We had a chat with Emil Englund, in charge of the epic SjötillSjö swimrun race in Sala, Sweden, home of the historical Sala silver mine. SjötillSjö is the first bigger race of the Swedish season and this is what Emil had to say about their race:
Hi Emil and thanks for taking the time to talk to us at WoS. Now, what is SjötillSjö and how would you as a race organiser describe it to a newcomer?
This year’s event is the second edition of SjötillSjö in Sala, a former mining town in central Sweden.
It’s a swimrun event with the mindset that “Swimrun is for everyone”. Our participants vary from experienced swimrunners to newcomers. You can choose between a shorter sprint and the longer original route.
It’s open to everyone who wants to travel through and experience the historic setting around Sala. The background for the contest is to be found 500 years back in time when a large number of lakes was built in Salas surroundings to provide the Sala Silver Mine with water for mining operations. The race passes four of the most important and conspicuous lakes, and the finish is right at the Sala Silver Mine and at one of Sala’s most famous monuments: Queen Christina’s Shaft
It’s your 2nd edition this and you are the 1st race, kicking off the season in Sweden. Where did the idea for the race come from?
I applied to the first Amfibiemannen in Stockholm Archipelago with the competent triathlete Oskar Djärv, but did not start because of an injury. After a long period of injuries I thought it might be fun to organize races, and since I couldn’t participate myself this became an alternative way to engage in the sport.
I participated in arranging Uppsala Triathlon and during that same period the idea of Sjö till Sjö came to mind. One night I was reading about the Sala Silver Mines astounding man-made lakes, wetlands and dams which led me to contact the chairman of IFK Sala with an idea of making a swimrun contest following the water way from the wetlands, thru the lakes, dams and streams to the mine.
How has the reactions been about this in race in your hometown?
Positive and engaging!
Locals who live along the racing path show great interest and many of them engage as volunteers to help out both on land and in safety boats. The number of locals who apply for the contest is increasing, both experienced swimrunners and beginners.
People with great interest in the history of the mines are committing with their knowledge. This makes us very happy since it’s been a dream of ours that the contest develops a strong local connection, with the locals as well as with co-workers in form of organisations and local businesses.
Looking at the race in specific, it takes place in a spectacular setting in the heart of Sweden and home of the famous Sala Silver mine, can you tell us a bit of each race and what to expect as a first comer?
The long race is 21 km in total with a run about 17 km divided in 5 parts, and 4 km swim divided in 4 parts. The course is relatively flat and swims are a little bit warmer than many other Swedish lakes since they are dug by hand and shallower therefore it heats up faster.
The cool thing is that you start out in a very rural area in the woods, and the further you get, the settings turn more and more urban, both the environment as a whole but also the water systems, you certainly notice it when you run along the dams on the last run up to the mine.
The Sprint is about 7.5 km in totalt with a run about 6.3 km divided in 4 parts, and 1.2km swim divided in 3 parts. This course is also flat and is around and on the same course as the longer race and has the exact same last beautiful run!
What will be the most challenging aspect for the competitors?
The longest swim is 1.4 km – and if the weather is cold during spring (like last year) it may be as cold as +10*C in the largest lake.
Who do you think the course favours, the strong runner or the strong swimmer?
The strong swimmer has a slighter edge. If you compare with the bigger swimrun events, there’s a bit more swimming in proportion to the runs.
How many competitors are you accepting? Is it only swedes or do you have any international attendees coming?
Everyone is welcome! At this point we have one Danish and one Finish (Åland) team. This years’ maximum limit is set to 50 teams in the original race and 20 teams in the shorter Sprint
How experienced are competitors who enter the race? What are the criteria to enter the race?
We do have a couple teams with an top 15 placement in Ö till Ö, Gold medals in the Swedish nationals in swimming (200m breaststroke) but also newcomers who will adopt an easy pace breaststrokes for the whole swims (Full course!) and all in between.
There are some restrictions regarding age of the contestant that one can read more about at our website.
What are your aspirations for STS in the future?
That it continues and develops its profile as an event for everyone, and not an elite-competition only. The ambition is to highlight the town Sala. It’s easy to become blind as a local, but we wish to remind people that there´s truly some fantastic history and settings to experience.
Last but not least, do you have a final tip for the competitors, for instance, May, will it be cold?
Mars has been 3°C warmer than average so we asses that the temperature in the lakes along the course will be about 15 °C, provided that it doesn’t get cold during the last weeks before race day.
I recommend the more experienced to plan for both warmer conditions where it could be to an advantage to choose a shorter wetsuit, and for cooler conditions where a full length suit and maybe some other equipment to preserve heat is preferred. The newcomers we recommend to go for a full length suit, regardless the temperature.
We also recommend they follow the facebook page Sjötillsjö for updates regarding the temperature in the lakes the days and weeks before race day. A specific recommendation will be posted during the last week regarding what equipment and outfit to wear.
Great. We at WoS wish you good luck with the race and at the same time give a shout-out to all you swimrunners who want to compete in a historical cool setting, where you might stumble upon the silver treasure! J
Thanks a lot!