After a nice introduction to Swimrun at Backwaterman, I decided to give an Ötillö event a go.
Unable to find a partner for the full distance, I entered the Sprint solo race. My expectation was to be racing against a larger field of athletes and get a better idea if this sport was for me.
Total race distance: 15 100 m
Trail-running: 12 900 m
Run sections: 5
Swimming: 2 200 m
Swim sections: 4
Longest swim: 800 m
Longest run: 8 500 m
Total elevation: 384 m
…importantly the race starts at an elevation of 1800m… and climbs up to around 2100m…. that means cold water and the air a little thin.
The race was about 3hrs drive from my home, so we decided to travel on the day of the race, leaving at 6am…
Arriving in Silvaplana, we found a large alpine lake between the mountains. A quick test swim confirmed that the water was around 14C, so a little chilly.
The organisation was great and all nicely distanced. We did all come together for the start, however this was only for a few minutes, only really bunching up when the countdown started. There were 56 solo men starters, 26 solo women, and the rest of the 133 start numbers was made up of teams.
At the start I hovered close to the middle, fairly certain that the more experienced competitors would bomb away.
After the gun went off it was a 600m sprint to the first swim of 400m. During this swim I passed quite a few people, and also ended up with my arm sleeves around my wrists…
I tore the sleeves off and shoved them inside my wetsuit. Next was a 1k run to another swim, where my pace seemed fine.
The next two swims followed a similar pattern and I seemed to be passing people without really pushing. I was observing a lot of people who seemed to be struggling with holding good form when using pull buoy and paddles, in particular snaking in the water.
When I was training, I found that if I pushed too hard with the paddles my core would bend a little. Without a kick, this could not be corrected. I had trained myself to reduce the power when I felt my feet swing left or right and this actually increased my pace.
In the middle of the race was the key section… a 8k trail run up to 2100m. I met a team of two Spanish guys in the forest, and they told me that they had not seen anyone else ahead… I was guessing that there would be a pack out of sight somewhere.
As I got closer to the top a few competitors bombed past me, however I did not try to chase them. I was being careful to leave enough gas for the final 800m swim… in the end this was a mistake!
The final 800m swim let me pass a few more people and I swam beside a mixed team who were working together to hold a good pace. For some reason I did not really draft them… preferring to keep my effort solo… maybe another mistake.
The final run of around 1km passed in a flash of lactate, with the mixed team I was swimming with opening a 100m gap that I could not close.
When they got to the line, the tape was out for the first team and I rolled in straight after.
Turns out I should have pushed harder in the main climb… as I had arrived as 6th man and one of the guys that had bombed past me was 3rd place… with only a few minutes gap. The top 2 men were another 20 minutes ahead and clearly pro level.
For me this event was much more about learning to race, as well as enjoying the experience! I didn’t race well enough to to get a top 3 but really happy with 6th place!
1. Start close to the line… I could have maybe caught the feet of one of the pros and got some free speed on the first swim or two.
2. Learn the course beforehand… if I had just cycled round the course, I could have saved time sighting on the swims… and more importantly learned where the top of the big climb was… this would have changed my pacing. Also learning the swim entry points would have helped me avoid wasting time clambering over rocks.
3. It seems that the swim is almost a recovery from the run. I think that I can up my run pace without paying the penalty on the swim… in fact recovering for the next run.
4. Arrive a couple of days early… even if I couldn’t acclimatise, then at least the altitude effect would be known for pacing. I also work better when I don’t have to get up and drive for three hours.
5. Nothing new on race day…. the sleeves were useless… I should know better. I didn’t even notice the cold when I was racing.
6. Writing the distances on the paddles was really handy.
7. Know where I was in the race and chase down competitors… don’t assume there is another fast group ahead taking the podium.
8. Keep on enjoying this sport! Being at the front was unexpected… my goal was to participate and I need to make sure I enjoy the experience.
In the end my second experience of swim run was great. I enjoyed the race, the location and the feel of the sport. The fact this was not as a team was less fun, but probably makes it easier to participate.
Definitely thinking about the 1000 lakes race next year in Germany. Now to hunt for a partner!
https://swimrunshop.com – Gear…. The paddles were really good