© Lisa Nestorson

Swiss amateur multisport athlete, Diane Sadik, competes in both swimrun and triathlon and has scooped a stash of swimrun wins and podiums in some of the toughest swimrun events out there (hello, ÖTILLÖ swimrun). Number one female in the 2017 swimrun world rankings, 30-year-old Diane has enjoyed success in both mixed and female teams.

I put some questions to her about her background, training and love of endurance sport.

#1. You grew-up in Lausanne, Switzerland. Tell us about your sports background?
I have done some kind of sport since I was very small, starting with baby swim as a one-year-old. Growing up, we weren’t really allowed to stay inside and we didn’t have a TV. My parents are very into hiking so we got to go on hikes with them. From the age of six upwards, me and my younger sister got into the Scouts and most weekends were spent outdoors in the forest or in the mountains. Besides swimming, I was playing tennis and gymnastics.

#2. Were you always into running?
As far as I can remember, I didn’t enjoy running but wasn’t so bad at it. We had the annual city 4km and I was probably in the top 5-10% of my age group. In 6th grade, I came 3rd in my school in the 4km behind two girls doing track and field.

#3. You compete in triathlons as well as swimrun – which one came first?
I started swimming in Pully Natation (swimming school) which was linked to a triathlon club. At 11 years old, I and a group of juniors got moved to the triathlete lanes as soon as we could follow their workouts. At 16, we had to choose whether we joined another swim club or continued with triathlon. My dad eventually signed me up to the tri club then. The first year we had no junior training, so basically we were following the adult workouts and that didn’t help me like running more… I remember I couldn’t walk for days after interval workouts. Not to mention I showed up to the first bike training on my old mountain bike… no comment!

© ÖTILLÖ/Pierre Mangez

#4. How did you hear about swimrun, and when was your first swimrun event?
Shortly after I moved to Sweden they organised the first ÖTILLÖ Engadine swimrun and I thought that was a sport for people who were nuts and that I would never try it. I wasn’t really into long distance either by then, nor [was I] a trail runner. I had more or less dropped out of triathlon when I moved to Sweden and was only swimming by myself and running a bit for city runs. I mostly focused a lot on climbing and mountaineering.

However, my good triathlete friend, Maelle Pilorge, wanted to come to visit and do a race with me. I thought it would be fun to try swimrun together as we had similar swim levels and that was the scary part for me – swimming more than 4k… wow. She had to cancel the journey last minute and I raced with another good friend. We came 2nd in that first race – that was a surprise. In full triathlon wetsuit and with no other gear than our running shoes!

#5. Do you always have the same swimrun partner or do you mix it up?
I wish I had a fixed swimrun partner, but I do mix it up between mixed teams and women’s teams. I also have the rule to always race with a friend. This has always been possible except at the 2016 ÖTILLÖ World Championship, where I met my teammate just two days before the race. We became friends after though – 9 hours of racing together can pretty much tell you if you get along or not!

#6. Did you have much open water swimming experience before competing in swimrun?
I had mostly done open water swimming in Lake Geneva. This is wavier than lakes in Sweden but doesn’t have much current.

#7. What kind of swim training do you do for swimrun?
I mix-up between speed sessions without [swimrun] gear and distance sessions with paddles. However, in the autumn I try to swim without any gear to regain good technique and some speed.

#8. Tell us about your first swimrun event – which one was it and how was your experience?
My first event was the Borås swimrun with [my friend] Lina Byman. We had just run the Stockholm marathon a week before and were totally unprepared. I remember the Thursday before the race we tried the local swimrun race, Hellas Swimrun, and after one 4km lap out of two, we gave up because we were just too tired to run anymore. We thought: how the hell are we going to do a hilly (1200m+) race with 32km of running and 6km of swimming two days later? It turned out better than we thought since we came second behind Annika Ericsson and her then teammate, Maria.

It was fun to do it as an adventure with Lina. We just took it as it went. Lost each other a few times on the swims until we decided to use the rope someone had given us on the start line. At the very end, I was totally toasted due to lack of eating. When we heard that the following team was only three minutes behind, Lina got totally competitive and pulled me on the runs till the end in a crazy tempo pace.

