The Ötillö Swimrun World Championships: A Perfect Day

Ötillö Swimrun World Championships

It’s September 2017, three years since Hamish Cropper and I (both swimrun virgins at the time) rocked up to the Ötillö Swimrun World Championships. With memories (both good and painful) starting to fade I popped onto YouTube, took a swig of tea and tuned into the live streaming of Ötillö 2017. I wanted to see how a couple of mates were faring. Most would have watched the footage of the waves big enough for a rough ferry crossing and thought these folk were bloody mad. Bizarrely, it was this spectacle of man vs nature that reignited the spark. It was time to get back out to Sweden and give this beast another go.

The Build Up.

Meet the Team

From the left: Knut, Tim, Alan and Max

Over the next few months ‘Die Bruder Wunderz‘ was born: Max, Knut and me. As usual the summer was to be pretty full of work, holidays and weddings. Three team mates instead of two covered any clashes, plus it mitigated the possibility of injury. The trio worked wonders as it meant we were able to get our new team out there to as many events as possible, whilst successfully managing other commitments (and girlfriends) back home. It was Knut and I who were teed up for the Ötillö Swimrun World Championships, leaving our third Bruder, Max, back at home to move house AND celebrate his 30th birthday.

The Plan…

Knut and myself had discussed our goals and strategies leading into the race. Placing in the top 5 or 6 in a number of qualifying races we optimistically believed that a top 10 was within reach. Furthermore setting a target of sub-9 hrs seemed to be a bit of a benchmark to aim for. Game on. We knew that in order to achieve this we would need to position ourselves towards the front early-doors. Early on in the race there is a lot of incredibly technical single track running. Its crucial not to get caught behind slower teams. Top teams go out hard but getting too carried away early on runs the risk of ‘blowing up’ later in the day. As with any race there was a delicate balance to be struck!

The Kit:

The Bruder Wunderz are very fortunate (and grateful) to have been provided with Ark Swimrun Wetsuits.  Ark suits provide the foundations for race day; being the most technically advanced swimrun suits in the sport. Fast, warm, tough and (most importantly) stylish. Alongside the suit we wear Inov 8 X-Talon 210 shoes and  in Knut’s case, dinner plates for hand paddles. Personally, I opt for a slightly smaller size as I am quite fond of my shoulders. We both use large pull- buoys for extra buoyancy and tether to each other during the swims. This leaves the option to tow each other on the run if required. TOP TIP: Even if you don’t always use a tether it is great to have it there in case one of your party is suffering.

All in all we felt 100% confident in the kit we were using. Psychologically this is a very powerful thing when you are entering into a race of this magnitude.

Ötillö Swimrun World Championships 2018 Race Day.

Glassy waters all day long!!

Alarms buzzed at 3.20am leaving just enough time for a quick breakfast. Lady luck was smiling as there was not a cloud in the sky. Last year had been the toughest conditions on record. It appeared this year was set to be the polar opposite. We boarded the ferry and sailed through the millpond seas to Sandhamn where the race gets underway. You could certainly sense the anticipation on the ferry (side note –  you could also smell it emanating from the busy loos).

The Gun:

At just gone 6:00am a busy starting pen emptied as the the gun fired and the Ötillö swimrun world championships 2018 began. For the faster teams the first run and swim are super stressful. One constantly vies to keep near the front, whilst trying not to trip over unseen objects and other athletes. Like the Tour de France, Ötillö enforces neutral start for the first run. A buggy holds back the marauding masses. This however does not prevent the risk of dropping back and losing your team mate. After 1200 meters 160 teams/320 competitors then frantically enter the water. Each team looking for fast feet to help traverse the 1750m swim (the longest swim of the day).

Coming out of the first swim after losing my hand paddle half way though!

