5:23:05 – 12th Male Pair, 20th Overall
~8k swim, 30k run
As ever the pace of the start was on it ! As we drifted back we heard a British pair make some comment about how 4:40 per km pace was quite on it. It was and we were being passed by loads of people. At the first check point we were 52nd pair only 2.5 minutes in to the race. Not long after this there’s a pretty steep hill which on the steepest bit we walked and once at the top started running. Now we passed a few pairs that had already blown up! We’d run this faster than the previous year and thus weren’t brought to walking pace on the single track descent to the first swim.
The tide was higher this year making the entry a lot easier. As we’d run down we’d spotted a rocky island in the direct line of where we need to go which appeared to have a small gap in it. Andy pointed out some were swimming for it. We couldn’t tell if it was swimmable. If it wasn’t it would definitely be slower. Also Marc had pointed out to us the current was flowing left to right so we decided to swim to the left of the island. The marshal confirmed this by telling us that was the line to take as we entered.
As we approached the end of the island a male pair came by us. I sped up to try and get on their feet but not long after the island they moved right towards other swimmers they could see. I felt this was a bad move and let them go trusting to my own sighting. It was a cold but uneventful 1.5k crossing. I was ready for the kelp fields but the tides were kinder today and rather than getting caught up in the seaweed we swam over it giving tremendous views of the depths the kelp disappeared in to.
We exited this swim up in to 23rd place. There’s then a horrible kilometre run along the beach. Soft and nasty. I spotted there was a line of shells about a foot from the water and ran along that which gave pretty firm footing.
Marc and his family had caught the Ferry to Tresco so were at the next swim entry to give us a big cheer. This is another 1+km swim in pretty shallow water. It was cold. For the first minute or so I was quite concerned but then felt I warmed up. Again sighting was tricky but we did OK. Approaching the exit I knew to go left of the kelp rather than straight through it. Then for the lovely few kilometre run over Bryher. My feet were so numb it felt like I had a stone under my foot. We were running well and ticking along nicely. As usual we were in amongst the competitive mixed teams and could see them really racing each other. We chatted about how tough that must be. Andy has first hand knowledge of racing like that in the previous days sprint race where Lotte had had him redlining as they raced for first place.
Next swim is Andys favourite. Skirt by an island and head to a turret on Tresco. Back on the island that played host to the over-heating incident of 2017. We were taking no chances and pulled down our wetsuit for this section. A lot of this is fast running on roads before heading in to the gardens where we got the Atkinson family monster support that so distracted me I managed to go the wrong way. Pretty sure given the four witnesses I’ll never be allowed to forget this.
I was feeling good along this section and was pushing along the pace a little. It was great to feel and know we were moving well. Despite this a male pair flew by us. Didn’t feel like we’d see them again but a couple of kilometres later we passed them walking and never saw them again.
Coming off Tresco there is a bit of Island hopping. There was this male pair we’d been close to for a while. One of them was using fins. They were in the water ahead of us looking at the Island we were heading to. The right end of the island was where we were heading. You could just make out the flag. The other end had a rather obvious lighthouse. One of the pair confidently told his partner “just head for the lighthouse’ and off they went. The other pair getting in the water with us looked that way so I told them not to follow them and pointed out where the flag was. They thanked us and joked that perhaps those guys were creating their own route.
There’s a short run around the coast of that island before the next swim. As we approached we could see Piers and Claire Vallance in the water trying to decide where to go. It wasn’t obvious because you entered the water with an island right in front of you which was maybe 500m away but the route was a kilometre to an island to the right. We pointed this out to them and off they went. Yet another beautiful swim which we exited a little head of the Vallances. Another short run around the coast and across the island before my favourite swim to St Martins.
You go round this rocky island and come in on a lovely slipway straight up to an aid station. The Vallances stuck on Andys toes the whole way across and were quick as a flash through the aid station. They were in a proper race and we wouldn’t see them again till the finish.
Now the best running of the whole route: round the rugged northern coast of St Martins. We were now really on our own. Whenever we looked back we couldn’t see anyone. This section is quite open which means we were minutes ahead. In front of us we could see the mixed pairs duking it out. We were running at a good pace but not so fast we couldn’t have a good old natter. We discussed mentally preparing for the 2.5k crossing. How it’s always further than you think. That when you think you’re halfway you’re probably a quarter way. Having solved this we had a little more time so we solved global warming and world peace before starting the penultimate swim.
We’d been told to aim a little right due to the current. Sighting was bad. I pondered whether it was old age on my part that I just couldn’t make out any of the sighting buoys. I’d hoped to go just right of them but actually passed them a little left. Rachel and Lotte reckoned we made a very good line compared to the other pairs. Rachel was a great help to this as she was wearing the most luminous red Sweaty Betty top (“she wore *** ****ers and worked on ******* farm”). I saw her way before I spotted the flag. I knew it was her and was praying that she was standing at the exit and not some random viewing point. Luckily she was. It had been a great swim and had seemed to pass so quickly I wondered whether they’d changed it! Rachel and Lotte said we were the first pair that had exited smiling and chatting . Hot ribena was on offer and it was a treat.
Andy hit a good pace as we started round St Marys. Must be something about this bit as last year he had to tow me he was so quick. We soon got to the aid station. Andy was grabbing a drink and gel. I didn’t fancy anything but then spotted the cake and grabbed some. The volunteers told us we were in 12th not far behind other male pairs “You could be in 8th by the end” they said. Andy and I discussed whether we really wanted a race. Then the dryness of the cake hit me. I had to grab a drink to un-stick my mouth. Chances of chasing them down were limited now. I blamed the cake.
Off we went. We soon saw a glimpse of the pair ahead. Perhaps we would catch them. Depends how good swimmers they were. As we approached the final swim – 400m round a tiny headland between two beaches. I spotted seaweed and made a note to stay wide. Could we catch them? I went wide. Then massive tension. “You’re going too wide. The flags over there”. “I know. I’m going round the seaweed”. Start and immediately turn left. Yes – my mind had wandered and I’d gone way too wide. Anyway the guys had cut in to the left of the beach and ran along it rather than swim across to the right where the flag was. No chance of catching them.
We walked up the beach as there was no one in sight behind. Final 600m run down to the finish line and our best performance to date. Highest ranking in an Otillo race. Very pleased. We’re still improving.
Below is a comparison to last year. We were ~ 10 mins quicker and pretty much quicker on every section. They’d added that final swim which added a little extra running and and extra 350m swimming.