Monday, October 15, 2018

Spring 2018 Squad Newsletter

It was pretty windy out there this weekend!

Hope you are all doing well and have had a great weekend, despite the somewhat yucky weather! I was running along Cottesloe Beach at about 6am on Sunday morning and was literally blown into my running partner several times, such was the ferocity of the wind!

OK, so I wanted to take this opportunity now that the weather is supposedly warming up, to give you a bit of a scope out of the spring / summer season ahead and what we have in the pipeline. As this has been the first proper newsletter in some time, it’s a bit lengthy, but I’ve broken it down into seven sub-sections for your ease of reading.

In this newsletter we cover:
  • Communication - how to stay abreast all the squad news, gossip, offers etc
  • Rottnest Channel Swim - how to get your training groove on for this amazing event
  • Permanent vs Guest squad spots - how to snag your chance to have a guaranteed place in the squad (includes a great description of each type of session we offer and what to expect from them)
  • Squad “Christmas” Party - being held much earlier this year on Friday 23rd November (to allow Mother Smooth to meet you all!)
  • Have a taste of what SwimRun is all about...
  • Results from the 2018 Hawaii Ironman World Championships
  • Our next 2 week Certified Coaches Course will take place 11-23 February 2019


These days there are many different mediums for staying in touch and up to speed with everything in the Swim Smooth Perth Squad. If you’re new to the squad, you might not be aware of all the great free information we’ve built our reputation on over the years, so here’s where to find us on t’internet:
  • The Squad Blog (what you’re reading right now) goes out sporadically every few weeks and contains a good insight into the weeks and months ahead, i.e. details and results of CSS challenges, free sessions and giveaways, squad socials and the like. Perhaps you have got this link via a direct email? If so, this will have come via the database which holds your email address as a squad swimmer. I prefer to post these messages via the Blog so we can always refer back to them at - but if you think you’re maybe not subscribed, you can do so here: 
  • Push Notifications (the little SMS-like notifications that temporarily pop up on your phone if you’re using the squad app) are used to inform you of certain critical changes to the program in real-time, i.e. cancellations due to the weather and the like. Of course, you need to have the app installed to receive these - that can be done here for iOS users and here for Android users
  • Feel For The Water Blog (the main Swim Smooth blog) is our main resource of creative writing, interviews, tips and techniques that appear in your inbox once per week. Running since 2009 (and having not missed a single Friday post since that point), this is the world’s most prolific swimming blog with in excess of 130,000 subscribers around the world which we’re awfully proud about. To subscribe (and also get a free version of our animation Mr Smooth to guide you forwards) visit - a chronological archive of some of these articles can be easily accessed at - in fact, believe it or not, we wrote the entire best selling Swim Smooth book (see our 4.9 out of 5 star reviews on Amazon here) based upon responses to the blog between 2009 and 2012!

Rottnest Channel Swim:

For those of your contemplating a Rottnest Solo this year, we have the new version of our 2019 Training Planner outlined here. To make best use of this program and to see in detail every one of the 100+ sessions and races recommended between now and Saturday 23rd February and to also fully track your progress with our industry-leading analytics etc, go to the Swim Smooth Guru (requires a $19.99/mo subscription). If you want some more generalised help and (free) advice, then visit our 75 minute online seminar which will provide advice for Solo, Duo and Team swimmers. It’s less than 19 weeks to go, so you do need to get a little wriggle on!

Furthermore, my Top-10 Rottnest Channel Swim tips (from back in 2017) can still be viewed here:

The Saturday Stoic Sunrise Swim every Saturday at 530am would make the perfect compliment to your training week whether Solo, Duo or Team swimmer.

We will be announcing about ten 60-90 minute open water sessions taking place in the new year during the 9.30am squad slot (due to carnival clashes) in due course. Outside of these, my best recommendation is always to sign up for as many of the series races as possible, where there’s a certain security in numbers and water safety above training by yourself in the ocean (if you catch my drift…).

Permanent Spots in the Squad:

Essentially, swimmers can access the squad sessions in one of two ways:
  • As a PERMANENT squad member who has all their sessions permanently booked in for them (going forwards to August 2022 at this point). If you cannot make a session, simply OPT OUT up to 12 hours before the session to avoid being charged as though you were there. This option assures you a place in the squad every time you wish to use it.
  • As a GUEST squad member who switches and changes their sessions according to their own schedule. You need to OPT IN every time you wish to attend a session, which can get a little tedious remembering to do this as you’ll also need to monitor any sessions that you are popped onto the wait list for. For those with very changeable work schedules though, this option often works very well.
We now have some PERMANENT squad places available on a first-come / best-dressed basis by completing the simple form here with all your particulars (will take you 60 seconds tops). Notably, only the Saturday 530am session has spots available (and only 1 or 2 at that!) in the very early sessions (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 530am sessions all continue to be fully booked).
All other sessions have limited availability of permanent spots - so please get in quick!

