Mumbles & Grumbles
By Leeshore1966 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36880911
Not only a race report, but some useful tips for anyone daft enough to give swim/run a go!!
After nearly two years of a meticulous training plan executed with military precision we (Paul and I) arrived in Swansea on the Saturday to register and the race briefing and went to the hotel for a good nights sleep ready for an early start. Sadly, one of the guests at the wedding taking place at the hotel set the fire alarm off at 2:30am. As with all elite athletes you learn to react, respond and adapt to your surroundings and we grumpily returned to our pits to try an get a final couple of hours kip before the off.
Alarms firing at 4:50am to get us to the bag drop and coaches to take us to the start at Rhossili Bay for a 7am kick off. A shared peanut butter sandwich and good banter on the coach saw all the competitors arrive in good spirit, with most of us not exactly sure what the day was to hold.
7am and the bloke with the microphone says go and we trundle off for the first mile and our journey over Worm’s Head. A quick and easy swim out to the island and then you are navigating across some sort of moonscape that is made up of wet pointy rocks covered in hard barnacles and lots of gaps to fall into. Apart from a short, sharp grassy hill, you have about a mile or so of this ankle breaking terrain before climbing back onto the coast path at about the same place we left it. Lots of mutterings about the worst part of the race is behind us – how much tougher can it get.
Photo courtesy Breca Swimrun
A shortish, fairly flat run to the next dip followed by one of the two longer runs towards Port Eynon. Highlight of the run was the first check point (45mins inside the cut-off was good to hear). The downside was the mother of all hills towards the end of the run. Pretty much vertical, sandy, stony, uneven, at least a mile long (probably only 150m to be honest) and my first sense of humour failure as PC scampered to the top like it was a flight of stairs. And, as Newton said, whatever goes up must come down albeit a softer descent to the next swim into Port Eynon bay (with the marshal recommending the use of the rope down the rock face to get to the plunge pool we had to jump into).
The next few transitions helped lull you into a false sense of security. Two more check points and apart from PC taking a tumble and breaking his water bottle – all fairly straightforward. We were now comfortably within the cut-offs so could relax about being pulled out of the race and focus on keeping ourselves in one piece to the finish – what could go wrong?
Swim 5 saw us round a headland and swim into Three Cliffs Bay which is stunning. We met the marshal at the exit flag who pointed out a dot on the horizon (the next marshal) who explained where to go. Now at this stage, the organisers must have thought it was getting a bit too comfortably and started looking for ways of spicing up the race. Their answer was having to climb and descend two massive sand dunes at the start of the longest run section of the course. “Running” the first kilometre of 9 in soft, hot sand makes the remaining 8 really uncomfortable. By now it was the heat of the day, not a cloud to be seen and hardly a breath of wind to ease the heat. Check point 4 at 29km was greatly received (apart from being told that the lead pair had just finished – tossers). A quick swim into Caswell Bay and the final check point where I drank too much electrolyte but had then added bonus of a hug from a female friend (not sure she appreciated it mind). And off we trotted for the last 9km split into 3 runs and 3 swims.
Photo courtesy Breca Swimrun
The next two runs and swim passed without incident (apart from the excess electrolyte flush straight through me). With all the check points behind us and no fear of running out of time, we wombled along to the last swim entry which was a 100m climb/scramble down the rocks to jump into a plunge pool with lots of rocks to avoid -why make the last bit easy..?
I fell into the sea pretty much out of juice at this stage. A short but difficult swim pretty much did me in only to be greeted with the final twist in the journey. The last 2.9km “run” stage was up hill for the first 2.5km which saw my second (and bigger) sense of humour failure and any dream of hitting my estimated finish time of 8hrs 30 slip away with every weary and heavy footstep.
All said, we managed to run over the finish line in a time of 8hrs 48mins. 37th male pair (out of 44) and 52nd pair overall (out of about 70 finishers, not sure how many dropped out). And, as finishing was the priority – job done.
Overall, this is a fantastic race format and comes highly recommended for anyone with a sense of adventure that stretches beyond triathlon. The venue was spectacular, the sea life we saw truly amazing (massive and tiny jelly fish, a full grown male seal, reports of sharks – awesome) and the camaraderie of the competitors second to none. Competing as a pair has a lot to be said for it. Paul and I managed to time our lows and highs out of turn with each other so there was always a cheery voice to help you out of your dark places.
Some observations for others who’ve entered swim runs later in the year:
Take exactly what you need with you – nothing more, nothing less
Choose a partner not only of similar ability but who you think you can spend up to 9 hours with in testing circumstances
Have a blisterpack of ibuprofen stashed up a sleeve or leg (wouldn’t have finished without it)
Wear tinted goggles if it is sunny – you will see the rocks in the water better
Take a running cap to run in – keeps the sun off and can be used as a bucket to tip water over your head when hot
Walking the ups and the technical downs is often faster (and safer) than trying to run
Feed and drink well at the aid stations – even the sprint distances are quite long
Don’t wear a swim costume under your wetsuit (or trisuit) which has raised seams – very sore where you don’t want to be
Don’t tuck your swim hat into your wetsuit leg that you tend to wee down
Photo courtesy Breca Swimrun
So all done and dusted. Delighted and quite surprised to finish of so little training. Apart from the sun burnt shoulders (even P20 wears off eventually), a bit of chafing, I feel better than I deserve. A massive thanks to Paul for putting the entry in and supporting me round the Gower.
Never again? Absolutely, categorically NEVER. (well until the next adventure starts to call – anyone fancy swimming to Africa…)