Breca Wanaka

Breca Wanaka Swim Run Swim

– Michael Sutherland

Run – 37.1km

Swim – 7.5km

Time – 8hrs 11 Minutes

Why did I decide to do The Breca Wanaka Swimrun event on the 16th March 2019.

My brother in-law contacted me around this time last year and asked if I would be up for a different challenge away from the structured format of Triathlons. His suggestion, New Zealand’s original swimrun adventure through the rugged wilderness of the Southern Lakes District immediately struck accord to me as it was different and would challenge me in ways I wouldn’t come across in standard triathlon races.

Key reasons I wanted to do this was:

  • It was something new that I had not done before and would offer challenges that would be new to me.
  • It was a team event not individual.
  • Set in an incredibly beautiful backdrop.
  • Was an endurance event with incredibly different conditions.
  • You carry everything you need for the whole race
  • A more relaxed format.

The thing that made it initially daunting leading up to the event was that I did not know what to expect, which in itself challenged me mentally and physically. My endurance training for triathlons set a solid base to work on and was not hard to adapt to. Most of my training was based around the Enoggera dam swimming, and trail running which proved to be ideal for this event. The one thing that concerned me the most was how would be body cope with the dramatic difference in temperature, more the swimming than the running.

I had heard the water temperature could be as low as 8.9oC and as high as 20 oC depending on the wind, this variance is due to deep water currents coming to the surface in some areas.

Leading up to the event we were watching the forecast for the event day which was futile as it changed literally every day right up to 24hours before the event so we resided to the fact it will be what it is on the day. The year before hyperthermia was an issue for the long course which we were doing so a lot of thought went into what would keep us warm but also mindful over not overheating on the run.

The rules were simple:

  • You can use what ever devices you want for swimming ie, paddles, pool buoy and even flippers.
  • What you start the race with you must finish with as well, down to your reusable drinking fold away cup, any wrapper from gels etc.
  • You are not to be more than 10 m at any time from your partner.
  • Be respectful to mother nature.

Our equipment was also simple:

  • Specially designed run swim run wetsuit – In our case we purchased an Orca RS1 Swim-Run wetsuit with removable arms like you use for cycling;
  • Silicon swim cap;
  • Reusable foldable drinking cup (Compulsory)
  • Paddles
  • Pool buoy with adapted elastic so it would sit on the outside of your leg while running.
  • Trail shoes that trained well but had great grip.
  • Goggles
  • Gels, snack bars etc.
  • Swimming bungy cord – this attached us to each other to ensure we didn’t swim away from each other.

So how would I sum up the event. Leading up to it we were both quite nervous not knowing how it would go, had we done the right amount of training, would the conditions be kind? When I arrived I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape and any nerves quickly disappeared replaced by excitement of what we were about to embark on. The water was not to bad as the wetsuit worked really well especially due to the arms and the conditions were perfect no wind and the sun was out, could not have been any better. The longest swim was 1.4km and longest run was 6.5km so all in all very achievable with the mix up from run to swim  etc. I finished feeling pretty good and felt I had done enough training, no real issues apart from a nasty rash on the back of my neck from my wetsuit.

Would I recommend it – Hell Yes!!! Its awesome!!! Tips – do it with a partner of similar ability and in a location that is amazing like Wanaka (Sth Island NZ), Bay of Islands (North Island NZ) or in Sweden where it originated in 2002.