~ SWIMRUN: more fun than triathlon? You said "Yes", our survey said "Yes!" ~
"So it's like triathlon but without a bike?". Well.... no, not really.
Most people can relate to triathlon and are comfortable with what it is so they naturally try and put swimrun into the same category. But swimrun is so much more than this. At it's best swimrun takes you and your partner on a challenging, adventurous journey through the natural environment.
Differences include the racing in pairs, the multi-transitions, the start with what you finish - a "leave no-trace" approach to racing, the variety and adventure of each race, the team-work ethos, the "tow system", the camaraderie and feel-good atmosphere throughout - the harder the race, the more these qualities shine through.
The racing with a partner element is one of the biggest challenges for triathletes to get their head around. It comes from the adventure racing world and it plays a part in your safety. It is alien to most but can be so rewarding and fun. I have come to discover that the most important part of swimrun is your partner. Train with them. Race with them. Enjoy their company.
Simplicity. You can just turn up on the start line and go, you don't have to put your bike in a transition somewhere and faff around with changing shoes, or get told off if you take your helmet off to quickly, or fix a puncture. Although there is an array of kit for swimrun it's up to you what you take as long as whatever you take you finish with (there is a maximum buoyancy allowed). In triathlon a feature of a transition involves you getting changed, in swimrun a transition is simply getting out of the water and running or getting into the water and swimming, as you are.
Travel. Have you ever entered a triathlon abroad and faffed around with bike boxes and paid through the nose to transport them? When I go to a swimrun abroad I only take carry on luggage. Simple. For my first swimrun we just had goggles, a wetsuit, and trainers - swim hat supplied by OtillO :-)
Once you are hooked on swimrun (you will be) you will no doubt start playing with hand paddles, pull buoys and tow systems, which all fit in to your carry on luggage!
Recovery time. If you are looking at IRONMAN distances most people will be sore and stiff afterwards. Do a swimrun and you are almost fine the next day, maybe tired, but even though often you run marathon distances in swimrun you don't feel marathon sore. For me the last 5 miles of a marathon are grim, and the next day walking down stairs is comical. After swimrun I feel like I could race the next day. Swimrun feels better for the body.
Why is recovery so quick? Well it could be to do with the runs split up into sections combined with some cooling and relaxation effects on the legs during the swims. In addition most swimruns have run sections on trail/softer terrain and don't involve running on tarmac so the pounding of the joints is less pronounced. Most people also run slightly slower on swimrun which may also aid recovery.
Having said all of this I think that the biggest factor is the multiple in-built recovery times for your legs in (cool) water during the race.
"Triathlon is boring compared to swimrun." Controversial? Most triathletes know how long it takes them to swim 1.5k, to cycle 40k, and to run 10k so they can predict pretty accurately how long a race will take them, the question is will I get a PB, or will I be faster than Mr Y or Ms X. Swimrun however is an adventurous journey you embrace with your partner and are often just happy to complete the course and enjoy the day with your buddy. In these relatively early days of the sport you will quite often achieve a PB.
Don't get me wrong, I love cycling but for me it is more of a stand alone sport, a bit like kayaking, which I also love. I've completed several adventure races and loved them but the kayak and bike sections add a complication that I don't need anymore. San Sebastian to Barcelona via the Pyrenees is what I'd like to use my bike for, not in between a swim and a run. Sea kayaking around Ireland is another goal for my kayak, not in between a cycle and a run.