The Road to OtillO: DIY race kit

As OtillO nears, Roland swims in his run kit and runs in his swim kit for prep. And wonders why he’s entered “such a silly race”


After a week of thinking (at the age of 46 I’m finding you can’t rush these things) I spent Saturday morning gathering stuff and modifying kit I already had.


1. Blueseventy Reaction wetsuit. Transformed this into a shorty by cutting the legs just above knee and arms just above the elbow, taking care to ensure nothing rubbed when running.

2. Dry bag. Used a Mountain Equipment waterproof rucksack liner to store shoes and other guff. I also used lightweight cord to attach it to my waist, which was long enough so when swimming the drybag floated just behind my feet.

3. Triathlon belt. Used this to attached me, via a quick release to the cord and drybag.

4. Snorkel. Thought this might be useful if conditions in the Baltic are windy and choppy, but swimming 750m around Vobster Quay wasn’t easy. I routinely drifted off course and water kept going up my nose! If I take a snorkel I’ll definitely need a nose clip.

5. Small goggles. The bigger ones I used last week needed fitting around my swim cap, which took time and introduced a risk of water entering the goggles.

6. Paddles with holes. I drilled a number of holes through my paddles to reduce the amount of resistance, making them easier to use for longer periods.

After modifying the wetsuit I went out for two 10km trail runs around the East Mendips and felt surprisingly comfortable. I had to keep my strides short, easily reaching 180 footstrikes per min and unzip the back to keep cool, although the rain was a huge help.

Swimming 1,500m below race pace around Vobster Quay pulling a drybag took me about 30mins. This isn’t quick but it was much easier swimming with perforated paddles and without shoes, although I think I’ll probably keep them on for the short swim distances up to 500m. After a 750m swim, 1km trail run, 750m swim I felt more confident the kit prep was heading in the right direction.

Swimming in run kit

Just swimming the distances without kit shouldn’t ordinarily be too challenging, however, it’s the wearing of and carrying all the other paraphernalia that creates much of the complications.

Jackie and I decided to try out our OtillO kit – swim with our running stuff and run with our swimming stuff – and given that we’re supposed to be of sound mind, we can’t quite believe we’ve entered such a silly race!

Jackie had printed the race breakdown, which specified the distances for each discipline and using this as a guide, we set off running and swimming the first two fifths of the OtillO course around Vobster Quay and the quiet Somerset lanes.

With the water temp a balmy 20 degrees in places and the air temp approaching 28 degrees I chose not to use a wetsuit. Instead I used a tri top and shorts, pull buoy, Injinji socks and liner socks (I reckon the combination of the two will reduce the chance of blisters), calf compression, Inov-8 Road-x 233 shoes, Inov-8 bumbag, paddles, large open-water type goggles and a swim cap.

After the first 1,500m swim the bumbag went as it was creating too much drag, then the pool buoy as it needed to be tied to my thigh, shoes as they also created too much drag on long runs and finally the paddles as the solid ones I was using created too much resistance. I may use some of these things again, but slightly differently and modified.

Jackie wore a tri top and shorts, a cut-down FOOR Synflex wetsuit, long Nike running socks (which had a compression element), Brooks Pure Cadence shoes and for the run sections, added a drink bottle and carrier around the waist. She ditched the wetsuit and shoes after the second run section, but was not carrying as much other “junk” so fared reasonably well.

We plodded through two fifths of the course distance, stumbled through fifteen transitions, but still finished two hours inside the Namdo cut off. Not bad, but the OtillO run course is much more technical, so next time we need to introduce some trail running into the session. Also the Baltic Sea is likely to be choppy, windy, have a current and a lower temp – gulp.

However the day was really valuable and we completely changed our view of what kit would work and what wouldn’t.

Jackie has also been away and has been training in the Defence Academy open-air pool with the military Triathlon club, running along the canal towpath in Bollington in Cheshire and fitting in a couple more run/swim combos at Vobster. She is starting to have a mild panic at the thought of a 20k run section well over halfway into the actual race.


Keep an eye on the 220 website for more from Roland and Jackie as they prepare for their Swedish challenge. For more on OtillO, head to