3:07:00 – 1st Mixed Pair, 2nd Overall
Distances ~ 4k swimming, 13.5k running across 5 swims and 5 runs.
We were awakened race morning to winds whistling past our window just below the castle where the race was to start. Quite a change from the previous day of mill pond seas. Looking out as we got ready for breakfast we could see the waters were pretty rough. Luckily all our practise swims had been in rough seas and we both quite enjoyed it.
At the race start in the Gorey Castle Ben, the Race Director, warned us that with the current sea conditions the early swims would be tough and the first cut off would be tight. We all gathered for the pre race photo and I promised to remember to hit split on my watch so I could gauge how fast we swam together. We’d practised alot swimming with an elastic between us but never formally measured how much quicker we were.
No one seemed too keen to be at the front on the start so Rachel and I found ourselves second row. The gun went and we ran down the steps through the castle for the 1.5k run to the first swim. Quite a few people passed us but I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t feel we should be near the front for the first swim. This initial run was very easy on roads and then across a beach and in for the first swim. We set off and soon found ourselves passing lots of people. I tried to take a fairly wide line and not cut in as I knew there was a cord between Rachel and I and I didn’t want to cut people up.
We must have passed 10 pairs on that swim and got out quite pleased with ourselves. Rachel undid the elastic between us but we agreed after that we’d leave it on unless it proved too technical to be attached. The next run was along by the coast on a rough path with lots of short steps and uneven ground. Lots of pairs re-passed us but it wasn’t long before we were back in the water and passing people again. I was pretty sure there were only 2 sets of white hats (sprint competitors) in front of us and one of those pairs were Andy and Mike who’d we met at the briefing the night before. We caught them on this swim and just as I passed Andy Mike veered off so I found myself swimming between the two of them and soon felt the resistance that meant Andy had got caught up on our rope (I apologised over a beer after the race). This swim was very rough indeed and finished going up the slip road on a massive St Catherines breakwater. As we approached the chop got huge as waves bounced back off the breakwater. It felt like we were making no progress but we were still passing people. Getting on to the slip was tricky and I eased up to try and judge a safe moment in the waves.
From here the runs were mainly on the coast path. This meant lovely single track running for lots of it and undulating up and down that is typical of many coast paths. This particular section we’d been warned about as it ended with an off track decent to a rocky headland and the first tricky entry. We stayed tied together so I tried to be careful not to go too quickly. Soon we were back in to the beautiful water and a cool off for the swim to the first checkpoint. We were told we were second mixed pair (the first pair was in the full distance race).
Following this check point was the longest run – 5km. We left our wetsuits on and warmed up a lot. By the time we were too hot it didn’t seem worth stripping them down. Andy and Mike re-passed us on this section and I assumed they were off and we’d not see them again. This meant we were in 3rd. Rachel had told me the night before she was happy to be challenged (or was it pushed?) but with two big swims and another run I felt we should hold back. As we descended to the next swim Rachel told a supporter something about me “dragging” her around – referring to the elastic between us – though it didn’t sound quite as she meant.
The next swim was going to be the trickiest to navigate. I’d remembered from the course and briefing I thought it would be interesting as you had to swim around a headland and then in. We’d been told there would be no sighting buoys. I liked that about this race. It was an adventure and it would reward navigation skills in open water. A marshal had an aerial map of the course so I took a quick look and eyeballed the headland we’d have to go around. After passing one pair we were completely on our own. Couldn’t see another pair or any kayaks. It was great, cliffs to our left, ocean right. It felt adventurous. Once in the water everything starts to look different. I passed what I thought was the headland but soon realised it was the next one. I cut in looking for the exit. Couldn’t find it. Stopped briefly and Rachel spotted where we were heading. I’d mis-remembered how far it was but now we were on track. As we came to the exit two pairs suddenly appeared to our right. One was Andy and Mike and we found out later that they’d made the mistake of heading to the next headland and went quite a bit off course.
At this point we had 2.6k run and 1k swim left and I knew if we were within a few minutes of those two we’d pass them on the swim and come in second. Remembering Rachels words from yesterday I started to push the pace. No complaints from Rachel just some more laboured breathing and slightly more pull on the cord. On the uphills we would catch Andy and Mike then on the flats and downs we’d lose them. Eventually I decided to make the pass and committed the offence I complain about of getting someone else caught up in our elastic (sorry!). We managed to hit the final swim just ahead of them. From there we enjoyed the final swim in to Rozel to finish in 2nd place and 1st mixed pair.
I was chuffed to bits.
Jersey is a great place for these races and Ben put on a great, challenging, friendly race. As I write this they’ve announced the date for next year – 9th September. We’re keen to go back. It’s 2 days after the end of Cent Cols but we’re both keen to do it so I think we’re going to try and sort out the logistics. Details of the race here.