By Nancy Heslin
Back in 2008, Sophia Chadwick, then an undergrad at the University of Toronto, was in the waiting room of her physiotherapist when she read an article about ÖTILLÖ.
“I remember thinking that it was totally crazy but also amazing,” the 30-year old says.
Fast-forward a few years and Sophia and her teammate applied for a spot at the 2016 World Championships and got in. The triathlete has been hooked ever since.
“I love how free swimrun makes me feel. Running along rugged trail, swimming between destinations … you’re having to travel through the race like animals naturally would and there is just something so raw and fulfilling about that.”
Last year the Canadian made quite a splash at ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Isles of Scilly Sprint when, as she and partner Brian McArdle were approaching the Finish Line, the commentator announced, And here comes Baby On Board.” Sophia was five months pregnant.
“The wetsuit was pretty snug!” she laughs. “In fact, that was the last day the suit fit me. The next day I woke up and my belly had popped.”
Sophia, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, admits she was a little concerned about racing while pregnant but had been training throughout and knew her body pretty well so was able to listen and respond to it as needed. “I did get incredibly hungry during the race at one point, though.
It was during her training for ÖTILLÖ in 2016 when Sophia, formerly a figure skater, met dad-to-be Brian, 34, who thought she was absolutely insane but stuck around to see how it all played out.
Having played rugby in Ireland for over 20 years, Brain only recently started to swim. “I convinced him that we should do Scilly in 2017 and that he should train with me,” Sophia explains. The couple lives on Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast, which has conditions similar to the Stockholm Archipelago – tons of islands, cold salt water and fun trails.
“We had a few solid months of training together in early 2017 but then I started to feel tired all the time and emotional … of course, I was pregnant! So we still went to Scilly but did the Sprint instead.”
Sophia and Brian are returning to Isles of Scilly on June 10 to compete in the full distance race – 29.325k running plus 7.95k in 7 swim sections – as The Eh? Team. (Eh?, pronounced ay, is a well-known interjection used by Canadians).
“Most people I talk to don’t even know the Isles of Scilly exist. But it’s stunning! With its incredible white sandy beaches and clear blue water, honestly at times we thought we were in the Caribbean.
“And the small town charm is something you won’t find anywhere else. The whole island literally was out supporting the event the entire weekend.”
As new parents, Sophia and Brian’s training for Scilly has been pretty hectic. “I’m on maternity leave so manage to train while the baby is sleeping but Brian is working long days so hasn’t been able to get the time in like we’d have hoped.
ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly will be the couple’s second swimrun as a team. This summer, they are also doing the ÖTILLÖ Merit Race SwimRun USA Casco Bay, in Portland, Maine, and Swimrun USA San Juan Islands. “We’ve learned a lot about each other during our training and racing adventures – you really have to be there for each other because you never know what is going to happen on race day.
“It has been a huge adjustment getting used to mom life but I love it,” says Sophia, who just got accepted to the 2019 Ultraman Canada. “I would love to be able to get back to Sweden one day with Brian to race ÖTILLÖ as it is truly life changing.”
Before then, she has the Isles of Scilly to conquer. Watch the race live online this Sunday and cheer on The Eh? Team and other competitors from around the world – including Team Garmin (Pontus Lindberg and George Bjälkemo) and Thule Crew (Martin Flinta and Helena Karaskova Erbenova), who will be wearing the Golden Bibs and looking for their third consecutive wins, as well as Team Envol’s Fanny Danckwardt (she placed first in both Hvar and Utö with Desirée Andersson) who will team up with Susie Moonan – as they race in this unique location.
Update June 10: Sophia and Brian finished ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly with a time of 7:14:33. At the Finish Line, Brian dropped down on one knee and proposed to his completely surprised teammate . And no, he wasn’t carrying the ring in his wetsuit throughout the race!
Have you heard? The first ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Cannes takes place this October 20th & 21st. Registration is open by June 15th. Read more here.
ARTICLE FIRST PUBLISHED IN SWIMRUN LIFE MAGAZINE ISSUE #8 (JUNE 2018)