Ever heard of it? No, me neither, but Ian Smith has and here he tells us all about it.
On 9th June I raced the ‘ÖTILLÖ World series Swimrun on The Isles of Scilly’ The clue is in the name you swim between and run around the Isles the total distances involved a 8.5K of swimming in ‘fresh’ temperature water and 33K of what I would call technical trail running with scrambling over a few boulders getting in and out of the swim sections.
You race as a pair, must be no more than 10 meters apart at all times and for the majority of the race we were tethered together with a circa 3m stretch cord. You run in a wet suit and swim with your shoes on, its compulsory you carry a compass, trauma bandage and your own drink flask. In the swim phases most competitors use hand paddles and what is known as a pull bouy to help offset the drag caused by wearing shoes in the swim section. All this you are carrying…….
So the gun went and we started our first run of 2800m – a sprint! First 2k was road/ good trail last 800m we then climbed on a grass foot path up to a headland followed by a 500 meter snake down to the beach, 20m scramble over the pebbles while rapidly getting goggles on, hand paddles on, tethered and floats in position for the swim. We briefly paused to agree a sighting point for the swim which was a 2000m one across to the first Island, while crossing we took turns leading of the front and when we could drafting other faster swimmers (like cycling there is a big gain to be had by drafting faster competitors). We hit the beach with and elapsed time of just under 50 mins, not bad for a 2.8 run and 2k swim, the next 5 hours was spent much like that, swim, run, swim, run swim run and so on for various distances. The shortest run was 400m, longest 7.7K, shortest swim 400m longest 2.5k to give you a feel for the randomness.
The swim was punctuated by the odd entanglement in weed beds, the runs by a couple of falls each, nothing too serious. My team mate and I have been friends since late teens and been trying to do one of these for the last 15yrs, which wasn’t helped by him moving to Australia 20 yrs ago! I saw this Scilly (and it is!) race and said ‘we have to do this if you comeback on a holiday sometime soon’, he said ‘I will comeback especially to do it’, not too much pressure to make sure I was in decent race shape! While we hadn’t done one of these before but we had prepared quite well, so the race went much as expected.
The biggest lesson for me was how and when to slip the top of you wet suit down so as to keep cool and getting it back on while running ready to swim again without losing more time than you gain through better cooling! Easier said than done while tired, wearing a bib and crossing boulders at race pace.. We finished in 6hrs 29, 43rd team overall 28th in our category of 64 teams, https://otilloswimrun.com/races/isles-of-scilly/results-2019/#resultTabs|0 I would highly recommend the race concept and the Scilly Isles as a venue to race in, get your entries in! Here’s a link if you want to know more and see pics of the race https://otilloswimrun.com/races/isles-of-scilly/