2016 Challenge Race

This year my big race was London Marathon, I trained hard for it over the winter, set a new PB and even managed to get my face on the TV highlights.

The year before it was The Red Bull Steeplechase which was absolutely brilliant, a knockout fell race up in the Peak District.

Both these races took a lot of logistical preparation to even get to the start line, a very understanding supportive wife and a fantastic little boy who always goes to bed early enough to enable me to train whilst he’s asleep.

Next year I had my eye on loads of big races but I needed to whittle it down to 1. Thats the agreement I’ve come to with my wife. More than that takes away too much from our time as a family and just isn’t fair in terms of cost. Local races are OK every now and then, usually pretty cheap, done and dusted by mid-morning, family can come to cheer and High-5, and the little one gets to see his Dad & other people doing physical exercise as a normal thing.

So what are my options for 2016. And which one have I chosen?

Well, I was one of those lucky buggers who had a London Marathon YES Magazine drop through my letterbox for the 24th of April! So I’m off to London again right? Well…..erm No. I can’t do it. Since I entered the ballot I signed up on a Sports Massage course, and raceday clashes with the final weekend of the course. At least the decision was made for me with that one.

What about Ironman? Somehow, I had it in my head that I could do an Ironman next year. And after looking at options, I decided on Ironman Wales. Its in September so that would give me the nicest part of the year to do the long bikes and long runs required without having to go out in howling wind and rain on dark evenings. And the bike course looks really challenging too, with a climb that would look at home in the mountain stages of the TdF. Except I don’t really like riding my bike, I mean….I ride to work and back 15 minutes each way every day which is fine apart from the normal struggle with traffic, and I occasionally do 15-17 mile lunchbreak rides, ending up back in the office sweating and hungry. But the thought of sitting in the saddle for 5-6 hours whilst thinking about the marathon run still to come is something I’m still not ready for.
I’m going to have to become much better friends with my bike before that happens.

So what else is there, Man vs Horse? Yep, thats on my bucket list but not quite the challenge I’m looking for. A 50, or a 100 mile Ultra? No chance, not after my recent experience. I’ve learnt that I like to have other people around me, not necessarily to talk to, but just to take my mind of the hard work, and my first experience of Ultra running was quite lonely. I’m not ready for the psychological challenge of that.

A half Ironman then? A natural progression up through the endurance events. Maybe, but not as my main event, maybe I could fit a local non-branded long distance Tri in later in the year, I think the distance would suit me but I want something a bit different.

This year I spotted a handful of SwimRun races making their debuts in the UK, I would have loved to have done one of those but the logistical nightmare of getting up to Loch Ness from the South Coast made it a no go. So imagine my delight when Breca SwimRun was announced in the Lake District.

38 kilometres of running, 6 kilometres of swimming. split between 9 runs and 8 swims. Run in your wetsuit, swim in your shoes. Oh, and 1900m elevation.

SWIMRUNSCENE

The only problem was that you need to enter in teams of two, which meant finding some other loony who was up for a challenge. Some other loony who would be a similar pace to me would be ideal as the rules say you need to stay within 10 metres of each other. Some other loony who didn’t mind trekking however many hundred miles it is to Lake Buttermere (Its 380) to go and do this daft race.

That other loony…..is Tom. I didn’t even need to try and persuade him, he posted a link to the race on facebook asking if anyone was up for it! This was meant to be. I run at the track regularly with Tom and he’s a good target man for me, I know he’s a bit quicker than I am, especially when peaking for a race but I’m getting closer to him all the time. This is the same Tom i just managed to edge out in the Cross-country race last weekend actually so we’re pretty well matched on the run.
In the water he’s like a bloody fish though. I have no idea how I’m going to hang on to him in the swim sections. I should be able to get a big benefit from drafting him through the water but we’ll have to train together a lot to get the pace right on the swim otherwise he’ll leave me for dead in the shallows!

SWIM

So there’s going to be a lot of running over the South Downs over the winter and I’m probably going to do the 3 Forts Marathon as a training run with Tom. That should be good prep for the terrain as well as giving us chance to race long together.

I’ve got loads to work out between now and then. Fundamentals like which wetsuit am I going to get? Do I just cut a wetsuit at the knees and elbows and hope it doesn’t chafe too much. Or do I go specific and get something like the HUUB Amphibia or personal preference, the Zone3 Evolution.

Zone3 Evolution SwimRun Wetsuit
Zone3 Evolution SwimRun Wetsuit

And then there’s the question of shoes. Do I remove them for the swim and tow them along in a drybag? Or stuff them inside the suit? Or drill holes in the bottom for drainage and just swim in them?
And then there’s paddles and pull buoys, from what I’ve heard, if you’re not wearing paddles, you’ve got no chance of being competitive. My shoulders aren’t ready for that at the moment so there’e a lot of swimming to do over the winter. Expect to see me at club sessions with my shoes on as I experiment!

Despite the worries and apprehensions I currently have about this event, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited when booking a race. The Steeplechase was good, but I think this is going to be even better. I hope the SwimRun genre takes off in the UK, the number of races has doubled between 2015 and 2016 and there’s at least one that’s a bit more accessible to newcomers, a short-course distance at Loch Ness.
I’ll try and keep my blog updated with my journey to the start line so people can learn from my mistakes in future.

If anyone’s got any SwimRun tips for a first-timer, I’d love to read them.

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