3:54:52 – 10th Mixed, 43rd Overall
“Of course we an do Breca Jersey”. “Why?”. “Well, it’s the week after ÖTILLÖ World Champs so I definitely won’t have plans that weekend. I may not be that fast though.” With that, Rachel and I entered Breca Jersey sprint. The most mis-named of all the sprint races probably taking competitors on average 4 hours to complete and includes over 900m ascent. It wasn’t till a little after entering it dawned on me that there wasn’t really a week between the races. It was only fours days.
This is how they went…
Day 1 – Tues
In Stockholm with friends. Stairs in either direction require pretty much full use of arms and it’s still very painful. Cough getting worse and making for very poor sleep. Numerous occasions it feels like my right leg fails
Day 2 – Wed
Back in London. Still serious Doms in quads and cannot cope with stairs. Leg failures still occurring. Demo my dissertation just before noon. Noon – Masters finished. Walk home to try and ease my legs. For the first time all year I get public transport to swimming. Pushing off wall is painful due to DOMs so turn further from wall to reduce compression. Felt good swimming for about 1k then it deteriorated … gone was cruising along between 1:15 to 1:20 and instead 1:30s was hard work. I battled through 90 minutes to earn beers at the pub. Just like all ‘serious’ athletes completely incapable of following the advice I would give to someone else in this position. i.e. STOP.
Day 3 – Thurs
Hurrah stairs not quite so bad. Start considering how, IF I recover, I could be very fit on Saturday. Stairs at Barbican, following a ‘chat’ about some possible contract work, dampened my enthusiasm
Day 4 – Fri
Fly to Jersey early on. Carrying Rachel and I my luggage to Baker Street hard work. Meet Kev at Airport pleased he offers lift to our B&B. Even more pleased we can check in straight away. Plans to go to war tunnels changed to: snooze; lunch; snooze; and then off to briefing. Post briefing successfully run across the road to dodge traffic … perhaps this won’t be so bad.
Excuses in place
Day 5 – Saturday – Race Day
Ever the optimist we line up pretty much on the start line. With only 900m to the first swim, downhill, what could go wrong? We’re good swimmers so ideally go hard and get in the swim early. It’s a much bigger field this year, with well over 100 pairs racing across both distances.
Gun goes and we run hard. May as well start as if I’m going to be ok. We kind of keeping pace with those at the front. Downhill. OK. Not so ok. Really not so ok. At most 400m in “Rachel. We’re going to have to slow down”. And that was that. 2 mins in to a ~4 hour day and we were in survival mode.
We arrived at first swim about mid field and went about passing loads. Swimming was just fine. No aches at all just couldn’t go full beans. Steady was enough for us to pass lots of people. Second run is flat again so could plod along. Another fairly calm swim and we were on the first climb.
This is now hard. DOMs were back. I could only plod. Pretty much felt like I was at the 8 hour point the previous Monday. So little energy. Started thinking I should have taken a note of the cutoffs. Rachel was very understanding and even said it was OK to pull out. Reckoned we could at worse walk it and still make it round. We managed to shuffle the flats and the downhills were not pretty. Reminded me of how Chris ran that first downhill in Breca Buttermere when he was cramping in both calves. It felt best to keep relatively straight legs.
Next entry was the tricky scramble down. This far back in the field it meant that was a queue and plenty of time standing still. “Thats the chance of the win out the door”. Standing was nice. It was a jump in at the bottom and the pressure on my legs as I hit was pretty unpleasant. The cool water was lovely and the sea was getting rather rough now which we like. It also meant longer till the next run which was good.
Now for the long run. Almost 5k and it felt quite daunting. We walked the uphills, shuffled the flats, and kind of ran the downhills. We stepped aside for anyone catching us and if any other pairs were within 20m we just waited and let them all by. It felt like we’d dropped to the back of the field but every time we could see a fair way back on the course there were plenty of other racers.
We finally stopped at a Jersey aid station. Orange segments, Jaffa cakes even some energy drink before off again. The long swim. It was rough. The big line of people we’d let pass us on the previous run we now re-passed on early in the swim. It looked like they might be a group of friends all going round together. I was really enjoying the swims. Being that bit further back and running so badly meant the relative speed of our swim to our run was very pronounced. This meant there was a lot of people we saw numerous times as we let them pass us on the run.
Not long to go now and my legs started to feel marginally better. We ran some of the easy uphills. I started to properly enjoy the scenery which Rachel had been raving about all the way round. We soon arrived at the final swim. We walked down the beach to be greeted by Susanne who was marshalling as she’d hurt her shoulder and couldn’t race. She told us how Suzy (her Swimrun partner) was in a race for the win with her substitute partner from Jersey who’s a gun swimmer. This swim was very rough especially at the end of the little headland where the kayakers were guiding us wide enough to avoid the shallow rocks. I had a sense they were there due to the crashing waves.
The tides here are tremendous. The exit to this two years ago, had seen Rachel and I hanging on the the railing of a staircase to avoid being swept away. This year we were clinging to rocks, for the same reason, some 20m from those steps.
Now just the final brutal 2.2k. This takes you to the highest point on the course but prior to the that you lose most of the height on a couple of occasions. We came in to the finish breaking 4 hours and really quite pleased with ourselves. I didn’t even make it to my bag – I flaked out on the ground metres from the finish and Rachel kindly brought it over to me.
Ben came over and checked I was ok. He knew I’d raced on Monday. This race is really becoming quite iconic. It’s a fantastic course. The sprint is a huge challenge let alone the long course. It’s had pretty rough seas 3 times out of 4. All the swims on the sprint are at least 800. Two you can’t see the exit when you enter. Big coastal running tops it off. It’s now getting the numbers it deserves and the atmosphere is great. The sprint now finishes at a pub where everyone hangs out waiting for the final finishers. We caught up with lots of friends before getting the bus to the finish at another pub. Here a great buffet was available to all racers and everyone hung out there for the long course finishers to run in through the beer garden to the finish. The atmosphere was awesome. I highly recommend this race.
All I need is for it to be a week later, the sprint and full on different days and then, Andy, Lotte, Rachel and I could all come along for our usual SwimRun weekend.
So next year ?
Hope 1 – Ben pushes jersey back a week
Hope 2 – I’m fitter and it’ll all be ok.
Clearly between now and then I’ll abandon hope and take action. So it’s bound to be ok.