The biggest unknown besides archipelago weather might be me home brewing energy gel four days before the race. :) Hope that maltodextrin, fructose, acacia honey, fruit, electrolytes and caffeine mix won’t have me puking.
Good luck, brave fellow racers.
PS. If you’re racing, read my recent revision of the race execution guide from last year here.
The Ötillö World Series race at Utö yesterday wasn’t easy. Tomas Granberg and I managed to take a 10:th mens and 14:th place overall at probably the most competitive race of the circuit. But a satisfying finish wasn’t a given as problems started already at the first plunge when my goggles filled with water. A string of mishaps and bad swims on my part followed, all as a consequences of the cold water that I honestly couldn’t handle on the day.
My teammate Tomas acted just as a solid partner does, quickly figuring out what actions were the best for the team as a whole and how to resolve the struggles I had. He ended up in front of the tow rope as I polo swimmed out of T5 Båtshaket. Swimrun is a three-component sport comprised of swimming, running and the trust you put in you partner.
I’ve heard 7 to 12 celsius and the temperature will always vary in different waters. All I know for certain is that during my four years at this event it has never been close to as cold as yesterday. But it all turned for the better half way into the 42 kms. As we touched the south end of the course my struggles in the cold water somehow vanished and cold swims were not a problem from there on.
Moments of dissatisfaction, but also great moments of forest beauty as we swooshed the trails where we could excel and get our hopes back. Back with a vengeance we managed to pull out the fourth fastest run split of the day between T9 Gruvbyn and T10 Rävstavik. With some backs to hunt we kept the pace up and finished in a satisfying manner after all.
Next stop is Borås Swimrun in two weeks. Thanks to our sponsors Extfin, providing a way to compare loans for businesses and TG Swimrun Coach for those wanting to improve their swim, run and swimrun.
Om vi bara tittar på volym så kan vi dra slutsatsen att volymen var något för liten 2018. Jag har inte riktigt nått volymmålen jag satte inför hösten. Jag hade inte märkt det om jag inte loggat träningen och skapat diagram, så det är tydligen en nyttig syssla.
Men det är inte panikläge, iaf. I fjärde kvartalet har jag simmat helt utan gear vilket för mig nog innebär mer träningsvärde per meter. Angående löpning hade jag över årsskiftet förra året ett 100 km/v-projekt som räckte nästan ett halvår. I år har jag samma projekt och december blev det över 100 km/v i genomsnitt, så jag är igång. Löpningen innehåller mer kvalité än året innan vilket också gör mig hoppfull.
2019 kan jag bli starkare än 2018, men det förutsätter mycket simning och löpning under våren. Istället för bara långsiktiga mål som ÖTILLÖ i september så kan vi separera perioden fram till påsk. Förmodligen bouldrar jag i Frankrike i påsk och ÖTILLÖ Utö 19 maj ger också ett naturligt delmål. Fram till dess hög volym.
Jag avslutar med något helt annat. Under hösten har jag påbörjat tre sportrelaterade hobbyprojekt. Det är tre webappar som alla har något med idrottsstatistik att göra:
Solvalla Swimrun has a course that suits Tomas Granberg and me just perfectly. The trails and nature in Noux are very much like the trails close to home in Tyresta that we enjoy alot. It’s the terrain we enjoy the most and what we train in, both running and swimrun. We are not the fastest on flat runnable, but running over stones and tree roots we can keep a decent pace. That and our second place last year got us psyched to come back in 2018. Since we live in Stockholm it is just a boat trip away and we didn’t even spend a night in Finland since Tomas is always pressed for time.
Last year’s winners, the kumiukots Teemu Toivanen and Teemu Lemmettylä, were nowhere to be seen when we arrived. I suppose they were satisfied with a respectable 08:23 at the recent ÖTILLÖ World Champs and considered the swimrun season to be over after that. We knew that Finish triathletes Tuomas Lampainen and Markus Lampainen were in the start list and might be a cause for concern. Tomas had also scouted the Russian mixed team of Sergey Mikhalev and Irina Borevich who did well at the World Champs and could be contenders. Other than that we didn’t know too much going in.
