7:08:11 – 46th Overall, 32nd Mens
A little bit of background to this year so far will help put this race in context. I’d entered both races on the assumption that I’m normally very fit at this time of year. This would be particularly the case this year as I’d entered London Marathon so I’d have done a lot of running and then the race was only a couple of weeks after our EverydayTraining Lanzarote Camp. However this ended up being far from the truth.
At the end of the year I got bitten by a dog. I had to have antibiotics and ended up with a throat infection resulting in January being pretty much a write off. I went out to visit my sister in LA for 10 days at the start of February. During my visit my nephew was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia so I stayed out for the whole of February to help out and take my other nephew to a hockey tournament in Denver. February was pretty much a zero training month.
On return I had just over a week before camp so my focus was purely cycling as that was essential for my role on camp. I knew to get fit, and to survive camp, running was my enemy so I did none. Net result was the following run figures for the year: Jan – 30k, Feb – 22k, Mar – 33k, Apr – 12k (pre race) – so less than 100k of running all year. People ask me about swim run partners and I say the most important thing is a good friend. This is one of the reasons – Andy was totally understanding that I wasn’t in the shape I would normally be. It was also made slightly more concerning that about 90 minutes in to yesterdays race my left quad had started cramping!
For the first time in I don’t know how long I was starting a race with a genuine chance that I would not be able to finish.
The race started like yesterday with a 200m run then a 250m swim. There were a lot more pairs, all that bit more competitive, which made for closer racing than at a typical swim run start. We jumped in off the quay. I was ready for the cold water shock. Well I thought I was… hit the water, breath ripped from me. Soon got it under control. No tethers allowed so we’d agreed Andy would follow me as best he can. He’s been doing a lot more swimming and this race showed how much improved he was. I “cruised” over and Andy pretty much held me feet.
The next run was 2.3k. Our agreed aim was to be very conservative on the runs in the first half to try and avoid me ‘detonating’ in the second. We felt we were running slow due to being passed by so many people but our pace was still 5:10 per KM. I’d been looking forward to the next swim as from the map it looked like a lovely swim out along the coast around to a many fingered inlet.
It didn’t disappoint, it was lovely swimming along side a cliff and then coming in to a beautiful tree lined inlet. There were loads of teams ahead, many of whom we eased passed during the 1.7k. We’d been using the same tow line as Rachel and I had and it was too short. So Andy had been touching my toes the whole way. This made his stroke less effective and slowed us down. So once out of the water we stopped to sort it out and we reckon 20 teams went by us !! The racers were all still pretty close at this point.
This next, 3.7k, section was a lot tougher than I’d appreciated looking at the map. It headed out to the lighthouse at the end of the island and it was very undulating climbing to nearly 500 feet. Just before the swim there was an aid station where we were given a swim buoy to use for the long swim which we had to blow up ourselves.
The marshals told us about the current at the start of the 3k swim so we headed right a bit. He gave us a good very visible landmark to use. This swim was beautiful. So lucky that the sea was flat which made for lovely easy swimming. Seeing all the bright swim buoys being towed was quite unique and periodically gave targets to edge past. The swim passed quicker than I thought – it felt less effort than the long swim at Scilly. At the other side we further adjusted the tow rope and agreed by the next race I would just set up a separate line for Andy and I.
We were now on the islands and the going was pretty tough – most of it was pretty trackless or on the coast over tricky rock. We continued at a conversational pace discussing pi and that since it was irrational it was an infinite non recurring decimal which meant every possible combination of numbers was in it somewhere. We have a remarkable ability to talk shit the whole way round these races. This discussion was enough for me to lose my footing and stumble enough that I was identifying where to do a dive forward roll until I realised Andy was still attached.
Next swim was across to “hell island” due to the tricky coastal rocks we’d run round. As we approached it I was sighting and could see others getting out trying to establish the best exit. I could see the ramps of rock and saw if we exited to the left of the flag we’d have an extra drop from ramp to ramp so I headed to the right ramp. Just as I was about to stand up I felt full tension on the rope and stopped – Andy said something about having to exit to the left. I lost if and shouted that it was stupid for us to go back there now and how I’d been sighting all the way across to establish the best exit. The whole run round ended up a funny conversation about how I’d lost it (following my dream two nights ago that Rachel had a strop in the race). Also how it was almost certainly due to how tired I was but because I’d immediately explained why I’d gone that way it didn’t end up an argument. By the end of the tricky run we’d re-established our swim run ‘ferwendship’
Through this island section there were some very sharp rocks. On one, the entry was so sharp I couldn’t put my weight on my hand as it rested on a rock. I told Andy and he put his hand paddle on it finding out later that he’d managed to cut one of the straps in the process. A couple more lovely islands with better running and one aid station along the way. Andy had been bragging how often he’d pee’d during the swims something I’m not able to do. I waited a few metres beyond the aid station and managed to pee much to my satisfaction but halfway across the swim I needed to go again. We finally got round to the swim back to main island and I needed to go again. Stood on the platform as Andy sorted his paddles I managed to pee again and felt so much better after. Like so many entries in this race its from a platform in to deep water. They’re so much fun. Being tethered we have to jump together. Andy would go “3,2”. I’d quickly wonder do we go on “1” or is it “1, go” … then Andy “1, go” and we jump. Moments of wonderful free fall, a whisker of time enjoying the splash and deceleration until the COLD hit. The water was cold every time we got in but after a minute of swimming it felt perfect.
