There is a swimrun maxim that states that it doesn’t matter if it rains. When you are encased in neoprene, heat is the enemy; or so the thinking goes.
This sentiment was put to the test at Breca Buttermere 2016. The Buttermere valley is beautiful, but unforgiving. The lakes remain cold throughout the summer, and are bounded by steep-sided hills with near vertical sections of trail in all directions. The gradient of the ground changes constantly, a fact belied by the course profile, which is dominated by the two large climbs.
But the course was not the only challenge the teams would face this year. Leaden skies loomed over the 94 pairs assembled for the 10am start at YHA Buttermere. As the race got underway the dry conditions quickly gave way to sudden darkenings and showers, interspersed with moments of sunshine that provided only an insinuation of warmth.
The tolerable conditions held until teams began the ascent past Goats Cragg and into the high fells. The climb is steep. REALLY steep. And in the gathering gloaming the wind started gusting hard, driving the downpours into the eyes and faces of those on the hill.
Bemused walkers reported sightings of strange folk on the summits wearing swimming goggles and caps in the hail. “We have raced in the sun and really warm weather this year and last year” reflected Søren Engholm Hansen and Maj-Britt Klok of Team Swimrunners-Sport.com after the race, “but we will never wish for icy hail and thunderstorms again!”.
Fortunately these minor concerns were eclipsed by the experience of racing through the Western Fells. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes that England has to offer. “It was an incredibly beautiful and enjoyable race” said Tom Betts of Team Betts, “there were some truly epic moments, particularly when swimming with your teammate through glassy lakes, that I’ll never forget”.
In testament to the quality of the field, course records were set in the Mens, Womens and Mixed categories. This included a number of impressive breakout performances, as of the 12 teams that placed, only three had completed a swimrun before. This relationship held for the rest of the field: for 79% it was their first swimrun, which demonstrates the huge growth in popularity of this nascent sport amongst top endurance athletes.
1st: Clapham Bruderwunderz: Hamish Cropper and Alan Scott, 05:41:20
2nd: British Military Fitness Race Team: Ross Macdonald and Rob Smyth, 16:00:00
3rd: The German Sparkle Party: Markus Rössel and Knut Baadshaug, 06:10:20
1st: Team Axolotl: Abey Lawrence and Robyn Hawxby, 07:11:50
2nd: Jewson Jewels: Samantha Anderson and Sophie Edge, 08:22:38
3rd: D&G: Chrysothemi Spiliopoulou and Grace McGlen, 08:45:37
1st: Ben&Fliss: Benjamin Bussman and Felicity Hannon, 06:47:20
2nd: Team Tallås: James Pratt and Helene Pratt, 07:03:45
3rd: Notimetolous: Louis Wyness and Lousie Hanley, 07:13:40
A huge thank you to our amazing volunteers and water safety staff. They did a fantastic job in difficult conditions – we are incredibly grateful for their support.