SwimRun is a sport that is moving from the niche to the forefront of multi-sport events. That doesn’t make it any easier to complete the events, especially the OtillO swimrun races. The OtillO team provide “unique races in unique places.” Like many adventure races, correct kit selection is crucial. In a relatively young sport, it can be difficult to find guidance on SwimRun kit choices. So, we’ve created this handy kit guide with Ben and Rhian Martin, one of the top mixed SwimRun teams in the world.
When we entered the inaugural UK OtillO Swimrun sprint series in 2015, we used a “shortie” wetsuit. This is a cross between a wetsuit and a swimskin…Big mistake. In our open water training sessions, as well as three races at Dorney Lake, we froze. We expected that running in a wetsuit would generate warmth, but we couldn’t warm up quick enough. Our energy levels fell, along with our swim and run pace. We vowed never to “under” wetsuit again. To race to our full potential, we would need a specifically designed wetsuit for SwimRun events, as well as additional kit choices depending on where we were racing. After much research, we eventually opted for the Zone3 Evolution Swimrun wetsuit.
If you’re new to SwimRun, perhaps racing your first sprint type event, then you might just want to cut down an old triathlon wetsuit. But, if you’ve been bitten by the SwimRun bug, or perhaps racing a full event (4-8 hours), then here are our tips. To keep warm in the water, happy on the run and able to carry all the race products, you will need…
SwimRun kit List
Crucial to regulate heat. During our run, we unzip and even take off the top half of the wetsuit. We’re carrying paddles/hat and googles/clipping & unclipping our bungie cord; we need quick and easy access to the zip. We’re also wearing the mandatory race bibs. So a front zip is the easy solution to all these – along with your partner yanking down the top half of your wetsuit for long runs.
NB: some suits provide a front and back zip, but consider the below point.
Unlike triathlon, SwimRun racers carry all their race gear, the mandatory safety requirements (a whistle each, bandage, map) as well as energy and hydration products. They may also perhaps carry a spare pair of googles. Energy products need quick and easy access; your partner can help here with access to your wetsuit back pocket. Calculate how much kit you’ll be carrying and where you are going to stash it.
Wearing a “bumbag” is a no no – either inside or outside your wetsuit. It will really slow your swim down.
We’ve found it is best to have a large rear pocket, easily accessible by your partner and then additional pockets inside the suit, for items that won’t be needed in the first half of the race. Gels and bars can be shared between race partners.
An extra layer
If the swim is going to be cold (and most are) it may be worth wearing a neoprene vest underneath your wetsuit. These are tight fit, so don’t expect to be taking it on and off during the race. Using one becomes a tough call, as in warmer water and/or for hot run conditions, you risk overheating.
Neoprene calf guards
We’re seeing an increasing number of SwimRunners use neoprene calf guards. These create buoyancy to offset swimming in trail shoes and also generate warmth to ward against cramp. The thicker the neoprene the better here. We use 8mm.
You may want to use these while you are training in open water. On the coldest of swims, neoprene gloves are a life-saver and ensure your extremities survive in one piece!
The right goggles
Use a goggle that has a large lens for better sighting. Anti-fog is always useful when temperature differences can be large during the race, and using lenses that ensure you can see clearly in both shade and direct sunlight is crucial. The Zone3 Attack goggles tick all the boxes for us.
Swim as a Team
Swimrun is all about the “team” which makes it so much more fun to race, compared to individual sports. We’ve had to adjust our swimming and kit choices because of our different swimming styles to ensure we create maximum “team” swim speed.
Here are our top 6 “swim as a team” points to consider:
Try out a tow rope
Without doubt this will make your team swim faster and it’s safer. But it is cumbersome to use and impacts the second swimmer’s stroke. Try using different lengths of bungee rope. We now always tether together.
Do paddles make you swim faster?
If yes, then try different shapes and sizes. Remember you need to loop them around your arms, or fix to your wet suit when running.
Use a pull buoy
You will be swimming in trainers so your body position will be lower. Therefore adding a pull buoy to keep you more streamlined is a great aid.
Consider training and racing with a swim tow float
It's mandatory for the long sea swims legs of races like OtillO Hvar and Isle of Scilly, so time to invest in one and train with it for open water swims. If you’re new to open water swimming this year, then the tow float will provide an additional layer of comfort that you’ll be visible from shore and boat.
For cold swims, consider extra layers under your swimrun wetsuit. If a trisuit isn’t going to be enough, then invest in a vest – Zone3’s Neoprene Warmth vest is perfect for us.
Always schedule some training in full race kits
(yes, this means race socks and trainers as well) and swim with your partner. Better to learn that you have different race speeds and abilities to swim in a straight line now, rather than in the race.