Swim and Run of the week – congrats Valerie.

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If you are interested in Otilo, the run/swim event growing ever popular then how about some insights from Valerie who swims with us at London Fields who raced at the World Champs.

We are going to create a new category for this report – swimRun of the week ūüôā

Race report¬†√ĖTILL√Ė SwimRun¬†World Championship 2019, Monday 2nd September¬†

Taking care of the unfinished business was our target (see link for what happened).¬†My sister and I had attempted the √ĖTILL√Ė SwimRun World Championship back in 2017, when the weather was at its worst in the history of the race;¬†storms, hails, 50 mph wind, you name it, we¬†got¬†it.¬†Eight¬†hours of battling¬†and¬†45km into the race,¬†we made¬†the difficult decision¬†to pull out at the island¬†Getsk√§r. It was not an easy decision but¬†we were risking¬†hypothermia.¬†Two¬†years on we are better trained and prepared, and so we think‚Ķ

The pre-race preparation (not to be confused with training!) started on the Wednesday prior when Natalie¬†‚Äďmy twin sister and teammate¬†‚Ästand I flew out to Stockholm to¬†acclimatize, to ready our bodies and minds,¬†and to prepare our gears. Seasoned¬†swimrunners¬†are¬†familiar with the feeling of running around town (especially if you live in a big city like London) as if attending a costume party.¬† Though our ‚Äėcostumes‚Äô are¬†fitted like armours to our weather-beaten frames,¬†everyone¬†agrees¬†that this is¬†most importantly¬†a mental game – It is enough that¬†we go through all sorts of feelings, ups and downs throughout a normal day,¬†swimrunning¬†means alertness is elevated and emotions run high ‚Ķand in our case,¬†for almost 13 hours.

Thursday and Friday were occupied by a mini-SwimRun¬†session of 1.5 hours, just enough to get used to our new wetsuit (rookie mistake, it is too tight!), studying the¬†race course, laminating it onto our paddles (See picture) and early nights. By Saturday the carb-loading and tapering meant that we could no longer sit tight, I felt¬†especially¬†jittery.¬†To ease tensions, we took a day trip to the beautiful¬†Djurg√•rden¬†(the Royal Game Park).¬†What was¬†initially¬†a¬†plan¬†to visit the¬†Nordiska¬†Museet¬†(Nordic Museum)¬†culminated in¬†a rollercoaster ‚ÄėTwister‚Äô ride at the amusement park¬†Gr√∂na¬†Lund,¬†thinking it might¬†expense some of that excitement¬†(or better known as nerves).¬†I am convinced now that I¬†pulled my neck¬†‚Ästor at least that‚Äôs what I am telling myself¬†seeing as¬†I struggled so much in the swims at the race.

To avoid the queue, we got to the pre-race hotel early. That was proven a good strategy as we had an early lunch, prepared our gears in a timely fashion leaving room for a couple of episodes of Friends to de-stress. At the race briefing, we were told the weather should be relatively pleasant though thunderstorms overnight meant wet, slippery rocks on some of the technical runs Рnever mind, we always walk those sections anyway… Finally, we were shown the unforgiving schedule Рbreakfast at 3:45am, ferry ride at 4:45am, race start at 6am on Monday morning. Thankfully dinner was promptly served at 6pm which meant we were all tucked in by 8pm (yup we are grannies).

And so it began ‚Äď a loud gun shot at 6am on the dot and off we went.¬†Experience showed us that¬†our¬†first hurdle was the cut off at 11:15am (5 hours 15 minutes into the race),¬†which by the time¬†we would have run 24km and swam 5km. It sounds easily achievable, if you are running on road and swimming at the pool; not here, at the Stockholm Archipelagos – we only made the cut-off with¬†a mere¬†minute to spare¬†in 2017, so we were not about to underestimate how slow we would be navigating through the costal rocks¬†‚Ästthe¬†2nd¬†and 8th¬†island,¬†Vinadals√∂¬†and¬†K√§ckskar¬†(it is pronounced Shack-shar)¬†had proven exceptionally tricky.¬† The first run and swim (longest of 1.75km) went relatively smoothly, when we¬†were still in the pack and were able to run without looking for signposts and draft behind other swimrunners. Without any surprise though the second run on Vindals√∂ was technical enough to separate us from most teams; but that‚Äôs ok, after all we only had one goal, to finish the unfinished business.

