After 18 months of organisation and preparation leading up to the event, there was a nervous energy in the air as our alarms sounded at 4:00 am and we got up to begin race day. Had we thought of everything? Hang on, did someone order the gluten free bread? All the big questions were swirling around in our heads. The fact that it was April fools day was also not lost on us!
However it is fair to say that Rottnest SwimRun 2017 exceeded all of our dreams and expectations. That was only possible due to a huge combined effort, including the positive attitude and enthusiasm of the participants, our incredible volunteers, the Rottnest Island stakeholders who supported the event from start to finish, and our sponsors, who got behind a new race format and new race organisers.
Being the first ever SwimRun race in Western Australia, it was a landmark event for WA and the beginning of the SwimRun movement, which we have no doubt will grip West Australians as it has people in other parts of the world. We felt so lucky to be able to hold the event at one of the most unique, pristine environments in the world, Rottnest Island. Participants were a mix of swimmers, runners, triathletes, and endurance lovers coming mostly from Australia, with a stray Kiwi and the brothers from France being our only international entries.
The weather could not have been better on race day, with bright blue skies, 26 degrees in the air and moderate winds blowing in very favourable directions for our course. Rottnest's beauty was on full display, with the turquoise bay swims, white sand beaches and fantastic trails there to be enjoyed. Our last minute fears that we had made the course too difficult were quickly blown out of the water as the race leaders flew around the course in times we had accounted for but didn't think possible!
The 11 swim legs
Between the hours of 5am and 7am the race directors had been around the course inspecting the swims for safety (predominantly what they were like in the strong ENE winds), the top end (swims 1 to 6) were nothing short of perfect. When the gun time of 9:30am rolled around the wind had decreased, making conditions even better, to top it off we had a full tide which made for good going in the bays (ie no scraping your hands on the reef). Chatting with a lot of racers post race it seems swim 6, Stark Bay, was a favourite.
Funnily enough, before the race we had a lot of feedback about adding more swims on the south side of the island, this posed a logistical and safety challenge given the setup of Rotto. Taking this on board, one thing we were able to do is reduce the length of the beach run on Porpoise Bay by adding around 300m of extra swimming given conditions. Ironically the feedback was that this specific swim (1 out of 11) was the least favourite, being a stinger pit...
Front of the field
Emily Loughnan and Gary Couanis (Old Bloke; Young Chick) were the overall and mixed category winners finishing in 3 hours 36 minutes. Ariarn Huston and Kristen Gadsdon came second overall and won the women's category just 5 minutes behind in 3:41 and James Marangou and David Kyle were third overall and the winners of the male category in 3:43. More importantly though, 45 teams started the race and 45 teams finished within the allocated cut-off times, an incredible effort!