For the love of swimrun: Camille Marchand and Julien Antoine are the UL-timate Mixed Team
By Nancy Heslin
Camille Marchand and Julien Antoine, aka UL’Team, were struck by cupid’s arrow at the 2016 ÖTILLÖ WC when they were racing with other partners. Today, they live together, train together and swimrun ÖTILLÖ together.
NH: You are from different parts of France. Tell us a little about your backgrounds.
CM: I grew up in Brittany but studied in the South of France, where I got a research Master’s in Biology as well as a Master’s in Education. For the past four years, I’ve been a schoolteacher in Saint-Nazaire in Loire Atlantique.
I swam more than 6 years at national level, and earned several podiums by age category, as well as being a finalist of the French championships several times and shared podiums in team category.
I won the 200m breaststroke at the 2013 World Games in Turin and at the 2016 European World Championships in London. I was also Vice-World Champion in 200m breaststroke at the 2014 World Championships in Montreal and in 2017, just a few days before ÖTILLÖ, at the World Championships in Budapest.
I’ve always loved running, as my dad ran several marathons, and that really gave me the running bug but I only discovered trail running in 2016 and my first ÖTILLÖ experience.
But since my meeting Julien, I want to share the sport with him and participate in the swimrun World Championships, both are cool.
JA: I’m from Grenoble, and studied Osteopathy in Lyon for 5 years. I competed in swimming at national level, training for long hours, even several times a day. Swimming helped me to develop physiological and athletic qualities that allow me today to do a lot of endurance sports and do what I like without stress in terms of effort.
I like sports challenges, and feed myself with crazy ideas and try to achieve them with my sports friends or even as a couple. I love sports in the heart of nature: skiing, cross-country skiing, swimming at sea, running in the mountains, sailing, climbing …
NH: You guys first met at the 2016 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship while you were competing with other partners. What was that first ÖTILLÖ WC race experience like?
JA: Yes, we were in two different teams. I had started swimrunning earlier that year and friends connected me to Morgan Berger. We raced at Engadin and qualified for the World Championships.
CM: My partner, Laurent Valette, a huge ultra-trail runner, had earned a spot at ÖTILLÖ but months before the race his partner dropped out, so he offered to share this adventure with me. I had never done a swimrun in my life or run more than 40 km! I’d seen a program about ÖTILLÖ on Canal+ and then suddenly was launched into “express training” for a sport I didn’t know much about. Plus Laurent lived on the other side of France in Savoy. We only trained 2 or 3 times together in the space of a month and hop, direction Stockholm! Starting the race was moving enough for me but finishing is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
NH: So how did you cross paths during the ÖTILLÖ weekend?
JA: We met after the race, once we had changed and showered! Wearing our ÖTILLÖ sweaters and medals around our neck – and with a beer in hand – we shared our racing adventures with a group of French people we were hanging out with. I fell for Camille at first sight, but she didn’t even notice the efforts I was making to sit next to her.
CM: We were all just enjoying the moment, though, and had very little chance to talk at that time.
It was only the next day, sitting in front of Julien in a cafe in Stockholm, that I was struck by lightning. The feeling was so strange: I couldn’t even speak. I stammered as soon as I opened my mouth! I was really freaked. But I put it down to being tired after the race and we each went our own way home…
NH: What happened in the months between the ÖTILLÖ World Championship in September 2016 and Engadin 2017 when you raced as UL’Team (with matching T-shirts!) and qualified for the ÖTILLÖ that same year?
JA: Before flying out of Stockholm after the World Series racing, the group we were with shared one last meal together and swapped contact info. I had the idea already about racing
with Camille but I had no idea if she was in a relationship or had kids. Honestly, I didn’t care, getting her phone number was enough.
CM: Back in France, I kept checking Facebook for messages and then one day, Bingo! Julien asked me to race Engadin with him. I pretended to think about it but I was over the moon.
A few months after ÖTILLÖ, we met again in Paris for the New Year with my friends.
