Its now December and I don’t know about you, but my thoughts are starting to turn towards building up a bit of base fitness ready to start racing in the Spring. At least, that’s what I know my thoughts should be thinking, instead, they’re running wild, concerned with all sorts from Christmas to current political events (which we will NOT be going into on here!)
So its time to regain a bit of SwimRun focus – and what better way than to talk to a team who raced Breca in 2015. I wondered what specific advice they might have for those of us racing it in 2016, a bit of insider knowledge perhaps? Shortcuts maybe? Lets get straight into it and find out.
Team Name: Girls Wot Can
Team Members: Jenny Rice and Claire Wilson
Who are you, where are you from and how do you know each other?
Jenny: I recently (just over a year ago) made the escape from London to the Lakes. I met Claire whilst swimming in the local pool, we got chatting, and started open water swimming together. We try our best to drag ourselves out of bed a morning or two a week for a pre-work swim in Windermere.
Claire: I am originally from the Lakes and have lived here pretty much all my life, save for a couple of unsuccessful attempts at living in cities. Jenny and I discovered a mutual love of jumping in freezing cold water and running up mountains!
What do you do when you’re not jumping into lakes with your shoes on or running round in wetsuits?
Jenny: I was lucky enough to find a job at Mountain Creative, a great little design studio in Kendal who do all the design work for the amazing Kendal Mountain Festival. It just happened last weekend, and I’m still buzzing from an inspirational weekend filled with adventure films, literary events, art and speakers including Martyn Ashton, Sean Conway & the amazing Nicky Spinks.
Claire: I’m a sports massage therapist based in Kendal (www.cwsportsmassage.co.uk) and also do a bit of swimming coaching with our local tri club. Other than that I can generally be found running around in the hills with my dog (who likes to think he’s the third member of our Swimrun team!)
You raced the inaugural BrecaSwimrun event in 2015, What can you tell us about your experience?
Jenny: I loved everything about it – the scenery, the terrain, the friendly vibe. Racing with Claire was so much fun. We were just out to enjoy ourselves and immerse ourselves in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. We did alright too…
Claire: We went in with no expectations or idea of how we would do, but we were pretty chuffed to be first female team out of, erm, two, and 6th overall. We took a pretty laid-back approach, neither of us even wore a watch so we had no idea how long we’d been out or how far we had left, which was actually really nice. Some of the other teams did comment that we would probably have been a lot quicker if we spent less time eating! The scenery around Buttermere is just stunning, we loved every minute of it.
Why Swimrun, why not a normal race/triathlon?
Jenny: I’ve always wanted to do swimrun since a friend did Otillo a few years back, but I’ve been put off by the cost. Breca was so close to us, and much more affordable than Otillo so we jumped at the chance to try swimrun in the UK. I’ve done 1 triathlon a year for the past 3 years, with the focus being on experiencing the beautiful country we live in rather than being able to say I’ve done ‘Sub whatever’ time. I did the Endurancelife HX triathlon ironman distance triathlon on Dartmoor in 2013, the Celtman in 2014 and this year Wasdale X. Breca was another opportunity to experience some beautiful scenery but with much less faff than triathlon!
Claire: The course looked fantastic and as it’s a very new thing over here, we wouldn’t be the only ones with no idea what we were doing! Triathlon can get a bit serious sometimes, with too much emphasis on expensive gear and trying to save milliseconds with fancy gadgets. This just seemed much more like a big adventure and a good laugh. Also, much as I love cycling, I’m a bit rubbish at it, so it was nice to find a long distance event that suited my strengths.
Any plans for more Swimrun races?
Jenny: Yes!! We have just entered Rockman and the Isles of Scilly Swimrun.
Claire: We’ll definitely be be back to Breca at some point too, just not this time as it clashes with other races.
Team Dynamics: What do you each bring to the team?
Jenny: I think we have a lot of similarities in our attitudes to events like this, which definitely contributed to our enjoyment of the day.
Claire: Well Jenny is a lot more organised than me, which is good because it means I can’t faff about too much! She’s also always positive and optimistic, which really helps on a long race like Breca. As for me, I’m not sure – maybe my ability to scoff peanut butter sandwiches while running? Jenny?
