After loving the 2014 Uto I vowed to return. This time I had a new race partner as Janek was off chasing rainbows in Colorado (or something). Fellow Outward Bound instructor Kate Murphy didn’t vomit at the thought of entering such a race… which meant she was my new race partner.
After a few training runs and swims we found that we were the same speed in the pool but in open water I was a bit faster. We were quite similar on the running but I was quicker on the hills so we decided to take the plunge and adopt a tow system.
My general philosophy for life is to keep things simple, minimal kit, minimal faff, so adding a tow system to our race was a step into the stretch zone. After some practise we realised it was actually really simple and effective and we became very comfortable with it.
We turned up in Stockholm on the Friday, 2 days before the race. This wasn’t some clever acclimatisation/familiarisation race plan, it was in fact because I thought the race was on the Saturday… it was actually on Sunday.
My friend Daniel picked us up from the airport. After a quick tour of his kayak shop (Svima Sport) we went to a great Thai restaurant in the uber-cool Stockholm. In Aberdovey if you want Thai you have to cook it yourself so this was a welcome treat.
We set off for Uto and arrived on the Island around 19:00. There’s something special about getting a ferry to an island for a race.
Having left booking accommodation to the last minute, when I did try to book there was no accommodation left on the island. Through a friendly teacher I managed to secure us accommodation in a classroom of the only school on Uto.
The Saturday saw us observing some very Welsh weather. It was cool, rained all day with very strong winds from the south west. I had kept faithful to my old 1mm Aquasphere Aquaskin and Kate was in a 3/2mm Orca. We went for a quick swim and I realised that I was taking on a lot of water. On closer inspection I noticed lots of little holes under the armpits of my wetsuit.
Race day. The sun was trying to come out and the wind was blowing hard, my favourite kind of race conditions. We started right at the back of the field and got stuck in a bottle-neck quite early on during a narrow forest trail… note to self – start nearer the front next time.
We soon hit the first swim and it was carnage. I loved it. With my automatic armpit cooling system in my wetsuit I told Kate that I was going to leg it out after every swim to try and warm up. We chugged along nicely.
A few hours later we got to the south of the island and it was truly awesome. There were steady Force 6 winds blowing which turned the sea state into a surfy mess. It was time to adopt some coasteering techniques for entry and exit to and from the swims, and use some survival swimming skills. It was wild racing, and we loved it. That particular section of the course in those conditions will stay with me forever.
We ended up coming 10th in the mixed category. The whole experience hadn’t put Kate off and we both hoped to get a place in Engadin Swimrun in Switzerland.