The plan we made up on the boat from Stockholm was simply to go at our own pace since we had no clue whether the one or two teams possibly ahead of us would offer suitable drafting. As it turned out we were alone after the first kilometer and it stayed that way. After about 90 min of racing we got high fives from the at that point second place team Markko Lehtosalo and Janne Blomqvist when they entered the 700 m swim as we exited (it’s a loop swim around a buoy). However, in the back of my mind I wanted us to beat last year’s winner time.
That proved a bit too hard on the day. My own form on the day wasn’t perfect with a lack of sleep the nights before. Also the wind might or might not have affected the swims. Anyway, we managed to enjoy ourselves through the pristine forest and clear lakes. It’s nice that our ÖTILLÖ Merit Race shares it’s latter part of the course with the shorter Endurance Race distance and that the Endurance participants are ahead. Chasing people adds a nice spice to the race.
We were a few seconds faster this year than last and more importantly, one place up on the podium. I would like to go back in 2019 but that is still a full year away. Regardless, it was a very enjoyable experience and a nicely organized event!
Photo: The author giving his teammate Tomas Granberg a well deserved hug at the 2018 World Champs finish line. In front: women’s 1st place Kristin Larsson. Photo by Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ.
If you’ve watched the World Championship live or recap on YouTube that probably got you fired up to sign up for a local swimrun race, an ÖTILLÖ World Series race or even the World Champs. Of all these the only one that is really hard to get entry into is the World Champs, which is quite natural. World Champs are open to non-elite, for sure, just like the Ironman World Championship or the Berlin Marathon is. However, there are only a total of 160 teams allowed.
If you are an elite or sub-elite athlete in something like triathlon, swimming, running, OCR or multisport and you are confident that your ability would place you in the top five or so of an ÖTILLÖ World Series event, your quickest option would be to enter one of those and go for direct qualification. To give you an idea that requires about a 2:50–2:55 marathon (and often good trail-running ability). You should also be able to keep about 1:20–1:25/100 m full equipment through the whole race. This year, each World Series race qualified 3 male teams, 2 female teams and 3 mixed teams. But spots roll down if one of the team members is already qualified. Some races have more competition, some less.
Non-elites with a sub 3:20 marathon, a decently swim and who are ready to travel have a good chance at a ”ranking” spot. Your six best recent World Series or merit races (that’s ÖTILLÖ’s partner races) give you a ranking score which is added to your partner’s score to give a team score for the application. Also, there is the ”7/24 Concept” which are spots for people finishing a whole lot of races, regardless of how they perform at the races.
If you are a famous athlete (or just famous), you could apply for a director’s choice spot. Previously these have been offered to ex-olympians, national elite runners, elite triathletes, music artists, early contributers to the sport, among others.
”Team Selection Ticket” is an option where you rely on sheer luck in a lottery. I personally hope they’ll remove this way of gaining entry in the future to instead favour athletes suitable to finish and do well in this very demanding race. After all, it is the World Championship.
Updated 2019-08-25 in time for the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship 2019. The original article was posted 2018-09-04 right after Worlds 2018.
Yes, together with my teammate Tomas Granberg we finished in under 9 hours in the 2018 perfect conditions. Men’s category 20th place and 27th overall with a time of 8:57.49. But a lengthy post bragging about that wouldn’t be of much use to the world, so let’s leave us aside and instead talk about the strategy that goes into executing at your best potential at ÖTILLÖ Worlds for anyone attempting, be that sub 8, 9 or 10 or whatever.
Obviously the most important thing is training, training and some more training, but today I’ll leave that whole thing out and focus on race execution, which is particularly important at ÖTILLÖ Worlds.
