Back home from a really memorable, very enjoyable first dip into the wonderful world of SwimRun in the Lake District. It was sensational – in more ways than one!
As previewed back in a post in April when we started training together, friend and fellow Bri Tri Coach Rachel and I have been preparing for the middle distance event at the Great SwimRun in Lake Windemere. This consisted of five swims and four runs, with the longest swim around 1.6kms across the Lake and shortest 300m; the longest run just over 10kms and shortest 1km.
The rules of SwimRun, based on the Swedish Otillo format where it all started from, include that you compete as a team of two and must stay within 10m of your partner throughout. You also swim in your run shoes and run in your (modified) wet suit. Lots to get to used to.
There is a strong ethic about being respectful of and in touch with the natural environment. And what a stunning, beautiful environment the Lake District provided – with just the right degree of challenge for us.
The first swim was the longest, across Windemere. At times it was much like open water swims of triathlons, thrown in a washing machine of swimmers – but with the extra complication that most pairs of swimmers were tethered to each other so once or twice we got caught up in others’ lines. I also got close up and personal with someone’s trainers, swimming on someone’s toes taking on a much harder edge than I’m used to.
On to the runs and we weaved our way along a beautiful forest by the side of the lake, back in the water, back on the run, on and on. There were some sharp climbs and descents, open farmland, narrow single trails, boggy woodland - a super mix of terrain. Intermittent rain kept us cool (and wet) throughout.
At one point I shared with Rachel a technique I call the Sensational Runs – where you attune yourself to each of the five senses as you run, switching from one to the other and letting each leave its imprint on you. So for example I would focus on looking at the beautiful shades of deep greens of the forest all around, the way the path ahead curled and weaved, rose and fell and the glimpses of the lake to one side between the trees. Then I’d find myself taking in the feelings – of the rain on my head, the touch of my feet over the ground. In the build up to the event I had been struggling with the run training but there, drawing on each of the senses, I felt a lightness and fluency in my running and a great sense of being in tune with the beautiful surroundings.
Rachel said she used the same technique in one of the later, rougher swims when we were both feeling the tiredness and effort catching up. Listening to herself bubbling out in the water, to the sound of the waves lapping and wind over the water seemed to make the distance and challenge smaller.
For those wanting to try this, one tip is only allow yourself to switch to taste – how delicious and refreshing your choice of food and drink will be – as you approach the final stages!
When we came to the penultimate swim one of marshals said we were the third mixed pair to go through, with the second just a little ahead. Having been focused on just moving along at our own pace, there was the prospect of a race to be had. Into the last run and Rachel took off like a rocket with me working hard to keep up. I don't know if we caught them but it was fun trying.
We hit the final swim, getting caught up in a shoal of breast stroke swimmers doing one of the Great Swim events. And then to the finish. Rachel sprinted up the exit and for a second I had a panic we’d break the 10m rule right there on the finish line!
All was fine though. And wow, did that Cumbrian pie taste good!
What a great adventure. What a great job by the organisers and the teams of marshals and helpers at the feed stations who stood out in the pouring rain. And what a truly sensational Great SwimRun. Big thanks to all involved and of course and especially to great teammate Rachel.