If there is one thing we have learnt since picking up endurance sports in 2017, it is to eat early and frequently, as such our strategy was to eat two to three clip bloks gummies every 30 minutes. So far so good, we reached the first cut-off point without too much drama, and with about 30 minutes to spare, similar to our pace in 2017. We bumped into fellow 2017 non-finishers Kai and Klaus. This time round they had to pull out due to Klaus’ cold. Though they were in high spirits and encouraged us to carry on. No time to relax as all focus went onto the technical runs and long swims between us and the second cut-off point. We picked up pace when the trail flattened and slowed down when it got rocky. Then the 1km swim was when I first felt the lack of energy on my upper body.

By¬†the second cut-off,¬†we¬†had¬†managed to catch up with some teams including 3 women‚Äôs teams¬†and¬†with 10 minutes to spare¬†‚Ästa massive improvement from our previous time.¬†So we took some time to ensure¬†that¬†we¬†recharged¬†our batteries,¬†hydrated¬†and¬†consumed¬†salt tablets¬†for the next sections. The infamous and dreaded¬†‚ÄėPig Swim‚Äô was ahead of us. I thought to myself ‚Äėit will be ok as the weather is much nicer this year‚Äô;¬†Mother Nature has quickly proven me wrong – we got to the shore and kind volunteer Johanna reminded us the origin of the name ‚ÄėPig Swim‚Äô – the combination of strong current and head wind often results in losing coordination of the body while swimming. This is coupled with another strong westerly wind pushing us to the left. At this point it was as if I lost control of my arms‚Ķ¬†no matter how hard I pulled it felt like I was going nowhere. Meanwhile Natalie¬†soldiered on steadily¬†ahead of me¬†but¬†this is why I love¬†swimrun,¬†being a team race¬†means sticking¬†together throughout the entire race,¬†so¬†I drafted behind her and enjoyed not having to sight, something I really need to work on!

From¬†the third cut-off¬†at¬†41km, three more runs and three more swims later, we reached¬†Kymmend√∂, officially passing the point where we blew our whistle and abandoned the race two years ago.¬†Forty-seven kilometres in ‚Äď at the¬†fourth cut-off point¬†‚Äď we were¬†cheered¬†on¬†by staff, volunteers, spectators and¬†one of the¬†race¬†directors¬†Mats¬†who¬†congratulated¬†us for coming this far. We swam 300m to¬†the largest island of the course, √Ėrn√∂,¬†to start the long-awaited half marathon run. Running a half marathon is normally a relatively casual affair, but not this time – we had been¬†battling the elements¬†for 9 hours by this point. Natalie, who also had a cold, was not feeling great and said ‚ÄėI can‚Äôt lift my legs‚Äô,¬†so we adopted a 3-minute run, 2-minute walk strategy, which we were able to maintain quite consistently throughout. It took us almost 2.5 hours, but hey, we are in no rush.

Emerging from the forest the shore is ahead of us again.¬†7.5km, 6 more islands to go. We have reached all the cut-offs within the time limits,¬†only now we were able to¬†enjoy the rest of the course. I was getting excited but reminded myself not to be too jolly, after all our bodies are probably reaching their limits and we must not lose focus. A few transitions later we got onto¬†Ut√∂¬†‚Äď the¬†much-lauded¬†island of love¬†‚Äst3.65km to go. Suddenly our legs, especially Natalie‚Äôs felt almost fresh again and we started running, slowly but continuously‚Ķ¬†wow¬†how resilient¬†are¬†our bodies! The last 500 metres¬†is a small climb to the¬†Ut√∂¬†V√§rdhus, unsure whether we could run up the whole thing¬†‚Äď mind over matter! ‚Ästwe walked the first half, and as spectators, fellow racers, staffs emerged, we started running again¬†‚Äď one must keep up appearances!

As¬†always¬†we held our hands and crossed the finish line, and were immediately greeted by race director Michael who congratulated us on the ‚Äėcold revenge‚Äô, and we responded ‚Äėno, it was a warm revenge‚Äô.

We set out to complete an unfinished business, but the truth is SwimRun is never finished – it is all about an enduring team spirit, an occasion for which to rise and a challenge to overcome. We are still riding the highs from the World Championship, and have yet to make future plans, but we are already looking forward to the next adventure SwimRun may bring!”