Midway through the first swim I knew that we were in a good group and somewhere towards the front. Great, it was all going to plan. Almost as soon as this thought popped up, my right handle paddle was inadvertently ripped off. Another competitor had got too close trying to draft of my hip. Luckily I managed to grab the sinking paddle. I then proceeded to hold the paddle at its top in a fist – using a paddle drill. This is great for training, however bloody painful to swim flat out for 700m. Exiting the water I proceeded to fall arse over tit, slipping on the legendary ‘slippy rocks’ that you are warned about. Despite my antics, Knut’s strong swimming had got us into a great position as we hit the technical single track trails.

Sod The Plan.

The first few hours of racing were some of the most intense of my life. We were going full gas over very technical trails and sharp rocks. All the time pushing to stay with the teams in front. On a slightly flatter trail I remarked to Knut that we must be pretty close to the front. Knut chuckled, telling me that we weren’t close to the front – we were at the front! Shit… We were taking a big risk by going out so fast.  Would we be able to hold on. It was at this point a touch of misfortune arose. I felt a ‘rumbling’ in my stomach… not the hungry type!! I hold my hand up and confess that it was my “pit stop” that caused us to lose the leading few teams. However, it was a bloody quick pit stop as we already had our suits down to the waist for the longer run section.

The Battles:

The next few hours of the race were a succession of tough runs and swims as we traded places with 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th place. The infamous Pig Swim was so still it was genuinely shimmering. The 1500 swim was surprisingly pleasant due to the unseasonably mild water temperatures.  This meant that the race was going to come down to the run on Ornö. This 20k section of running begins with some technical trails, before opening out onto a mixture of tarmac and gravel roads. Whilst the top three teams were having their own battle a little further up the road, we were now duelling it out for 5th place. The ‘Golden Bib’ team who had won all the qualifying races had managed to drop us after the Pig Swim. So we hit Ornö trying to distance 6th place who were right on our tails.

A Dark Place:

As we gradually pulled away from 6th place cementing our hold on 5th, we visited some very dark places. I was still having stomach issues and offered Knut a couple of brief rests as i finessed my Formulae 1 esque pit stops. Despite only being in the low 20s, the heat from the midday sun was sapping our energy and increasing the weight in the tired legs. The Ornö run is akin to having to run a half marathon straight after you have just completed a tough trail marathon. Every step is an effort as your tank runs low. The only thing keeping you going is not wanting to let your team mate down. Knut was in better shape and half way through the run I swallowed my pride and accepted the tether. In spite of all of this we were still pulling away from 6th place.

The Final Push.

When Ornö ends teams plunge back into the cool waters of the Swedish Archipelago and are momentarily relived by the load being taken off tired legs. Only to quickly realise that the arms and shoulders are still destroyed.

A picture paints a thousand words…. Exhausted!!

The last part of the race is tough and technical. However the mind is kept occupied by skipping over rocks and roots while dodging bushes and brambles. Landing on Utö for the final 3k run, we were both utterly spent. Having gone out very hard we were now holding on by a thread. It was the prospect of finishing in 5th place (and the fear of who might be creeping up behind us) that kept us running. In true Ötillö style, the final 200 meters is probably the steepest hill all day. As the noise of the finish line speakers grew louder and the banner came into sight we knew we had done it!!


The moment we saw the clock reading 8.00 hours flat!!

Crossing the finish line at the Ötillö swimrun world championships in 5th spot and a course time of 8.00 hours flat was totally mind blowing. We had gone out hard, taken some risks, dug extraordinarily deep and had come out the other side smashing expectations. It’s safe to say that when you plumb a new depth of suffering, exhaustion and hardship then make it to the other side, there is a feeling of absolute elation. I am proud to say that this was the toughest race of my life… I bloody loved it!!


Swimrun is not unlike many endurance sports: You push yourself hard, explore nature and have genuine appreciation for what you have completed. In my opinion what separates it from most other endurance sports is that it’s a team event. You and your team mate are in it together. You win, lose and suffer together and that’s special. It will often bring out the best in each person as they push to keep up with, help out and not let down their team mate. Then at the end of the day you have shared this amazing race and experience with a great friend or significant other.

Swimrun: Training with Hand Paddles

Swimrun Strength Endurance

Markus from the mighty ‘German Sparkle Party’ racing Breca Buttermere 2016 & showing us how its done!!

