How to Swimrun in Costa Brava: the dos and don’ts

Hills, stairs, rocks, sand, salt and incredible views await the Swimrunner who aims to take on the grand Swimrun Costa Brava in a few weeks. It is a fantastic adventure where you will have a hard time deciding whether the vistas of the land over the rolling hills or the underwater views in the crystal clear waters are the most impressive. You’ll run through picturesque Catalan villages, white-sand beaches full of astonished tourist sunbathers and dwindling trails looking down on the blue waters from heart-flicking heights. You’ll swim over white beach beds, through water valleys with awe-inspiring rocks towering over you and sear over a world of underwater life clearly visible through the transparent ocean. Sounds like a treat, right? The Spanish riviera is a truly amazing part of the world that you get to discover the fullest way possible. But hey, it’s not easy. That’s why I’ll share a few good pointers with you so you get a chance to enjoy this adventure without too much cement in your legs, dehydration headaches or blue toenails! Read on and get ready.

Training preparation

It’s already close and the heavy training is done, but these pointers can help you get your legs and technique in top shape:

  • Hills, hills and hills. To get to those nice views you got to, surprise, run up. It can be some daunting hills and many of them require more climbing skills than trail running technique. So incorporate some gruesome hill reps in your training (not the week before)
  • Stairs. Practice running them up, and equally important, down! If you can learn to take two steps per stride downwards, you’ll save a ton of time. But beware, it takes some practice to get there and be careful when you start. Take it slow and increase the speed progressively.
  • Transitions. The Marathon distance has around 26 swim sections. That means in and out of the water 52 times. Make sure you know where your equipment goes and practice those entries and exits. If you live in the northern hemisphere you can do it in he swimming pool (be careful not to slip!).

Race Day prep

Now you’re already in paradise and ready to go. Here are a few day-before advices to make your day perfect.

  • Cut your toenails well. You don’t want anything sticking out in front of your toes when you make your way down the steep hills of the Catalonian trails.
  • Save your sightseeing for after the race. It’s not a good idea to be on your feet for hours and collect 20,000 steps today. Legs up and rest them, trust me you’ll need them.
  • Study the course and have an idea of where you’re going. However it is easier than usual to know you are on the right path – just make sure the ocean is on your left side! A good idea is also to grab a permanent marker and write out the swim and run sections on your paddles. I always do this before a race. And don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a new pair for next race – it comes off perfectly with nail polish remover.
  • Don’t worry too much if you can’t sleep well the night before. I usually just accept I’m gonna be a bit nervous and antsy the night before and never expect to get the shuteye of my life. You’ll be ready to go no matter what and it’s all the rest and sleep you’ve done the week before that counts and will give you energy.

Race Day

The day D has come! These tips will help you along the beautiful course and hopefully let you enjoy your wild coast adventure even more:

  • Pay very close attention to the course markings. The course is marked well and you will find your way. But sometimes the turns can be sharp and unexpected. For example, you can be running on a big asphalt road and suddenly the path turns down a tiny little staircase that seems to lead to someone’s house. But these shallow pathways are common and used for taking you back to the ocean for a fresh dip in the blue.
  • Take your swim cap off. Even if you’re only running 2 km next, do take it off. Here in Spain the sun is strong and takes more energy out of you than you think. It will save you from dehydration and fatigue later on.
  • Bring a soft water bladder. You can fill it up at the energy stations for the longer runs. There are not many long runs but keep in mind that a 3-km run with 400m+ can take both time and energy. Also competing in Southern Europe is different from competing in Sweden for example – you’ll loose much more fluids from the heat.
  • Don’t tie your shoes using 3735325 advanced marine knots. You may have to stop to take sand out of your shoes at some point…
  • Take it easy in the first hill. I suggest not spending all your energy in the first part of the race, because there are many more plus meters to go. And you don’t want to start out with lactic-acid filled thighs…. trust me I’ve done it.
  • Keep up the Swimrun spirit in the seaside trails and promenades. You will during some sections pass vacationing people that are out on their Sunday hike. People here are very nice and they’ll cheer on you and give you a smile. Give it back and be considerate. If someone lets you pass you can say “Merci”, which is Catalan for thank you. If you want to pass someone you can say “Perdona” (excuse me).
  • Look up. Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. After that gruesome hill comes a reward: an incredible view of the ocean you just swam in surrounded by incredible nature.

I hope this helps you have an unforgettable Swimrun adventure in the wonderful wild coast of Catalonia. Do you have any tips for race day and the day before? I’d love it if you share yours in a comment!

Train hard and see you in Platja d’Aro on 22 April.


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