Laurent Valette with Simon Desvaux de Marigny by Jakob Edholm
By Nancy Heslin
For Laurent Valette, the ÖTÏLLO World Championship was his “Cool Runnings” moment. “Leading up to the race was like the movie about the Jamaican Olympic team, except instead of bobsled it was swimrun. My partner Simon became the first, and probably last, person from the Island nation of Mauritius – where July the is coldest month with a low of 21°C – to have dared to take on and finish the legendary course.”
Naturally, with a post-world champs buzz on the ferry ride back from Utö, Laurent was already contemplating his next endurance endeavour – would it be rowing, raid adventure, ultra-trails, cross-country skiing, triathlon or another swimrun? Living between Chambéry and Grenoble, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the Frenchman had lots of options.
“Last year, with Marion Delespierre, we did the sprint and long-distance races back-to-back at the Isles of Scilly. The concept was awesome: swimrun without limits.”
And so the “No Limit” challenge was born. Laurent and his teammate Laurence Marx, “who is as crazy as me”, will take on all seven 2019 ÖTILLÖ World Series weekends, including the World Championship, by doing successive Sprint and full-distance races, for a total of 14 swimruns.
“Our goal as team Team Head Crownhealth Challenge is to finish all of the races. We know that doing the Sprint will cut into our energy reserve for the long-distance performance the following day, but our reward will be crossing the finish line knowing that we gave it our all.”
Never mind making it to the finish, the project requires an enormous amount of energy to sort out the logistics and finances before the duo even make it to the first ÖTILLÖ start of the season in Hvar, Croatia, on April 6th and 7th.
The 49-year-old says he’ll make the time to see through this undertaking “because you have to invest in yourself to make your dreams come true.” For the moment, Laurent and Laurence are personally financing their travel and accommodation but are still hoping to raise more money from interested sponsors. They raised funds through the community to help pay for the inscription fees at Hvar, Utö and Isles of Scilly. “We are fortunate, also, to be sponsored by Crownhealth, as well as HEAD for wetsuits.”
On paper, the hardest race weekend will be the Final 15 and ÖTILLÖWorld Championship in September but Laurent knows well enough that Mother Nature can make any race tougher. His plan is dedicate this year to swimrun. In addition to the 14 ÖTILLÖ races, he’ll be at the Costa Brava swimrun and Rockman with his wife. “So my other challenges will be rest, recovery, naps and family!”
Recovery is key. “This is a kind of birthday present from me to myself to celebrate my first 50 years of sport. I will have to reason with myself to rest, because resting is part of the training. But then again, maybe I’ll rest in another life.”
Article first published February 2019.