Strength Endurance pretty succinctly summarise what swimrun swimming is all about. Dragging yourself in your wetsuit, race bib, pull buoy, shoes and socks through large expanses of open water for stints that can stretch to well over a kilometre. And if you are looking to go fast you will almost certainly want to use hand-paddles. All of these factors lead to a massively increased load on the shoulders during swimrun swimming when you compare it to normal laps in the pool. So Strength endurance is key.

How to Build Up to Race Day

Hand Paddle Selection

Like with so many things in life, start small and work your way upwards, Rome was not built in a day and your upperbody strength wont be either. To much to soon = sore shoulders, injury and set back. If you have some experience using hand paddles then by all means use the ones you have, provided they are not to big. If not, i suggest starting with finger paddles. Here are some you can easily get online:  As you can see by following the link, hand paddles are pretty cheap so growing into larger sizes is not going to break the bank.

Swim Technique

If you are new to swimrun and are using hand paddles for the first time you may find the hand paddles slipping off while swimming. If this is the case there is a strong possibility that you have an issue with your swim technique. One very common thing  is dropping the elbow during the catch part of the stroke. If this happens the paddle can start to slip off meaning you will really struggle. If this is happening its time to get some help as you need to have a half decent stoke to use hand paddles. A good test for this is to use a hand paddle that has no straps. This means you must keep pressure on the paddle in the right direction during the stroke, if you don’t they will slip off. These particular paddles are great for technique and come in different sizes:

Building Up Over Time.

Now (January) is the best possible time to start building up swimrun strength endurance. Start incorporating the hand paddle swimming into your sessions now and build up that strength endurance. Like anything your body and muscles will adapt, but it takes time. Gradually  you will be able to increase the load and duration, so by the time the season comes around you will be ready for the open water sessions in a wet suit….. and Shoes!!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

If you have ever raced or seen a race over in Sweden (the home of swimrun) you can’t help but notice some Swedish thoroughbreds using bloody great dinner plates they call hand paddles. Yes this might work for them, but everyone knows a tiny chassis cant support a huge engine. If you weight 50 kilos then dare i say monstrous sized hand paddles are not going to do you any favours. Use the pre-season to find your suitable hand paddle size. You must be able to maintain technique, keep a decent stroke turnover and most importantly not overload your shoulders. If in doubt stick with the smaller paddles for this season and re asses next year.

Ankle Bands & Drag Pants.

As your swimrun training progresses its worth incorporating some kind of drag into your training. This will go some way to simulate what it is like to swim with your trainers on. Start off with a pull buoy and strapping on an ankle band (simply ties your ankles together to stop you kicking, very easy to home make) and doing some lengths like this. If this becomes easy you can try removing your pull buoy which will cause your feet to start to sink, increasing drag. Another option to use drag is ‘drag pants’ which catch the water as you swim. A cheaper alternative to buying drag pants is just to swim with baggy board shorts on!! Either way it makes life harder and increases the load.

Resistance Work

Finally doing some on land strength work is going to really help set you up for getting the best from hand paddles. Press ups and wide arm pull ups are a great start to building up some upper body. Then if you want to add in a little more; some triceps dips along with some resistance band work will really help, especially if you have limited  pool time. Check out this specific band work out article:  9 Stretch Cord Exercises To Improve Swim Strength And Technique


Constancy, perseverance and discipline. Want to improve rapidly and successfully then stick to the plan. Don’t skip sessions, keep working at it. There is so much literature out there pointing to success coming from dedication to training/practice more than any other factor.  The most ‘talented’ performers are simply the most dedicated trainers. Building up your strength endurance ready for the swimrun season requires focused training and consistency. Start this week and build to the summer!





Winter Long Runs: Build a Solid Training Base


Winter Training

As the early season training starts to take shape locking in some good long runs is really important. Long runs don’t have to be fast because its simply about getting in some long and steady endurance as a solid foundation on which more training can be built on. In many ways winter long runs are like laying the foundations of a building, if you go straight into building the house with out the foundations things will go wrong. This can be similar for running, going to hard and fast too early can cause injuries.

