Breca Buttermere Swimrun 2019: Race Report
Last weekend, 448 competitors came together for the final edition of Breca Buttermere, the last time we would be swimming in our trainers across Buttermere and Crummock Water. Feelings were bittersweet but we knew one thing: we had to go out with a bang and give this stalwart of British swimrun the send-off it deserved.
And this wasn’t just an ending, it was also a beginning, with Buttermere playing host to the inaugural Breca UK National Championships. We eagerly watched the weather forecast in the run up to race weekend and saw a concerning amount of lightning predicted - not quite the ‘bang’ we were after! Luckily the lightning strikes mostly took place over night, however the associated storms, high wind and cloud cover came with their own worries. Race Director Diane and our water safety team leapt into action to reroute both the Full and Sprint distance races to safer, but still stunning, routes. The amended courses proved to be speedy ones, and we saw some rapid performances across both distances.
At 11am on Saturday morning our Sprint competitors set off into the steadily worsening rain. Luckily, in swimrun rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you’re only going to get wet anyway, and when you’re dressed neck to knee in neoprene, the last thing you want is a heatwave. The new course’s swim sections hugged the shore yet these still proved to be challengingly choppy for some, confirming that the decision to cut out the cross-lake swims had been the right one. An out and back run section really boosted camaraderie, with the front runners buoyantly cheering on competitors who were still scrambling up the same incline they were now flying down.
92 minutes after setting off, men’s team OldEnoughToKnowBetter crossed the finish line to take the Sprint win. Chris and Mike had deferred their place from Breca Gower due to injury – a shame at the time but it seems that all’s well that ends well! Less than one minute later, Julia and Martin of team Huss and Whiff came in, winning the mixed category and scooping the silver medal overall. We weren’t waiting much longer to find out who our women’s champions would be as Joanna and Lottie, together forming The Mango Trouts, were home in an impressive 1:40.
As the final team of the day, Twins, crossed the line, we asked if they had thought about giving up at any point. “It was never going to happen,” they said, summing up the swimrun spirit and rounding off a great day of racing.
Sunday dawned in a similarly damp fashion, but spirits were high and competition fierce at the Full distance start line. Four-time Breca Buttermere champion Alan Scott, this year competing with Knut Baadshaug as ARK Bruderwunderz, was at the front of the pack ready to defend his title. We also had Team Headhero Vallance lining up again, having recently taken the mixed category win at Breca Gower in July.
An initial 4km run section kept the pack close together to start, with many paths having become streams, but the field soon spread out as they hit they first swim. Over the course of the day ARK Bruderwunderz managed to build a seven minute lead, scaling the formidable Honister Pass at an impressive pace. They came home in an incredible 3:28:12, taking the win once again and cementing their position as undisputed champions of the Breca Buttermere course.
Piers and Claire Vallance kept up their winning streak in the mixed category, however they took the gold by only 14 seconds with second place team Fliss and Ben hot on their heels. “We weren’t intending on racing that fast but Fliss and Ben weren’t too far ahead so we thought we’d give it a go… It was crazy tough conditions out there and trying to stay upright was a task in itself,” reported Piers.
First of our women’s teams over the line was Axolotl in 4:35:24. Breca old timers, this is one of several wins Abey and Robyn have under their swimrun belt, and it was a pleasure to see the grit and determination they brought to this year’s race.
After seven gruelling hours out on the course, the final team to come home and receive the hero’s welcome they deserved were Anne and Hilbert of The Splash. As the very last pair who will ever complete the Breca Buttermere Full distance, they earned themselves a special place in the race’s history books.
And speaking of history books, we are thrilled to share that 56% of this year’s Sprint field was female. This is an unusual ratio in endurance sport, but one we’re very proud to be ending the Buttermere legacy on. We would be lying if we said we didn’t have a soft spot for Buttermere and we’re sad to see this iconic course go, but we can’t wait to see where in the world swimrun will take us next!
All that’s left to say is a huge thank you to everybody who made Breca Buttermere 2019 happen. The teams at Durty Events, Swim Safety, Event Safety Group and Fusion Events, Abi and Sean, Derwent Hill Outdoor Centre for hosting us, nutrition sponsors Powerbar, all of our incredible volunteers and, of course, our intrepid competitors. The conditions were undeniably challenging but you did it!