We take a rare diversion from the world of swimrun to look at an exciting adventure races series, UltraSwim 33.3 which has big ambitions and will certainly appeal to the swim in swimrunners. UltraSwim 33.3‘s Mark Turner chats to swimrun.com.
What elements of UltraSwim 33.3 do you think will appeal to swimrunners?
The ethos of UltraSwim33.3 is very much the same as swimrun in the sense that it’s an adventure race. It’s not around the buoys, it’s not done in laps, it will be in varied conditions and with different distances each day. One of the differences that can be appealing, however, is that it’s a multi-day event. It’s also a solo event so it allows participants to push themselves individually.
For Michael Lemmel, co-founder of ÖTILLÖ and the sport of swimrun on his reasons for entering the UltraSwim 33.3 challenge:
It is the total trust in the process of jumping off the deep end and completely leaving my comfort zone. I have no idea what my experience will be other than awe of every person toeing the line in such an incomprehensible distance. I look forward to seeing the sea floor pass below me and expect to be crushed every day.
Overall Mark Turner thinks the adventure element will appeal the most, with the races being in some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, there’s always a different perspective or different horizon to discover. UltraSwim is a hybrid of all of the above, pulled together in a unique multi-day format.
Will a swimrunner who has completed a 40km+ (with at least 7km swimming) have the right level of fitness?
I am pretty certain that most people doing swimrun events complete some decent swimming distances and are very capable already of taking on UltraSwim33.3 without necessarily having to commit to further swimming training. Of course it’s a different discipline and the swims are longer but the average profile of a swimrunner is that they’re super fit and capable.
Participation and experience over competition?
There is no question that the majority of competitors in UltraSwim33.3 are there to simply participate, they’re there for the experience. Often this is to take on a challenge, either a personal one or perhaps with a group of swimmers.
Of course, there will always be an extremely competitive group at the front trying to win, but I would say that’s the minority. As far as we’re concerned every swimmer is a winner, whether you finish at the back, the middle or the front – the accomplishment is relative to the goal you sent yourself.
It’s still a sporting event and there is a start line, a cut off and time and it’s this structure that helps people deliver performances to their own expectations that they might not otherwise reach if there wasn’t that pressure. The competition element helps drive people forward, it’s where participants support each other and push one another forward and that’s what spurs everyone on.
How does a participant prepare for a 33.3km swimming journey?
There are two different answers to this.
From a swimming point of view, it’s great to build up the distance you’re capable of progressively through training. You can do specific sets, 10 400s for example, reducing your time each try. There’s some specific sessions we can recommend, however I don’t think the training recommendations would be radically different for an average swimrunner with respect to the swimming they will do. They may want to do some longer swims to build confidence and work up to a longer difference – but the main differences are: no hand pedals allowed, no pull buoy between the legs, no wetsuit (although you can choose to opt into the wetsuit category) and no shoes! So perhaps from a technique point of view, there’s some adjustments to make if you have become too reliable on these assets you’re allowed to use during a swimrun.
Putting the above aside, any athlete who has participated in, or is preparing for a swimrun will already have a solid grasp on what they would need to do for UltraSwim33.3.
How safe will the event be?
We put in place bench marked world-class safety around the event. Ultimately the challenges are similar to a swimrun in that we’re navigating, following a course and relying on yourself as it’s predominately a solo event. Having said that, there is a duo-relay category that is also an option.
We surround the swimmers with safety kayaks, medical boats, other event boats on standby to pull people out of the water so they can stop at any time. Each swimmer will have a kayak within a 50m range of where they are swimming.
All participants will feel safe at all times but there will be times when swimmers find themselves following a course, they might be relatively alone, sun in their eyes, wondering if they’ve got it right… but that’s the beauty of an adventure race. It’s an adventure, not a swim around buoys.
What do you think some of the highlights will be?
The highlights… it might be better to ask the participants this question! In my opinion, it’s the camaraderie and everyone’s support for each other. I’ve seen all different profiles and levels of swimmers supporting each other throughout this multi-day event.
There are moments that stand out, such as early morning, sunrise, when everyone is a bit nervous, a bit sore and aching from the day before, and all the swimmers are experiencing the same thing. They all help and encourage one another.
Without a doubt, the highlights are the bonds and connections that are made over the course of a few days. This is something that single day events can’t offer to the same degree. It’s an emotional ride that tends to mark people in a positive way for a long time afterwards.
What are your plans for the future? A global series?
Our mission is to build this into a global series as quickly as possible. The aim is to have three events next year in 2024, then build that out into five events in 2025 and eight events in 2026.
I estimate that four will be in Europe and the rest will be on other continents so we can run UltraSwim33.3 throughout the whole year. The events will be consistent with similar or identical formats on each one. Perhaps we would introduce a Super Challenge that would be 33.3km per day for several days… that’s an idea that is knocking around at the moment.
But the key in all of the above is consistency. Consistent events, consistent quality, consistent premium services. We want people to feel like pros when they’re swimming. There’s sport massages after the swim, physios on site – everything to help everyone recover as quickly as possible – in a great setting, great hotels… ultimately an event where bringing a non-competing partner feels natural and becomes part of the experience.