Humanitarian response workers in Iraq complete 1000 Lakes

Oct 23, 2017

Pierre Mangez

By Sean Casey

We first met humanitarian response workers, Sean Casey and Mitch McTough, in Iraq, a month before the ÖTILLÖ 1000 Lakes in Germany. They had been training in a 16-metre basement pool and running on trails with landmines. So how did Team Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious manage at their first swimrun?

What a race! Mitch and I had a fantastic time at ÖTILLÖ 1000 Lakes! We enjoyed the experience immensely, but it also pushed us to new places, both physically and mentally – particularly coming out of two months of training in Iraq. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, and the event was impeccably managed. Seeing Michael Lemmel at almost every energy station was so reassuring – always telling us calmly to “just keep moving”. Our enthusiastic support crew cheered us on throughout the morning and at the Finish Line, which gave us a great boost along the way!

While we struggled a bit with the cold water and the long (for us) overall swim distance, our most challenging adaptations related to our gear and learning how to pace in an event like this. In Iraq, we mostly did our swim training in a 16-meter basement pool, and our run training on treadmills or in oppressive heat without any swim gear to weigh us down, so we had a lot to learn on the fly.

Neither of us had even tried swimming in our running shoes, and Mitch bought hand paddles the day before our race. In fact, Mitch actually only tried out his wetsuit the day before the race and realised very quickly that it was too tight to run in, so he raced in a loaner from the expo. All of this meant that we were adapting to temperature, terrain, swim dynamics, run dynamics and pacing over the distance, in addition to racing together, which we hadn’t done before.

Neither of us had even tried swimming in our running shoes, and Mitch bought hand paddles the day before our race.

As we were running to the last swim into Rheinsberg, Mitch and I agreed that we didn’t want to see another lake for a while, but then we heard the beat of the drums and the cheers from the crowds, we found the energy to push through to the finish. Neither of us had much juice left in us at this stage, but the excitement around the event was infectious. We swam as hard as we could to the Rheinsberg castle, and then sprinted up the hill with all the energy we could muster to reach the finish, where Mitch proudly waved his Kenyan flag, and where we tried, unsuccessfully, to do a coordinated ninja kick across the line!

We had joked before the race that we hoped Michael and Mats Skott would pity our training experience in Iraq and grant us an entry into the World Championship. We agreed at the end that we would need a LOT more work to be able to even think about doing a longer swimrun event – and this time, probably not in Iraq.

Mitch is headed back to Iraq in the coming weeks, and I’m now moving to Fiji for a new job, but we’re both hoping we’ll find a chance to swimrun race together again before too long.

Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #4 (October 2017)

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