When I heard Michael, Mats and the OTILLO team were hosting a race in the UK I immediately signed up.
After competing in the mixed category for Uto & Engadin I wanted to have a go at the male category once again. This coincided with my kayaking buddy Dave discovering a love for racing. We talked about kayaking over to Scilly and turning it into a real adventure week but in the end we opted for a more 21st century transport solution… which turns out was rather complex.
We arrived in plenty of time for registration, this is when I start to relax. We set up camp and went for a wander around the start/finish area. The isles of Scilly had a feel of Uto about it, which is such a good feel.
Michael and Mats gave a comprehensive and entertaining race brief, I signed up a couple of more people for the return journey on the charter boat (long story), we ate, kit faff, bed.
Race day. We set off near the front, Dave is a fast swimmer and we wanted to make a mark in the first 2km swim. we were well positioned in the top 10 at the start of the first swim and off we went. Within 100m I started to catch Dave’s feet. Strange, Dave was always well ahead of me when we had trained together. I thought maybe he is having difficulty sighting. This carried on for a while. We drifted to the right. Dave was having trouble sighting…. but something else was wrong. Dave stopped, he looked awful, then violently threw-up into the Atlantic.
The chasing pack came right through us, hopefully the vomit had been suitably diluted by the ocean. We switched positions and finished the first swim. Dave looked like he’d gone a few rounds with Ivan Drago. Only 40 minutes in and I started to worry whether we would finish. I led us off not giving Dave much time to deliberate or recover, and on we went for a couple of hours running, swimming, in and out, all the while Dave looking unwell. What compounded his struggle was the fact that he didn’t feel well enough to take in fuel at the energy stations. It was in this first third of the race that Dave muttered “I’m spent”.
Somewhere just after the 3 hour mark Dave managed to take on some energy drink and I heard him say “I’m back”. We had dropped to around 30th. There followed a magical middle third of the race, the highlight for me was running through Tresco Abbey Gardens with families cheering us on.
We managed to claw ourselves back and were entering the top 20. This couple of hours of picking up the pace had been a big effort, Dave was still massively in calorie deficit after his illness, he had only taken on fluids (gutting for him as there was some fabulous cake on offer). He had started to cramp up on the longer runs. Then came the final swim.
And what a swim it was. The tide was taking us west, at times it was difficult to sight and we were starting to cool down significantly. It was meant to be around 2.5km. It felt closer to 3km. Hat’s off to Dave for leading this swim, quite an effort. Eventually we “landed” at St. Mary’s, we dragged ourselves out of the water. It felt like a very slow evolution.
Spectator’s were cheering us whilst we wrestled with seaweed, hand paddles, bungee tow and goggles. We were cold.
One of the things I love about swimrun is the fact that precisely at that time you feel cold you start to run, you warm up. It is a life-affirming motivation to run.
On we went…. finishing 21st in the male category, given the illness we were happy.
Quite a race, lovely seaweed, and a final swim we will never forget.