Breca swimrun was always going to be an interesting experience for me. The running I was fine with but swimming has never been my strong point – and with 6km of it in open water during this race, maybe I was right to be dubious.
Swimrun is a newish sport originating from Sweden where competitors swim along a course, running across islands as they go. Breca swimrun is a UK equivalent that would combine some fell running with stints of swimming across two lakes near Buttermere in the Lake District. The total distance would be some 38km of running and 6km of swimming!
The race was to be done in pairs and I was going to be taking part with Mark Buller. Our pairing was by no means a tactical one to make us competitive…in fact it was quite the opposite. Mark is a strong swimmer and I am a strong runner, we can both do the other discipline but would by no means be able to equal the others ability. You might think this would be a recipe for disaster but we weren’t there to get angry about competing, we were there to have fun, try out a new concept, challenge ourselves with our weaknesses and help each other through the experience.
With this in mind our goal was to finish beneath the 9 hour cutoff and get round without me drowning or Mark running of a cliff. I am happy to say we achieved both.
My swimming started as strong as it could, especially considering the adverse weather conditions. With a total of 3km swimming under our belts things started to fall apart a little. A combination of lack of training, a tight wetsuit and the cold caused my hands to stop working…in particular I seemed to loose the ability to cup my fingers together. This made swimming extremely difficult and I felt like I was swimming with two forks for hands, something like a scarecrow.
Similarly enough about halfway through the total run distance, Marks running began to slow and we still had a big mountain pass to go! So as predicted we were both getting weaker at our weaker discipline…not to worry though, a smile was still worn throughout and we finished in a respectable 7 hours.
Lessons learnt were plenty. I found wearing a full swimming wetsuit was very constrictive and can be quite damaging to your skin, especially on the back of your legs and genitals! To resolve the hand issue maybe taping my fingers together would work or learn to use hand paddles…Mark also learnt he needs to move to the Lake District to get better at running on hills but I have a feeling that would be more difficult than my tasks.
Both glad to be finished but extremely happy, Mark left to drive south and I found the nearest pub for a pie and a pint. In a turn of fait it would seem my racing wasn’t done for the weekend though, in fact, I was just getting started…