Swimrun Transitions | How To Be An Expert

As a sponsor of what is known as the toughest and most rewarding race in the world, ÖTILLÖ. We’re always looking to drive the sport to new levels and help to get you involved. With this in mind, we teamed up pro-Swimrun racer and trainer Nicolas Remires of Envol Coaching to bring you an 8-part Series, running you through everything you’ll need to know before you run your first ÖTILLÖ race and how to push your limits after completing your first. Nicolas has over 10 years experience as a Swimrun racer and hosts the official training camps for ÖTILLÖ, so you could say he is the best in the game.

Next up in our collaboration, Nicolas will discuss how transition from swimming to running and visa versa like a pro.


Transitions are crucial in swimrun especially in short races or races with many transitions. The mythical ÖtillÖ, World Championships of swimrun is 26 islands to go through, a total of 52 transitions!

The best way to perfect them is to repeat. It is always the same routine. It doesn’t require a lot of time or training, but if it is well done, you will save time and energy. Mastering transitions, knowing the course and being confident in your gear are three things that will make your swimrun race more fluid and less stressful.

If you do not have any swimrun experience, training on your transitions is not the thing to do at the beginning of your preparation. During the last 3-4 weeks before your event, you will start practicing this really specific part of swimrun. It is important to elaborate a check list and repeat it alone and with your partner.

Getting in the water, the routine should always be the same.

But first of all you need to know the course and distances as much as possible. Because if you have studied it well, you know when the next swim is coming. It is more efficient to slow down on the last 50 meters and do the routine correctly instead of rushing and fixing your gear in the water where you can’t see as well, especially in rough conditions.

  • One to two minutes before the entry, close your wetsuit. Do not forget to arrange what you have in your pockets and take your paddles out if you placed them inside during the run. Tighten well at the collar.
  • When you can see the coming swim section and you are the one who will swim in the front, you should be looking for the exit of the water already. Slow down if you have to, but be sure of where you have to go and do a quick efficient check of the currents and winds.
  • If you are on the back, you are in charge of the tow line. You hook it to your partner or give it in her/his hand and she/he will hook it.
  • Put your paddles on.
  • Put the goggles on.
  • The last 10 meters, put the pullbuoy on while jogging or walking.
  • A few last steps and jump in feet first. Using a tow line can be a problem when you go in. It is important that the partner in the back jumps within in a fraction of second after her/his partner and half a body on the side to avoid jumping on your comrade.
  • The leader does three to five strokes and check behind if the partner has started swimming and isn’t struggling with some gear issues.

During all this process of entry in the water, the communication is a key. The fresher swimrunner has to remind the team the routine: “close the wetsuit”, “paddles on”, “goggles on”, “pullbuoy”. The last words to ask before to jump in is “- ready to go?”, a sharp “- Yes, ready” should end this routine.

What about the exits? Quite often, open water swimming leads to dizziness when it is time to go back to the vertical position and run. That’s why practicing the exit routine is also a priority.

  • During the last ten to twenty strokes of the swimming sections, the leader should lift her/his head more often to navigate well and see if some teams in front of her/him are exiting. Some of them might give you good information on where to exit or where not to exit. You can also see where the teams are going and you will lose less time finding your way.
  • If you are the swimrunner on the back, the only thing you have to do is to keep following the tow line. Let your partner find the best way and focus on what you have to do when you will go out.
  • Keep your goggles on to be able to see where to put your feet and hands.
  • Turn your hand paddles to get a better grip.
  • Do a few steps up and turn the pullbuoy to move freely.
  • It is time to wait for your partner. Do not start running if you didn’t see your partner exiting the water. She/He can be stuck, trying to find a good grip and might need you to pull her/him out.
  • When both of you are out, start running, take off your goggles.
  • The partner in the front now takes off the tow line and gives it to there partner (if you do not use it for the running sections)

With my coaching groups, I like to practice transitions in race stress, with many others swimrunners around. It is also important to do it with the exact gear you will use for your race.

A few days before a race, it is always good to do some short intervals (30 to 60 seconds). These efforts can be done during transitions. A good example of efforts is to repeat 6-8 times:

  • 10 seconds swim, transition, 20 seconds run after the transitions.
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds run, transition, 10 seconds swim after the transitions


Stay tuned for the final edition in our Swimrun series with Nicolas Remires coming next week.


Photo Credit: Jakob Edholm

Alan Lund

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