One of the last big SwimRun events of the 2017 season took place in cold and rainy conditions at Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina, and 90 teams from all across North America made it to the start. The water temperature was around 57 degrees both in Hanging Rock Lake and the Dan River and the air temperatures steadily dropped from about 55 degrees at the start to 45 degrees by mid day, and it was well cooler on top of the mountain. Athletes tackled 14.3 miles of running with over 2000 feet of elevation gain and drop, and 3km of swimming spread out over 10 runs and 9 swims. 83 teams finished in these tough conditions and here are some pics from this sold out second year event that also serves as an ÖTILLÖ merit race.
When confronted with impressive elements of nature even racers will sometimes stop to take it all in. The final swim of the SwimRun NC starts right next to a massive rock formation.
At the start at 8am most teams at the front of the field with ambitions of glory had opted to keep their wetsuit tops down.
Athletes climb through a series of waterfalls and full attention is required here. That is actually true for almost all of this technical course.
Christoph Shelton and Katherine Bower from Philadelphia were the last team from the wait list that got in. They seemed to enjoy the experience and ended up 13th in the mixed division in 4:48:52.
Kelsy McAnelly and her brother Ryan McAnelly were not the only ones to grab some rope above the waterfall section.
Jennifer Ledford and Kristen Smith Jeno on the way to the top spot in the women's division. Their time of 3:53:13 was pretty impressive on this day.
In the men's division Michael Harlow and Jim Fisher flew a bit under the radar with bib 38, but they raced well and finished in second place in 3:23:15.
Nikos Phelps and Carlos Medina were battling with Jeff Ickes and Jonathan Kelly for 4th place here, and that battle lasted most of the day.
Canadians Kellan Scheiris and Jason Britton traveled far to compete and they ended up in 6th place in 3:40:32
The climbing section behind the dam was tricky and slippery and the toll of the effort shows here.
Pros Caitlin Snow and Emma-Kate Lidbury seemed to have a blast at this new experience, but they did miss out on the podium. Their 4:29:00 meant 4th place in the female division.
The views on top of Moore's Wall are stunning and Jim Keffer and Natalie Goolick stopped here like all other teams but they ended up in 2nd place in the mixed division in 3:51:20
Coming back down from Moore's Wall is equally spectacular.
This was the battle for 7th and 8th place in the male division. Winston-Salem natives Keith Davis and Ken Bush versus Keith Weidman and Eric Smith from Charlotte.
The most amazing effort of the day was by Marcus Barton and Caleb Baity. They crushed the 2016 course record of 3:15 and went 3:06 on a wet and slippery day.
Jonathan Kelly and Jeff Ickes started the final swim of the day in 5th place and that is where they ended up. But the Dan River despite going with the current is rather tricky as it is shallow in many spots.
But on this day you could certainly swim most of it. And even in the shallower spots it is best to keep floating.
And down the river we go.
The athletes in this sport are very supportive of each other.
The champions in each division are lined up here. From left to right, female champions Kristen Smith Jeno and Jenny Ledford, male champions Marcus Barton and Caleb Baity and Amy Krakauer and Marcus Carson who grabbed the mixed title in 3:45:16.
The 2018 event is on October 28, 2018 and the general application for spots starts on December 1, 2017 on runsignup.com. 110 teams total will be allowed in and the selection is based on merit.
All images are © Brian Fancher except for Image 12 © Richard Hill and image 13 © Brian Lefevre