Swimrunning Around Mackinac Island

Nearly 200 athletes took part in the first running of the Odyssey SwimRun on Mackinac Island on Sunday, August 29th. 131 of the finishers were first time swimrun athletes.

Racers came from 29 states and ranged in age from 17-84 with over half the field being female athletes.

All photos by Mark Simmons.

The Michigan island sits in Lake Huron between the state’s lower and upper peninsula and is most widely known for having horse carriages and bikes as the only modes of transportation and it’s legendary fudge.

The race kicked off at 6:45AM from Shepler’s ferry dock just off main street.

With the exception of the main road which runs the 8-mile perimeter of the island, it’s either up or down on Mackinac.

The first run took athletes past Fort Mackinac before spitting them down to Mission Point for the first of seven swim legs in Lake Huron.

Following feet in swimrun is potentially hazardous for the trailing swimmer for obvious reasons though most athletes use a pull buoy to keep from needing to kick.

Swim exits can be slippery and having a teammate or a fellow racers provide a helping hand is greatly appreciated.

Pro triathlete David Thompson’s teammate injured himself on a trail run early during race week so the Minnesotan opted to race the Long Course Solo division. Thompson led the race wire to wire and is seen here pushing hard up a section of stairs leading up to Arch Rock.

A team exits the second swim leg to a spectacular view of Arch Rock with the 207 steps staircase up ahead.

The majority of the race took place inside Mackinac Island State Park and their network of singletrack trails, including the signature Tranquil Bluff trail.

Half the field tackled the Long Course which consisted of seven runs totaling 15.6 miles and six swims totaling 3.1 miles.

The other half of the field raced the slightly altered Short Course which consisted of five runs totaling 11 miles and four swims totaling 2 miles.

Jason Vertress cruises through a section of the vast trail system within Mackinac Island State Park.

The swim course followed the perimeter of the island in Lake Huron’s crystal clear waters. A saying blasted on shirts sums it up best, “no salt, no sharks, no worries.”

The clear and shallow water made this a welcoming course for first time swimrunners. Out of 188 athletes, 131 suggested this was their first foray into swimrun.

Benjamin Siems of Team Kalamanders opts to stay cool for a few extra moments at one of the swim exits.

Thomas McGlade traveled out from New York. A career firefighter, McGlade’s service included rescue operations on 9/11 as well as being awarded on NYC’s Medal Day for saving a drowning man on Christmas Day from the frigid East River.

Upon completing one of the swim legs, an athlete reviews the back of his hand paddle, a popular place where swimrunners jot down the leg distance breakdowns in Sharpie marker.

Aid stations were sprinkled throughout the course and athletes served themselves.

With so many ups and downs throughout the day the finish line is always a welcomed sight.

Inside of one mile to the finish Tom Peichel broke his hip but was determined to make it to the line. His teammate, Jamie Turner, piggy backed him the rest of the way, a technique she likely perfected during her time spent in the Air Force.

Racing action continues this upcoming weekend with OTILLO’s Final 15K on Saturday followed up with the behemoth World Championships, 75K of mostly trail running and open water swimming across and between 24 islands in the Stockholm, Sweden archipelago. Odyssey SwimRun’s next stop is the third running of their Orcas Island event in Washington’s San Juan Islands on September 26th.