Having swum this yesterday really helped as I was confident to head well right knowing the current would bring us down to the exit. It went a lot better than yesterday and it felt great to swim off line and slowly see us drifting to the right spot.
Andy and Lotte had run the second half of the course on Friday, hence we knew how tough and hot it could be, so we took the time to pull our wetsuits down and get ourselves sorted straight away by walking the first bit. I’m very careful with my goggles as since I wear contact lenses swimming without goggles is not really possible. I normally pull my goggles around my neck to ensure they’re safe but couldn’t face that on what would be a 2hr run, so instead, I kept one of the karabiners (Andy normally ends up with both when he unhooks from me) to attach my paddles and goggles to my waist belt.
We headed back in to town to the aid station. Over the moon to find pizza there. Much to Andy’s mum’s delight his ability to stick a full slice of pizza in his mouth in one go and then immediately wash it down with a gel was caught live on camera for the webcast! Pizza was a winner – I had two slices eating the second as we got going. I was so pleased to get the soft flask out of my wetsuit and fill it for the long run as it had been proper digging in my back.
As we headed out of town we got a great cheer from Rachel and Lotte – it was great to see them. We were really enjoying it and I hoped that was clear to them. We knew that there was a lot of climbing in the next hour so we just headed off up to the castle walking. Looking down the zig zags I could see a mixed pair running. I thought “wow, I’m impressed if they run all of this”. Next time I looked they were walking and falling behind. We’d commented early on when we were going so much slower than the rest we’d know in the second half if we’d paced it well. “In theory” the second ‘half’ of this course would be our weaker section. (The first half was ~15k run, 7.2k swim to second half ~18k run, 2k swim). So we would expect us to be further up the first at halfway than we should finish.
Our conservative pace in the first half served us well now we were in the second half. We were not passed by a single team and throughout the section we were passing other teams. The more we passed the more confident I became that I wouldn’t “detonate”. We were conservative on the ascents which I felt strong on. The first was up to the castle, then down the other side before the big climb to the hills behind Hvar. On the rolling section Andy started to give me a little push on the small rises to keep me running – it’s amazing what a difference a hand on your back makes. Our first pass were two guys who hadn’t pulled down their wetsuits at all – they must have been so hot. We passed on ascents, on flats and even on descents. Near the start of the final downhill we could see a group collected ahead. When we got there most had left leaving a female pair with one of them laid under the tiny shade of a small push clearly completely overheating. She didn’t want the remainder of our energy drink and said the others were going to let the organisers know. There was nothing more we could do so continued on down the technical descent in to a ghost town where we found another couple being helped out. This was a mixed pair and he looked so hot. Luckily he was in a much cooler spot, he’d been given water and lots of good advice about not getting going too soon. We gave him the last of our energy drink before heading off with the Hippocampes team (who we seem to always finish just ahead of according to Andy) – we chatted – they commented it seemed wrong brits (us) giving Spanish (the mixed couple) advice about heat exhaustion! We then left them as we raced down the decent. I held Andy’s cap etc… as he sorted out his wetsuit. Then he held my stuff whilst I did mine. As we approached the swim: “where are my goggles?”. We’d managed to drop them in that exchange. Turning round another pair came towards us with them ! Phew! We couldn’t thank them enough.
There was an aid station and loads of people were taking there time sorting themselves out. We grabbed a drink and went straight through. We probably passed another five teams there. Now we were back in our element with 2k of swimming and about 4k of running left. This bay had utterly gorgeous water and we set off with no teams visible ahead. We went round the headland and in towards a lovely little beach. As I approached I saw two male pairs. They looked to be about to get out but I’d misjudged the distance and was quite surprised when we arrived at the beach together and got out first. They seemed to be faffing a lot. The next 1.5k was hard going and they passed us but I was pretty sure we were swimming so much faster than them that we’d re-catch them on the swim. In fact they faffed so much we actually ended up in the water before them which allowed us to really enjoy the final swim as I could see they were dropping a long way behind. They were the last teams we’d pass. We’d passed 15 teams in this second half and not one had passed us. We’d paced it well.
I swam slight further out from the shore than I would normally as I was pretty sure there would be a current taking us (looking at our split I think I was right – we did 1.5k in 22 mins). About halfway along I could see Rachel and Lotte waving at us. I stopped. Both to let them know we’d seen them but also so I could check properly how far behind the other guys were. I cruised the next bit, enjoying it, but the karabiner was round my side not my back and it was annoying me. Demonstrating how tired I was I stopped and told Andy “I want to enjoy this last swim but the karabiner is really annoying me so I need to fix it”.
Arriving on shore we could see the other teams were at least 2 minutes behind. We got wetsuits down and then got running at a pace (with a little push from Andy) that meant if they caught us they deserved the place. Then we decided to attached the cord so Andy could give a proper pull. Wow it was great !! We whizzed along. He’d done such a good job I was happy for him to tow me right to the line so everyone could see he was pulling me but he’s far too much of a gent. As we approached the finish area he slowed up so I could come up alongside and run in together.
This had gone so much better than I’d expected. So despite it being our worst placing I was over the moon. This is another superb race. We want to return. I tell you, Swim Run races never disappoint.