Full Speed Ahead into a Swimrun

Full Speed Ahead into a Swimrun

Kanoa King is a Chiropractor in Concord, NH at Performance Health Spine and Sport Therapy a multidisciplinary practice that blends PT, rehab and Chiropractic. At work he strives to get his patients better as quickly as possible so they can get back to the activities they love. As a new dad of a beautiful 14-month-old girl named Emery, Kanoa has had to try and figure out what training looks like on a limited schedule. With a very understanding wife (thanks Liz!) and creative work outs he feels like he is pulling it off.

What is swimrun and what are the rules? 

Swimrun started as a drunken bet between some friends in Sweden about 10 years ago and has morphed into the sport we see today. It is primarily a team-sport based on two persons traveling on land and through water, completely dependent on each other. The team alternates between running and swimming along a pre-marked course, it can be between islands or between lakes. As a team you race within 10 meters of each other while you complete the course in its entirety and you need to start with you need to carry with you throughout and finish with.

There are many different distances depending on the race, but typically there is a long course which consists of 25-35km of running and 5-8 km of swimming broken up into 7-14 legs of each and a short course which is about half of this. The world championships in Sweden are a 75 km course which is 65km of running and 10 km of swimming.

What do you wear and bring along with you?

What an athlete wears and carries along really can vary from person to person, but in general most races will require a very small first aid kit (compression bandage and gauze), whistle, course map, swim cap and race bib. Participants typically wear swim specific shorty wetsuits, pull paddles (think flippers for your hands that help you swim faster), pull buoy (helps keep your legs afloat), trail shoes that drain well, nutrition and a soft flask for hydration.

Photo Credit: Brett Cottrell, Workshop Media

What’s the vibe like between you and your teammate and the other competitors?

This was our first swimrun as a team, and my teammate Keith Lundquist had only ever done a short course solo race so we really didn’t know what to expect. There was definitely an energy in the air at the start of the race since no one had really raced in a year. Keith and I have had some pretty long hard days up in the mountains before and some great swimrun training last summer before our race got canceled so we know how to suffer together.

Tell us about your race…

Keith and I had a 50k race that got rescheduled in April and we were both jonesing to race and saw that Lake James, in Nebo North Carolina opened up some more slots so we signed up about 5 weeks before the race. We registered for the long course which has 14 runs and 13 swims for a cumulative distance of 15 miles of running and just over 4 miles of swimming. Keith ran a blazing fast 100-miler in January down in Florida so he had some stored fitness and was training pretty constantly running. I had been maintaining mileage running through the winter and had just started to build up in preparation for summer races. Neither of us had been swimming since last summer when our last swimrun race was canceled. I think we both maybe swam 5 times before race week. We obviously knew that our strength was going to be our running and then we would just try and survive the swims. We are pretty evenly matched in both the swim and run. Keith will be the first to tell you he isn’t the prettiest swimmer but he is super strong and just keeps going and never changes pace.

We were able to get to North Carolina a couple days early and scout about 80% of the course. This allowed us to know where we were shooting for on the swims and allowed us to determine where and how hard we could push on the runs. The first run was a mile down to the first swim and we pushed right out of the gate, which allowed us to take an early lead. As we worked to capitalize on our strengths so do other teams as we were caught on the third swim by Greg and Bronwen of the Boston Wet Sox team. They are the top mixed team in North America, and are always contenders to take an overall win. They both swam at Boston University and these two passed us like we were just floating.

We caught them on the next run and put a big gap on the field during the 8 mile long run. This was key as we knew we needed as much of a time advantage as possible as we approached the longest swim of the day, which was approximately 1 mile out to a band of islands where we had quick runs and a couple more swims. In our last long swim, we were caught by a couple of teams including the Boston Wet Sox. Again, we yoyoed with these teams on these short technical runs only to be caught in the swims. The top 4 teams came out of the water within 40 seconds of each other with 2.4 miles to run out. We were second team out of the water, but knew the guys behind us were fast runners so we had to hammer.

Photo Credit: Brett Cottrell, Workshop Media 

We caught the Boston Wet Sox before we hit the single track and just put our head down and suffered through the last 15 min. We came away with the win by less than 30 seconds in a very competitive field the Top 3 men’s team and the top Mixed team broke the course record.

What surprised you the most?

I shouldn’t be surprised, but the comradery after the race of all the racers were incredible. We were definitely the new kids on the block and everyone was so nice and encouraging. Being new to the sport you never know what things are going to be like. It didn’t hurt that the race ended at a brewery and everyone got burritos and beer when they finished.

How did you fuel during the event?

During the event I carried everything I fueled with through the day. It was a cooler day so I didn’t sweat as much as I would have otherwise. I carried a 500ml soft flask with 1.5 scoops of UnTapped Lemon Tea and added in ½ scoop of UnTapped Ginger Mapleaid. I like to mix the two because it gives sweet and some spice because of the ginger, and mixed it stronger than the directions call for to give myself additional calories. I also carried a Maple, Salted Cocoa and Coffee UnTapped.

Will you be looking to do more swimruns in the future? Would you encourage others to try them as well?

I am all in on swimrun this summer since my focus race just was canceled. I am still hoping to find some ultras after Boston in the fall, but I am planning on doing Odyssey Swimrun Casco Bay in August and then Otillo Catalina in California in November.

I think swimrun can be very accessible. You don’t need a super high end wetsuit or anything fancy, just a partner and some sense of adventure. Here are some links to races and some people who have all the info you need to get geared up from budget to top of the line.