Hellas Frostbite Winter Swimrun – Race Report

So, why do you willingly enrol in a race that takes place, in Sweden… in December?

C:\Users\niklas.karlsson\Dropbox\IMG_20161130_210754.jpgWell. I really don’t have a good answer for this except for being part of something epic-in-creation. I did my 1st swimrun back in 2009, ÖtillÖ, a race at the time unheard of and subjected to all kinds of adventures. It suited us who liked taking on unknown challenges and to sort out problems as they came along. Sharing the feeling with friends, the sense of camaraderie and being part of something undefined and epic. The Hellas Frostbite Swimrun Race is very much like this. It’s new and unheard of and you really don’t know what to expect. I did the 1st race in 2015 and that year it was more correct to call it the Hellas semi-Frosbite race since it was plus few degrees and no snow nor ice. This year it was totally different. Forecast was for -6, snow, winds and an expected ice sheet covering the lake. A true Frostbite challenge.

When we arrived in the morning, the 50 of us who participated, hearing that the organisers had worked on opening up a channel in the ice, many of us started to feel really cold. The year before I wore way too much clothing underneath and this year I had decided to skip all merino wool underwear and only go full wetsuit, gloves and neoprene cap. But with 2 sick kids at home, I didn’t feel 100%, and that’s why late in the evening before the race I decided to drop any time-related ambition. Instead I rushed down to the shop and bought a Santa costume, given that it was December and that I had a nice Christmas feeling. I decided to race in the full suit but to swim the 1st stage in pants only, to get a feel for what it would be like, and not to immediately create a security incident for the race organisers.


Photo: Pierre Mangezs

The race got off to a good start, but already after 1 k I was overheating. So I had to open up to let the cold air inside, and this was tricky since it was hard to find a balance between freezing and only cooling off. Reaching the 1st swim I looked forward to hitting the water and to my surprise the swim was over before I had had a chance to really cool off. The 1st stage also included dodging some residual ice sheets…


Photo: Hellas Frostbite

It was not easy swimming with the Santa pants and beard and they got really heavy after a while. The 2nd run was just as hot as the 1st so I opened up my back completely this time and when reaching the 2nd swim, I forgot to close it. Oops ! The shock I had when taking the 1st stroke, with an open suit and letting all the water inside, cannot really be described in words. Needless to say, it was impossible to breathe, and turning back was not an option, so I decided to swim the 40 meters anyway.


Photo: Hellas Frostbite

I had managed to cool off but immediately started to freeze and shiver. With the help of Philip, the race organiser, I closed the back of the wetsuit and started running, and after 1 k I started to get some feeling back, and basically went back to overheating again. Running with all this clothing was just too hot.


Photo: Hellas Frostbite

For the final swim I decided to go ‘Full-Santa’ (and to close the wetsuit). And man it was hard to swim with the clothes on. It took forever but reaching the end I was glad because now I was back to being cold again, and reaching the finish line I was so happy that it was all over. The race-line-finish-hug from Philip and Daniel was full of warmth and love, just the feeling you should have after completing an icy winter swimrun race!


Photo: Hellas Frostbite

In total the race stretched some 16 k, with 120 meters of swimming in three sections. And for next year I do hope the swims will be longer, maybe up to a 100 meters or so.

The overall organisation of the race was terrific and the atmosphere was warm. This race donates all proceeds to Barncancerfonden, a charity working for research for children’s cancer, which makes it even more worth to participate in, and the foundation had volunteers’ on site, helping out. Great stuff!

Congrats to all those who did the race, and heads up to all of you who are thinking about your next step in your swimrun career. If you are looking for a new challenge, then sign up for next year’s race, because it will be even better, and hopefully colder!

/Nic the Santa


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