The Lake James State Park is in the Blue Ridge Mountains not far from Asheville, NC and on April 7, 2018 will offer a stunning background for the inaugural SwimRun Lake James.
My passion for unique endurance events is apparently known and I believe that was why I was invited for a full course SwimRun Lake James recon with race directors Kristen Smith Jeno and Brian Bohrer. The event had actually already been on my mind as currently there are not that many such events to choose from. Lake James is also within pretty easy driving distance for me, and I love that part of North Carolina - located in the Blue Ridge Mountains not far from Asheville, Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Plus I had nothing else penciled in yet for that time of the year. So I quickly signed up to go and check it out, and we were greeted that day by beautiful weather.
Bohrer and Smith Jeno reside in Wilmington, NC and it would have been much more convenient for them create a race closer to home, but they were not looking for easy, or what I often call “the path of least resistance.” The race venue is actually almost 5 hours away from where they reside, but they wanted an ideal SwimRun event location, and in their mind Lake James is exactly that place. For me it was also easy to see why they had chosen this venue and I also quickly knew that I wanted to race there too.
Among SwimRun events in North America SwimRun Lake James is pretty swim heavy with 3.5 miles of swimming spread out over 13 swims. These swim distances range from 20 yards to 1200 yards, and are in pristine blue water all over Lake James. Water temperature is likely going to be on the cool side, but that is perfect for such an event. After running in a wetsuit it is actually nice to jump into colder water. The air temperature for early April is predicted to offer a high of 70 and a low of 40.
The 14 runs total 13 or so miles with terrain that is very varied. Single track, bush whacking, fire roads and asphalt can be found there. Run distances range from 25 yards to 7 miles and while overall the terrain is not super technical – I would recommend trail running shoes for this event. There are 4 islands in the lake and most other folks who visit this park likely never set foot on them, but the athletes racing in this inaugural will get to run across them. That is actually the beauty of the SwimRun sport that people get to experience parts of nature they would otherwise never encounter or see.
The bridge below is where the first swim starts.
But the tricky part in that event will be the 26 transitions that the teams of two will have to deal with at Lake James - in and out of the water over and over. Athletes will however be rewarded with beautiful views all along the course including but not limited to the Linville Gorge.
The start and finish for the event will be at the Paddy’s Creek where there are many new facilities and plenty of parking. Once the race starts the teams will run initially about 1.6 miles mostly on an access road and there will be plenty time to thin out the herd before entering the trail to the first swim. That swim will further spread out the field and then it is mostly teams and nature.
The longest run on the course is relatively fast and features a nice fire road section. But do not get too cozy with that impression, as there are plenty of tricky elements to tackle.
But Bohrer and Jeno are not simply passionate endurance athletes who now want to tackle running an event. Brian Bohrer is an experienced race director who among other events directs the IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina. Kristen Smith Jeno is also an experienced race director and has competed in SwimRun events in various parts of the world.
The 2018 SwimRun Lake James is an ÖTILLÖ inspired race that is for teams of 2 only and does not allow individual entries. Team members in fact have to stay within 10 meters of each other all the time and that is mostly for safety reason. Along those lines wetsuits are mandatory.
But racing as a team is also a very unique and fulfilling experience, and here is your chance to experience such an event. The race is still open for registration and you can sign up right here.