SwimRun Lake James is now an ÖtillÖ merit race and thus the competition was fierce. Compared to 2018 the water temperature was reasonably comfortable, but the air temperature tested the mettle of all the athletes and volunteers. The event organizers had moved this second race to a 2 week later date in hopes to have warmer weather, and it looked indeed like they had chosen well. The water temperature moved into the mid 60s and the air temperature was also quite comfortable and nice up to the afternoon before the race. But then it started to rain hard and the air temperature dropped from the 70s to the low 40s. And on race morning at 8am athletes started their adventure in 44 degree temperatures, but the spirits were high. Distances were 14 miles of running and 4 miles of swimming spread out over 14 runs and 13 swims, with the longest swim being 1300 yards. But that is a bit deceiving as there are several other swims right after that long swim with very little running in between.
But in 2020 there will also be a short course option for those not willing to race that long, and that should help bring new folks in.
The Southern Senoritas Lesly Jurado and Sarah Horton on the way to 2nd place in the female division, weaving through the woods like slalom skiers. Jurado and Horton were part of a massive Wilmington, NC contingent that raced at Lake James - about 5 hours away.
The start was also moved this year from within the Lake James State Park to the Fonta Flora Brewery just outside the park, and this was a great decision. Athletes and family were able to reward themselves with fresh brews right after the race and stay warm before. The main building by the way is absolutely fabulous.
After about a mile run athletes jumped into Lake James for the first swim and not everyone managed to transition smoothly into the water.
A helping hand is always appreciated and part of the SwimRun culture. Not only among team mates but also among teams. Florida based Reeli Reinu and Tagg Leduc are very experienced SwimRun athletes and they have traveled outside the USA too to compete in this sport.
Some of the water exits were very tricky to navigate, and one of the early run segments required good scrambling skills. Wilmington, NC based athletes Erin Jackson and Eileen Gonzalez were very focused on the task and not distracted by the photographer.
Weaving through this magical forest around Lake James, but Laurie O'Conner and Robert O'Conner did not finish this race.
Team Don't Forget the Whiskey with Mike Nichols and JR Bourget seemed to have a good time even without said whiskey.
Strong swimmers had an advantage in this race as there were plenty of swim segments to show off those skills. When the wind picked up the water got actually quite choppy.
All swim exits except for the very last one were marked with big American flags and many of them also had bright strobe lights to guide the SwimRun athletes towards the correct spot.
The Swedes Therese Näsman and Patrik Rung of Team Motvind put on quite a show. They finished 3rd overall and almost reeled in the second placed male team.
We mentioned tricky water exits earlier and that was no joke. Katie Malone and Abby Russell were leading the female division but even they were slowed down here. That delay however did not prevent them from winning.
Brendan Doolan and Jose Gonzalez were the overall champions and they pushed the pace hard and were quickly out of sight. Stopping briefly at this aid station before moving on.
Shawn Reece and Kevin Cahill of Wrightsville Beach were about 10 minutes behind them and they could sense the presence of the Swedish mixed team. But in the end they held them off.
Bean Flynn and Robert Gibbons had not entered a SwimRun race before and they picked a hard one to start. But they seemed to have a blast as team Bob n Bean.
The SwimRun Lake James course has very varied terrain including a fast fire road section. But it was still challenging and up and down.
Tony Rodono and John Clark getting ready for another swim section as one of many safety boats keeps a watch on the athletes on course.
South Africans Bobby Dixon and Edmund Hohls were well prepared for this race and are seen here battling the choppy Lake James. As the race progressed the water got choppier but Team Oud Maar Nie Koud Nie!! did not frown, the went to work.
Team Big Sexy Coconuts with Kathy Kuhn and Yuri Escartin clearly had fun on the course, and Kathy is very seasoned in this sport.
Sara Miller and Rose Saltzman were the third placed female team, and enjoyed a happy embrace after they finished, with race director Kristen Smith Jeno looking on and awaiting them to share another hug.
All images by Workshop Media and courtesy of SwimRun Lake James