ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly: swim-running in the Cornish Atlantic

This years rabble of swim-runners were treated to beautiful sunshine and calm seas across seven swims and seven runs that traversed the islands of St Mary’s, Bryher, Tresco and Saint Martin’s. Competitors from 17 nations would have to scramble over boulders, tackle sandy trails, fight through thick clumps of seaweed for a total of 38km (30km on land, 8km in water).  

Shiny and new

This was the first outing for the Wolke – Scott version of the Bruderwunderz and our first opportunity to see how we stacked up against the best teams in the world. 

We set ourselves the target of a top 5 finish, which on reflection was achievable but ambitious given the strength and depth of the field – which not only included the current golden bib holders in the men’s, women’s and mixed categories but professional triathletes, former olympians and a number of semi-professional teams. Sporting our new ARK swimrun wetsuits  we looked like we knew what we were doing. Now was the time to back it up – and with kit this technical, light and fast there were no excuses.

Executing our race plan

Our race plan was to start steadily on the long swims and attack the longer island trails where we expected to make up time. We knew the Swedish men’s and women’s teams would be strong in the water, but were surprised by just how quickly they were moving on the first 2km swim from St Mary’s to the southern tip of Tresco.

We exited the water in 11th place as we fought through the seaweed to get onto land. I temporarily lost a paddle but thankfully we were not long delayed as we gave chase (both of us very quickly realizing that we had to up our intensity to get ourselves nearer to the sharp end of the race).  Race footage accompanied by some excellent commentary here:  https://youtu.be/PWffH4k5gZY?t=4107

The first half of the race

Alan was the powerhouse on the first two swims and was looking strong with his new dinner plate sized hand paddles. This left me relatively fresh to lead out the next two runs (3 km on Bryher and the following 6.8km on Tresco), both of which were punctuated by two short and refreshing swims. We put the hammer down to good effect and started to reel in our competitors, moving ourselves up to seventh, only narrowly behind the mixed golden bib pair as we exited the water onto Saint Martins –  https://youtu.be/PWffH4k5gZY?t=7158

We caught and passed them on the undulating and technical coastal trails but had to push hard, knowing that we needed a decent buffer going into the final 2.5km swim back to St. Mary’s.

A moment to take it all in

I sometimes wonder whether racing is the best way to experience a place because the arena of competition requires you to shut things out and to focus on the path ahead, not the views on either side. But like the glance of a beautiful woman, the Isles of Scilly beckon you to look at them and appreciate their perfection. As we reached the highest point on Saint Martin’s, the sun beating down on a stretch of smaller islets in front of us, we temporarily eased off to appreciate the splendor of Scilly.  It’s a credit to the race organisers that the course takes it competitors around all of the main islands (with the exception of St Agnes). For anyone short on time and high on energy there are few better whistle stop tours available!

The second half of the race

As we approached the final swim we were informed that the team in front of us were flagging – at this point we didn’t know that this was Richard Stannard (multi-time world aquathlon champion) and Mark Threlfall (a former pro triathlete). As we had feared, we were passed in the water, about a quarter of the way into the swim, by the leading mixed team and the Dyson brother’s, meaning we were now relegated to seventh position.

All we could do was empty the tank on the final 7km and see who we could catch. Alan set off like a bat out of hell, scything through the ferns and bracken- legs pumping, arms driving, brow glistening. They say fortune favours the brave, and it seems like fortune was looking down on us as we turned ourselves inside out in the hope that we might catch our competitors on the trails ahead. It turned out that the leading mixed team made a wrong turn (we beat them but didn’t pass them on the course), and we caught Stannard and Threlfall with less than a kilometer to go – mostly owing to the fact that they had blown up spectacularly after setting out too hard on the early swims and runs. As we approached our heavy legged competitors we put in a final acceleration, knowing the end (and cold beer) was just around the corner.

Bringing it home

Cheers and whistles greeted us as we headed along the promenade towards the finish line; the fantastic support on the course having been a constant feature and source of energy throughout the race. After 4 hours and 51 mins we crossed the line in fifth – two Bruderwunderz in arms. https://youtu.be/PWffH4k5gZY?t=18787

Full results here: https://otilloswimrun.com/races/isles-of-scilly/results-2018/