Jenny: We’re definitely well matched when it comes to our enjoyment of the feed stations!
Are there really peanut butter sandwiches at the feed stations?
Jenny: Yes! Another reason we love this event – proper food. Neither of us like energy gels or similar, and were very happy to eat ‘proper’ food.
Did teamwork make the dreamwork? Or had you fallen out with each other by the end?
Jenny: I can’t speak for Claire, but I think we made an awesome team – we just had an absolute blast.
Claire: No falling out at all, we had a great day. We’re pretty evenly matched speed-wise, but also just in it to have fun and enjoy being in the mountains. It’s really nice to have someone else there so you can encourage each other when you’re feeling tired.
What had you done in the past?
Jenny: I was a competitive swimmer and runner growing up, then got into triathlon when I was 17. I decided to stop racing a few years later as i just didn’t enjoy it – but carried on swimming, cycling and running in beautiful places, doing the odd event, but also going into the hills, with friends, for fun.
Claire: I also grew up swimming and running cross-country and I did a couple of triathlons as a junior. Then after a few years break from competitive sport I decided to give triathlon a go again. I loved it but quickly discovered that time-trial bike courses and road running were not my style at all, so started to go for the ones with plenty of hills! I’m also part of a relay team swimming the channel next year.
Have you got any equipment tricks/tips or hacks you can share with others?
Jenny: We seemed to be doing the opposite of everyone else when it came to kit. Maybe hand paddles and pull buoys do help…but I like keeping it as pure as possible (I was already getting stick from swimming friend for wearing a wetsuit!). I was most pleased with my map case that adapted to wear round my waist with velcro – so we could quickly and easily check the route if we needed to. We saw a few teams put the waterproof paper map we were issued down their wetsuits (!?) – not sure the paper is that durable. The route went high onto the fells, but the weather was clear so we were fine. But we both felt confident knowing that if we needed to, we could easily check we were going the right way.
Claire: Yes I spoke to a few people teams who said they went to get their map out, only to discover it had disintegrated!
Jenny: We only used the map once – the skies were clear and we could see Dale Head, where we were meant to be going, but hadn’t seen any red flags for a while (turned out the sheep liked them) – so just checked the map to be sure.
Claire:Neither us are particular fans of carrying a lot of stuff while running, and there’s loads of food at the check points (at least there was til we got there!) so we just carried a small waist pouch with the mandatory bits of kit, which didn’t drag too much during the swim and was easy to access. I also brought a soft flask which clipped on with a mini karabiner that we could just refill from the streams if we needed extra water. Hand paddles and pull buoys were definitely not for us, but I guess it’s a case of experimenting with what works for you.
Having never swam in that part of the country in July. Is the water particularly cold?
The water temperature is fresh, but as the longest swim is only 1km, you should be fine. If you’re in London, training in April and May in the Serpentine etc should give a good idea of water temp. I think it was 15C or so, not too bad with a shorty wetsuit. We both choose to train sans wetsuit, neither of us like neoprene very much – so we felt quite toasty (and floaty) with our wetsuits.. Training without a wetsuit and in trainers was definitely interesting!
I saw you’d been featured in a magazine too – has the fame gone to your heads yet?
Jenny: Hehe, we reviewed the event for the excellent open water swimming magazine, H2Open. Not been asked for our autographs yet…
What are your 3 biggest tips for a successful race?
Jenny: Relax & enjoy the day.
Claire: It’s a long day out so take some time to enjoy the views! Also, seamless tri shorts under your wetsuit and lots of body glide!
What would you say to someone thinking of signing up?
Jenny: Do it!
Claire: Definitely, it’s a great adventure!
Well, there you go. If you haven’t already signed up to a Swimrun and you’re reading this, I hope this goes someway to helping you make your mind up! Thanks to Jenny & Claire for taking the time to answer these questions, and for sending the fantastic pictures through too, they’re enough to persuade most (either way!) I wish them the best of luck at Rockman and the oTillo Qualifier on the Isles of Scilly.
If you’d like to have your team featured here, please get in touch. Its becoming a great way of building the SwimRun community.
Thanks for reading & don’t forget to check out these other team profiles…