A beautiful day and very hard course awaited teams from all over the world on Sunday for the third annual SwimRun NC - a very mountainous ÖtillÖ Merit race. The racing was tough and tight, but smiles and friendly words were present everywhere. This course had a total distance of 15 miles of running and 2 miles of swimming, broken up into 10 runs and 9 swims plus 2 beautiful waterfall sections to climb through along the way. Local elementary kids wrote personal inspiration notes to all teams and in the end only 3 teams did not finish despite very brisk water temperatures of 55 degrees in the Hanging Rock State Park lake and 53 degrees in the Dan River. The air temperature however rose steadily from the mid 40s to the mid 60s aided by the sun and beautiful blue skies.
Team Orca / GU Crew with Marcus Barton and Caleb Baity were the defending champions with the 100 bibs, but they were chased hard all day by the Every Man Jack team of Alan Horton and Jack McAfee in bibs 103, seen here climbing through the Window Falls section of the course, about 3 miles into the first running section. Team Wattie Ink with Eric Limkemann and Robert Flanigan plus Team Teufel Hunden with Billy Edwards and Manny Arruda were also constantly in the mix, but not in the picture here.
Female teams had the lowest bib numbers this year and team 1 featured Misty Becerra from the 2016 winning female team, and Kristen Smith Jeno from the 2017 winning team. They looked great all day and very focused.
Katie Fidler from Colorado and Heather Maloy from North Carolina originally met in New York, and raced their first SwimRun race together as team Backseat Drivers.
The Canadian team Olivier Girouard and Oliver Cordoba came to North Carolina to hunt for ÖtillÖ merit points and in the end they finished 7th in a time of 3:34:27.
More teams approach the upper section of the Window Falls and even for locals the view coming up is stunning and often brand new. Team 129 with Jay Turner and Russell Lauten are local, and they are SwimRun NC veterans and have been on various recon runs.
The smiles on the course were infectious, usually caused by the amazing nature and the superb volunteers. Here Terri Bosnick and Eric Ferree of team SoYo Trailblazers just caught sight of the waterfall.
There is water all over the course and athletes or at least their shoes and socks can be fully wet before the first swim. The pregnant Caroline Gaynor and Mary Phillips of Team Mixed Nuts having a blast all the way.
There were 5 male teams tightly bunched during the first swim and that trend continued.
Bobby Dixon and Edmund Hohls are South Africans who apparently have caught the SwimRun bug. They have also come a few times prior to the race to scout the course.
Jennifer Devers and Bridget Phillips were the runner-up team in 2017 and they were again in the hunt for the title.
Swedes Patrik Rung and Therese Näsman of Team Motvind are very experienced SwimRun athletes and they started patient and calm on the way up. They were the 8th team on top of the mountain and the 3rd team at the finish.
The first mixed team on the top of Moore's Wall and roughly the halfway point of the race was Team soFun with Sonja Wieck and Anthony Beeson, but they had a tough battle all day with defending champions Marcus Carson and Amy Krakauer of team MACK Attack. All athletes had to carry collapsible multi use cups on course as this check point and water stop was cupless.
Here Marcus Carson and Amy Krakauer are standing on the top. All athletes were told at the race briefing to pause a second for a picture and most all obliged.
The front running team Have We Met? with Misty Becerra and Kristen Smith Jeno on the way down the mountain. The descent is very challenging and requires full focus and ideally a healthy dose of trail running confidence.
About to be back in the water and making sure everything is ready. Team Good Genes with Ramona Stein and Lauren Shoup from Arkansas is entering the long swim together with team Reunited with Tyler Jones and Matthew Nesteheide from Texas and Kentucky.
Not all teams are swimming with paddles but most folks do, because you swim with your shoes in SwimRun races. You could theoretically take your shoes off, store them either in your suit or on your back and swim without, but it is not very practical and very time consuming.
Teams have to climb down behind the dam at the lake and the traverse a big rock and this is surprisingly challenging. Especially as the race goes on and legs and arms are tired and cold.
Defending champions Marcus Barton and Caleb Baity in the new waterfall section of the course. These Cascade Falls are beautiful but also physically demanding. In the end Team Orca / GU Crew grabbed the title by 3 seconds over the runner up team Every Man Jack team. The closest race ever at SwimRun NC, and it was apparently decided in a mad scramble up the final steps after the 900 meter swim in the Dan River.
The mixed team of Kelsy McAnelly and Ryan McAnelly of Team Mc-What? are approaching that final Cascades waterfall section.
That final swim in the Dan River starts right here and volunteers gave a helping arm. Eric Ferree can already small the post race meal and beverages at this point.
2018 SwimRun NC results
Hanging Rock State Park, NC / October 28, 2018
1. Misty Becerra and Kristen Smith Jeno (Have We Met?) 3:59:19
2. Jennifer Devers and Bridget Phillips (Tethered Tootin' Ta Tas) 4:06:51
3. Rachel Dolan and Katherine Tobin (#Rage On) 4:13:08
1. Sonja Wieck and Anthony Beeson (soFun) 3:44:04
2. Amy Krakauer and Marcus Carson (MACK Attack) 3:45:00
3. Therese Näsman and Patrik Rung (Team Motvind) 3:56:41
1. Marcus Barton and Caleb Baity (Team Orca / GU Crew) 3:12:59.65
2. Alan Horton and Jack McAfee (Team Every Man Jack) 3:13:03.04
3. Eric Limkemann and Robert Flanigan (Team Wattie Ink) 3:22:54
Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15, 16 and 17 are © Aaron Palaian
Images 8, 9, 11, 18 and 19 are © Brian Fancher
Images 12, 14 and 20 are © Herbert Krabel
Image 13 is © Richard Hill