We have a special push going on at the moment for the two evening sessions (Tuesday and Thursday 615pm) which have been a little on the light side over the winter months - can you make them?

Here’s what you can expect in each of the types of session we offer (note this information is always in the description when you use the app to sign up for a place):
  • Monday Pure Technique The "Stroke Refiner" Pure Technique Session is a great way to start your week. The emphasis here is on a lot of drill and technique work with plenty of recovery and tips on how to refine your individual stroke. A common mistake many people make is to rush through the exercises to try to keep up with others in the lane. Don't. There is no need to do this. Take your time and focus on YOU! Leave the ego in the change-room and give your stroke the TLC it deserves. You will need all your swim equipment for this session (fins, pull buoys, bands, paddles and a Tempo Trainer as well if you have). There will be very little emphasis on target times etc during this session to keep you focused primarily on your technique. You can expect feedback during this session on how to perform the nominated drills correctly and a few quick tips on your stroke. 
  • Tuesday Technique / Endurance The "Cheeky Tuesday" Technique / Endurance Session is a great way to blend a bit of focus in the warm-up and build-set on enhancing your efficiency in the water, with a little bit of low-level endurance work, typically at CSS +3s to +6s/100m and over interval distances of 100m to 1000m. It's not as challenging as the longer "Red Mist" Endurance Sessions, but is a still a cracking little work out! You can expect feedback during this session on how to perform the nominated drills correctly and a few quick tips on your stroke. 
  • Wednesday / Thursday / Friday CSS Development Ah, the classic "Fresh 'n' Fruity" CSS Development Session - my favourite. There's a reason why a third of our 12 weekly squad sessions are focused on this type of session and that's because it works. If you want to enhance your speed in the pool and the open water over distances greater than 400m, then this is the place to start. It's a very challenging session and relies upon you knowing your current CSS pace. If you don't, why not have a little tester using the information at Intervals will range from 50m to 500m and will all centre around CSS pace. There will be a few drills and a few little pick-up sprints as well, but the majority of the session is focused on you maintaining your speed as your stroke inevitably starts to breakdown. The best swimmers in the world are those who let this happen least. Join them by getting good at these sessions! You can expect feedback during this session on how well you are holding pace and motivation to keep pushing on when things are getting tough. 
  • Wednesday / Friday Red Mist Endurance The infamous "Red Mist" Long Endurance Session is one tough little session, and in fact there's nothing really "little" about it as swimmers will cover between 3800m and 5000m during the 90 minutes. This session is the stalwart of the Ironman and 70.3 brigade given how good it is at preparing you for these distances. Despite it being the hardest session of the week, it's also the most popular which goes to show that people recognise it's merits and are willing to lay themselves on the line each week to get the most out of themselves. Interval distances range from many multiple 50m on a very short cycle up to 2000m - yes, as an interval, not as a total! These sessions typically use an RM Cycle which is different to the standard CSS pace method of using the Tempo Trainer to beep every 20 to 30 seconds or so when you should be at the 25m mark. Instead the RM Cycle adds a small buffer per 50m which includes your rest period - push harder and get more rest but risk blowing up, or back off and risk making the intervals become one long continuous swim: you are in control - though it'll hardly feel like it at the time! These sessions also rarely feature a "proper" warm-up, encouraging you to get right into it from the word go like at the start of a race - can you hold off the "Red Mist" from descending on you when you're not feeling your best?! You can expect feedback during this session on how well you are sticking to your targets and a rather excited coach urging you on under pressure to add to the sense of stress - all as a simulation of a race, you understand?! 
  • Saturday Stoic Sunrise Swim The long-awaited "Saturday Sunrise Stoic Swim" is a 1.5hr pool training session which caters to a variety of swimmer's needs. What's more - you don't need to stay in for the entire session, but will need to be there for the start at least. Perhaps you're planning to compete in the next Rottnest Channel Swim or Port-2-Pub event, or fancy a dabble in a longer distance Triathlon or SwimRun competition and this is merely the aperitif to a longer Saturday brick session? Maybe you just love swimming so much that the idea of a challenging year-round Saturday morning swim is too good to miss to kick-start your weekend on the right note? Whatever your reason, if swimming on a Saturday morning floats your boat then we have the session right here for you. The session will draw a little from each of our 4 session swim types: a bit of technique, a bit of strength work, a bit of threshold development and some of the longer / challenging Red Mist endurance intervals too. The ratio of these parts will evolve over the course of the season to prepare you for the key events of the season, including some open water specific for those of you who recall our previous Saturday afternoon sessions. Basically, it's going to be a lot of fun and everything you'd expect from an engaging Swim Smooth session! We hope you can join us! 

