Trying a SwimRun has been on my wish list for a long time. The ÖTILLÖ racing series seemed a bit too big for the beginning and SwimRun events are not that common yet in Germany, so it’s not easy to find the perfect event to start. This year, however, a suitable event was finally found. The SwimRun of the UrbanChallenge series in Norderstedt (near Hamburg) fitted perfectly into our racing calendar for this year. The fact that we had to drive across Germany for this was also acceptable to us. We - that means me and my husband, who is luckily always ready to support my crazy ideas.
When you start in the original ÖTILLÖ as a team, means you complete the entire route together, we registered as a mixed team also for our races. Now it was just a matter of finding out in advance how the whole thing actually works...
As newcomers to this sport, we had a few questions, especially with regard to the equipment:
Which shoes? With socks or without? What buoyancy aids? What is the best way to stow the pullbuoy when running? Do we need a SwimRun wetsuit? Are paddles more useful or are they more of a nuisance? Do you leave your swimming cap on your head while running? And the swimming goggles? And what is this leash used for?
During our first test run at the lake, our setup looked like this:
Barefoot in old running shoes. Neoprene calf guards as buoyancy aids, plus a pull buoy that Sven prepared with rubber bands according to a YouTube video to attach it to our legs.
ZONE3 kindly provided me with the Evolution SwimRun wetsuit, Sven tried it in a trisuit first. (If necessary, he could also rent a SwimRun suit on-site.)
We still had old big swimming paddles from my sister (who used to be a competitive swimmer). And we stretched a leash between us as a connection as you are not allowed to be more than 10m apart in the race.
Equipped like this we went to the nearest lake, where we were of course turning heads on a warm summer evening. Especially when we started running along the shore, then swimming for a few meters and repeating that several times. Some even approached us interested and asked what it was all about. The sport‚ ‘SwimRun’ is obviously still fairly unknown in this country.
Our first test run gave us some insights, but also left some questions unanswered.
We decided against the leash, as it wasn't mandatory for our race and was more of a bother than a help. Also, the decision was made in favour of socks in the shoes, because then you run less risk of getting blisters with sand in your shoes. Otherwise, we left everything as before. I was still unsure up to which temperature the SwimRun wetsuit was useful. Of course, it was buoyant and also surprisingly comfortable to run in, but in warm and sunny weather it would certainly be too hot to run. Couldn’t decide this in advance, so I took both, the wetsuit and the ZONE3 Lava trisuit with me on race day.
Saturday we drove to Noderstedt and spent the night in a hotel near the city park where the competition would take place. On Sunday we went there quite early. It's better to plan everything a bit more relaxed before things get hectic. Of course, we got there way too early.
The event was smaller than expected, so finding a parking space and quickly picking up the bib numbers was not a problem. After that there was still enough time to watch the trail run, that took place before our race, to exchange ideas with other starters - most of whom were also rookies by the way - and to compare our equipment.
The water temperature was 21.7 degrees, so it was wetsuit legal. However, since it was over 20 degrees on the day of the race and mostly sunny, I decided shortly before the start against the wetsuit and for the triathlon suit. The conditions were just on the limit, but in hindsight, it was probably the right decision.
Before the start there was a short briefing about the competition, where the route was explained as it was quite complicated with several loops. At 11:30 a.m. the starting shot was fired and we ran the first stretch to the lake.
The division of the distance in our, ‘Classic Race’ was 250m run - 200m swim - 3750m run - 450m swim - 1500m run - 200m swim - 900m run ... and then everything again! A total of 12.8km run and 1.7km swim.
When it came to swimming, I was maybe a bit faster than Sven, so he had to hurry a bit, but when it came to running, I had to give it all while Sven, who is a really strong runner, was able to jog alongside.
Surprisingly, the running route was quite traily, led across meadows and beaten paths and had a few climbs and matching "downhill passages", mostly over unrhythmic stairs. I did the pacing purely by feel. Anything else would not have been possible on the course anyway.
It went pretty well and I was able to keep a good speed. Even if I would have preferred a SwimSwim in between to the strenuous running sections, we were even able to make up places on the second lap. So my long-distance training had paid off.
We always had to concentrate a lot when changing into or out of the water. Goggles on, Pullbuoy pushed between your legs, paddles put on and all that just in time and without falling. And after each swim of course the whole thing again reversed.
In the end, we crossed the finish line in third place of the mixed teams, were very satisfied with our performance (I really had given everything) and had a lot of fun!
After a hot shower, the great experience was rounded off by a cozy get-together at the finish with bratwurst and cold drinks. Just beautiful! It was definitely not our last SwimRun! Actually, we've already found a suitable event for next year!