On August 13th, Saer Huston participated in the Casco Bay Swimrun. If you’re not familiar with the swimrun, it’s a fairly new sport, especially here in the US, in which teams of two take on a multi-mile course that consists of lengths of cross-country style running and swimming in natural waters (lakes, ocean). The Casco Bay Swimrun includes two different course options, “short” and “long”. Saer and his partner, Ted Long, battled the Long Course, which is described here, from the Casco Bay Swimrun website:
“Consisting of multiple, alternating swim and overland running legs (island roads, trails, and shoreline scrambles) between several islands in Portland, Maine’s spectacular Casco Bay, SwimRun will test competitors with run legs across varied island terrain and several miles of open water swimming… It will entail dealing with tidal currents, possible wind, surface chop and ocean swells over nearly 5 miles of swimming, and require you to be competent with sighting skills in locating landing zones that may not be immediately apparent on an opposite shore.”
The Long Course event is approximately 5 miles of open water swimming and nearly 15 miles of overland running, over 9 islands: Cliff, Sand, Chebeague, Little Chebeague, Long, Vaill, Peaks, Cushing, House.
Ted and Saer, preparing to go back into the water for another swim
It’s a hell of an endurance test. Here’s a map of the course: Casco Bay Swimrun Long Course.
When Saer decided he’d like to try it, he first contacted his brother, Justin, who lives in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, to see if he’d be his teammate. Both brothers are very athletic, love adventure sports, ocean sports and physical challenge. But even so, Justin’s reaction was a resounding “No”, with, perhaps, an expletive or two. So, Saer thought of Ted Lord, a neighbor who is a serious runner and who Saer had noted had swum the Peaks to Portland the same year that Saer did.
Saer and Ted, all smiles during the Casco Bay Swimrun 2017
Ted was willing, and so training began. “We probably trained for three months, going out two to three times on decent length swimruns. We did the Richmond Island loop a lot; starting at Crescent State Beach and working our way out to Richmond Island. Beautiful training ground. The running on Richmond Island feels like Scotland or New Zealand, and the swimming is beautiful, turquoise green. By far the most enjoyable training I have ever done.” (Saer Huston)
Saer (left) and Ted (right), just out of the water, beginning a running leg of the Swimrun
The trainings included regular, long swims across the bay near Saer and Ted’s neighborhood, and running wearing their special swimrun shoes, because you can’t take time to put sneakers on and off (yes, this is a timed race), and you can’t carry your sneakers during the swim. During the swim portions, teammates are connected by a tether. The rules of SwimRun state that teammates may never be more than 10 yards apart.
Saer (right) and Ted (left) swim a leg between islands
At Huston & Company, we watched as Saer, an already slender, fit guy, lost all of his bodyfat, tightening his belt around a baggy waistline. He became “supertan”, too.
When asked about the hardest part of the entire experience, Saer said, “Finding ample time to balance training and life. Physically the hardest parts were some of the longer runs. Anything over a couple of miles became hard, mostly due to the heat of running with a wetsuit.” The most fun part, “Accessing some of Casco Bay where I have never been before. There are so many incredible little cracks and crevices that are awe inspiring, and so many different islands, each with a very distinct island culture of its own.”
Saer, greeted at the finish by his wife, Genell
Lots of friends and family members were “onboard” the day of the event. Saer and Ted (team Brohamalama Ding Dong) finished the course in under five hours with an actual time of 4:46:37, and landing in 8th place out of 78 teams (they are currently listed as the 6th place finishers, because a couple of teams were disqualified for accidentally missing a portion of the course).
Here’s the official video from the Casco Bay Swimrun 2017. Saer says it was a great experience, and he hopes to do it again next year.