How to train, prepare and make the most of race day
Now that the world finally seems to be reopening, all of you competition-eager swimrunners are no doubt itching to stand on that starting line again. In Sweden, the birthplace of swimrun, the government announced last month that events with up to 150 participants can now take place, and have promised to extending that number to 900 participants in July.
It is certainly looking good for the first swimrun events of the year to take place for real, and with that, it's time to prepare for racing again. For many, the Covid pandemic has forced us to lay low for over a year, so don't worry if you are feeling a little bit rusty when it comes to race preparation. In this article, swimrun World Champ Fanny Kuhn share some tips on how to train, prepare and act on race day. You will be ready to go, even if it is your very first race!
It’s a good idea to concentrate on swimrun-specific training at least a few months before your race, and if you are really serious about your performance, I would also recommend you follow a training plan or even get a coach (check Nicholas Remires form Envol for example). Another good idea is also to attend a training camp: we are announcing events at WILD Swimrun regularly if you want to check it out.
However, it is definitely not necessary if you don't have the time or resources. Here are some general tips for preparing for race day:
Transitions: Make sure you know where your equipment goes and practice those entries and exits. If you don't live close to a lake or oceans, you can even do it in the swimming pool (be careful not to slip!).
Train together: Try and get in as many sessions as possible with your team partner. It's good to get in sync and also get to know how your partner swims and runs, and how you want the cord to be set up if you are using one.
Hills: Most Swimruns have elevation, so to be prepared for hills is important. I think training up hills is also a great strength-building way to run, and it is also kinder on your body and will prevent injuries if you are only pounding intervals on asphalt. So, definitely incorporate some gruesome hill reps in your training – just not the week before the race!
Stairs: I think truly mastering stairs gives you a secret advantage in a race in case there are lots of them. Practice running them up, and equally important, down! If you can learn to take two steps per stride downwards, you’ll save a ton of time. But be aware, it takes some practice to get to that stage, so be careful when you start: take it slow and increase speed progressively.
Open Water Swimming: Make sure you practice swimming under different conditions. If you have only swam in the pool and come to your first swimrun race in a stormy ocean, you will probably freak out a little bit. So, if possible, get used to waves and currents and practice how to handle the ocean in different conditions before the race.
Alternative Training: I'm a big believer in training what you think is fun. If you have chosen swimrun, hopefully you like swimming and running, but also try new things as complimentary training if you feel like it. Since swimrun is about switching between different muscle groups and sports, I think that anything you do to make your body more agile or adaptable is good training. I do yoga, strength training, and occasionally some road biking.
Before race day
Here are some general tips to get ready and calm your nerves before race day. I recommend mostly doing your normal routine the day before; don't stress your body with new activities or strategies just because you see other people doing strange things!
Cut your toenails well. You don’t want anything sticking out in front of your toes when you make your way down steep hills!
If you are visiting a new city for the race, save your sightseeing for after the race. It’s not a good idea to be on your feet for hours and collect 20,000 steps the day before race day. Put your legs up and rest them. You’ll need them!
Study the course and have an idea of where you’re going, memorise as much as possible.
Grab a permanent marker and write out the swim and run sections on your paddles. I always do this before a race. And don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a new pair for the next race – it comes off fine with nail polish remover.
- Don’t worry too much if you can’t sleep well the night before. I usually just accept I’m going to be a bit nervous and angsty the night before and never expect to get the best night of sleep of my life. You’ll be ready to go no matter what and it’s all the rest and sleep you’ve done the week before that really counts.
During race day
Pay very close attention to the course markings. The course is usually marked well and most of the time you will easily find your way. But sometimes the turns can be sharp and unexpected. Even if you run behind your partner, pay attention - that way you always have four eyes out instead of two.
Take your swim cap off Even if you’re only running 2km before the next swim section, do take it off. This is even more important if you are in a sunny country, it can be strong and takes more energy out of you than you think. Getting your heat out from your head will save you from dehydration and fatigue later on.
Bring a soft water bladder. You can fill it up at the energy stations for the longer runs if your swimrun has any of those. Keep in mind that a 3km run with a lot of elevation can take both time and energy.
Take it easy in the first hill/run section. I suggest not spending all your energy in the first part of the race. You don’t want to start out with lactic-acid filled thighs – trust me I’ve done it and it pays back in the back half of the race.
Keep up the swimrun spirit! You will most likely pass “regular” people at some point during the course, so smile and wave at them – they will probably cheer you on and be a little bit impressed at you running around in your wetsuits.
Look up. Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Swimruns are usually set in incredible locations and a big part of the experience is to take all that in together with your partner!