We pride ourselves on the unprecedented level of personal feedback and interaction during the squad sessions, but for a fuller analysis of your swimming and some individual stroke correction, please register your interested in our coveted 1-2-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction Sessions. Use code “bubblebubblebreathe” for 10% off your booking with Paul & Sally.

An Early Squad Christmas Party:

Come and celebrate an early Christmas Party - slash - house-reno-warming!

This year we’ll be running our 4th annual Christmas Party at 145 Alfred Road a little earlier than usual on Friday 23rd November to allow for Mother Smooth (my Mum and top Swim Smooth employee over the last 10 years!) to attend and meet you all. They’re visiting from the 12th to 30th November. My step-Dad has had a bit of a health scare recently, so I’d really love for them to have a great time whilst they’re here and meet as many of you as possible in a social environment!

  • 145 Alfred Road, Mount Claremont
  • Friday 23rd November from 530pm to 10pm+
  • Please bring a plate of nibbles and / or some beverages (we will also provide some nosh and drinks as per previous years)
  • Please bring your partners and / or kids as well as their bathers so that they can chill out in the pool (we also have a trampoline and ping pong table this year!)
  • Please be sure to register within the squad app so that we can get an idea of how many people to expect

We’re really hoping that this date works for as many of you as possible as it’s by far and away my favourite night of the whole year and simply a chance for us to all let loose outside of the confines of simply following that black line!

Want to suffer like never before but do it tied to a mate? Read on…

So you saw me suffer like never before in the 2018 Ötillö World SwimRun Championships in Sweden last month and fancy a piece of the action yourself now hey? The good news is that you don’t have to swim and run your way over 75 gruelling kilometres in the Stockholm archipelago, no, now you can get a taste for it right here in Perth. On Saturday 24th November the Shoreline SwimRun event will take place over approximately 20km up at Sorrento and is well worth checking out via their Facebook page here. Notably, this is the morning after the Christmas Party, so that might be the perfect place to find a race partner and then rock up the following morning in the true spirit of SwimRun - to have a little fun in nature!

Results from the 2018 Hawaii Ironman World Championships:

We had 6 members of the Swim Smooth Perth Squad compete in the 40th edition of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships yesterday. The weather was reportedly the best it’s ever been in the race’s 40 year history, with the men’s record being beaten by nearly 10 minutes (Patrick Lange of Germany) and the women’s record by over 20 minutes (Daniela Ryf of Switzerland). Last year’s female runner-up was also this year’s second place getter as well after totally destroying the swim course record, Lucy Charles of the UK. If you’ve got access to our Guru, you can check out my analysis of Lucy’s stroke after we did some work with her back in 2016 in Mallorca - see here: - she’s a simply brilliant athlete!

Winning the men’s age group title (non-professional) by over 10 minutes and incidentally beating all but 21 of the top professional athletes in the world, was my old mate Dan Plews who smoked the course in 8h24m! Simply amazing for someone who holds down a full-time job too! Dan and I first raced together in 1994 and have been close friends ever since. In fact, when I was 16 and Dan was 13, he cheekily jumped on my wheel as I left T1 of my first open water triathlon in the lead and proceeded to draft off me the whole way…he wasn’t old enough to do the actual race so his Dad told him to just hop on his bike and see what he could do. I was flattered that he asked me to help him with his swim component of his Kona preparations some 25 years later! I can’t quite get my head around how brilliant of a result this is, and am very happy for him.

A massive congratulations for the following 6 squad swimmers for also raising the bar and showing us what can be done if we dream big enough - kudos Nick, Rob, Shane, Gary, Fiona and Brad:

Our next 2 week Certified Coaches Course will take place 11-23 February 2019

Adam, Emma and myself will have our next group of 4 to 7 coaches vying for full Swim Smooth Certification on 11-23 February 2019 here in sunny Perth. This will be a great opportunity to seek some additional feedback from the coaches in training and to also possibly secure their assistance with your Rottnest Channel Swim team (either as a swimmer or on-board coach!).

Thanks for reading this far if you did!


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New Release & Roll classes starting October 2018!

Nedlands Physiotherapy - whom many of you see for your aches and pains and to keep you in tip-top shape - are offering FREE Release & Roll classes for the month of October! Both physios - Matt Thompson & Michelle Newsome - are avid swimmers and swim themselves twice per week within the squad, so you can be assured that they understand what it takes to hone your body for optimal performance in the pool or open water.