Knowing the course
If you are not a repeat participant, recon every section with Google Maps or equivalent. The ÖTILLÖ website has an official Google Maps route with stations.
Some people write a table of distances of all the legs on their paddles. We don’t. Instead we focus on the key takeaways such as those following below, which are not too hard to remember.
On which island is there no energy station for a long time but still enough time to eat a bar? (Answer: Vånsholmen)
Where do I need to pick up water or sports drink in a soft flask that I’ve carried with me? (Answer: Ornö church, and more places if very hot conditions)
Where do I keep my swim cap on and goggles readily on forehead at water exit, because the next swim is just around the corner? (Answer: after the pig swim, after the 1 km swim, on Mellankobbarna but not Järnholmen if hot weather, etc)
If the weather is warm, where do you peel your wetsuit down? (Answer: probably only at Ornö)
How long does it take for both teammates to peel the wetsuit down and up again? If it takes a long time, would it be better to accept a little heat and drink a bit more?
If your team is strong in the off-trail, where do you want to avoid being stuck behind a pack where there is little room for overtaking? You need to know such things.
You might think that nine or so hours give plenty of time to think but that isn’t really the case with ÖTILLÖ. There are so many micro decisions and focus needs to be on point almost all the time. To me ÖTILLÖ has more intensity and adrenaline than a 10 km race on the road.
I consumed about 400 ml of standard gel. You might need to put additional caffeine (400 mg is good for me) and electrolytes (sodium being most important) in there. Carbohydrate supply from stations just won’t be enough. ÖTILLÖ Worlds is similar to an Ironman effort but with a little more heart rate fluctuation.
I put my gel in a 500 ml soft flask with no risk of littering and no messing around with packaging. Many people find it hard to take solids at the latter part of a race. You probably want to save some gel for the final two hours when even banana feels as too much. Take a sip of gel every 20 min or so when on land. Time just before swim entry to distribute over time. Also, you might want to put the caffeine in the bottom half of your container, to give you that boost at the back half of the race.
In addition to gel I pack one bar for Vånsholmen and eat banana or equivalent from aid stations as they appear. Adapt to your preference.
Drink plenty of at the stations. It is difficult to sense dehydration at an early stage. Especially when you are in the cold water. As with gels, keeping count on ingestion is more reliable than ”feeling”.
Provided your stomach allows, drink from the ocean while swimming. You might want to try that during exercise to see what amount your stomach can handle.
I bring two soft flasks. One, as said, containing my gel mix and one initially empty for liquid picked up at aid stations. Stations do not provide cups as an environmental consideration.
In case of stomach pain, I choose to back down but it is very important to continue taking gel as soon as the pain subsides.
You are aiming for beach flags mainly. At the first swim and a latter 1 km swim there is usually a solid strobe light to guide you. Sometimes there are intermediate guidance pyramid buoys. You don’t need to pass them on a specific side.
Draft whenever the opportunity arises, or even strategically stalk a team at suitable speed from land. You’ll always have your partner draft on you or the other way around, in any case. Side-by-side is wasting your team’s energy total to no use. The men’s front of ÖTILLÖ will usually be a group for a very long time, until a team breaks away on a run. You might realize why.
Swimming about 10 km in a day with long runs in between means energy efficiency is key. You don’t venture into higher heart rates if there is not a very good reason to do so. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time at the end for redlining anyway.
If you realize you gap your partner swimming and you don’t have a tow line, slow your stroke down as to help your partner to get back into draft. When approaching shore, on the other hand, you could swim a few meters ahead allowing for some exit scouting.
Sighting is very important. Even if you are a good swimmer you don’t want to be swimming 740 m when everyone else is swimming 700. Personally I prioritize sighting and swimming straight over pushing it very hard since my ability to swim straight deteriorates at very high effort. Especially so in choppy water.
Most teams use fairly big hand paddles but don’t bring paddles so big that you are no longer able to pull through the whole stroke at the back half of the race.
