Written by Fanny Kuhn
Swimrun never stops to Surprise me. That is, on all levels. In Isles of Scilly, I was surprised by the stunning landscape in the middle of the Atlantic, my own physical ability, and what lured beneath the surface of the ocean.
So, about this place; Isles of Scilly. When I first heard about it, I had to consult my friend Google of its location, and it turns out, it’s in the middle of the Atlantic. Great, so how does one go about getting there? It’s not easy. But the hours and hours in agony over these flights, ferries, trains and buses was all worth it: the place is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It looks like a mix between the prettiest Islands in the Swedish archipelago, the Caribbean and New Zealand (I’ve never been but what I imagine this country to look like from watching Lord of the Rings). Moreover, the ambience on St. Mary’s where we stayed, was just fantastic. The locals, embracing a laid-back island attitude with a touch of British politeness, were some of the nicest people I’ve encountered. Everyone was utterly friendly and engaged in the odd competition going on over the weekend and was cheerful over the crazy people running around in wetsuits across their Atlantic pearl.
Images borrowed from @AdventureScilly
After these few pictures, I think you understand how amazing it was to run across the rolling hills of Tresco, cruise through the botanic gardens and speed past the cozy stone-house towns all day. Also the waters were surprising. A complete different world was hidden below the surface: the mysterious land of sea weed! Depending on the level of the tide water, we had to crawl through forests of giant spaghetti algae that got stuck in both paddles and shoes. It was literally like trying to swim through a bowl of Ramen. Together with the strong side current during the first half of the race, this added a special touch and an extra challenge to the competition.
This was my first race in a long time with my friend and fellow swimmer superstar Susie Moonan. Many may have been surprised that I gave up the Golden Bib that Desirée Andersson and I secured in the previous two World Series races (which were phenomenal races and incredible team experiences as well!), to follow through my original plan to do this Swimrun with Susie – but as I’ve explained to many: Swimrun is about friendship and teamwork as much as it is about competing and winning. Susie gave birth to Juno in September last year, and has since then managed to get back in a phenomenal shape – she is really a true super mom and an inspiration to me and the world. She was so strong in this race and managed to give it all right to the end, enough for us to finally take home the victory after an incredibly tough fight with last year’s winners Elisabeth and Annika.
Strong swimmers as we are, we managed to get ahead during the first half of the course, which was composed of several longer swims. However, the mental and physical fight started in the second half of the race, where no less than three straight 7-km runs waited. We managed to hold our lead during the first one, but on the second long run Annika and Elisabeth passed us tripping up a hill… they looked incredibly strong!
I often find a key moment in a race when you have to make a decision within yourself – no matter if it’s a 50 freestyle or a marathon. This time it was here, where I decided that I was going to do everything I can for Susie and I to win. Hence, we put the rope on for the running and I pulled as much as I could manage the rest of this 7-km stretch.
At this point, we knew that we had to push the last 2500-meter swim to have any chance of holding off during the final 7-km run. We agreed, and we pushed it. We continued as the other swims with the rope to stay together and managed to open about a four-minute gap to the other team.
After this chilly swim, only a final run separated us from the glorious finish line. But it was 7 km long. The chase really made us pace up and we stayed at a tempo at the very top of our limit. These 40-ish minutes were one of the toughest race moments I’ve experienced, and the ability my body had to level up during this run surprised me and gave me confidence. What went through my mind at this point was all the training I’ve done for moments like this: to be able to give the little extra when you have nothing left. Finally, the effort payed off. Despite two costly wrong turns and thereof a few hundred meters extra running that raised our already skyrocketing heart rates even more, we did make it first through the finish with only 2 minutes margin. What a fight! I think that Susie surprised herself as well during this last stretch – I am very proud and excited for her grand comeback!
With an event organized by the OtillO World Series, you are always sure to be in great hands when it comes to safety and all race-related logistics. Isles of Scilly was no exception. Some of our Team Envol sponsors were also on-site this weekend supporting and hanging out with us: Head, Precision Hydration and Vivobarefoot. I also want to send a big hug to everyone from home that wished Susie and I good luck and followed us through the live timing. Thanks to all for your trust in us, we felt it!
Staying with Susie, Susie’s 9-month old Juno and Susie’s sister / super nanny Jennifer in the cozy Schooners hotel at St Mary’s and also traveling and hanging around the Team Envol family completed this incredible trip to this stellar island. Winning this race meant a lot to me. Not to prove anything, but to safeguard the essence of Swimrun that sometimes can be lost in the search for gold and glory – it is a hard scale to balance, but the team aspect weighs in a completely unique dimension to this sport. I’m taking home a win with a friend and some ever-lasting memories back to Barcelona.