Here's the blurb...

Do you experience ongoing soreness or tightness in your neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, buttock or legs?

Many of us have tension in at least one of these areas if not more which may be related to the work we do or the sport we play.  Release & Roll classes can help you manage this tension and alleviate the pain which may be caused from the soft tissue tightness in your body.

Nedlands Physiotherapy is offering complimentary 30- minute Release & Roll classes for the month of October 2018 beginning Tuesday 9 October 2018 at 930 am.

Release & Roll classes at Nedlands Physiotherapy

Tuesdays 930-10 am
Fridays 930-10 am

Cost (from November onwards):  Adult $15  Concession $10

Places are limited so please secure your place online at  We look forward to seeing you for a little R&R!

For more  information please contact Michelle or Matt on 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The "results" of our 10 week CSS Development Plan are in!

Swimmers completing the tenth week of our 10 Week CSS Development Program - this was the fastest the squad has EVER swum - well done if you were part of it!

Dear Swimmers

Zoggs coming tomorrow and Tuesday!

Don't forget, Zoggs International will be with us on pool deck tomorrow and Tuesday 2nd October to do some testing of their new products. Anyone assisting in the trials will receive a FREE pair of Zoggs Predator goggles just for helping out - can't say fairer than that! Of course, this will be slightly disruptive to the flow of your normal session (so is not compulsory) but given that this is the first 2 days following on from the last 10 weeks of diligently working on your CSS pace, I'm hoping the vibe will be a little more lower key anyway - enjoy and get a FREE pair of goggles for your efforts!

Serena conquers the Channel

News just in from Dover, UK, is that squad swimmer Serena Wells successfully swam the English Channel on Monday last week, covering the distance in 14h46m - what an amazing swim. We are still waiting on a full report and some photos but this is excellent news! Alan Tietzel was also over there to swim and started about 24hrs later, but sadly did not make it across after having been in the water for some 12+ hours (again, further news to follow). Well done Serena and Alan for both of your efforts - mother nature is a beast sometimes and waiting around to swim as long as you did is very reminiscent of my experience in 2011, so I can well understand the emotions you likely went through!

10 Week CSS Development Results

A massive well done if you were one of the super-committed swimmers who diligently tried to attend as many of the sessions as possible in the squad over the last 10 weeks as we Went Backwards to Go Forwards - I do hope you really enjoyed the program and that it brought a little focus to your swimming. Some of the comments I've heard and over-heard were:


  1. gave you focus and motivation
  2. provided a necessary challenge through the winter months
  3. has got you in GREAT shape prior to the season starting


  1. Hard to get into it if you missed the start or some of the middle weeks
  2. Did Tuesday have to become so challenging too?
  3. Became a bit prescriptive by the end especially as you started to plateau off

As promised, the results can be found here:

What I've done is, somewhat subjectively (based on observation and feedback from you directly), added in a red highlighted cell with white text to indicate which week I believe your group as a whole within each lane and within each squad managed to achieve before plateauing off somewhat and being able to hold the set times. Of course, this whole program becomes quite the dynamic beast as people miss sessions, the structure of the lane changes etc, but I believe that this is a good representation of where we got to and represents about 3.5-4% improvement across the board (or about 3 to 7s per 100m at CSS pace), which in itself is a great achievement - well done!

We'll use the next couple of weeks to consolidate at the RED / WHITE cell level, before looking at new ways to extend this forwards and keeping you on your toes with new, fun challenges. I had played around with the idea of keeping the next 1-2 weeks beeper-less to give you a little break (and may try this in certain sets as a "social experiment") but given that the pool clock spent a good 6 or 7 weeks broken during this program, I hope you can all understand how beneficial they are to keep you engaged and on track, and on that note, a big well done for the large number of you who taught yourself how to use this little gadget and get familiar with switching between modes etc - coach was very proud!

Rottnest Channel Swim & Port-2-Pub training programs

I'm not sure if people have shifted their focus in recent years or are being more coy these days about their intentions to swim these iconic events 😉, but I have heard of very few people committing from the outset to a Solo for either of the two events this year, but there's been plenty of people talking about 2020 as being "their year" so perhaps people are taking a longer term view of this? I'm not sure. Anyway, there are just over 20 weeks to the Rottnest Channel Swim and just over 23 weeks to the Port to Pub Swim

In 2018 we suggested this training program which was well utilised and will be tweaked to include the new race series calendars in sure course of which there are two calendars this year for some racing action:

…and for those keen on a little more structure and direction, our full guide can be accessed here for an additional $13.99/mo:

Of course our 74 minute webinar is always worth a look if you're still in that undecided stage - access that here: 

…in any case I'm sure there's going to be a great summer of open water swimming ahead of us, why not sign up for an event or two to give you some focus?