Then Julien made the decision to move to Saint-Nazaire, and arrived in February 2017. We trained and went to Engadin for our first official swimrun together in our matching “Ul’Team” t-shirts, trying to make this new life for both of us … and it all worked out – with the bonus of a ticket to return to the land of the Holy Grail that September and this time in love!
NH: How did you choose your team name?
CM: It’s super difficult to choose a team name. We decided on UL’Team because when I met Julien I had just come out of a difficult relationship, and we both felt that this was our “Ultimate Love”… UL Team … I admit it’s a little far-fetched but aside from the meaning, we thought it sounded good!
NH: How does training as a swimrun team strengthen you as a couple?
CM: I think for any couple to train and compete together, it’s a win. We share everything during races: joy, pain, fatigue … every emotion, and at that moment, you can’t hide anything, you are an open book to your partner. This is how you learn the true personality of the person with whom you share life, without filter.
So yes, of course, it’s difficult. During some races, we shout at each other but most of the time we help each other, we encourage each other, we support each other. Just like we do everyday.
JA: Swimrun is a sport that you share, and to be able to share a sport as a couple, and at the same level, it’s … magical.
NH: What advice would you give to Mixed Teams who have never trained together but meet the night before a race?
JA: I think the Mixed Team is the best option pair for two strong characters. There will inevitably be difficult moments during the race where the levels will not necessarily be the same and one or the other will have to swallow his or her ego … but then an hour later it could be the other person. With a Mixed Team, the male-female dynamic keeps these emotions a little more in check, and even more with a person that you just met.
CM: I’ve always known my male swimrun partners but you should agree from the start that you’ll communicate throughout the race and not hesitate to say when things aren’t going well. You are there for each other and talking helps to pick up or reduce pace, to hear comforting words, to regain confidence, and especially to refocus on what is most important in this sport: pleasure above all else!
NH: What do you love most about swimrun?
CM: What I like most about this sport is the freedom that one can feel. We live by the edge of the sea and if during training we are tired of running, we go in the water. If we start getting cold in the water, we get out to run and warm up. If the trail stops, we jump into the water to pick it up it further along … there are no limits. And then, you are in the middle of nature
And, of course, doing it in teams, whether with a spouse or with friends … it’s priceless!
JA: Swimrun for me is an opportunity to vary a long and monotonous race, and it’s a team sport. It’s a great opportunity to be in the middle of nature and do two sports in an exceptional way.
NH: How would you describe the swimrun scene in France?
CM: Swimrun is exploding in France with many new races every day. It’s great, I think. On the other hand, the beautiful initial spirit of swimrun should not be replaced to benefit business or a group of people.
JA: There are lots of swimruns in France, which people love, but France is a country where there are many rules and constraints in the organisation of events, and the spirit of swimrun is too often distorted. Solo races, forums that are critical, business, … a pity for a sport that should be above all natural, spontaneous and unifying!
NH: What are your swimrun plans this year?
C & J: We have lots of plans this year. We’re heading to Hvar, Croatia, in early April for the ÖTILLÖ race. Then with our Team Swimrun event we are embarking on a great challenge near Annecy: 110km of running and 15km of swimming.
In May, in Fouesnant, Camille will pair up for the first time with Corinne Deparseval, whom she met in ÖTILLÖ in 2017.
Then come early June, it’s the ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly swimrun with a great adventure since we are going to sail there.
At the end of June, we will take part in the 65km Ultra Côte Vermeille, which will serve as training for the World Championships at the beginning of September.
And finally, to end the season and to have fun with our friends from the triathlon club of Saint Nazaire, we will do a swimrun in Crozon in Finistère in October.
We also plan to organize a swimrun discovery day with our triathletes friends from clubs in our area next May.
NH: What would you call a swimrun dating app?
J & A: If it’s especially for ÖTILLÖ, it would have to be ÖTILLÖv.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #6 (March 2018)