Love SwimRun Llanberis

Love SwimRun Llanberis was my first swimrun, an advantage-style multi-sport event which includes several sections of running and swimming with no transitions: you swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit.

While the UK baked in the consecutive days of the hottest day of the year, North Wales stubbornly hid behind clouds. The water temperature remained at 14 degrees (compared to 22 at my local lake) so I came as prepared as I could with a thermal neoprene vest under my wetsuit, calf sleeves and neoprene gloves, but still worried I might freeze to death.

Run 1

Despite raining at registration on Friday, Saturday was reasonably bright and rain-free. We set off on the first 2k run with me in the last position. I moved up as the run went on but having already donned my swim cap I was very toasty by the end of the run section. We headed into Llyn Padarn for our first swim and the water felt pretty pleasant after that.

Swim 1

Entry to the lake is slippy on the slate and not something you want to fall over into. The 550-metre swim section took us along the coast to an exit that was even more slippery. A giant slopping rock meant that the only way we could get up it was to queue, lie on our belly and attempt to get some purchase on the far edge, pulling ourselves up along it.

Run 2

Into run section two was no kinder: this was only 2k but went straight up a muddy hillside that was overgrown with nettles and thorns. It then continued in some tarmac before heading straight back down the hill on a technical descent that frequently became artificial steps.

Swim 2

The second swim headed straight across the lake. The far shore is often further away than you think of it. Mercifully, this time it wasn’t and the swim over was fairly brisk. The 450-metre stretch heads over and into a narrow cove that gets so shallow you have to walk across it. And yes, it’s very slippy slate. You can then swim again to the exit where the first feed station is located.

Run 3

The third run section completes the easy half of the figure-of-eight loop that takes you back past the start and the first feed station. I grabbed some crisps and a gel from my back pocket. It is only 300 metres and you stop in the middle of that for the feed station so there is not much chance to warm up. That’s relevant for the next section…

Swim 3

Now we are into the proper swimming. We have left the sprint racers behind and it is just the long course athletes taking the 1k stretch down to the far end of the lake. There is no turns, you just keep going until you run out of lake. It reminded me of swimming in the rowing lake at Outlaw: it just keeps going and going.

I started to feel a bit sick during this swim and also get cold. We had not warmed up in run 3 and this time I was in the water for 27 minutes so I was very pleased to have done with it by the time we reached the swim exit. Luckily, the slate here was only moderately slippy.

Run 4

The final run section constituted the main body of running. We started with a few kilometres of flat, albeit with a wooded climb in the middle. I used this chance to unroll my tow float and pull our a Yorkie bar. With hindsight, a few more chocolate bars would not have gone amiss. I tried to keep a descent pace here, while eating, to get my body temperature up.

After the first three kilometres, you start to climb up towards the slate quarry. It’s not a scrabbling with your hands climb and the surface is good underfoot: but is relatively sleep with a series of switchbacks to get to the top. Then you are treated to a little bit of flat before arriving at feed station two: time for another gel and some jelly babies.

The views up here were amazing. We were lucky that we got a clear day. I didn’t take a camera on the event but here is a photo from the castle looking over to the quarry we ran up.

The downhill starts on a gravel road and I tried to run hard down here to keep my body temperature up as I knew we were then going into a steep technical descent through the woods where I was back to carefully picking my foot placement at little above walking speed. The climp up was a lovely chance to chat to some of the other competitors and share stories.

Swim 4

Onto the final swim. At 1.1k this was the longest swim section but was maybe a little easier psychologically because we swam along the shore to a buoy and then turned, knowing that all we then had to do was cross the lake to reach the finish line.

I felt even sicker here. I am not sure whether it was the amount of lake water I had drunk by this point but I found that if I concentrated on exhaling continuously while in the water I felt a little better. A bit of wind caused a very slight chop on the water: nothing major but it did make it harder to breathe.

Turning the final buoy was an exercise in patience: I wanted to push harder to get the thing done but if you go too hard you can often end up cramping or tiring, so I tried to tempo it into the finish.

The finish

It was cold when I finished! As ever, I thought I had brought enough warm clothes but then wished I had brought more: I ended up wearing a merino base layer, hoodie, rain jacket, changing robe and towel all layered on top of each other.

My finish time was:

3:15:53

I was in the water for less time than estimated, but running for significantly more as I walked a lot of the steep uphills and technical descents. I don’t think I’m going to be a champion swimrunner: I was 60th out of 83, with additional DNF and and 25 DNSs.

That said, I did win! Despite finishing an hour and 12 minutes behind the winner, they also have a series of lucky dip prizes to encourage people to stick around for the medal ceremony and my number was the first to be called out of those that actually had stuck around. As such, I had first pick on the prizes and went for the bobble hat.

Thoughts on swimrun

All of this running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers business was fine. That said, on a hot day it would have become very toasty very quickly. Carrying your tow float was more of a pain in the ass. Even though I brought some carabiners to clip it, it still bounced around and sometimes I ended up carrying it.

Specifically for Llanberis, I wouldn’t want to have worn any less as the water was cold after you had been in it a while. I’m doing Manvers Lake next month and I will see how that compares: it is a more beginner-friendly affair with shorter swims and water that should be a lot warmer.

Love SwimRun seem well organised: I didn’t know how well you could manage a water safety team with a spread out field but there was always a kayak nearby and plenty of marshalls on course. Wearing a bib vest was better than having to mess around with a pinned-on number or race belt, even if it did make it a little harder to get to the chest zip on my wetsuit.

Timeline

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 19th, 2022 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.