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Correction to World AG triathlon results (apologies) and a FREE pair of Zoggs goggles coming your way!

Dear swimmers

In my haste to get the results out about the ITU World Triathlon Championships, I must apologise, Janet Ferguson picked up the bronze medal in the 55-59yr category, not the gold as previously stated. This is still a brilliant achievement for Janet and I'm sure you'll all congratulate her with me on this. Other results trickling through are that Carrie Anderson narrowly missed the podium with a 4th place in the very competitive 50-54yr category. Well done ladies - I can't wait to share some photos. Please continue to feed though your stories / pictures of the event so that I can collate a nice news feature for everyone on this.

A FREE pair of Zoggs goggles could be coming your way!

Some of you may recall that about 12 months ago, Zoggs goggles very kindly gave away 50 special swim kit sets to our 50 most consistent swimmers. This comprised a back-pack, 1 or 2 sets of goggles and a pair of bathers for you to try out. Very generous indeed and all personally labelled too. I've personally been using Zoggs for many years now, in fact I swam my English Channel, Manhattan Island Swim and my recent ÖtillÖ World Championships in them too!

On Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd October, Zoggs will be with us on pool deck for all the morning sessions to allow you to test out some of their new apparel. The team will be taking some photos and video for internal use only (to assess fit, form and function etc) and are looking for willing candidates to try some new gear. In return you'll receive a FREE pair of Zoggs Predator or Zoggs Predator Flex goggles for your assistance. Given that this is the week after we finish our 10 week CSS Development program, I'd scheduled in a slightly "lower key" series of sessions for Monday and Tuesday, so this should all tie in nicely.

Hope you can help out!



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Pointy End and Public Holiday

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're all enjoying this fine weather that has finally sneaked through!

Public Holiday

Just a quick reminder that despite the upcoming Public Holiday on Monday 24th September, both the 7am and 9.30am Pure Technique sessions will run as normal (we never like to let you down on days like this when many of you can take the opportunity to sneak an extra session in). If you're going away for the weekend, firstly - have fun, secondly, you might want to sneak a cheeky Saturday Stoic Session in before you head off at 5.30am on Saturday 22nd September instead (9 places currently showing as available).

Royal Show / Parking

Don't forget that the Royal Show starts this Saturday (22nd September) and runs for one week to the following weekend. We've been informed that the lower car park at the pool is taking payments (unsure of what time from) for using this space, so may I please suggest you arrive early to find a spot in the normal car park (especially 9.30am swimmers who this is likely to affect more) and / or seek a parking pass from the pool if you have to park on the lower level. In either case, a little organisation next week might be required - sorry for any inconvenience this might cause!

Week 9 of 10

Hands up if you've reached that despondent stage of not quite hitting your target times anymore? Most of you? Totally natural. Sadly we can't expect continuous linear progression of 0.5% per week for all of eternity otherwise if you extrapolated it out long enough you'd all be Olympic Gold Medallists at some point in the future. But that's been the beauty of the last 9 weeks from our 10 week CSS Development program; every group in every lane in every squad is now swimming faster than they've ever swum before (trust me, my records go back 16.5 years here in Perth!) - so that's a very good thing, especially leading into the open water season. Secondly, it is totally natural that we start to plateau off at some point and many of you will be feeling that this has started to occur in the last week or two. Some of you are still on the up - and that's great - but I'm taking a close look at exactly where each group has reached and once we finish the 10 week program next week, we'll use the next 2-4 weeks (prior to people starting to get back into things for Rottnest, Busso and the like) to consolidate at the last week you were consistently holding paces. It looks like for most this will be about week 7 or 8, but we'll see how we go in the next two weeks prior to making that call. Above all though, I do hope you've really enjoyed the challenge, because that's what this is all about - not taking ourselves too seriously and just seeing what is possible - well done team!

Hot off the press!

I haven't yet had a full low-down from everyone who recently raced the ITU Triathlon World Championships over on the Gold Coast - so please don't assume I'm skipping over you (send me your info if you can please) - but I've just had it on good authority that Janet Ferguson from our 9.30am squad won the gold medal in her Age Group to add to the one she won in the World Duathlon Championships a few years ago. Well done Janet! This is absolutely amazing and we look forward to giving you a hero's welcome when you arrive back!

Thanks everyone, see you Friday for more fun and frivolity!