Top Tips for Your Long Runs:

Run with Friends:

Find a friend or a group of friends to do the runs with. If you lack motivation lock in some accountability. If your going with friends then you have to do the run! Furthermore what better chance to catch up and talk rubbish, these runs are intended to be at a conversational pace.

Reward Yourself Post Run:

Finish up with lunch or breakfast afterwards. Again there is less chance you will bail out on the run if you are heading to a pub or restaurant for some food and drink afterwards.

Discover Some New Long Run Routes:

If you are going to run with friends then take turns to work out new and interesting routes for the day. My group of friends and i hunt out trail runs within a trains ride from London. Our most recent and favourite was Box Hill to Oxted running along the North Downs Way. Its a point to point run with a pub finish at the train station. A spot of food and drink to finish before we jump on the train home. Winter trail runs are great fun and there was plenty of variety on this run: hills, mud, ice and lots of woolly cows!

Try Some Off Road WinterTrails:

 Its now been proven that you are going to be reducing injury and strengthening your legs by mixing up the terrain you run on. So why not hunt out some trail runs. Here is the link to our latest one if you are based anywhere near London. Its a great mix of hills, off road, some technical stuff and lots of mud….. Great days!!!





Have Fun With It

Most important out of all of this is to enjoy your running. Long runs can be tough, hard to get up for and boring and so they are all to often omitted by folk who just don’t get round to implementing them. If you follow some of the steps above the chances are you’ll be heading out the door come rain or shine. If the opportunity of training doesn’t motivate you FOMO will!!



Long Weekends with Some Training Thrown in!

The Long Weekend….

With the off season well and truly under way i had the opportunity to take some time off and head off for a few long weekends. As it happens i had two back to back trips which involved popping over the North Sea to visit Stockholm for the weekend and heading up to the Lake District the following weekend. Both of these were r and r trips rather than training, however what better places to combine some culture, good food, beautiful scenery and a dash of great trail running to keep things ticking over.

Nat and Markus at the Abba Museum mid run.
Pootling along the river, it was currently about 1 degrees!












My girlfriend knew she was going out to Sweden to run a training course just north of Stockholm so we decided it would be a great opportunity to turn it into a long weekend in Stockholm and i flew in on the Friday. As luck would have it a good friend and fellow swimrunner Markus Rossel of the world famous “German Sparkle Party” was living out in Stockholm with work and generously offered to put us up for the weekend and show us around. Having only visited Sweden during the summer for swimruns in the past this was a great opportunity to see Stockholm in a different light.

The weekend involved a couple of runs around the city taking in some great tourist spots with the help of ‘Run with Me Stockholm‘ a great running group that is run by another friend i met through swimrun.

The gang out on the Trails, those plank bridges are like ice, soooo slippy!!
Can you guess which is which: Cardamon, cinnamon and saffron… Apparently they are made with ‘love and butter!!’








We also managed to fit in a 25k trail run on the Saturday in the Tyresta National Park. This offered stunning scenery, technical trails and plenty of fresh air! On top of the training we got to wonder the city, take in some sights, sample some really tasty food including the famous cardamon, cinnamon and even saffron rolls at the coffee shops! 

The weather during the trip was very crisp but aside from a little dusting of snow we didn’t have any rain! As a long weekend goes i could not recommend Stockholm highly enough. There are always cheep flights into Stockholm Arlanda and its a super simple bus into the city centre from there! The food is great, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping if that’s your bag and there are no end of attractions to visit including the Abba Museum!!

