The strapline on Breca’s website is the following “Imagine a sport that takes you to beautiful, wild places; over craggy hilltops, through mountain tarns, along rugged coastlines and across glittering lakes. Now picture doing all of that with friend by your side – two trailblazers together in the world of endurance sport” -Sounds like a load of marketing speak but it is 100% accurate and a true reflection of the race and the experience of Breca Coniston.
Rewind about 8 weeks and Brian posted a link to the club Facebook page about a new addition to the Breca series in the Lake District based around lake Coniston with 38k of running and 6k of swimming and this set the usual sadistic lunatics into a frenzy and Sean and Brian signed up pretty quickly-You have to sign up as a pair , I was trying to ignore it as I just come of the back of Ironman and had my first Ultra marathon 2 weeks before it so knew I wouldn’t be in the best shape but I couldn’t resit and signed up with Jez and soon after Andy and Ian signed up ,followed a few weeks later by Chris and Phil.
If you are not similar with the swim run concept it started in Sweden and has only started in the UK in the last couple of years ,You swim/run in multiple stages and there are no transitions so you swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit.
We spent a few weeks practising with the nice new shiny kit we had all bought ,You can do it in a normal wetsuit but you would probably cook on the run so we all invested in new swim run specific wetsuits and light weight trail shoes (I wish I had shares in Orca and Inov8) and sort of worked out what we were meant to be doing – Little did we know what we had let ourselves in for!
We headed up on Friday for the race on the Saturday ,and we had to do a kit check and race brief on Friday evening ,At the race brief the race director asked how many people hadn’t done a swim/run before -probably about 50-60% put the hands up -His reply was a sadistic “So you decided to do this one as your first”.
Logistics on the race day were super easy as we had booked a cottage next door to the race HQ so we had a 100 yard walk to the bus which was taking us down to the start and this took about an hour which was worrying as we had to swim and run the whole way back.
At the start there was a slight delay while we waited for everyone to get there so went for a little dip in the lake -it was a little chilly ,soon after we were lined up ready to go ,3-2-1 go and we were of for the 50m run to the lake,the first swim was a little chaotic and not unlike a Triathlon mass start with arm and legs going everywhere but with the added complication of you are tied to your partner so as Jez and I headed of this really annoying person kept coming across from our right and snagging our line -It was Brian !
The first swim was about 700m across the lake and it was busy the whole way across but went fairly quickly, this was followed by a short 1.5k run along the lake road before we jumped back in for the swim back across the lake and by this time the field had spread out so we had a lovely swim back and we headed of for the next run section which was a stunning 6k train run up into the low level fells which saw us crossing streams, running through bogs and generally loving it and it was also the first time we saw Jamie who was marshalling for the day (Gets a free entry to a race next year).
This was followed by another swim back across Coniston and what was meant to be a 2k run along the lake shore but Jez and I managed to get a little lost and ended up running and extra couple of Ks which included me sinking to my knees in a bog,climbing multiple barbed wire fences and going through someone’s back garden back to the next swim checkpoint for 500m swim up to the end of the lake and the final section of Coniston ready to head out for the longest run of the race.
The biggest run section was a 15k fell run up over Tarn How’s via High fell and Latterbarrow and coming out on Lake Windermere which was amazing but bloody tough going and took us about 2 hours to do the 15k as we slogged up inclines of over 20% which did nothing for my right knee which was playing up from the Ultra 2 weeks earlier ,As we reached Windermere it was some nice lakeside running and 2 more swims of circa 600m each before we headed out for the next really tough section a 7k run over Loughrigg.
As we exited the water at the top of Windermere we looked up and saw what we though was sheep high up on the fell -no it wasn’t sheep it was the white race bibs of the other racers going up the fell -This was going to be another super tough fell run!
As we worked our way up my knee was really playing up so there was very little running and Jez was brilliant and we just focussed on keeping moving forward and up and when we reached the top we got the most stunning view back down lake Windermere and made you appreciate the whole environment, We knew we had broke the back of the race and headed down towards Ambleside and the next Swim at Rydal water which was strangely although it was the smallest lake we swam in but also felt the coldest this could have been as our energy levels had really dropped ,we saw Jamie again at the final checkpoint.
Another short run -Via a couple having there wedding pictures for the final swim of the day which was also the longest across Grasmere at around 800m which was tough as it was also a strong headwind once we had that out of the way it was a final 2k run to the finish in Grasmere.
It was fantastic to head into the finish area and all the guys were there to greet us home -all of them had a beer in there hand.
We finished in just over 8 hours and covered 38k of running and 4.6k of swimming and over 1200m metres of climbing.
The key difference in this sport is that’s its a team event not individual like Triathlon and that’s what made it special because although I was blessed in having an amazing partner in Jez and we were 4 separate teams we where actually 1 big team of 8 from Leighton Buzzard Tri club who went to the Lake District and took on one of the toughest races you could find and all smashed it and will all be back for more!…