Isle of Man – Swim of the Week

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There is only one consideration for swim of the week this week and it goes to Mike who has been working on his tech and fitness with us for quite some time now. His aim was to swim the 100miles around the Isle of Man. His full blog is fascinating and please take a moment to head over to –

Mike’s Blog and ITV coverage

Where you will learn of his swimming with seal efforts, the history and nature of the Isle and some fascinating insights. Enjoy.

“Yesterday I finished my swim around the Isle of Man.¬†It ticked most of the boxes for me in terms of slightly hackneyed dramatic twists.

For a start, it was much harder than it was supposed to be, mostly because I got stuck in an eddy about half way along the 10km stretch up to the Point of Ayre. This was the same place where Mercedes Gleitze, the first person to swim round the Island, back in 1930, got into trouble. She drew strength to get out of it thanks to supporters singing to her from the shore. I got something better: the reappearance of my seal friends from day 1

After that I got to the Point of Ayre around the three and half hour mark and then had a frantic battle to get round the corner in face of a tidal stream ripping up the east coast. Was met not only by the seals, but also my mum, my amazing kayaker companions and mentors Steve and Lee and my friends from the Manx Wildlife Trust.
Which reminds me to make one last request that you share this link with anyone you think might be minded to make a donation to support MWT’s work and also that of Blue Marine Foundation:

Champion of Champions

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Since the 2008 Olympics which coincided with the launch of the Great North Swim the popularity of pure Openwater events has exploded. With the likes of the¬†Outdoor Swimming Society, Chillswim, Henley and the British Long Distance Swmming Association¬†‘swim only’ events have never been more popular. Corinna swims with us at London Fields on Tuesday and was an alumni of Millfield as I was. I got to spend my 2 years there swimming in the old pool. Now they have a 10 a lane 50m pool on campus.
Here Corinna explains how BLDSA hold their Champion events. Great work Corinna, well done on your 3rd place and good luck with the next.
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On 3 August I was in Holyhead for the BLDSA Champion of Champions ‚Äď my second attempt after a DNF at the Dover event.
 
The Champion of Champions takes the form of three races ‚Äď a 5 mile, 3 mile and finally a 1 mile swim.¬† The times are approximately 4 hours for the 5 mile, 2.5 hours for the 3 mile, and 45 minutes for the 1 mile‚Ķ but that includes your rest.¬† So the quicker you swim, the more rest, recovery and warming up time. (As with all BLDSA events, it is non-wetsuit).¬† My attempt at Dover was tough, I was pulled out after 7 laps (3.5 miles) in the 5 mile event due to uncontrollable vomiting.¬† Whether this was seasickness, vertigo, gels, or a reaction to the 14 degree water and a bit of chop, I don‚Äôt know.¬† I used that first recovery to warm up and take a seasickness tablet and continued for the 3 and the 1.¬† After coming so close to finishing, I was disappointed, and pretty desperate to prove to myself that I could finish this challenge.¬† Which is how I ended up in Holyhead!
 
We were lucky to get calm water for the start of the five mile, the tide was out, and after making sure I was vaselined up and had my earplugs (anti-vertigo), my travel sickness pill, and a swimming costume full of gels I set off.  I took the five mile pretty steady, being nervous after the Dover events, but the 10 laps ahead of me soon became 2 and I was feeling good for the last mile.  There were some super speedy swimmers there, and I was lapped by a few of them, but there were also a couple of breaststroke swimmers which made the event feel like less of a race but more of a friendly swim with lots of like-minded (slightly mad) pals. 
 
Five mile done (2 hours 20), I got dry, changed into a new costume, had some ovaltine and snacks, and half a (family!) pot of Ambrosia rice pudding.¬† It was soon time to get back into the water for the 3 mile and I set off with a bit more confidence this time, keeping up with a few other people.¬† After a couple of laps I realised I was keeping up and so kicked a little more, focused on keeping my head still, my EVF and rotation, and ended up overtaking a couple of the swimmers I noticed had finished the five mile ahead of me.¬† I‚Äôm not usually competitive, but I challenged myself to stay ahead of the swimmers I had overtaken.¬† And I did!¬† The three mile felt like an awesome swim, I was really pleased to have been able to keep up the pace. When I got out I realised that I had finished ahead of a few of the faster swimmers with a time of 1 hour 20 ‚Äď hurrah!¬†
 