Some of the easier parts of the trail

The Lake District:

Believe it or not The Lake District was actually a longer journey than it was to Stockhom. We made the wrong choice and drove… It was a 7 hour door to door trip from London. With the benefit of hindsight i would say pay the extra cash and jump on the train as it haves the journey time and quarters the stress! Once up in the lakes we checked into a lovely B & B called Virginia Cottage in Bowness-on-Windemere and headed out for a good meal and pint of ale. On the Saturday we headed to a fell race which we had located by doing some research prior to the trip. There are always fell races to be found this time of year, so with a little research before hand you can find yourself a friendly local event! The best part of these are that they are super friendly, cheap as chips (usually £5) and offer free tea and cake afterwards…. Winning!! The Kirkby Moore 10k fell race did not disappoint!! With the greeting of hail seconds before the start gun the race was tough, cold, muddy, technical and hilly and as always with fell races very humbling. That being said there is nothing better than taking a step out of your comfort zone into some good old fashioned fell running running where you have to pack your map, compass, full length water proofs, wooly hat and be prepared for anything! Both of us were made to fell very welcome and had a great time while being left under no illusions that we truly are Southern Softies!!

£33 gets you your own boat for an hour!!

The rest of the day was spend warming up, eating, and even taking a boat trip out on Lake Windermere where i was ambushed by the local bird life when i started to feed the swans. The evening was spend tasting some local craft beers at the Baha Bar and replacing the days calorie deficit.

Sunday was a little more sedate, we popped out for an easy trail run over and around the fells finding a course online that we could follow, then finished up checking into a spa for a little pampering before jumping back into the car. Thankfully it was a much faster trip back into town. As trips away go the Lake District is never going to disappoint, the train is certainly the way to go and once you are up there taxi’s are fairly good value if you need to get anywhere.

All in all both locations off a perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy season of racing while still offering a fun environment to roll out some very unstructured training keeping the body ticking over in the off season.

The third Bruderwunder: introducing Max Wolke

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.

Continue reading “The third Bruderwunder: introducing Max Wolke”

Article Written for Inov-8 on: Swimrun – The 10 Things You Need To Know.

Swimrun -The 10 Things You Need To Know.

Swimrun recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Since the first race in 2006, swimrun has picked up momentum and it is the new go-to multi-sport adventure race and for good reason. Typically undertaken as a team of two, you and your partner will traverse rugged areas of natural beauty, running in your wetsuits and swimming in your trainers. You wear the same kit throughout the various swim and run sections (of which there are typically several) – so if you want to swim with a pull buoy and hand paddles, don’t forget you also have to run with them!

An avid triathlete, I (Alan Scott) cut my teeth in Swimrun back in 2014 when racing the Otillo World Championship in Sweden. The Otillo is to Swimrun, what Kona is to Ironman. Since then my team-mates and I have continued to race and develop as Swimrun athletes, achieving such results as 6th place at the Otillo World Champs, 3 x winner of Breca Buttermere and 3rd at the inaugural Otillo 1000 Lakes.

Here are my top-10 tips that should help you in your Swimrun adventures:


Having the correct equipment and getting used to it is a key aspect of Swimrun (this topic probably merits an entire blog post in itself!) In short, the key bits of kit you will need are:


Either Swimrun specific or an old triathlon wetsuit cut above the knee. Depending on conditions you can decide on cutting the arms off above the elbow or not. If it’s your first race don’t worry about using an old suit – I have always raced in an old triathlon wetsuit, it won’t hold you back.


Your shoes need to drain well and have good grip on the trails. I have always raced in inov-8 X-TALON shoes, which are lightweight and offer amazing grip. Also, thin socks are a must as they stop grit working into your shoes and rubbing like sandpaper.

Hand paddles:

Not essential but these will help you. If you do want to race with them you must train with them first and build up your strength endurance (see tip 5). Start with small paddles and build from there.

Pull buoy:

You fasten this to your body via a bungee cord – as don’t forget, you will have to run with it too. It acts as flotation, helping your feet sit higher up in the water while swimming, which will certainly help reduce the drag of swimming with your shoes on.

Mandatory kit:

Read the race brief as most races insist on some form of mandatory kit be carried at all times such as a compass, whistle and pressure bandage.

Lube: Chaffing can be a big issue with Swimrun so healthy dollops of Vaseline will help alleviate this problem. Yes, it’s not good for the suit, but unfortunately the water based lubricants just don’t last the day, so it’s your skin or the suit!

