2:55:16 – 13th Mixed 25th overall
It was quite a contrast to the start of the sprint in Cannes. So civilised. We stood near the front with no one pushing through enjoying the sunny weather, stood in the sand and chatting. We were facing down the finish chute towards the sea so when the gun went we had to do an immediate right angle turn along the beach for about 20 metres before a close to 180 degree turn onto the road up hill. The first KM was pretty much all uphill so Rachel and I were soon walking the steeper sections.
Once we left the road we were running up and on the cliff top and around the the steep decent down to the first swim entry. Enough people had passed us by the time the decent started that we had to wait a couple of minutes to start the very steep decent. About halfway down we could see Andy stood on a rock, not far off shore with waves crashing. There being no sign of Mel and him appearing to be hauling on their tow line we realised all was not right ( later we found out they had struggled and Mel had got pinned under and had to unclip the rope!). It was clear this was a very difficult entry. Waves were crashing in and it was a narrow entry between very large rocks with rocks under the surface.
As we approach I told Rachel we had to have courage and commit to getting out past the crashing waves. We tethered up (my thinking was that I may have to swim hard to get Rachel out). We got in and ahead of us we could see three guys standing about ankle deep on a big rock but then getting swept back when the wave came in. As we got in the same thing happened to them so I shouted to Rachel we had to get by them and launch off the rock. If they stayed ahead and didn’t commit they’d just keep knocking us back. As they were swept back I managed to get on the rock and launch before the next wave. No goggles on and paddles on on properly (as I need to see clearly to get through the rocks and I need my hands). I swam hard gripping my paddles with my fingers and head up to sight. Rachel committed as well and we were out. We’d done very well. Talk afterwards was about the carnage there, of people stuck on rocks shouting for help. It’s telling that they changed this swim for the long course thus avoiding this entry.
The swell was very big as I swam out far enough to pause, sort out goggles and paddles and then head on. It was hard swimming around the headland back to the beach we’d started on. There was a choice to go very wide or cut between to rock stacks. As I swam I had a real debate with myself as the going through would be a lot shorter but it was clearly very rough. I decided shorter. As we approached we passed some others with the same idea. Once we entered I swam as hard as I could as we were really getting thrown around and I didn’t want to hang around. It was enough to knock Rachels goggles off just as we exited. She stopped dead. I was very short with her shouting the we had to get going. I set off. A few minutes later she stopped again. I was short again and now, writing this I feel very guilty. I blame it on the adrenalin but I can now just see Rachels faces with her goggles all skew whiff and I feel bad about snapping. We stopped and she quickly sorted it and we got on. Now just getting to the beach through the surf. It’s weird doing this towing someone as whenever you catch the wave they don’t so you get pulled back and then when they do you don’t. I wondered if it was better un-tethered but felt it was safer to stay attached. We got swamped quite a few times but kept making progress and soon were on to the rest of the course.
At the briefing we’d been told how tough a sprint this is (more ascent than the long course!). It has been hard already and to be honest if got tougher for us. From the beach if was a short steady climb up before descending steps to the next swim across the bay. This was far more sheltered and proved quite pleasant. We then had to re-gain all the height and more to the top of the cliff before a flat section across the top before a short steep descent to the next bay which provided another enjoyable sheltered swim.
Following this was a long climb to our highest point before an undulating high secant before a long, at times steep, descent. The terrain was very slippy so Rachel treated me to a commentary of yelps. At times she got welcome assistance from various other races to push her up steep sections she as slipping on. The next swim was quite committing as it swam round a very rocky cliff in to the next bay. This was rough and very dramatic with a huge long cliff in front of us and then to our right as we entered the bay.
Exiting the swim you could see what a huge ascent it was ahead. This was the start of the longest run (longer than the longest on the long course!) so I took my wetsuit down. We walk initially up the steep valley bottom to about half the height before contouring on a little ledge under a cliff with a cliff dropping to our right. It was quite exposed but the path was good enough to run along. Near the end off it were five big read metal rods sticking vertically out of the path which we had to squeeze past. Seemed they were there to prevent people using the path we’d just come up.
At the end of this path, if you’d not looked up as you exited the swim, you could have been fooled in to feeling the climb was over. It wasn’t and we continued up. Towards the end we ran along this cool path that seemed it had been wind carved in to the rock so it looped around and over our heads. At times I had to duck.
Then was the best running of the day on relatively good paths and gently downhill before descending the steps from earlier to a final swim around another headland and in to the finish beach. This proved another really fun swim. It seemed the sea had calmed a bit at it wasn’t long before we had the short run up the beach to the finish.
It was a good cause and I think ranks as one of the toughest. I think the entries, exits and technical nature of the terrain make it the toughest of the sprints we’ve down though Jersey is close and is a much longer overall course.
This was our 4th OtillO sprint race we did this year. Racing so often certain helps our ranking*: