Here we are, 9 of us about to embark on the first swimrun session of the summer. A mixture of excitement and a little anxiety, what are we getting ourselves into?!
Well I know the answer. Rewind a whole year back and here I was with the same mixed emotions alongside my then race partner, Nick. We were entered into the first ever swimrun event of its kind in New Zealand, we just had YouTube videos of ÖTILLÖ races to go by so we pretty much knew nothing. There we were, for what seemed like the only two in New Zealand’s biggest city, running along the city’s most popular waterfront walkway, in our wetsuits. You could hear these city-slickers, latte in-hand, stop mid-conversation as these “two weirdos” ran past, multiple times, to then sense their eyes focused on the back of us as we continued on, melting in the summer heat, targeting the next beach.
With the inaugural Breca Swimrun firmly under my belt, filled with plenty many mistakes not to be repeated and fresh ideas to make these events a little more achievable, I am super excited at the prospect of sharing my experiences with the next crop of newbies to the sport. I am here to induct them into the start of their own #swimrunjourney.
Just like most endurance sports, having an injury-free general base fitness to start with is always good, but more important is a sense of adventure with a strong desire to overcome challenges. Not just the challenge of the event itself, but all the challenges thrown at you along the journey and especially on race day. One of the biggest appeals to me about the Breca Swimrun series is that it is less about racing the clock and more so about a team of two overcoming what nature throws at you on the day, adding to the already physically and even emotionally demanding day.
So where do you start? Easy, just start. The first time you swim with shoes on will be a memorable one - “why am I not moving forward??”. You’ll very quickly go through a variety of flotation & propulsion options, we’re talking the legal ones of course such paddles, pull buoy, fins, removing shoes etc. This is part of the excitement of the #swimrunjourney, there is no supposed correct approach, you get discover what works for you. There are options too with wetsuits but initially just use an old wetsuit, trim the legs and arms if required and you’re sorted. The best part is you’re not alone, you get to share this with a partner, or if you’re really lucky, a whole group. Get out there, just find a body of water with run options alongside and get creative with the swim & run repeats you do. A good GPS watch such as the Suunto Spartan will allow you to accurately track each swim & run leg which will get pretty useful. When you’re ready to get serious for your first Breca event, then decide whether you need to train in fresh water or sea water, and always run trails. A popular choice of footwear is Inov-8, with both the Trailroc and Trail talon providing the best fit for our NZ run terrain, are super grippy in the wet and drain well post the swims.
Look out for us in Auckland and eventually Rotorua too, our group sessions are structured around the route cards of the two NZ Breca events. Our aim is to build familiarity with the distances and allow you to figure out how to incorporate nutrition into your game plan. Pics Peanut Butter slugs are my favourite, providing real food fuel for the long sessions and race day. But carrying a hydration of choice is something to seriously consider too. Putting the finishing touches will also include deciding on whether you tether with your partner or what you wear under the wetsuit. An option is Skins compression shorts which also help minimise the risk of chaffing and Skins compression socks / calf sleeves.
Feel free to contact me should you want assistance with your #swimrunjourney or want our information session roadshow to come to your town.
Ben Eitelberg, with one Breca Swimrun completed so far, has over 20 years triathlon and multisport competitive experience, continuing to compete at World Age Group level for ITU and XTERRA. As a Triathlon NZ Level 3 accredited coach, he has been operating otillhis endurance sports coaching business, Fitness Locker, for over 7 years, instilling confidence amongst many beginners and fine-tuning detail to experienced athletes on the international stage.