We are well into the winter season now. The nights are long, the days are short and we’ve switched from drinking cold refreshing lager to hearty, sustaining stout. A summer of intensive racing and focussed training is behind us, and it feels like now is an opportunity to pause, reflect and consider whats in store for the year ahead. It’s also an opportunity to welcome a new Bruder into the Bruderwunderhood – Max ‘Der Panzerwagon’ Wolke.
I feel honored to have been invited into the Bruderwunderhood for the 2018 Swim Run season and can’t wait to stake my claim as part of a lean, mean international swim running machine. So how did I end up here, and why am I putting away my bike for the winter and deciding to run around in a cut off wet suit next summer? As with every decision, it has a point of origin.
For me that moment came in the final strokes of the Breca Buttermere sprint race, swimming to victory in synchrony with my close friend and training partner, Tim Murphy.
At the time, both of us were training hard for the 2017 ITU Age Group Standard Distance World Champs in Rotterdam. We were both dedicating precious hours in our day to forming pools of sweat on turbo trainers, battling past people in crowded pools and running around London parks whilst nervously glancing at our kilometer splits. Competing at a World Champs is an incredible buzz, but it engenders a different type of mindset and reward to an event like Swim Run. The former often takes place in an urban setting, on a course that is unremarkable. The process of qualification, entry and preparation is bureaucratic and cumbersome, the atmosphere in transition and at the start line is typified by nervousness, anticipation and agitation. Age Group triathlon is a fantastically accessible platform for amateurs who want to be their best, but it isn’t always a sport for the romantic or the adventurer.
By contrast Swim Run is about working together with a partner to traverse wild landscapes and immerse oneself in the sublimity and scale of craggy peaks, foreboding skies and crashing waves. If Wordsworth were alive today, he’d be a Swim Runner. Many triathlon races, on the other hand, can be spent fixating on a small slither of tarmac, straining every sinew to maintain an aerodynamic position, whilst processing numbers on a screen and cursing. Swim Run and Triathlon place a different emphasis on the balance between environment and performance, between team work and individual glory, between adventure and predictability. It is for the individual to decide which balance they prefer, and at what point in their sporting career they which to change that balance.
In transition: from GB Age Grouper to Swim Runner
These initial reflections formed into something more defined over a period of months, and became a firm decision when I asked myself three questions shortly after Rotterdam (its weird how triathlon trains you to think in multiples of three):
1. What events last year did I enjoy the most, and why?
2. What would I like to achieve in the coming year?
3. What do I need to work on this winter so that I become a harder, better, faster and stronger athlete ?
Have a go yourself, what answers do you come up? Are they what you expected them to be, or do you find that when you think about enjoyment (rather than achievement) that you come up with something unexpected?
My answers turned out to be fairly straightforward:
1. Without hesitation I decided Swimrun Buttermere was the most fun I had had racing. I wanted to do more of it, but needed to find a couple of Bruders to partner up with first
2. This led to my second answer. I want to win races and be competitive, but also value the camaraderie of racing in a team. There is something rewarding and elevating about finishing a race knowing that you helped the other person get through it, and that they helped you. You win together, you hurt together, you drink a recovery stout together.
3. Swimming used to be the weakest of my triathlon disciplines, but after a lot of technique work last winter, I felt equipped to strap paddles the size of plates to my hands and dive into the abyss. My winter will again focus on perfecting my technique (and getting better with paddles), on endurance training on land and in the water and acclimatising to swimming in very cold water. All in all, I’m excited by this fresh and energizing challenge.
So there you have it. This certainly isn’t a manifesto for Swim Run or a tirade against Triathlon, but it hopefully explains why it’s such an appealing sport and why it’s focus and emphasis is different . In our next post the Bruder’s will be Wundering what winter training we should be doing, and how much stout this translates into as post-training refreshment.