Friday, September 7, 2018

2018 ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Championship Report

Laying it all on the line: physically, mentally, emotionally. As we said on the blog last week, “life begins on the edge of your comfort zone” and I have to say I was very much teetering on that edge - quite often over the other side too - for nine hours and four minutes on Monday at the 2018 ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Championships. I was absolutely, totally spent when I crossed that finish line with not another ounce to give. See the race finish video here.  I couldn’t feel my face or hands, not least speak coherently, but the effort was fully worth it. I unpacked some pretty deep, emotional baggage out on that course too so it feels great to have come out the other side and hopefully a better version of myself as a result. I’ve never, ever been so physically fatigued as I’m feeling right now and yet at the same time so emotionally light. It’s a great feeling - thanks Andy for taking me to that place and making sure I got across that line as I frequently doubted that I would both pre and during the race!

Quick Summary Of How We Did

We finished the 75km course in 9h04m and 23rd male team (32nd overall out of 160). When planning for the event I said I’d be happy with around 10hrs and Top-50, so vis-a-vis “I’m happy”. It was an amazing day out in the Swedish archipelago and one which I shall cherish greatly. There was no question that it was Andy whom was the one dragging me around the brutal course. After being our lead on the first couple of swims it rapidly became obvious that I’d be better tethered behind Andy for the swims so as to recover for each subsequent run (especially the half marathon that occurred at six hours into the race). I was literally hanging onto Andy all day long and simply repeating “1-2-3, 1-2-3” to try to keep focused on my rhythm. I struggled a lot nutritionally (perhaps with the warmer temps) but kept bouncing back after 500-700ml of Precision Hydration at each aid station. I’d carry some with me and have a big shooter of it prior to each swim and use the swim as a chance to digest and come good. I can count at least 5 or 6 major blow-ups during the day (the first at just 2hrs in which I wasn’t sure if I’d recover from) plus the final 7-8km was a bit of a struggle combined with major technical terrain to deal with. But soldier on we did and I’m incredibly happy to have finished. Now time to celebrate my 40th birthday!

I felt the best way to write the race report from Monday’s event would be to start by giving you some links to various sub-articles, videos, images and stats from the day to help paint the fuller picture and equally, to possibly entice you to be better informed should you wish to consider undertaking one of these swimrun events as they gain popularity around the world. I then wanted to detail a bit more about the ups and downs of the race, including a few of our own photos, before finishing with a selection of the best official images from the event organisers. So here goes:

Quick Informative Links:

VIDEO: Paul Newsome's video diary about preparation for the 2018 race (0h46m):

ARTICLE: "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone" (discussion of Paul’s preparation, warts and all!):

VIDEO: Paul & Andy’s swimrun kit choice (0h07m):

STATS: Results link:

STATS: Paul and Andy’s GPS file:

VIDEO: Paul and Andy’s race finish video (0h01m):

STATS: Breakdown of distances:

STATS: Google Map of course:

VIDEO: Race Summary video (0h05m):

VIDEO: Live broadcast of the entire event (12h00m):

IMAGES: Complete image library of the event (249 images):

ARTICLE: Official Race Director’s Report (Michael Lemmel):

Paul’s Report:

As discussed in juicy detail in last week’s blog and video, this event meant more to me than simply the performance aspect of completing just another endurance event. In many ways, the sheer magnitude and scale of the challenge has been enough to really rattle my cage and scare me into a full 12 months of dedicated preparation which, with it, has seen me challenge a few demons as I rush headlong towards the milestone that is my 40th birthday next week. Being able to reconnect with an old friend at the same time and then sharing the experience of the training load and the course itself far supersedes anything by way of outright performance on the day. That’s not to say that I wasn’t proud or happy with how we did, far from it in fact (we went 30 minutes quicker than Andy did in 2014 to finish 8th, albeit conditions this year were magical), just simply that the 2018 ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Championships has helped me finally realise that there is more to sport than simply where you finish or what your time is. This realisation it appears is nothing new for many of the participants of these events, who, like me, could be described as “post-multi-sporterists-seeking-experiences-over-performance”, or some such thing.

20 years in the making - reconnecting with Andy was the best part of the event - the fact we did really well was just an added bonus!

Read and (just about) willing for what lies ahead!

We were up at 3:45am for breakfast followed by a 30 minute ferry ride in complete darkness to the race start on Sandhamn. I was feeling super apprehensive by this stage, mainly because whilst we knew the course layout from the briefing the evening before, it was hard to get a full appreciation of just how gnarly some of the terrain was going to be. Still, the weather looked like it was going to be amazing and everyone seemed to be in very good spirits.

Our GPS trace - all 75km of it! 24 islands traversed by 65km of running and 10km of swimming

We made our way to the front of the queue to get across the start line and managed to position ourselves within the top 50 or so teams. The first section was a 1200m run down to the first swim of 1800m which was controlled with a neutralised start by a 4WD buggy keeping us all at exactly 5:00/km pace. This of course ensured good pacing from the off, or was it simply delaying the chaos that was about to ensue? We felt like a tribe of warriors marching in unison with a distinctly quiet aura about us, everyone concentrating hard not to put a foot wrong and risk being trampled by the stampede behind.

