There are good and bad ways to train for a swim run event, especially the Breca Jersey, coined as their hardest one. 47km or running and 6.5km of swimming along the rugged north coast of the idyllic little channel island.
The good way to train would be to get the miles in the legs and arms. If all else fails, volume training, (not overtraining of course) will almost always get you to the end.
The bad way to train would be to sit on a beach in Cuba, drink copious amounts of rum, and learn you have a cigar problem, even though you’ve never smoked in your life, which is exactly what I did. It wasn’t all my fault though, I was in Cuba on my honeymoon and loved every bit of it and even have a box of overpriced cigars on my desk as I write this, which no doubt I’ll never smoke again. It’s just not the same.
It was only when I arrived back in the UK less than a week before Breca Jersey that I knew I was in trouble. The only running I had done in 6 weeks was the time I ran a good bath. Jokes aside, I was woefully underprepared.
I landed in Jersey and met up with my race partner Victoria Williams for the first time. She had won a competition to be my partner in crime, something I could see she was immediately regretting due to my lack of fitness when I huffed and puffed up the stairs of our hotel. On another note of; ‘How not to do a SwimRun’. Don’t meet your partner the day before the event for the first time. Do some training with them or at the very least go for a pint to make sure they’re not a crazy person. Thankfully Victoria was a complete joy to buddy up with and her enthusiasm was infectious.
Anyway, race day came and we were off. Lacking any logistical symbiosis we landed up near the back as we tried to tether together for the swim. We might as well have been doing a three-legged race. We survived, just, and got out for the first run in good spirits. We even started overtaking a few pairs which you can be sure surprised the hell out of me. Then just as we were getting into our rhythm we were back in the water, this time the tether really annoying me so after that swim we ditched it. We ran again, then swam, then ran some more, then swam a bit. I found the swims much harder than the running partially, no, entirely due to the fact that in 2009 I chased some cheese down a steep hill in Gloucester and did a right proper job on my shoulder. (Google Gloucester Cheese Rolling if you have no idea what this is. It’s a 200-year-old English tradition. It’s also very stupid) This makes my left shoulder pretty useless for swimming unless I do a lot of strength work on it.
We were getting into the flow but dreading the real kicker in this event. A 10km run, with a short 400m swim, followed by a 20km run. So apart from the 400m swim we’d basically be running 30km in one go. It broke the field, and nearly broke me. Everything hurt but we pushed on. Then to add insult to injury the second last swim should have been 1000m but was nearly 1400m because the tide had come in so what had been a run up the beach, was now a swim instead. We were freezing, dehydrated and running on empty.
We hobbled the last few miles before the final climb out the water and up a huge flight of stairs to the pub, also known as the finish line. We had done it. I remember half way around the course thinking, I’m never ever doing one of these swim run things again, but now as I write this staring blankly at my overpriced cigars, I have changed my mind entirely. I loved it. The ability to do a multi discipline event without having to carry a bike, kayak, SUP or other large equipment made it so easy. One bag of hand luggage on a cheap flight from Manchester and an hour later I was there.
Swim run events are tough, hard, cold and absolutely worth it and I urge everyone to have a go one day. Just make sure you train for it, your knees and shoulders will appreciate that.