#9. Do you train specifically for swimrun?
Yes, I do. But I don’t do so many swimrun sessions as such. I usually try to run in trail and gravel for all the long runs and easy runs. I love it so much that it’s not hard for me to get lost in the trails for much longer than I should. I usually train transitions specifically with my teammate, so that we don’t block each other and get routines for race day in. For swimming, I try to increase the distance with paddles about two months before the season starts.

#10. Do you use a towrope and/or pullbuoy when you race? Have you found these helpful?
Yes! I use a towrope in the swims and in case it’s needed during runs – for example, if one of us has low energy or if there’s a big difference in running levels. I use as pullbuoy so I can rest my legs during the swims. It also helps to keep a lower heart rate and expend less energy during the swims.

#11. You use paddles during your swimrun. Can you tell us a bit about how these help?
I use paddles as it makes you go faster when you’re using a pullbuoy and aren’t kicking. In that way, one can have a very low heart rate and rest during swims – or that’s the way I see it. I don’t think everyone rests during the swimming stages, but if you can, it is an advantage. However, it requires strength and I think my climbing experience helps me to use bigger paddles than I would if I had less strength.

#12. Which has been your favourite swimrun event so far?
I have done so many by now it’s hard to pick one, but I really liked Koster swimrun in 2016, ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly swimrun in 2017, as well as ÖTILLÖ Engadine 2018 and Cannes 2018. Mostly because the courses were nice, the weather was perfect and the team flow was perfect. In Cannes and Engadine we raced with a strategy and it paid off and made it very fun.

© ÖTILLÖ/Jakob Edholm

#13. Which swimruns have been the most challenging?
The most challenging were Rockman and ÖTILLÖ. Rockman, because I did it with a very good friend who wasn’t a swimmer nor runner. It is one of the hardest swimruns in terms of elevation and cold water, but the views and organization are amazing. It was tough to find out the pace that my friend could hold for such a long race and try to not push him too hard. At the same time, I had a broken foot and racing for almost 10 hours while pulling my friend was pretty tough.

ÖTILLÖ remains a race that can bring surprises. The first year we weren’t expecting to be in the front and we did very well until my friend hit the wall after almost 7 hours of racing. Then it was 2 hours 20 minutes of mental games… that is a very long time. The second year it was me that had troubles. Anything can happen, but in swimrun the best teams are those who can adapt in such situations. I always try to save the sinking boat rather than be sorry for the team.

#14. What do you love about swimrun?
I love the freedom of being totally immersed in nature, the endless possibilities of training and of going everywhere we want. But also the team dimension. All of it counts in race strategy. It changes for each race, for each type of terrain and each partner and also the racing class. You have to find the best race plan for the team capacity – strength and weaknesses. This is a dimension I really like.

#15. Can you tell us about your swimrun achievements/podiums?

  • Swimrun world ranking TSR 1stwoman 2017
  • First place (mixed and female team): ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly 2017, Hvar 2017, Utö sprint 2017, 1000 Lakes 2016, Lanzarote 2017, Angaloppet 2017, Engadine 2018, Borås swimrun 2016
  • Silver (mixed and female team) : ÖTILLÖ 1000 lakes 2017, Cannes 2018, Angaloppet sprint 2018, Borås swimrun 2015, Öloppet 2017
  • Bronze (mix) : ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2016-17, Engadine 2017

#16. What are your tips for first-time swimrunners?
Don’t hesitate to try new gear and new courses by yourself. You will know what is best for you with experience.

#17. What wetsuit do you find best for swimrun?
I use the Head Aero/Head Race Wetsuit depending on the conditions.

© ÖTILLÖ/Irina Kurmanaeva

#18. What are your favourite pieces of kit for training and racing swimrun and triathlon?
I don’t know… I just like to feel free to move in my equipment.

#19. What are your goals for 2019?
For 2019 – improving my weaknesses and avoid breaking my rib two days before the season starts [like previously!].

#20. Do you have any sponsors right now?
ARK Swimrun, Picky Bars, Liv Cycling, sjöstaden cykel, and Trispot.

You can follow Diane’s adventures in swimrun and triathlon via her Instagram handle: www.instagram.com/kumarette.