Swimrun Training Camp Special – The Meganisi Splash

This is a guest post from Jack Maitland and Kirsten Steffensen who run a swimrun training week, a collaboration between The Big Blue Swim x The Sports Ashram in Greece.

Swimrun isn’t just races. There are an increasing number of high quality training camps and experiences which focus on the activity of swimrun, here we look at a gorgeous week that you can spend in Greece.

What is the training camp all about?

Planned in 2019 by Jack Maitland, the concept was to provide a week of coach-led sessions culminating in a small-scale race on the beautiful Greek islands of Lefkada and Meganisi. The host for the camp was The Big Blue Swim – a well established Anglo-Greek swim holiday company. All athletes and staff stayed in the friendly family run Hotel Ilios and transport to the majority of the sessions was on “Mowgli” – a traditional wooden sailing boat.

The participants were a mixture of experienced swimrunners and complete novices. Some came as ready-made “teams” and others were individuals happy to pair up for the sessions.

What can participants expect?

Reflecting on last year’s camp when it was unseasonably hot on the first day, we all set off to run the few kilometres to Desimi Bay. Jack coached everyone through a series of open water swim skills. The warm and crystal clear water was appreciated and everyone practised sighting, drafting and judging currents. A light lunch in a beachside taverna followed. In the afternoon we focussed on running technique. It’s fair to say that a few people learned to love rather than fear downhills.

A unique feature of the camp was the inclusion of a daily yoga session. Tailored to the needs of the athletes, this covered mobility, strength, breathing and recovery. The group had varied previous experience of yoga but some embraced it and it became an essential part of their day. Others found it more challenging to work on these aspects.

By mid-week everyone was enjoying boarding Mowgli for a relaxing cruise to the venue for the morning’s activity. We arrived at the small beach of Gria Lagada and set-up for a swimrun equipment test. A big pile took shape on the beach with paddles, floats, pull-buoys, fins, tow-ropes, wetsuits, guards and shoes. Everyone had the freedom to experiment with different combinations while being timed around a 200m swim followed by an 800m run. There may have been some uphill involved in the run.  There were a few “aha” moments and not everyone ended up with the same optimised set-up.

Anticipation builds for the point-to-point journey

A session that was highly appreciated by everyone was a longer point-to-point journey.

We took a minibus up to the monastery at Poros and then ran back via the trails with a couple of short swims at Fteri beach and Desimi Bay. There were spectacular views over to the neighbouring island of Meganisi where we were soon to be racing.

It’s time to race!

On the final day a select field of four teams lined up for the inaugural Meganisi Splash Swimrun. Safety cover was provided by Mowgli and her two RIBs. The race route consisted of 6 swims and 6 runs with a total distance of 10km. The teams made their way around the “fingers” of the eastern part of the island, clambering over rocks, diving into bays and in one instance circumnavigating a small island.

A handicapping system was in play with some alternative routes designed to keep it competitive. This worked out almost to perfection with the leading teams exiting the last swim together. Ellie Sweet and Olivia Hobden prevailed in the final 1km run, finishing in just over 2 hours with the whole field close behind.

That was a great route, well-planned course and there was a proper swimrun feel to the whole event

Stefano Borgh

The next camp

The next camp will take place from Sunday 28th May to Sunday 4th June 2023 with more information here:

www.thebigblueswim.com/swimrun

www.thesportsashram.com

About your hosts

Jack Maitland

Jack competed at world-class level in a handful of the toughest sports: orienteering, fell running, triathlon and duathlon, winning a range of national and International events. He represented Great Britain many times in various World and European Championships and was the top performing Scottish athlete in the demonstration triathlon event at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990.

Over the past 20 years, he has been identifying and coaching talented young triathletes and building a performance centre around them to suit their individual needs. Until recently he was working from the Triathlon High Performance Centre at Leeds Beckett University, where he guided athletes to World and European titles. He created a culture of ongoing success and played a critical role in coaching Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee to be Olympic medallists and World Champions. He currently coaches Commonwealth bronze medallist Beth Potter.

Kirsten Steffensen

Kirsten is an experienced yoga teacher with a down to earth teaching style. She has been teaching yoga for 12 years, initially alongside being a manager of a University Sports Centre, and more recently full-time.

She teaches yoga to athletes from a number of sports and is currently running popular classes for the local triathlon club. She works closely with Jack Maitland to provide bespoke yoga for athletes he coaches.

Her teaching philosophy is to do what works for the individual student. She uses experiences from her own yoga practice and knowledge from her physiotherapy background to deliver a unique yoga programme.