Right after Rockman swimrun and my SAUC-days in august, I was in a good shape. I was dreaming of racing in my fifth World Championship, after two years working on the race as a journalist in 2010 and 2011, and competing four years in row.
I could not believe my eyes then I was sitting on the boat out to Runmarö when I got a message that a team I know needed me. One guy suffered from borelia in early august. I was excited, thrilled and wanted to train as much as I could. Anyway, after weeks of talking and a training sessions, me and Jim were ready for the race. I had a little bit of to catch up to do in my running since I had been working a lot this summer, but the swimming was better than ever. After four races from Utö Swimrun in may to Rockman Swimrun in august, I was ready for the Mother tof all swimrun races. Ö till Ö.
Jim and some other competitors and crews went to the Sandhamns Wärdshus for a late lunch the day before the race. Great tradition in my book. Soon the sunrises on race day, we set-off in the master start. We had a plan that I should took the lead on most of the swims, but nothing was totally set for certain. It all depended on water temperature and so forth. We took the right direction and I was pumping hard on the first swim.
It wasn´t easy in any way, and cutting the new Head Aero wetsuit wasn´t my best decision as I made some final ajustements the evening before the race. Our tactics were to go on but not run too fast on runmarö and nämndö. Jim is a really strong runner in my world. His capacity is enormous. Since I missed some running sessions during june and july but been competing pretty well I was unsure of my fitness level. But after seven years training swimrun I know my level.
After exiting the first long swim we were at the back end of the field. I was calm and felt strong and happy. This day was dedicated to smiles and having fun and guiding Jim to a great day on my favourite Ö till Ö course. On Vindalsö my new shoes Icebugs RX9 were terrific. Slippery rocks caused no problem. Jim on the other hand struggled with his Inov-8. He was a little bit cold and didn’t seem to have warmed up yet. As for me I was hungry for more. The first swims went OK, but I was little rusty. I saw a camera, waved to the team with the mic, and guided Jim to talk to them. The day before we meet them on the boat and before race briefing, for a short chat about the race.
We decided early that on the swims I should set a good pace and let Jim pull some on the longer section so he would not get too cold. It´s easy to have a plan but, on race race day things always change. My swimming this summer had been great. But for our team it was important to have me running as fast as I could on the longer runs. But Jim melted up as soon we reached runmarö. I paced the team to avoid getting in the red too early. Just three weeks before I trained on SAUC on the course between Runmarö (styrsvik) to Utö. So I knew it well, but far from the running tempo that Jim seemed to be able to maintain. We finally arrived down to Styrsvik 5 min later than scheduled. Jim was talking about it, but I was just concentrated on setting a good pace.
We arrived rapidly at the energy station where some local fans were out walking, I was cheering on them. Great to see some people on the course. The weather was great, some tailwind, some clouds but as far as we were at this point on Runmarö we were fine. My equipment was good, but changing shoes and suit a week before the race is not the best thing to do. On the swims, as I discovered the new suit, the swims were ok, but not optimal. At the end of Runmarö, we were fighting with a Russian mixed team, at the next swim they were cheating with the race vest inside the suit. Strange I thought, anyway, their problem. The feeling was good, we were moving at a good pace towards one of the best energy stops at mörtö. Our plan was going well so far but a little bit behind schedule.
I saved some energy for the big run on Ornö later. Our plan to go for my PB were tough for me but I did know that two years ago my team had a fresh start until Kymmendö whre I got low on energy and experienced a tough run on Ornö. But my teammate Jens back then was really strong the last hours. I thought this time I am going to run a lot better last three hours and be careful with nutrition as getting low on energy can be fatal on this long race.
The energy stop on Mörtö which was colorful and cheering was a party and big crowd. We were happy and filled up, my temporary low-energy felling was gone. Time to build up towards the “Pig swim” as a long swim. The water temp were in my mind warmer then I could ever dream of. Or was it my suit and the icebreaker t-shirt and head west a good thing this day? After four previous starts on this epic race I developed some skills and thoughts on how to dress for success. My neoprene hood was still covering my head for most of the races and on this Ö till Ö. I love to be warm during long ultra races such as this beast.
We maintained the tempo and got to Mörtö-klobb in decent time. Really a beautiful landscape and stretch of the course. Not so many teams in sight now, and before the long swim I told Jim to look where we were to exit this 1400 m swim if we were lucky. I started in front for the first 500 m, then Jim took a stretch, and Jim were up for it, but we changed the navigation angle and I we alternated taking turns in front.
Ii is important to not freeze on this swim if possible, and luckily last year’s wind and waves were not there. My training on the course during SAUC, were tough fore sure with 15 knots south wind. Compare to that this was relaxing with 4-6 knots north. At the end of Jim´s second stretch I was forced to step up since we were drifting to much east. I took the last 150 m towards kvinnholmen and we were close to the Russian mixed team again. I tried to have them in sight during the swim and we managed not loose too much time against them. I was now on one of the runs I know the best, and set of, after talking a little bit more with the TV-team on the rocks.
I also saw Jakob Edholm taking pictures under water with a drysuit. Some twixs and we set-of to Mörtö-bunsö. Jim was cold now, and me to. But my sprint legs for fast running on Mörtö-bunsö were still up for a fight. I increased our tempo went up for a while. After few minutes when we reached the more easy run on the island, we soon past the Russians. “Nostrovia” I was screaming. Hungry to level up the speed. The Garmin 910 was peeping 5:43 tempo. The stillness and the calm winds in the trees was really nice. We didn’t talk much, besides I put some energy in and ordered Jim to do the same.
Soon we reached the best energy stop on the course, beautiful Mörtö-Bunsö and the farmer garden on the south end. Some more swim and up on tricky Kymmendö-Bunsö. Also a nice stretch on the course. A finish ladies team got lost. As for me I know this one in my sleep. I waved and they came along. I heard them talking and Jim was in my back. I just pushed on now to not loose tempo. This island is hilly and loads of off-track trails to my taste. Time to be warm to save for the next long swim to getskär which I thought could be tricky as always. The Finish girls, advanced and passed-us. They got the swim a little bit before, and a crew guy, told us to jumppppp. And we did. I took the lead and there fighting in the wind. I felt refreshed and got finally a good pace in the swimming. After passing the big rock in the middle, a let Jim take the lead. I was curious how long he could keep the pace in the swims, the going was intense. I felt fine. As you may know this is my fifth report for this race in a row, so be patient. I try to dig up some stories.
All the teams were now in the race and big gaps appeared, I was looking for where the girls went but I couldn’t see them. Last two hundred metres I passed Jim again to finish this last long swim. We entered the getskär with dizzy legs but I was still warm. Little bit surprised, I remember this stretch from the SAUC-training a couple of weeks ago, when me and Nic, found a kajakman lonely. I helicopter followed us for many minutes on Kymmendö-Bunsö. But they where not searching for my face. Lucky me!
After a short hike, a short swim to Kymmendö which was beautiful, crystal clear and not so deep. No boats in site, we finally entered August Strindbergs & Siri von Essens lovely island.
to be continued … soon …
Text: Daniel Becker
Photo: Press Jakob Edholm/Nadja Odenhage