We’ve had our eyes on the Mad Hatters races after hearing great reviews and meeting the organisers at other events, so when we saw a new long course being proposed we signed up! This was so many months / years ago though that it kind of crept up on us 😮 Luckily, we had actually done some fun swimrun adventures and a local event a few weeks before to get in the mood. We also combined it with a holiday in Cornwall exploring the coastal path and attractions at a more leisurely pace to make the trip definitely worthwhile.
The course was a linear one, starting at Portscatho and winding its way 35km along to Mevagissey.
By the time we got off the coach to the start, we were already late and were ushered to the line without ceremony and waved off! Izzy was straight out of the blocks as we dodged round a few people to get to the water and start swimming. Neither of us has done ‘enough’ swim training lately – though Izzy has done more than me and has even made it to a swimming pool! The effect of this is that we are even more closely matched than usual with Izzy definitely having a faster start, so she led off.
The race route took us in and out (and shook us all about) at some ‘interesting’ spots, including places where we had to scramble up the rocks, or use a rope to get safely down the steep slope! On one swim exit we got shouted at to go around even though we were aiming for a perfectly good looking lump of rock 😉 Another entry had a stunning little exit through a rock channel before we were out into open sea.
On the first runs, Izzy was off like a hare, showing the benefits of her interval training, so I concentrated on just keeping up and heavy breathing, no ability to chat at this stage! After the first couple of swims we started alternating, just to give the other a break, though the one behind was always getting cold as much as resting. We then kept whichever order we emerged from the water in on the run as we wound our way along the cliffs through the bracken, grass and wildflowers. It felt like a race where we really worked as a team to keep us moving through at a good speed.
As we had discovered on our mini recce trip of one small part of the course, the runs were best described as ‘undulating’ … which is to say they kept going up and down a lot: I recorded 1300m in 27km of running for the day. However, none were too long and only one had us so hot when the sun peeped out that we were grateful to get back into the water, my squealing at the shock causing some consternation 😀
My watch had a meltdown after the last event, so I had taken the opportunity to upgrade and was loving the mapping feature, helping us stay vaguely on course when there was any confusion, although it did bleep a lot to tell us to take obvious path turns.
Several of the swims involved swimming out and round a point. At the briefing we had been told that the sea was going to be very calm and perfect conditions. As it was, there was quite a swell pushing and pulling us around, which had me thinking this Cornwall lot were hard as nails describing this as ‘calm’ – they did admit later the predictions had been slightly out!
At one moment, I was leading and definitely aiming for the yellow flag. I couldn’t understand why the marshal had put it on the ground and wandered off, but was trying not to faff. Eventually realised after Izzy yelled at me that I was aiming for a lovely patch of yellow lichen on a rock instead! Likewise on another swim, I had to practically tug the cord to get Izzy to pause and agree to turn left 😀
The long 2km swim at the end had the following navigation instructions: ‘Swim out to the paddle boarder, turn left, don’t go too far out because of boats, and not too far in because of rocks. Follow the coastline until you see a beach with a flag’. We were chugging along, no beach in sight, no idea what we were aiming for but keeping the coast on our left and looking for a beach … after about 1500m we found a kayaker, who proceeded to try and educate us about currents and the tide, where to aim and the fact that he ‘didn’t think us two would make it’. This had the effect of me slightly tersely asking him to just tell us where we were supposed to be going, at which point we shot off noticeably faster 😀 . Apparently, if you’re local, you just know to aim for the colourful house on the cliff when you round the corner 🤨 !
I was still shivering after this epic when we got to run through tourist throngs in Mevagissey, swim to a small beach and ascend a very long flight of steps and up a steep road to the finish line.
Delighted to finish 5th overall and first female pair behind 4 male pairs. Even more delighted to find at the end that the sun came out, stone baked pizzas and amazing brownies from the Parent-Teacher Association were on offer and we could all lounge around outside meeting old friends and making new ones (including a large white dog that took a shine to Izzy for a while!). Many thanks to the race organisers, all the marshals and safety crew and everyone else including competitors who made it such a great day.
I really recommend this race if you want stunning scenery, a challenge and a taste of an Ötillö World Series type race in terms of length and difficulty. I also recommend that you do a proper amount of swim training in preparation else, like me, you will have difficulty putting a jumper on the next day 😀
Photo credits to James Street / Mad Hatter Sports Events – or me, if marked as such!