The weather forecast wasn’t looking fantastic in the lead up to the first Breca race of the year. Cloud, wind and rain were all on the menu. This was bad news for several reasons:
1) It would mean choppier waters for our competitors during the swims,
2) Our photographer’s camera wasn’t waterproof so less opportunity to capture epic race images, and
3) It would really hinder my tanning strategy.
But race day dawned over Lake Wanaka to reveal swimrun conditions of dreams: blue skies, warm-but-not-too-hot racing temperatures and miraculously still waters. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief: I wasn’t going to end the day as pale as I’d started it after all.
116 competitors lined up at Glendhu Bay just before 8am ready to start the race. Alongside the usual cocktail of nerves and excitement there was a sombre tone in the air. The day prior had been a landmark day in New Zealand’s history as the Christchurch shootings had taken place. A minute’s silence was observed at the start line and, as the race started and teams began their traverse of the Lake Wanaka shores, there was a feeling of deep gratitude that we were able to be out there doing the thing we love.
The sprint teams got off to a speedy start. Matthew Stanford and Carl O’Donnell of Team Swim360 were there to defend their title from last year and had left the water of the first 600m swim before many behind them had event entered it. They kept up this lead throughout to storm over the finish line in first place after 2:19 of hard racing. Shortly behind them were Anna Barnes and Pete Orchard who together made up Team The Toblerones. Their gritty performance saw them not only defend last year’s mixed category win but move up two places on the leader board to take the silver medal overall this year.
Perhaps the piece de resistance of the Breca Wanaka course is Ruby Island, a literal jewel nestled into the southern tip of Lake Wanaka. Upon exiting their third swim of the day, competitors made their way over greasy rocks around the northern edge of the island until sheer cliff gave way to something slightly more manageable - although still largely vertical and definitely nothing that could safely be called a path - and they scrambled their way up onto the island proper. I was positioned at the top of this incline capturing live footage and witnessed a lot of grunting and profanities. But, as Breca founder and course-setter Ben later said, “that’s what we’re looking for” and he’s right. Swimrun is all about these transitions – it’s the bits between the swim and the run that make the sport.
At the point where the full and sprint courses split after the swim off of Ruby Island, our full course competitors still had several gruelling hours ahead of them. The sun shone hotter as the morning became the afternoon and there were two particularly unforgiving run sections still to complete: seven kilometres apiece of pebbles and scree, fence hopping and water wading. As we followed the 18 intrepid teams around Lake Wanaka what was remarkable, perhaps above their physical performances, were the constant smiles on their faces, the fact that they still found time to thank every volunteer they passed. It’s a sense of camaraderie that isn’t always easy to find in competitive sport.
Last year’s silver medallists, Ben Wolstencroft and Dave Provan of Team Safety 21, used their experience to their advantage this year and stepped up to take the win in a truly impressive 6:28. Nearly three hours later our final team of the day, George Adams and Shayne Hall of Team TMT, crossed the finish line after over nine hours of awe-inspiring toil and that was it; Breca Wanaka 2019 was a wrap. All but one team, who sadly had to pull out due to a calf injury just before halfway, had swam and ran their way to glory, the camera hadn’t got wet and, after a long British winter, my 2019 tan was off to a splendid start. What more could you want from a day out?
An enormous congratulations to all of this year’s Breca Wanaka competitors. It might have been a beautiful day but swimrun is never easy. And an extra large thank you to everybody who put in work behind the scenes to make the event happen: Philip, Anna-Kate and Neil at Breca HQ, Race Director Sean, all of our amazing volunteers, the water safety and medical teams, photographers Luisa and Steven, nutrition partner Pure Sports Nutrition and the team at Edgewater Hotel. Swimrun is a team effort in more ways than one.
Next up we have Breca Bay of Islands on April 13th-14th where the inaugural Breca National Championships New Zealand will be taking place. Fingers crossed we’ll see you there!
Elise (Breca Social Media and Marketing Manager)
Breca Wanaka 2019 - Teaser Album (full selection of pictures coming soon)