This is a guest post from first-time swimrunner Alex Sheen. Alex took first place in his inaugural swimrun event, a 5km race with As Keen As Mustard Events. You can read about his preparation here.
The 5km was one of many races hosted by As Keen As Mustard Events and for Race Director, Nicky Bailey ‘The more experienced, helped the inexperienced, the finishers supported the others as they finished. There was an awesome vibe in the race village and an excited buzz all over the courses! Well done to all who gave the 5km (Alex’s race) a go where there was a diverse range of entries, all abilities supporting each other and lots of newcomers’.
Arriving At The Race
After a week of blistering heat that no doubt left many competitors anxious to find out just how hot it was running in a wetsuit and swim cap, the weather took an absolute nose dive on Race Day. With temperatures back in the low teens and torrential rain, it was clear the weather was going to be rather more accommodating for my first swimrun race at As Keen As Mustard’s Nene Park Intro 5km.
Arriving plenty early at the site, it was great to see the junior race heading out with lots of smiles. I love the idea of parents racing alongside their kids, and can’t wait til my kids are old enough! It’s great to see companies like As Keen As Mustard offering everything from a long course right the way down to juniors. Armed with a tactically over sugared coffee, I headed out to recce the lake where all of the swims would take place, mindful I had never been to this venue before. After a quick nosy round, it was time to get geared up, collect my race number and make ready!
Chatting to others at the race village, I was in good company with lots of first timers giving it a go, even if we did almost universally concede that we’d bought way to much kit already and saw ourselves firmly in the “all the gear, no idea category”… The best thing that came through was how many people were out to have fun. Reflecting on a recent disappointing road running race where I got too caught up in “racing”, it was brilliant to be in a “have a go and have a laugh” atmosphere! After a well organised safety brief, we were set off by John of Fenland Runner, the sponsor of the 5km race series.
Alex’s Race Report
I didn’t have much of a strategy for the race other than to not “over do it” and to have fun. Mindful of the short distances on each leg, it was going to be easy to overcook the run legs. Anticipating this, I had set a pace alert on my watch just as a reminder of what was sustainable! Naturally I ended up totally ignoring this and pushing hard the whole way.
As an event, the Intro/Super Sprint distance is a different beast to the longer races I aspire to. Feeling more like an intervals session, I pushed hard on the runs right in the red zone, and recovered on the swims (my stronger leg) so held a 5km+ pace which I was pleased with and it kept me smiling!
Almost Outfoxed By Transitions
The biggest thing I didn’t quite feel prepared for was the variety of entries and exits. My main training venue is more like a beach entry and exit so it’s a gradual slope in and out that gives you total control over your transitions – not so here!
One entry was a submerged ledge which left me unexpectedly in over my head after three steps, scrambling to fit my pull buoy and paddles while already deep in the water. Similarly some of the exits required negotiating submerged rocks, or navigating to the precise path through the tall reeds.
As I consider more ambitious races, finding somewhere to practice on more challenging entries and exits would be wise, along with adding some of the dreaded deck ups to swim training.
Sighting was also harder than I anticipated and my swims were rather meandering at times as I repeatedly lost sight of the flags, not in any dramatic way, but there were moments where I wasn’t 100% sure I was heading along the most direct route to the exit point. Something to get some more practice on.
Gear wise, all my kit was great apart from my pull buoy which I expected to be the case. The pull buoy lasso mount (thanks Low Tide Boyz) worked a treat, but winging it with my combo pull-kick float from my swim bag wasn’t so great as the wings on it make it more prone to escaping from between my thighs. Of all the things to invest in next, a proper SwimRun pull buoy is definitely the thing.
All in all, I had a brilliant time! A huge thank you to Nicky, Chelsey and the As Keen As Mustard Team for establishing such a great event. Fantastic to meet others dipping into this niche sport, and particularly in an atmosphere focussed much more on fun than performance.
I’m already signed up for another As Keen As Mustard race this year, and currently investigating flights for a late season race further afield