SwimRun Bewl Water ’22
After an brilliant start to the year, a knee injury at Paddock Wood and then a inevitable Covid visitation put pay to chasing running speed, I started training with our Tri group swimming sessions on Monday nights as cross-training and rehab. “No, I’m not doing triathlons” was uttered as few times. The excellent coaching team gave me confidence in the water and the hot summer led to me trying open water swimming at Leybourne and St Andrews lakes. I gave triathlon a go with an appearance at the “Oysterman” at Whitstable.. Very enjoyable but the bike section not for me… Ivonne and Dave suggested I have a look at a growing sport called SwimRun.
The following explanation is from As Keen As Mustard’s website SwimRun is an adventure race with swim and run sections. The emphasis is on adventure . . .navigating a course through woods, paths and trails and using naturally occurring swim entry and exit points. There are no transitions, any kit you use you carry with you. The courses are signed and tape is used for you to follow the course. You need to be aware, self sufficient and be able to follow signs. It is an awesome experience which puts you in touch with nature and awakens the adventurer in you! Inspired by the international ÖTILLÖ, ”Island to Island” races, the As Keen As Mustard SwimRun races follow the same rules and guidelines, with teams of 2 racing the entire course together, and individuals allowed for shorter distances. The usual swim aids are allowed – hand paddles, pull buoys, and wet suits – and any personal hydration and gels must be carried the entire race. So basically you run and swim in your wetsuit and trainers… I choose to wear buoyancy shin pads rather than use a pull buoy to counter the weight of wet trainers in the water.
It sounded a lot of fun so I signed up for the beginners 6km version at Bewl Water. James Mead was also competing and Ivonne, Dave and Catey were going to be there as support and also managed to grab the prime marshaling points as volunteer marshals (you get race credit for marshalling to use towards future races!) On arrival at Bewl, you couldn’t see much more than 20m due to dense fog and we all feared cancellation. The organisers kept everyone informed as we waited, not too difficult as a small field and all dead keen. An hour later the fog had lifted enough. The red caps (21km course) set off, the yellow caps (10km) five minutes later and then after another five minutes, the green caps (6km) were let loose including JamesM and me.
Some of the courses are shared so the caps really help if your marking opposition etc. The first 1.8km run featured great views across the dam wall, an opportunity to spread the field out from the mass start. We could see the red caps in the lake on their first swim… Into the woods and a right turn onto the foreshore of our first 500m swim.. My first ever SwimRun transition so took care to have googles set, hand paddles on and wetsuit zipped up, nervous about breathing after running, nervous about water temperature, nervous about clashing with other athletes.. Into the water, quick check where the yellow exit flag was and go.. relaxed into swim breathing and a good stroke rhythm… Before you know it, time to exit, wobbly legs as change from horizontal swimming to vertical running, zip down to get air in and time to get some overtakes in… Run 2, swim 2, run 3, swim 3, run 4 and swim 4 all passed with increasing confidence but losing a few places on each swim, gaining back on the runs…
Genuinely really sad to realise that on exiting swim 4 that the race was nearly over and it had gone by so fast, a double check with Dave that I was indeed on the last “long” run home, and opened the legs up.. Quickly overtook about four others and settled in to a fast run to maintain position… Finish line came.. live results revealed I’d finished 7th overall out of 43 competitors.. Just under an hour.. . A fantastic race experience and already signed up to the last of As Keen As Mustard’s season at Grafham Water on Sunday 25th September. JamesM was socially taking part and finished in 17th. He seemed to really enjoy it too. Very impressed with As Keen As Mustard’s organisation, friendly, relaxed, green thinking, but felt safe. They run a series of events in their race season (May to September) and I’ll probably do them all next year but move up to 10k distance. Only niggle was a non-event specific mug rather than a medal.