Marching through the first 1200m “neutralised zone”

We got away to a good start on the first swim and were moving up inside the Top-20 teams. An altercation midway through the swim with another swimmer saw a few tempers frayed but we backed off and recomposed in the knowledge that there was plenty of time to make up any lost ground later in the day.

The feeling of that sunrise in those conditions racing against these top athletes... priceless!

The exit from the first swim gave us our first real insight into how challenging the 52 transitions into and out of the water would be. Despite it being very dry, the first few meters up the face of the rocks were like black ice and we’d find ourselves battling with this aspect of the race and losing valuable time all day long. You had to just keep your cool and take your time for fear of slipping and doing yourself a major injury.

The top teams handled the slippery rocks like ninjas! Me on the other hand...

As per the race briefing, it took us the first three or four islands to find our running groove and thankfully prior to the first aid station we found ourselves running on some easier terrain and moving up through the field into 16th position overall.

Throughout the day I seemed to be really craving fluids, so I’m not sure if I was dehydrated prior to the start or it was just the heat generated by running so far in the wetsuit on a warm, dry day, but we made sure to stop and try to fully refuel at each aid station. This saw us losing a lot of valuable time, but the fear was that if we didn’t I would completely implode and not make it around the course.

After just two hours in I was starting to really flag, which on normal trails wouldn’t be a major issue, but on the gnarly rocks it became disastrous as the risk of rolling an ankle was so great. We slowed down significantly at this point and lost a good ten places or so after having found ourselves running alongside the fastest swimmer at the 2016 Ironman World Championships, Harry Wiltshire (who coincidentally was the first swimmer I ever started coaching), and also Petr Vabrousek from the Czech Republic (who is an 80 time Top-10 finisher in Ironman events around the world). My concern of course was “have we gone off too fast?” It certainly didn’t feel like it, but then how many times do I say that to my swimmers? "The correct pace should feel easy”. We dialled it back, but the first seeds of doubt with another 7+ hours ahead started to creep in - would I finish this thing?

Andy pulling me up yet another incline! Check out the concentration / exasperation on my face!

The tactic which I started to employ was two-fold: 1) try to smile a bit more and suck on my own words “life begins on the edge of your comfort zone”; and 2) count out a rhythm “1-2-3, 1-2-3” over and over again - a little like “bubble-bubble-breathe”. I wasn’t speaking much to Andy, just following his lead and trying to stay in the here and now. At one point (about four hours in) Andy said, “how’s life right now mate?” to which I could only mutter under my breath and recognise that no one was forcing me to do this, it was my choice - get on with it, princess!

The original plan was for me to lead each swim and Andy to lead the runs, but after just a few of the longer swims, it became obvious that the best course of action was for me to fuel up with a gel and some fluid immediately before each swim and then use the swim to tether behind Andy so as to digest it as well as possible and to be ready for the next run. This started to really help. Andy was swimming great, and by the time we got to the infamous “Pig Swim” we were starting to really motor, catching up with the leading female team at that point, which contained two Swedish olympic swimmers, Fanny Danckwardt and Desiree Andersson. Life was suddenly good again (to answer Andy’s question), but no sooner did I feel awesome did I hit another rough patch and the whole process started again - feed, tether on the swim, digest and run. I can count at least five or six major blow-ups on the day, but I just had to do everything I could to bounce back. Amazing how fitting my horoscopes were for last weekend in view of all this:

Believe them or not…this is what they said prior to the race start!

Prior to the race and then during the first half, I was super concerned about the half marathon run which occurred about six hours into the event, but as it happens, this turned out to be our strongest part of the race as we caught and passed many teams in front of us to bring us back into the Top-25. This section was only let down by an emergency toilet stop (me) and arguably my biggest implosion of them all. With 800m to go the easier trails we’d been enjoying for 20km suddenly turned brutally rough and technical again which made my legs feel like they’d gone into full bore “shutdown”. Walking this section was our only option and we succumbed to the ultimate female winning team (Annika Ericsson and Kristin Larsson), passing us for the last time. Andy reassured me though that these athletes had won this particular event many times in the past and as such we should be happy with how we were placed. I managed a smile at this point, but only a small one - I was feeling truly wrecked by this stage.

Appearances are deceptive - I’m absolutely smashed at this point leading into the continuous
half marathon run at six hours in.
Here we are preparing for the swim at the end of the half marathon section and over 8hrs into
the race - boy, did that water feel good!