ÖTILLÖ WC is in the Baltic Ocean, which has brackish water. Some people will go without goggles and that works. If you use stronger contact lenses, you might want to bring a spare contact if swimming without goggles. This also being a thing to definitely practice before adopting.
You may swim through currents, especially on the swims between Ornö and Utö. Those are the last swim sections of the course when you are the most fatigued. If the water is moving rapidly, counter already before hitting the current to get some slack. Currents may switch directions from one year to the next.
The course has everything from tarmac to scrambling. ”65 km of running” is more like 35 km of runnable, 25 km of technical trail and 5 km of complete wilderness expedition. ;)
First-timers will likely be surprised by the amount of off-trail and slippery rock. You need good grip. Especially in a wet year when rain is falling on race day or the days before. Non-spike orienteering shoes are popular with ÖTILLÖ Worlds athletes.
If one of you is a considerably stronger runner, that person might be pulling with a tow line at the runnable sections. You might prefer pulling a little throughout the whole race instead of one of you bonking two thirds into and the other then trying to pull very hard. Watch out since pulling hard might trigger cramps in the calves.
What pace would you be able to maintain throughout the whole race? Now take that pace and go just a little faster. You don’t want to underachieve. That should still end up being a bit slower than how most teams pace themselves. This applies in general but not always at the men’s front as there are not many teams to draft on the swims so you might factor that in too. There are a lot of micro decisions like that to be taken during the race.
When I say pacing I mean effort-based and not actual speed since the course is so varied. We just avoid going ”red” or even ”orange” early on. This has the drawback that you might get stuck behind a crowd since a lot of teams can’t seem to pace themselves so think of strategies to mitigate that.
Again, remember to pace yourself. As they say at WS100, if you’re in the lead after the first climb, you are probably not going to win the race. :)
Leave all pride aside. If the pace is too high for you, let it be known. The other way around, ask your partner if they’ve remembered to take a gel lately. His/her success is your success.
Equal swimmers will let the more tired runner draft swims to regain some energy for the next run.
Even if you’ve got equal capacity in all respects, maybe bring a line under the wetsuit in case either of you ends up having a bad day.
If you are competitive both number one and two are done in-flight. Preferably during a swim or just before, to avoid developing rashes. With a short-legged wetsuit number two can be done quickly. I don’t know why I put this under teamwork.
Is your partner struggling? Figure out if it may be the heat, nutrition, foggy goggles or whatever — and help fix the problem. ÖTILLÖ is not typically an event that attracts lazy people, so nagging or blaming your partner would likely be misguided.
The level of competition at Worlds is increasing with every year, but camaraderie between teams is still respectful. Teams overtaking will often give you encouraging words. I think that is a natural when everyone is in a team and a part of this special event.
Although this and that is allowed, at the sharp end gear has basically consolidated into:
Pullbuoy with a lot of lift (compared to what pool swimmers are used to). The most popular are probably Ark Keel and Swimrunners Piraya. I use a DIY epoxied double Huub Big Bouy also favoured by some other athletes. Some have seen the guru to get a Rövraket (if you know, you know).
Wet suit specifically made for swimrun. I use Ark Korp but there are several good options. A pocket is handy to store gel and mandatories. In most weathers short sleeves are enough. Front-end athletes typically prioritize run performance. The bib will mess up your drag anyway and lift you get from the pullbuoy. The wetsuit is basically there to not be in the way and to provide warmth in cold water. I found that in protecting against cold water, it is more important that the wetsuit does not let in too much water than that the neoprene is thick.
Hand paddles equivalent to Strokemakers. Lighter is better, size according to strength.
Goggles: light is fast. Slim or even Swedish Goggles.
Shoes: for this race, think orienteering. VJ Sport’s butyl rubber mix and rock plate shoes are currently in fashion.
Tow line: roughly half of the front-end use it at Worlds. Some bring just in case.
