2015 was the first year since 2001 that I didn’t compete in at least one triathlon. Thanks to a series of back injuries and disappointing races, I needed a break. I spent the year doing a mix of open-water swimming and trail running races, and while that kept me from getting too out of shape, something was missing. After 15 years of competing a three-sport race, a single-sport event just didn’t have the same appeal.
Then, a few months ago, a friend sent me a video from the 2015 Ã¶TILLÃ¶ SwimRun World Championships in Sweden. I was mesmerized. There was something so primal and rugged about transitioning from swim to run and back again without actually making a transition. I had to do it.
Former professional triathlete Sara McLarty found SwimRun at the end of her 11-year pro career and finished sixth at Ã¶TILLÃ¶ last year, despite slipping on a rock and breaking her kneecap on the third of the 26 islands. This year she’ll return to Sweden with the goal of finishing atop the podium (and not breaking any bones in the process). She describes what first drew her to SwimRun:
“Remember when there were just a handful of crazies that had completed an Ironman? And all they did was talk about how awesome it was and how they couldn’t wait to do another and why you should sign up to do one too? Well now that is SwimRun. The event is like triathlon, Xterra, adventure racing, and mud runs were put into a blender and poured out on a chain of islands.â€
As badly as I wanted to race Ã¶TILLÃ¶, after a couple of minutes on Google I realized that I wouldn’t be doing so in 2016. Not only is it nearly impossible to get in but the distances are staggering. I knew I could handle the 10K of total swimming between 26 islands, but 65K of running across those islands would be way too much.
Lucky for me, in January the Valhalla Sports Group announced that they would be bringing the first-ever Ã¶TILLÃ¶-style event to the U.S. with the inaugural Casco Bay Islands SwimRun off the coast of Portland, Maine. The distances were much more beginner-friendly: four total miles of swimming and 11 miles of running across eight islands. My buddy Nick and I were one of the first teams to register for one of the 20 merit slots (an additional 80 lottery slots were available) and last week we found out we were in.
Unfortunately you can’t get into this year’s Casco Bay SwimRun (314 teams applied for only 100 slots) but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your feet (and shoes) wet if you’re looking to try a SwimRun in 2016. Here are a few other options from around the globe:
Mission Bay SwimRun – March 3 – San Diego, Calif. – 1.5K of swimming; 10.5K of running – Californiaswimrun.com
Costa Brava SwimRun – April 16 – Girona, Spain – Sprint, marathon and ultra distances – Swimruncostabrava.cat
Amphimann – May 7 – Wallonne, Belgium – Short, mid and long distances – Amphiman.be
Borensberg SwimRun – May 7 – Borensberg, Sweden – Short and long distances – Borensbergswimrun.se
Hilton Head SwimRun – May 28 – Hilton Head Island, North Carolina – 5K total – Gotrievents.com
UtÃ¶ (Ã¶TILLÃ¶ qualifier) – May 29 – UtÃ¶, Sweden – 5.5K of swimming; 33.5K of running – Utoswimrun.se
Elba SwimRun – June 11 – Elba, Italy – 4K of swimming; 11K of running – Swimrun.it
Stockholm Swimrun – June 11 – Stockholm, Sweden – 4K of swimming; 23K of running – Stockholmswimrun.se
Muskoka SwimRun Challenge – June 12 – Muskoka, Ontario, Canada – 3.5K of swimming; 14.5K of running – Canaquasports.com
Isles of Scilly SwimRun (Ã¶TILLÃ¶ qualifier) – June 18 – Scilly, UK – 8K of swimming; 38K of running – Islesofscillyswimrun.com
Engadin (Ã¶TILLÃ¶ qualifier) – July 10 – Engadin, Switzerland – 5.9K of swimming; 47.5K of running – Engadinswimrun.ch
Rockman – August 6 – Lysefjorden, Norway – 6K of swimming; 35K of running – Rockmanswimrun.com
Breca Arainn Mhor – August 20 – Arainn Mhor, Ireland – 9K of swimming; 45K of running – Brecaswimrun.eu
Breca Jersey – September 24 – Jersey UK – 6K of swimming; 48K of running – Brecaswimrun.eu