Once we were at the end of the half marathon run, we’d reached the final check-point and were going to make it to the finish (in theory). We were told that we were the 21st male team at this point, but my energy levels were fading rapidly that I wondered how many more places we might lose, especially as the last 7 or 8km were supposed to be the toughest from a technical point of view.

I had begun knocking back the Coke and Red Bulls halfway through the half marathon, craving a little sugar and the sparkle to bring me back to life. The problem was that by the time we got through the half marathon and were swimming away from the largest island on the course, Ornö, I was starting to feel almost like I was hallucinating - I couldn’t feel my face or my hands and started to believe that I might suddenly just come to a grinding halt, no matter how close to the finish we were. Eventually - and with strong persuasion from Andy - we made it onto the last island, Utö, and with only 3km left to run I started to feel hopeful that after nearly nine hours on the go, we would indeed make it. Andy must have been confident that I was coming good at this point as he suggested I unleash from the tether. We did this for no more than about 700m before I begged him to strap me back up again, so as to be towed to the finish. The cruelest blow came in the final 600m as we turned left past the tennis courts and up a 8% incline to the pub at the finish. I nearly shouted out in exasperation at this nasty little final hurdle, but we managed to get up there, just.

With about 20 meters to go my legs finally gave way as I fell onto Andy and had to be literally dragged across the finish line. I was totally and utterly spent and could not go a step further. Our finishing video appears almost comical and looks like I was going in for the world’s longest man-hug, but the reality was that I simply could not hold myself up any longer and was escorted away by the medical team once across the line. The numbness I was feeling in my face meant I wasn’t being very coherent at all and a few have asked what I was saying to Andy in those bromance-looking moments. Whilst it might look like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky crying out “Adrien!” I was simply saying thank you, thank you for everything Andy. And that, as they say, is that.

Remember, you’re only truly living when you’re on the edge of your comfort zone…I dare say that during the 2018 ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Championships I teetered well across that line!


An emotional finish indeed!

45 minutes later
A deserving drop at the finish line!

In Summary:

Things we did well:

• Communication (at least from Andy - I just mumbled and obeyed given my lack of energy at times)
• Pacing
• Positivity - Andy had to keep reminding me that we were right up there with some of the best swimrunners in the world and that we should feel proud of that

Things we could do better:

• Quicker into and out of the water transitions
• Quicker over the really gnarly terrain where we were losing a lot of time
• Quicker through the aid stations

Selected Official Race Images:

A 3:45am ferry ride started the day to escort all 320 athletes to the start at Sandhamn

Swim Smooth Glasgow Coach Alan Cardwell towed the line with his mate Thör

Therese Alshammar (6-time Olympian and 3-time medallist in sprint swimming) was just one of several Olympians competing on the course

320 athletes about to tackle something so mind-blowingly challenging that many of us didn’t really have any idea of just how hard this would be!

We felt like warriors off to war as we marched through the first 1200m “neutralised zone"
Most open water events don’t allow the smallest of jewellery to be worn - here you had 320 athletes with razor-like paddles and shoes to content with - one blow could spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R!

The groups stayed remarkably well bunched on the first 1800m swim - pull buoy and paddles are a great neutraliser for many athletes

Most swim exits were followed by very technical rock sections making it incredibly hard to a) get into a rhythm and b) pass of be passed by others

One of my former University triathlon team mates, Rhian, was competing with her husband, Ben

The support of the locals was amazing - I couldn’t help wonder though how they managed to access all the nooks and crannies we found them in!

Teamed up with top swimmer Therese Alshammar was Swedish hip hop icon, Petter - his music is AWESOME! Check it out here:

Whilst not massively hilly, it wasn’t massively flat either...

...see what I mean!

The scale and magnificence of the landscape was awe-inspiring!

We tussled most of the day with the multiple female World Champions, Annika Ericsson and Kristin Larsson - they got the better of us in the final 5km #kudos

No fear! Some cliff jumping was involved!

Like a millpond! 

One of my favourite sections, through the 3m tall bullrushes!

Another Olympian, Chris Hauth (left) with team mate Frank Karbe from the United States

The very first athlete I ever coached, Harry Wiltshire (right) on his way to an 12th place finish overall. Harry led the Hawaii Ironman World Championships out of the water in 2016 as a nod to the standard of competition at this event

Those greasy rocks! Crawling was the only option on many of the 52 exits!

The rocks were so steep in some sections that abseiling was required!

A brilliant image to capture the teamwork and camaraderie required to conquer this event

You, your mate and nature - this is swimrun!

Andy’s company, Precision Hydration, provided for the fluid needs of all 320 athletes on the course