The Love SwimRun race celebrated its first event in Snowdonia last weekend.
16km of off-road running and open-water swimming joy. It involved 4 legs of each discipline and the catch was that we had to race self-sufficiently. Each participant had to swim and run with trainers on and a wetsuit at all times. The survival kit went inside a tow-float bag that was pulled and carried from start till the end of the race. What’s there not to love about it ? I hear you say. Correct: Variety is after all the spice of life-
Admittedly I hardly ever dismiss an attractive adventure idea, in my head, anything can be achieved. So I phoned a friend; Jen and before long we agreed to meet in Wales and see what this promising race was all about.
It was a child-free weekend and I was ready to have a new adventure devoting the weekend to both new friends and sporting experiences. The traffic was heavy, I turned up the volume and sang to my hearts content along Nina Simone.... ‘I want a little sugar in my bowl’.
I arrived at Llanberis, home to Wales’ highest mountains and from a distance I could see the mountains of Snowdonia. Human beings have ‘Nature’ imprinted in us; it’s in our gene, that’s why I love Snowdonia. It’s a very special place. First stop was the Lake Llyn Padarn. There was so much beauty it was hard to take it all in. Location plays a key role to my inspiration and I could sense the Love SwimRun race was going to provide me with a lot of ‘lateral and creative thinking’.
Jen and I stayed at Petes Eats B&B . The communal kitchen was a gem. A place where we met some interesting characters and shared ideas, tips, life-stories and a good laugh. Petes Eats is also known for its cafe downstairs, popular amongst the worldwide rock climbing fraternity and other outdoor sports fanatics. It offers good quality food in generous portions (largest mugs to please even the greediest clients) and at reasonable prices. One of their principles is that customers are not asked to leave even when the cafe is busy.
My blasé and chilled-out attitude meant that the morning of the race and just an hour before this I found myself searching for a swim tow-bag and a whistle. One can find all sorts of adventure gear in Llanberis town street even at 9am so this was easily solved. Shortly after Jen and I were standing at the start line excited about what lay ahead of us.
We agreed that we would race individually to avoid holding each other up as we’d never raced together before. After a short run we got to the diving dock. The clouds gave lake Llyn Padarn a very dramatic look. This is the sixth deepest lake in Wales and home to the Arctic Char, a fish ‘left behind’ by the last ice age. Luckily for this ‘Fish-Phobic’ swimmer, we didn’t bump into each other-
While everyone was diving in, Jen and I calmly stood on the dock discussing options for the best jumping style. We disregarded ‘The Bomb’ as not lady-like and agreed on a ‘Pencil Dive’- No, we did not hold hands ;)
The first couple of strokes came as a pleasant discovery, of how easy swimming with trainers was going to be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same with the pull-buoy and the hand-fins. In less than a minute I made the executive decision to rid them both. Perhaps testing the gear before race day serves its purpose?
Jen must have been 50m ahead of me during the first leg of the race and much to my surprise when I came out the lake she was still there standing. I understood then that she was an ally. My initial concern was that I might be holding her back but I quickly adjusted my mindset as she announced that her leg was hurting and that I should run without her. As tempting as it was to carry on solo, (thinking I would have gone faster) we agreed that we would stick together to the end. This brought a new element of team spirit and camaraderie to our newly formed, non-official team.
Going up Snowdonia we soon realised we were wearing the wrong wetsuits. Participants tend to wear shorter, thinner ones that leave their ankles, legs and arms free for running; but not us. We were sweaty and hot, struggling to move in our winter wetsuits (even though everyone knows ‘a lady, never sweats’). As the first run was going higher and higher, Jen’s leg begun hurting more but she wasn’t going to quit, she just needed a little morale booster. I suggested she looked behind her and congratulated herself on how far she’d already come. We accepted it was going to be a slow jog/quick walk up Snowdonia as part of the injury plan. We didn’t feel demoralised and we accepted it without shame. The value of the laughter and the fun conversations makes me see advantages only. In fact, this allowed me time to collect ‘treasures’ (black slates in shapes of hearts and other beautiful things!) to take back to Athina. I proudly carried those inside my swim bag during the whole race. You see? In life one always has to look for the positives-
They say Being kind to others brings happiness. This was evident with the Love SwimRun volunteers. The fact is that the race featured volunteers that cared and entertained, making this sporting event even greater. Val and Dianne danced and sang for us as we descendent the hills and entered the lake. Val is also (judging by her picture below) a fan of woolly hats and I approve of this. Simon, invited a family of swans to the lake to create more ‘Ambience’. The rest of the volunteers were great too, but I’m sorry I didn’t catch all their names. And here’s an interesting fact: A volunteering charity research shows that 17% of respondents felt that volunteering improved their sex lives (Just saying…)
Any race that features Snowdonia’s trails and stunning lakes is always going to be pretty damn great but the Love SwimRun far from coasting on it’s incredible location was a race well organised from start to end. Chloe’s humble gesture of appreciation; hugging each and every one of the participants at the end of the race, left us feeling good about the world for long after. Thank you-
We will certainly return next year and to spice things up we are thinking of ‘Star Trek’ wetsuits and even considering a four legged friend to join us ;)