Motivation – what drives you forward during a long endurance swimrun race like ötillö?

What motivates you to go out and train that late Tuesday evening, in the rain, even though you are tired? We sat down with Christine from team Ultraswimrun, currently in final preparations for ÖtillÖ next week and had a chat about her motivation and drivers.


WoS: Hi Christine and thanks for taking the time to chat with us (again). Today we talk about motivation, and different drivers. You’re up for ÖtillÖ in September, how’s the preparations going?

C: Quite all right, thank you. After Utö I had some problems with pain in my feet and I had to take it easy with running for a while, and instead focus on swimming, but it seems like it is improving now. I will do ÖtillÖ for the first time and am aware that it is an extremely tough race, so in a way it seems like you can never prepare enough. But you only have so much time and right now I feel I do the best with the time I have.

WoS: ÖtillÖ is a long race that will take a pro-athlete somewhere around 10-12 hours to finish. How do you mentally prepare for a race like that?

C: With these long races I take it step by step and set minor goals for myself during the race. It may sound simple but I always divide the race into smaller segments. You can only finish one swim at the time. One run at the time. One island at the time. Make it to the next water point etc. And at the end you will be crossing the finish line.  So in essence I mentally prepare myself by focusing on the segments of the race rather that the whole race by itself so to speak. It’s quite difficult to get an overview over a 10 hour race, especially if you consider all the ever changing variables like the wind or sea conditions.

WoS: You have a family and a prosperous career in the hectic yet challenging field of medicine, how do you find the time to prepare and what motivates you to train on this level?

C: This is for sure not an easy challenge. A very important aspect is that you have the support of your family, otherwise it will be almost impossible. I try to adapt my training as much as possible after our family life; for instance I run with the kids in the babyjogger when it is time for their nap. Or I run back and forth to work instead of riding my bike, getting some kilometres in in that way. Swim training we  try to make a part of a family trip when possible; for instance we all go down to the channel or the beautiful Hellasgården and take turns in swimming and babysitting. Then it also becomes more fun than just taking a solo-training trip.


WoS: Do you have any specific strategy or do you use any techniques when you go out there and train as hard as you do?

C: Overall I have a plan of how much I want to train during each week and which type of training (long distance, intervals, hills etc.). Then the plan often need to be adjusted according to how I feel and quite simple what I feel like doing. Best thing is to think training is fun – that means if I planned for long distance running but for some reason feel like doing high intensity terrain in the forest then I do that instead. There will be days of course where nothing feels tempting, it is raining, the twins kept me awake during night and I just feel like laying on the couch; those days it can be hard to find motivation to get out there and train, but I know from experience that I often feel better after so that helps me get out there. Also having a race like ÖtillÖ coming up adds to the motivation and helps me kick myself out there in those situations.


WoS: Ok, so when you do these +10 hour races, how do you keep going when it gets tough, what are your driver(s)?

C: Well in this sport you are not alone, you have a teammate and hopefully you can take turns in motivating each other when it gets tough. Otherwise as I mentioned before, I try to focus on the situation right here right now; one island at the time.


WoS: What is more difficult, the mental or the physical challenge, or are they equally tough?

C: I think it is hard to divide it like that, it goes hand in hand. When you are physically challenged and your whole body is screaming for you to sit down and stop running then you are mentally challenged as well.

WoS: Do you ever get emotional during a race?

C: Well yes. Being physically challenged affects the mental condition too – I can become angry at the rocks if they are too slippery for example, not that it helps. But overall I would say I do not get too emotional. But of course you do not have the same rational approach to obstacles in life when you are out there for more than 10 hours. Other times I think I just become silent and find my inner stubbornness and then keep on going in some way.

WoS: These +10 hour races, don’t they get boring at some point, how do you pass the time?

C: Not really actually. That is a big advantage of swimrun – there is so much variation. Changing scenery, swimming, running, swimming and then running again. Compared to most other sports it does not really get monotone in my opinion.

WoS: Ok, thanks for this, and good luck at ÖtillÖ!

C: Thanks! I’ll need it.

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