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Slowtwitch: What sports did you do growing up and as an adult before finding swimrun?
Kristen Jeno: I grew up competitive swimming and stopped my Freshman year in college but switched over to water polo for the last 3 years. I dabbled in cross country a little in high school, but it was purely social running. After college I dove into triathlon for a few years which sparked a new love for running. Now you'll find me at masters swim practice, or swimming open water, or running in the woods.
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ST: Do you remember when you first learned about swimrun?
KJ: See attached picture, which by the way is dated December 5, 2013. I had to dig this one up, but man, it's classic.
ST: What was the first swimrun event you did? Any memorable experiences?
KJ: My first swimrun event was the mack daddy ÖTILLÖ, The World Championship, in 2015 - the 10th year Anniversary. Memorable experiences you ask? The whole 13 hours we were out there. I mean, I felt like a mythical creature bouncing from island to island in a land far far away. However, I'll limit it to the Pig Swim. The seas were insanely high, strong winds and currents, and I honestly thought to myself ‘this is a legit open water swim and I freaking love it’.
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ST: You are very active in promoting swimrun in North Carolina where you live. What kinds of weekly workouts do you do?
KJ: Our team, Without Limits, offers several run practices a week and several swim practices a week. In the warmer months we run actual swimrun practices a couple times a month in which I'll set up a short open water course and a one or two mile run course. We'll then come up with a series of sets and repetitions.
ST: You organize events and are directing SwimRun Lake James in Wilmington, NC on April 7th. What should racers expect with the Lake James course?
KJ: I direct Swim The Loop, which is comprised of two distance options: a 3.5 and 1.3 mile open water swim. The 3.5 mile option goes around an island so the tides are always tricky. The 1.3 mile option is point-to-point navigating on the last mile of the 3.5 course. I also help my buddy organize the Wrightsville Beach Half and Full Marathon.
New this year is SwimRun Lake James. My friend Brian is co-directing it with me and we couldn't be more excited about it. We picked this location because of the beauty and terrain. Lake James is a hidden gem. The course is deceiving and uses four islands. The runs are all rolling terrain, made up of park trails, fire roads, service roads, and bushwhacking. Most of the runs are under two miles but there is one long section of 7.5 miles. The swims are longer and stack heavy after the long run. If it’s windy some of the swims can be pretty choppy. We are expecting air temps in the 50’s and water temps also in the 50’s. Perfect swimrun conditions.
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ST: You are well traveled and have competed in events around the world. What are your personal favorites?
KJ: Three stick out. 2014 FINA World Master's Championships in Montreal. 2015 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships in Sweden. And, 2017 Alaskaman in Alaska. I was race crew for a friend on this one, but felt like I competed. A full day in the shoes of crew/sherpa/runner is an event itself!
ST: What is your favorite part about swimrun?
KJ: It’s a tie between two things. One you get to share it with a friend and second, the adventure. In the sport of swimrun you get to see and discover places most people never will.
ST: Which other races do you have planned throughout the year?
KJ: I just finished out a pretty run heavy phase ending with Umstead Trail Marathon a few weeks ago. Before that was a 20-miler on very rocky and technical trails called Uwharrie. Next big race is Rockman SwimRun in Norway in early August. I'm sure other fun and random races will pop up, but that is all I have planned so far.