723601_6201733547304866769_o

Keith kicked arse in his first swimrun race!  I think we made a pretty good pairing since our strengths are fairly close.  Where I was weak, he was strong and vice versa, so I think we pushed each other pretty good where we weren’t matched.  You’ll have to ask him if he’s been bitten by the swimrun bug.  I think he has.

I really think this race has the ability to be big with the swimrun community.  The crew did an outstanding job of laying out a course that was both interesting and tough.  My only wish is that they use the dry riverbed section (commonly referred to as the dry way or dry rock) on Belle Isle as part of the course next year.  I think it would take the difficulty up a notch and add even more European swimrun style to the race.  The course was well-staffed with volunteers and race staff that went above and beyond to ensure everyone was taken care of, including both water and land.

I can’t wait for next year.

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

Race: SwimRun Virginia
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: Oct 15, 2016
Distances: Swim – 6 legs: 3.37 mi, Run – 7 legs: 14.95 mi
Result: 1st Overall
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Inov-8 Trailroc 245 shoes, First Endurance Multi-V.

Advertisements

One Response

  1. […] after the SwimRun VA race in Richmond, VA, I headed home to be with Mom as she went into surgery.  I won’t go into too […]

Comments are closed.