Tell us a bit about yourselves
Alan: I have always loved all sports and got into triathlon in 2007 when I realised my weekends were a little too boozy, so I signed up to a triathlon. I gradually worked up through the distances until I did my first Ironman in 2009. I met Hamish through our running and triathlon club the Clapham Chasers and he was looking for a swimrun buddy who was close to his ability at swimming (not an easy feat) and a solid runner too. For those who are wondering, the second part of our team name “Bruderwunderz” was given to us by our good friends and swimrun rivals ‘The German Sparkle Party’ and the literal translation from German is “Wonder Brothers”
Hamish: My sporting background growing up in South Australia was surf lifesaving which is a mixture of ocean swimming, paddleboarding and kayaking. The multi-discipline training turned out to be good base for endurance sports so I guess it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at triathlon and longer distance events like swimrun.
When did you start competing in swimrun and why?
Alan: Our first race was the 2014 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Champs race. We chose that one as our first race because there was not a huge amount of choice back then. It’s amazing how many races have come up in such a small amount of time. ÖTILLÖ is held in September and we had both planned ironman races over the summer so in essence we only really started training properly a couple of months beforehand but hoped that our ironman training would sort our endurance out. Since then we have done one or two races a year.
Hamish: When I first heard of the sport the Stockholm Archipelago seemed like a cool place to visit but the initial challenge was finding a buddy. Alan was a natural choice not only because we are quite evenly matched in our running and swimming but like me he simply enjoys racing. Whether it’s an ironman, a fell race or a beer mile we both share that same sense of competition and adventure.
What do you love about swimrun, why do you think it’s different to other sports?
Alan: Thrashing yourself with one of your best mates through the wilderness of Sweden, The Lake District, or some other stunning and remote location…. With a few beers to aid in recovery at the end of the day. What better way to spend a weekend!!!
Hamish: The race locations are fantastic. But I agree that the team aspect is the defining element of swimrun. This rubs off on the whole race day environment, where you have not only a teammate but rival teams to share the pre-race banter and post-race endorphins. That and the DIY kit – cutting up a triathlon wetsuit with a pair of scissors and drilling holes in pull buoys makes you feel like MacGyver.
What memorable events have you competed in?
Alan: ÖTILLÖ, our first race, was particularly memorable. Both of us had no real clue what to expect, we had done the training and thought we could do ok, but had not idea quite how well the day would go. The sunrise start is just so good. You have a hundred teams simultaneously entering the freezing Baltic Sea…all while a chopper circles overhead. It certainly got the adrenaline going. As the day rolled on the onset of exhaustion was offset by the growing anticipation that “we could do ok here!” We eventually finished in 6th place and the experience spurred us on to compete in more races.
Hamish: The other race which stands out is our first year at Breca Buttermere in 2015. It was the UK’s first official swimrun and we were treated to some absolutely savage elevation which is in stark contrast to the comparatively flat courses we’d raced in Sweden. The upshot of all the climbing were the most spectacular views over Buttermere and Crummock Water.
You’ve won Buttermere two years running and placed highly at other events. What is the secret to your success?
Alan: Aside from a decent amount of training a big part of it is working together. You and your teammate are going to have highs and lows during the day and it’s how you meet those challenges. Being able to support each other during those phases is key. Added to that being closely matched really helps as you can both push each other on.
Hamish: Along with our Breca wins our best result has been third at ÖTILLÖ 1000 Lakes in Germany. So I guess the secret is to not race in Sweden! But the elevation in the Breca course definitely plays to our strengths as we are more slightly built and more partial to hills than some of the powerful European teams. I would also attribute a big part of our result at the 1000 Lakes with using a tow rope for the first time. We had previously thought that being evenly matched in the swimming would mean we wouldn’t benefit from it but we were happy to be proved wrong. We found it helped the trailing swimmer to sit comfortably in the draft zone with no noticeable impact on the lead swimmer. This meant that by rotating turns at the front we had more energy for the latter stages of the race.
What is the most important piece of training advice you could offer to new teams?
Alan: Don’t go out too fast, and if you are going to use hand paddles build up your strength gradually otherwise your arms will fall off mid race.
Hamish: My favourite session in the lead up to an event is to practice race distance swimming and running transitions in full kit. If you have a lake/ocean nearby it’s ideal. Otherwise I just head to the local outdoor pool. You still get some strange looks but over summer it’s now becoming more common on a Saturday morning to see teams running through London’s Royal Parks in their wetsuits which I think is great.
We’ve heard a rumour that Hamish is heading back to Australia in 2017. Is this the end of an era for the Bruderwunderz?
Hamish: Yes after 6 years in London I’m heading back with my wife and son to the warmer weather down under. Hopefully we can get a reunion race in together down the track though. Perhaps we’ll need to meet half way …. Are there any swimruns in Asia yet?
What are your race plans for 2017?
Alan: I have a ‘small warm up’ race in Roth in early July to warm me up for the main event, Breca Buttermere. Half of the Clapham Bruderwunderz will then be attempting to defend the title again but with whom remains to be seen…..
Hamish: I may not quite get to them all in 2017 but Breca Wanaka (New Zealand), Swimrun Australia (Sydney) and the recently announced Rottnest Island Swimrun (Western Australia) all look sensational and will be high on my list for 2018.
Photo credit: Jakob Edholm