Swimrun.com’s Alex Sheen headed to take on the Precision Hydration 39km course at As Keen As Mustard Nene Park.
Heading to Nene Park for this year’s As Keen As Mustard 2 day SwimRun Festival felt like something of a homecoming for me as I did my first ever SwimRun race at this event last year. This year I was back for the full weekend arriving just in time to see the end of the 5k race I did last year, through the evening pasta party on Saturday, and then out all morning on Sunday for the 39km long course.
Mother – daughter super duo Nicky and Chelsey Bailey, have been running races at Nene Park, near Peterborough in central England, since 2018. A beautiful venue of freshwater lakes and rivers, bisected by a historic steam railway, the venue provides the ideal setting for beginners and experienced SwimRunners alike who can take part in the 5k, 10k, 21k or 39k courses. A wonderful part of the festival is the races held for junior SwimRunners who can take part in a short course race from age 12, one of the few events open to aspiring athletes in the UK. The Saturday evening pasta party was a great opportunity to reconnect with SwimRunners and a rare opportunity to build community across the UK SwimRun scene, something that isn’t always so easy to do in the post race haze!
Nailing the safety
One of the stand out highlights of these events, is the focus on athlete safety. As Keen As Mustard events attract a lot of first time SwimRunners, and water safety is critical to making sure those embarking on this wild adventure feel safe and confident to tackle the swims. My own race included some long river swims in excess of 1000m (one of which is upstream!), and all distances include at least one crossing of the lake where the shore can seem a little distance at times. The As Keen As Mustard marshals were outstanding throughout, carefully shepherding swimmers along the swims and ensuring a kayak or paddleboard was within sight at all times (if not a couple of swim strokes away!) even with all the meanders along the rivers.
Another challenge facing this weekend’s event was the extreme weather warnings for heat (by UK standards anyway) and thunderstorms – two rather major complications for people running in wetsuits and then swimming in water. Again, the As Keen As Mustard team were excellent, communicating well in advance their contingency plans and focussing on athlete safety above all else. At several aid stations, marshals took care to make sure I was ok and still functioning and positive in the heat which was appreciated as temperatures rose to the high 20Cs (mid-80Fs).
For those looking to tackle a long course in the UK, As Keen As Mustard’s Hot Mustard 39km course is a great option. While the 30km of running is fast and flat, the “hills” come on the swims with 5 of the 14 upstream against the current, making 9km feel like considerably more by the end.
My own race, was a great end to three weekends in a row. Aside from some typically amateurish errors including cabbing down one run too soon after losing track of where I was in the course, and starting another swim with my paddles zipped inside my wetsuit, I could feel the benefits of training specifically for SwimRun although even as a strong swimmers I was beginning to balk at the notion of yet another swim after the monstrous 9km of paddle swimming!
As Keen As Mustard’s Nene Park festival weekend is a “can’t miss” weekend in the UK SwimRun calendar whether it’s your first or 21st SwimRun!