Extra layers:

If it’s going to be a cold race then consider neoprene base layers, gloves and hats, all of which can make a big difference in the long swims. Last year we raced the Otillo 1000 Lakes in October in Germany in 7 degree air temperature and 11 degrees water temperature. The extra layers we wore proved to be the difference between 3rdplace and a DNF!

breca swimrun 2 photo by Wildman Media


There will be upwards of 20 transitions between land-to-water and water-to-land during a Swimrun and so you need to make sure you practice this before race day. Where are you going to put your hand paddles for the run? Are you going to strip the wetsuit to the waist for the longer runs? Think about when it is best to take off/put on your goggles and swim hat. By perfecting your transitions you can save a lot of time over your rivals.


This is the ‘3rd’ discipline of Swimrun racing, just like it’s the ‘4th’ in triathlon. Nailing your nutrition can be the difference between a great day and a horrible day! Find out what is going to be provided on course, then practice taking this nutrition and have a plan for race day. It’s a long day and you need to stay fuelled. I always keep a spare caffeinated gel tucked in my suit for emergencies. Nothing is worse than bonking mid-race!

breca swimrun 3. photo by Widman Media


Swot up on the course and write down the distances of each swim and run on your hand paddles or arm so you can remind yourself exactly how long each leg is going to be. This will help manage effort levels and is good for moral too. It can also be a good idea to note down where the feed stations are, and also if there are any particularly tough/hilly sections.


Swimming with trainers and potentially hand paddles creates a much bigger load on your swim stroke and thus you need to develop your strength endurance in training ahead of race day. Furthermore, if the running stages are going to be technical and hilly (they often are) then working on your leg strength will really help too.

Breca Swimrun 1. Photo: Wildman Media


This has two parts. If you are going to be competitive then you need to position yourself towards the front of the pack as bottle necks can be created at the start of the run. It may sound a little contradictory but not going out too fast is also key – you must manage your energy levels. It’s a long day and you don’t want to create any extra fatigue early on by burning unnecessary ‘matches’.


Virtually all Swimrun races are done as teams of two and this is a huge part of what makes this racing so special. Be sure to meet up with each other for key training sessions. Work out each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, practice swim drafting and decide if you are going to attach a tether (lightweight elastic cord) to each other on the swims and runs. There will be hard times and good times, but supporting your buddy is a massive part of Swimrun. If you haven’t bonded before the race you will certainly have by the end! The guys who I have raced with are now some of my best friends. #bromance

breca swimrun 5. photo by Widman Media

Blog post author, Alan Scott (front right) leading out the field with his team-mate at the 2017 Breca Buttermere Swimrun event, which featured 38km of trail running, 6km of open water swimming and a total of 18 transitions.


Having a GPS watch is really useful for working out your pace and effort, but most importantly it will keep you up to date on when the next transition is approaching so you can prepare for it. An example of this would be as you are coming to the end of a 5k run leg… it’s at this point you may want to start putting your swim hat and googles back on, zipping your wet suit back up and having your hand paddles ready to go. All this helps for a seamless transition.


Sounds obvious, but the best way to train for Swimrun is to practice Swimrun. Find a local lake with some trails nearby, or even better around it. Jot down some of the race course distances and recreate them in training using your race kit. It’s amazing the things you will find out during the training sessions…. goggles that mist up, hand paddles that are too big, shoes and wetsuits that rub etc. By addressing these in the build up it will go a long way to mentally preparing you for race day.

breca swimrun 6. photo by Widman Media


Come race day make sure you have a bloody good time. You are going to be racing through some stunning areas of natural beauty with a great mate or significant other, so soak it all up. Swimrun is one of the few races that you can share in the experience together. Enjoy the challenge… there are bound to be many of them!

*Follow Alan Scott on Instagram and check out his triathlon

*All photos used courtesy of Wildman Media were shot at this year’s Breca Buttermere Swimrun, supported by inov-8. Discover more about Breca Swimrun events.