After years of preaching about how the team element of swimrun is fundamental to the joy of the sport I figured that I should at least try a solo race so I can back up my argument. And here it was OTILLO Malta Sprint.
It was a fast start, so fast in fact that a slight nudge on my right leg from a fellow racer caused me to topple over only 300m into the race. I hit the tarmac superman style sliding on my hand paddles which protected my palms well, my knees suffered minor scrapes, good start Mike.
I couldn't wait to get to the first swim, it was a slight bottle-neck with rough water and bouncing swell all around, loved it. This went quickly, as did the following short runs and short swims. I started to overtake during the swims and on the technical downhill runs, my race was going well. I arrived at the penultimate swim (650m) with no-one in the water to sight off, no boats and no visible exit point. Unfortunately I misunderstood the marshals directions and added an extra 400m swim to this 650m swim.
I cracked on with the long run and began overtaking two male teams who had passed me on my extended swim. I got to the last swim (700m) neck and neck with a fellow solo man, he edged it on this swim to claim 5th place (solo). I was happy with 6th place in the solo (out of 61), and 8th overall (out of 149). My error nagged at me a little, but it was nothing a couple of cans of Cisk couldn't rectify.
With the water temperature at 20 degrees I went for the zero-neoprene option which worked well, other than having to stuff a race-cup, whistle, map and compression bandage in my speedos. I am happy to report they lasted the course. Big thanks to Andy for the loan of the whistle and bandage, sorry about where I stored them.
A fabulous race with technical run sections and interesting swimming, but what's the verdict on solo versus team? Swimrun is definitely better together. It almost saddens me that there is a solo category but I do understand why it exists. Solo can be a "way-in" to the sport for some, and many then find a partner.
It felt strange not competing on the Sunday, but it gave me the chance to support, take some photos, and treat my long-suffering fiance to a visit to Popeye Village. Looking forward to returning to the World Series in 2020, in particular Malta!
Through competing and organising I have become acutely aware of how much waste, packaging, shipping and general carbon footprint can occur in the event world. We want to reduce this.
We are going to have a set of swim hats for all our swim events. They will be high-quality, number-printed, and made in the UK. We will hand them out at registration of each event and collect them in at the end. We will be donating our remaining surplus swim hats from previous events to local swim clubs in Tywyn, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth.
We have never given out medals as we have always seen them as a waste of the earth's resources, however we have always given out a race souvenir to all participants. These have always had a use, such as our local slate coasters (made from slate quarried 15 miles away), our bottle-opener fridge magnets, customised bottles of beer, our re-usable race cups, and our CADAIR X mugs. There is room for improvement here and we are working on it.
T-SHIRTS, HOODIES & MORE
We have been looking into options regarding a supplier of high-quality, organic, sustainable and ethically produced hoodies (UK based). Really pleased to announce we have now found a suitable supplier - Teemill. Made to order from organic cotton using low waste printing technology in a wind-powered factory. No plastic packaging, free deliveries every last weekend of the month!
There is a train station 5 minutes walk from our Aberdovey swims, which runs from Birmingham, Aberystwyth and Pwllheli; and a bus stop 30 seconds walk from our Tal Y Llyn swims & CADAIR X, which runs between Dolgellau and Tywyn. We have informally helped with car shares via our facebook page. We are now going to actively encourage, and help to facilitate this for all future events.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
We are proud that all of our water safety team & marshals live within 12 miles of our events. They are experienced & qualified outdoor professionals who live and work on the coastlines, rivers & mountains of South Snowdonia, year round, all seasons, whatever the weather. Our Professional Event Photographer, Dan Wyre, also lives within this 12 mile radius. We also work closely with Dovey Yacht Club and The Tyn Y Cornel Hotel. Our nutrition partner WILD TRAIL Snacks is based just 4 miles from Aberdovey and 10 miles from Tal Y Llyn, that's pretty local. The bars are produced on site and I pick them up myself when passing through Tywyn.
We are working with our prize partners HEAD Swimming, SMOCSMOC (bamboo based products), and SELKIE Swim Co. to further reduce waste & carbon footprint. This may take time to develop but we are moving in the right direction.
We will continue to limit numbers of participants to a maximum of 200 (most of our events have a maximum of 100), we feel it's a better experience for everyone this way.
We are a member of the SURFERS AGAINST SEWAGE 250 Club, funded by 50p from every entry.
As a competitor I have never liked race numbers, some folks keep them as a memento but many just throw them away. For CADAIR X we went old school with a black marker pen. We are currently looking for a system that aligns with our ethos, if we can't then we will persevere with the marker pen approach.
Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. We are far from perfect but we have made a start.
Recycle your old race medals here.