Hills and Headache; Race Report Costa Brava Swimrun 2017

This past Sunday, 23 April, the second edition of the magnificent Costa Brava Swimrun took place on the beautiful “wild coast” approximately two hours north of Barcelona. To summarize: this is one of the most beautiful Swimrun Races I’ve ever done. Despite over 1500+ meters and pushing through with a cold, it was yet again a fantastic experience to return racing the 42 kilometers from Begur to Platja d’Aro in the province of Girona.

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Raceprep

The week before the race, I felt phenomenal. I have really made an effort to work on my weakest link (running), during the winter, and felt super excited to test out my newfound force and running technique in the first race of the year. On Thursday, I tested the new Orca RS1 suite in the Ocean, and it’s just PERFECT. However, my fine plans got a little bummed out on Friday morning when I woke up with an awful cold. It wasn’t so bad, so I went to work, but could feel it getting worse throughout the day. As many of you know, you try to deny your sickness into the last minute, thinking it will suddenly go away. Sadly I was completely out at night, falling asleep almost with my shoes on at 9 pm.

My faithful Swimrun Mix partner Pär arrived on Friday night from Stockholm and had to share my my despair (I am really not my happy self when I’m sick, sorry for that Pär). However, the highlight of the day was actually picking him up! Jonathan (my soulmate and handsome boyfriend for those that don’t know) had gotten to borrow a Tesla Model X for our little Swimrun weekend road trip. So, we picked up Pär (and Oriol, also arriving from Stockholm to race with Sarah) in this super cool space car.

On Saturday, I woke up with 38,2 degree C fever 😬 Not fun when you want to race the next day. I felt ok otherwise, so popped some cold pills and hoped for the best. We took off in the Tesla and drove up the coast, stopping for an Arroz-Negro lunch at the beautiful little beach Tamariu near Begur. Later at night, it was time for race briefing at Platja d’Aro: they had made some great improvements forom last year with briefing in both Spanish/English and in a new, larger space.

Raceday

On the morning of the race, I had no fever and felt much better, so I decided to give it a try! We got ready in the morning at our calm hotel in Begur (we decided to stay closer to the race start this year, which was a hit as we didn’t have to get up as early). I have to say this race has the coolest start EVER: you take off from el Castillo de Begur: an ancient castle on top of the area’s highest hill. In other words, you need to be ready for a 3-min-tempo sprint downhill for the first kilometer! Before the start we had to pick up our GPS also. For this race, you need to carry a chip and a GPS. I’m not really sure why, because the GPS has not worked either years for us… According to feedback from family and friends, it would have been just fine with time checkpoints from the chip like is normal for other races.

So, we started, and I think that my body got in a bit of a chock from the rapid start. For the first run and swim, I felt awful and thought I’d only make it to the first checkpoint after 9 kilometers and step off the race. I just couldn’t give it all I had. It felt like as soon as I tried to push a little harder on the swim or up the hills, my body said stop. It was also hard to breath because of all the nasty mucus coming out of me. However, somehow I started to feel a little better after the second swim and after taking some cold pills I had in my suite. We took a small break and discussed: I’d take it from checkpoint to checkpoint. So, we continued, in a pace slightly lower than usual. Pär also pulled on almost all the swims (usually we alternate to save energy). But I just wasn’t on top of my game.

Aside from my unfortunate condition, we had a good day. The race sort of goes like this: you fight up a steep trail hill up to a breathtaking view of the marvellous coast with blue water beneath. Then, you take on a slippery slope of a trail down towards the water again through idyllic forests or dwindling Costa-Brava beach walks. Sometimes, you have to climb down these hills, holding on to ropes provided by the organization. You enter the sea for a beautiful crisp swim in clear water, where you can enjoy a little aquarium of small fishes and corals underneath you (if you have time to appreciate it). Sometimes, you swim through cave-like structures of impressive cliffs towering up beside you. At times, you have to be careful for the current not to whisk you up on the shallow sea-urchin covered rocks that often are visible close to the beaches. This process, you repeat over the following mountains and sea passages for 42 kilometers until you get to Platja d’Aro. It is really a perfect place to do Swimrun, and I highly recommend trying out this race! Just beware: the hills are not a joke. If you live in Stockholm, you need to make sure you run up Hammarbybacken at least a few times during the preceding winter to prepare properly.

Race Logistics

Except for the GPS tracker issues mentioned above, Bettrail has done a fantastic job improving the race from last year. The signage was flawless: we ran the right way the entire race thanks to signs, flags, drawings and volunteers pointing out the way to go. Also, there were extra water stations after almost every swim, which was highly appreciated in the heat. There were 5 energy stations throughout the course, which was fine for me, as I usually don’t need a ton of energy during the race. One more could have been good as there were almost 10K between two at one point.

As I was a little under the weather, I put extra effort on race management: I made sure to open my Orca RS1 suite and take of my swim cap even if it was only 2K running, to not overheat. I also made sure to drink a lot at the energy stations, and had a silicone water bottle with me during the race for moments of need. This is highly recommended for Swimrun races closer to the equator, as you loose much more energy in the heat compared to racing in Sweden and the Nordics.

 

Equipment

For this race, I used the following equipment:

– Orca RS1 Wetsuite (without sleeves)

– Innov8 Terraclaw trail shoes

– Orca compression socks, long

– Green Strokemaker paddles

– Salomon silicone water bottle

– Orca Killa Goggles

– Swim cap provided by the race organization

– Mandatory equipment (Pär carried most of this)

I am very happy with the new Orca suite RS1 (and not only saying that cause I’m biased J). The suite has gotten a new fit since last year, and is tighter over the hip/butt area. It feels excellent to run in thanks to the mix of breathable materials in the armpits and the short sleeves (it has sleeves you can put on if it’s cold, but I left them at home for this race). Also, another great improvement is the large pocket on the back of the suite. I put my water bladder in there, and could barely feel it even when the bottle was completely full (500 ml)! The suit is also excellent to swim in. The legs of the female suite are slightly longer this year, and have thick neoprene areas over the thighs, which gives great flotation. With the combo of this extra flotation and a butt, no pull buoy is needed!

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Result

So, we ended up in second place. Big congrats to Team Colting France who took home the win! I have to say that due to the circumstances, I’m very happy to finish and to end up on the podium. On a normal day, having 100% to give, we could most likely have had an exciting battle with the top team – but this will be for next race. Thanks to Pär that could stand me during the race and pulled on all the swims stepping up like a true Swimrun teammate.

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The highlight of the day was to get to stand on the podium together with my friend and training partner Sarah Hansson. She fought together with Oriol Guillamon for the bronze, passing several teams at the end of the race. Big congrats to you two! You will see Sarah and I racing together at Utö Swimrun in a month, as well as in the Grande Finale OtillO World Championships in September. Our training partners Samuel and Mat also took home the bronze in the Sprint race category – a pretty good result for our little Barcelona training group! Great work everyone 😃

Now, time to get well and continue the preparation for upcoming adventures! 💪

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