This wasn’t a planned or even prepared for event, it was very much a last minute call up pairing two complete and utter novices to attempt something new.
One of us is seasick , the other swims like a brick, neither have a sense of direction, or any clue what we were doing – what could possibly go wrong ?!
There has been much hype around the new swim/run events across the UK – the basic concept is you alternate swimming and running sections of varying distance while swimming in your shoes, carrying swim hat and googles on the run. You can take tethers, hand paddles and pull buoys to assist with the swim legs, but must carry all kit throughout the race. Also you and your partner must stick together throughout the race and hit the check-points within certain times. Also you check in and out of the water sections with electronic wrist GPS so organisers can track your progress at all times.
Our race start was Barry Island in south Wales, which away from the tacky seafront and filming of Gavin & Stacey was a beautiful soft golden sand beach. My partner and I met up on Saturday for a trial swim with cut down old wetsuit, finger paddles, pull buoy with a bungee strap and a tether made from a tent guy rope and a timing chip ankle strap – all very DIY. On race day we saw many in £300 wetsuits, all the gear and a lot more of an idea than us !
Test swim: water was warm, we only headed out to sea and to ‘that island’ once which I was later corrected as being England, separated a family, dodged floating unicorns and swans & ran around crazy dogs. Success ! Race ready.
Race day: parked up by seafront next to race briefing and start. Very relaxed and friendly organisation by SWYD. Given fluorescent vests, safety briefing and then we were off running across the sand to swim around the first headland. Plum last as we entered the water I got into my stoke as lead swimmer with the tether on my ankle and guy rope around Seren chest, it was hard going, like dragging a dustbin ! But we exited the water and were now not dead last as a couple had been pulled out by the masses of safety crew on hand. The sun was out and we headed off up the lightboat ramp and along coastal trails. Wetsuits peeled off to waist. Now the swim/run specific wetsuits are front zips and not so easy to get off- see that’s what the partners are for, my old wetsuit was cut up the night before with rear zip so much easier to get on and off and no extra cost.
We only lost the navigation signs once and ended up going around a field looking for a sign or exit, we had a police escort for a while and all marshals and locals very supportive. We ran along coastal trails, wooded areas, streets, cliff tops, under viaducts, around fields. Perfect sunny Sunday run.
After the golden sands of Barry Island we encountered the big boulders and the razor rocks as we entered and exited the water. We bounded over the boulders with a squelched from constantly wet but now clean trail shoes, at the time we got beaten up a bit on the rocks so plenty of blood, I still have scars today 3 months later on my knees and shins from the razor rocks as we entered and existed the sea often thrown onto on our bums. As the swim sections went on the head wind and waves increased.
About 3/4 of the way in we were stopped by race control as we had a large swim stretch ahead and the tide was turning against us. I sure they weren’t expecting us to be so excited to be getting a speed boat ride back ! We whizzed past the safety crew and other swimmers and got dropped off at Barry Island beach. We walked back up to the prom where we were greeted as winners and given medals, goody bags, water and hugs.
It certainly was an adventure and we had plenty of laughs, scrapes and grazes along the way, but great location and organisation. The weather was kind to us and we survived!