This summer, Human Powered Racing is bringing the first large organized SwimRun event that is open to the public to the Canadian West Coast. This single-day multistage race will be taking place on Aug. 12 at Thetis Lake Regional Park in Victoria.
SwimRun has been gaining popularity in recent years thanks to individuals on the lookout for new and exciting ways to push their limits. SwimRun combines both elements of the traditional triathlon with adventure racing in a point-to-point race across a variety of terrain. Athletes partaking in a SwimRun will repeatedly transition from swimming to running anywhere from two to 52 times, depending on the length of the race. For this inaugural SwimRun in Victoria, race director Rob Dibden explains that participants will be able to choose from two distances: the short course, which will consist of two swims and two runs, totaling 12 kilometres, and the long course, which will consist of four swims and four runs totaling 28 kilometres. An added challenge for those taking part in the contest is the “blind segment,” meaning one of the run segments will not be disclosed until the morning of the race.
Though people can sign up for this new race format individually, one of the main appeals of SwimRuns is the partner component.
“The team aspect creates a different dynamic to the race because partners must remain within five metres of their teammate at all times,” says Dibden. “Checkpoints are set up throughout the course to see if athletes are close to their teammate,” he adds. Therefore, it is common for teams in SwimRuns to opt for tethering, which prevents competitors from getting disqualified for being too far apart.
What also makes these competitions differ from other multistage events is that participants must be self-sufficient and are required to carry all the equipment they will be needing for both swimming and running throughout the entire race.
Dibden explains there’s nothing consistent about the equipment athletes select for SwimRuns. Although there are several rules participants must follow, such as the length of f loatation assists and swim fins, it’s really up to them to approach their equipment strategy the way they want. In most cases, competitors will modify swim training equipment for the race.
The Thetis Lake Regional Park venue of the Aug. 12 contest is a location where Dibden and his training partner spend a lot of time training at and know intimately. Athletes will be running through diverse trails with steep climbs and descents, narrow single track, as well as open double-track trails. Dibden has advice for SwimRun newbs who want to sign up: “SwimRun does present some challenges that are a little different than single sport or multisport events. Going from swimming to running over and over again, my biggest advice is for people to go through those transitions, getting used to running in swim gear or vice versa.” As for where he sees the future of the sport, Dibden thinks it’s going to grow exponentially in the next couple of years. “It seems like everyone that gets involved in it, gets captured in it,” he says. Melissa Offner is a writer and runner from North Vancouver.
PHOTOS The wildly popular SwimRun Otillo series includes this race held in Uto Finland