The sport of Swimrun is on the rise and the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships in Sweden are regularly talked about as one of the toughest endurance events out there.
Precision Fuel & Hydration's Swimrunners, Andy and James, qualified for the 'worlds' by finishing 3rd at the ÖTILLÖ Scilly Isles Swimrun, despite making a last-minute decision to change suit.
James gives us the lowdown with his review of the ARK Orno 2 suit...
Me and Andy are ‘kit snobs’. We like to experiment and make sure that we’ve got every last piece of equipment locked down when going into a big race.
So, why the hell did we decide to throw everything out the window 24 hours before our debut Swimrun race together?
Well, we did a short Swimrun session in the ARK Orno for 45 minutes just before race day and couldn’t help but feel that this could be the right kit for the job at hand.
But we also knew that making a rash decision to change the primary kit for a ~5 hour race at this stage was a potentially foolish and race-ruining decision...
Logic went out of the window. We wore the Orno and finished the race in a much quicker time than expected!
Now let’s be clear, this time improvement wasn’t all down to the suit but after testing multiple top-end suits there’s no doubt that the ARK Orno is now the No. 1 choice at Precision Fuel & Hydration HQ.
ARK's motto, ‘By Swimrunners, for Swimrunners’, is a similar claim to what’s often thrown around by sports clothing companies, but this statement has never been more true.
The team behind ARK are fundamentally rooted in the history of Swimrun and use a wealth of personal experience to be at the forefront of kit development.
They consider input from many of the top Swimrun athletes to make sure that they bridge the gap between what seems like a good idea in theory, and what truly works in the field.
Moving onto the suit itself, the ARK Orno 02 uses neoprene made of Japanese Yamamoto limestone from the waist up, and this, combined with an UltraFlex inner liner, creates an exceptionally soft and flexible suit.
The legs are made of double-lined neoprene for maximum flexibility and high durability, which feels more like a running tight than a wetsuit!
The Orno comes with removable sleeves and, despite being dubious initially, I actually found this feature really useful during some of the longer sessions as it offers an easier way to cooler down.
We’ve been wearing the Orno in tandem with ARK’s Kangaroo vest which acts purely as an efficient way to carry all of the extra kit (i.e. SweatSalts, soft flask, whistles, first aid kits etc.) you need to get you through a Swimrun.
We didn’t actually get a vest straight away but after finding there weren’t any pockets in the Orno we soon realised it was needed! I didn’t fully understand why ARK went down this route of two separate bits of kit. But in situations when you want to pull the wetsuit top down to cool off, you can do so without losing all of the stuff out of your pockets and you can still get to everything you need – someone’s thought about that!
Both me and Andy went for a small size - I come in at ~67kg and stand at a mighty 173cm. Although it’s been perfect so far, we agree that we’re both probably on the border between a small and a medium, so a 'tall small' would be ideal if the option was there.
This tight fit has a trade-off as it prevents almost all 'flushing' and helps keep you relatively warm – in the Isle of Scilly the water was ~11 degrees and as someone who typically really struggles in the cold, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any issues with the water temperature.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’ve only been Swimrunning (as a single sport) for a couple of months. However, my initial mindset before trying the ARK suit was that I had to accept a feeling of restriction, but now I know that that isn’t the case, thanks to the Orno.
I can confidently say that I’m comfortable both swimming and running in the Orno, without either discipline being negatively affected. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this suit provides the best flexibility through the shoulders of any wetsuit I’ve ever worn.
ARK follows a traditional Scandinavian style, with all of their products (and their very tidy website) looking clean-cut and efficient. It’s a brand that you want to buy from and that aura of ‘cool’ shines through in everything they do.
I would happily run in this wetsuit all day long and I might have to when me and Andy take on the ÖTILLÖ World Championships in Sweden...
We also tapped up Precision Fuel & Hydration's North American representative, Sean-O, for an ARK Swimrun suit review after he wore one on his debut in the sport at the 2018 ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly. A bizarre set of circumstances led to him finding the suit though...
I had many questions spinning round my head when preparing for the event, including, 'how was I going to keep up with Andy?' and 'how am I going to run 30km, in the heat, in a wet suit?'
I had done a lot of swim training in the pool and run training on local trails, but no actual Swimrun training. I had bought a specific Swimrun suit from a highly regarded wetsuit manufacturer and planned to do my first 'real' training sessions using it.
I figured I could use it as part of some training with Andy when we met up in Southern California for a business trip in early May 2018...
On the first day we had available for some Swimrun, we had the chance to borrow some boards and head out surfing in San Diego instead. So that's exactly what we did. I can report that the suit worked well in the surf.
After the surf we returned the boards to the garage of the friend we borrowed them from and while we were sorting things out I put my suit on the roof of our van to dry out. You know what's coming next... we drove off with the suit on the roof!
Our next stop was just South of LA and that's when I realised what had happened. A few phone calls later we managed to find the suit (it was on the street in front of the house where we dropped off the boards). The same friends kindly FedEx'd it up to me and I had the suit two weeks later.
So now I have two weeks until I head to the UK for the ÖTILLÖ Scilly Isles. I still haven't swum in this suit or run in it. So on a beautiful morning in Vancouver I head off on my first simulation with a couple of friends. That's when I realise there is absolutely no way I can run 5km in this suit, never mind 30km! It's just too stiff and unforgiving for running.
Then I start to panic. So onto the internet I go, researching Swimrun suits, trying to find one that might work for me. That's how I came across ARK Swimrun. Everything about it looked like it should work. I ordered one immediately and begged them to get it to our UK office ASAP so I could have it in time for my arrival and the race.
The suit arrived as I was checking in for my flight to the Scilly Isles from Exeter Airport (that's a whole other story!). So two days before the event I arrive on the Islands, meet up with Andy and we do our very first Swimrun training session together, with me in a suit I have never used before!
What could possibly go wrong? Well I'm pleased to say... absolutely nothing.
Despite breaking all the rules in the book for race preparation this was one of those situations that worked out. The suit fitted like a glove and it was an absolute revelation to run in. Perfect in the water and on the trails. ARK Swimrun suits are 100% fit for purpose. I really can't recommend them highly enough.
They clearly understand the sport, they know what kit works and that's exactly what they've developed. If you're new to Swimrun (or a veteran) and you're looking for a specific Swimrun suit then you won't be sorry if you buy yourself an ARK suit.
**Sean-O Disclosure: "No discount, no freebie, nada. I paid full price for my suit" **
Visit www.arkswimrun.com for the latest Swimrun suits, gear and more.