A shorter break this time, another dry cossie on, more ovaltine and what I now considered to be the almost magical rice pudding, and we were ready to get back in for the one mile.¬† I emptied the tank on this one ‚Äď mainly because I knew I could and also in the knowledge that this was the final swim of the day and there were hot showers in the clubhouse‚Ķ and beer!!!¬† After a sprint finish against two speedy chaps (apparently the marshalls on the turnaround boat were cheering for me ‚Äď thank you Amanda and team!!), I was finished in 24 minutes and 52 seconds (ahead of the guys¬†ūüėČ).¬†
 
I was super pleased to have finished this event after the Dover challenges, and the icing on the cake was the fact that I got my first ever trophy for third place ‚Äď just 90 seconds behind the awesome Liane (who has a DOUBLE channel crossing under her belt). ¬†The best thing about this event was the people though ‚Äď I turned up on my own and everyone was just so friendly.¬† I was even invited to join a relay team to swim Loch Lomond on the August Bank Holiday weekend. ¬†I‚Äôm 100% in!¬†¬†
 
Thank you to Dan and the Tuesday morning crew for keeping me going and positive ‚Äď I have had my moments and they are always there to help get me back on track with a few kind words and lots of encouragement! ¬†¬†¬†
 
 
 
Corinna Bridges

swim of the week – a trip to Sweden.

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Continuing the theme of reposting a swim of the week with some extra info as a way of sharing great events/destinations for you to consider entering, Andrew just got back from Sweden where he swam somewhere between 21 & 23km in the Vidostern event. It is a Global Swim Series event so you know it should be good! Andrew is a regular at our London Fields Fitness sessions – well, ¬†fairly regular ūüôā

He goes on…….

“I think that Dan would readily admit that I have been one of his most regular swimmers over the last 15 years. Each year, like clockwork, I would turn up, swim for three weeks, and then, like clockwork, disappear for the next 11 months. I realised that this was sub-optimal, and so in December 2019 decided to sign up to a race that meant I would have to swim more regularly. That race was the 21.5k race in a lake in Sweden: Vidosternsimmet.

I did do quite a lot of swimming in 2019, although not enough long (i.e. over 10k) or open water swims (as I only did 2 ‚Äď a 10k and a 15k, both in docks which make for relatively straightforward swims). The race was on 10 August 2019. After a lovely summer, the weather took a turn for the worst on that day. Heavy rain and winds ‚Äď gusting up to 15 metres per second ‚Äď were forecast. I wasn‚Äôt too worried about the wind as I don‚Äôt know what metres per second means (although I have since googled it and found out that it is about 28 mph which is quite lively).

Value for money…

There were just over 100 swimmers, quite a few from the UK. The start was quite rough ‚Äď waves in a lake! ‚Äď and it took a while to get into any kind of rhythm and wait for my heart rate to drop. In just over 8 hours (8 hrs 5 mins) I reached the finish. Which was very cool. Although the course was 21.5k, most people with GPS watches said that they swam closer to 23k. The organisers said that this was probably right but they would not charge any extra.

 

What I learned?

I learned a few things. I would have reduced my time with better sighting, better weather and more open water training (or being a better swimmer). The wind (or something) meant that for long stretches of the race I would end up pointing in completely the wrong direction if I didn’t sight every 4 strokes or so. This wasn’t too bad though as the rain meant that I couldn’t often see where I was going anyway. And the field spread out (ie most of them left me far behind) after about 7k so I was more or less on my own until I was overtaken with 25 metres to go!). When the wind dropped, or I was sheltered behind an island, I could go about 12 strokes between sightings, which felt much more efficient.

What I ate?!

My arms felt really tired, but were loosened up by a few strokes with fists (seriously, really worked) or a few strokes tapping the compulsory tow float.

One think I did get right was the nutrition. I did take time at the stops ‚Äď every 4 or 5 k ‚Äď to take a couple of gels, a snickers bar and some pickled cucumber (who knew). I may have been the only swimmer to put on weight during the swim, but I felt I had energy for the whole race.

All in all, it was terrific. The link is here. I am sure entries for next year will enter sooner or later. I recommend it. And the pickled cucumber.

Cheers

Andrew