In case of extreme cold: neoprene bandana, long sleeves and perhaps even a neoprene vest. Unusual, though.
Where do you store gel flasks and mandatory first aid? In a sports top or bra, your lower underwear or a pocket if your suit has one. Make sure they don’t bounce around too much or fall out while running.
This covers perhaps 20 % of the things that are handy to know. Dissecting this race you will find it is potentially so complex that you can’t expect to perform at your full physical potential the first time entering. Still worth it!
I don’t want to scare anyone from entering and it is not only for the very competitive. ÖTILLÖ World Champs is magical. Rich Roll even went as far as to call it life-defining. The scenery, the spirit among the racers and the staff. All magical, regardless of how serious you are about competing.
This might not apply to shorter races but could be useful for the upcoming World Champs. Last year I heard people had 20 or even 25 gels with them. Imagine the fiddling. I put my energy, caffeine and salts mix in a softflask instead. Bonus: you can fill up the flask with water at Ornö church avoiding running dry at that crucial part of the race where there will be no liquid served for a long while.
The natural follow-up question would be: where do I put the flask? In the pocket of the wetsuit of course! Problem is, most current swimrun suits don’t have pockets. That’s why I wear tight briefs. A bonus there is a softflask is less likely to cause rashes than pointy gels. Another way would be Head’s tank-top-style swimrun tops that feature a large front pocket. I think a tank-top would be a bit too warm for me, personally. For women, there is also a swimrun bra with a front pocket. Looks very handy! I’d try that i XXXXX large or cut the men’s swimrun top.
Hack 2: Shoes
Wear orienteering shoes for those comps which feature slippery rocks and off-trail. Not really a hack, is it? Well, anyway, VJ Sports Sarva Amas will be my footwear come September 3rd. Forget about all other properties in these races and go for grip. This very much applies to World Champs.
Hack 3: Don’t just train swimrun
Some people stress the importance of swimrun specific sessions. Sure, but when you have that dialed, think running, think swimming. All the best swimrunners do laps in the pool just like swimmers.
Learn from the best in swimming, and running. Don’t compare yourself to just the top people at your most high-profile national swimrun race and settle with that. Compare yourself instead to the fastest trail marathon runners of your country and aim for their level. Don’t set the bar too low. With the rapidly increasing level of competition in swimrun, in a few years, the bar will be unreachable if you do.
Also, think of ÖTILLÖ World Championship as an ultra endurance race. That means Ironmans or 10 h ultra foot races make good preparation to harden the body and learn to handle nutrition under such long races.
As I’m writing this we are almost two weeks out to the main event of the sport of swimrun, the ÖTILLÖ World Championships. Without doubt the most competitive race of the sport, ÖTILLÖ WC attracts the best athletes of all categories. Rumour has it that some of the teams that have been close or on podium last year have made Monday September 3 their highest priority for 2018, setting aside everything else.
Many are the teams returning for another shot where the heavy-weights fight it out, to improve on their previous efforts. With two weeks left, gradual tapering would set in for many of you, leaving time for last thoughts on equipment, race-day nutrition and race planning. Wouldn’t it be perfect if there would be a tool to help you with atleast some of that and add extra psych for the big day?
Enter Swimrun Watch — statistics and analytics for fans and athletes of competitive swimrun racing! I started working on this project almost a month ago and now is the time to reveal it and give you guys a chance to try it. Hopefully, it will be fun and maybe even useful for your pacing and race planning! Which teams are strong swimmers? Which die towards the end? The answers are in the data. Go find out!
I’ve written a bunch of race reports in Swedish, making them more or less inaccessible to all those people of other languages interested in this Sweden-borne swimrun sport. So this time, I’ll give you the tour of one of Sweden’s biggest races: Ångaloppet! Although, I’m not sure its just a race — more like a movement. Ångaloppet is for everyone! There’s a family race where an adult and a child swimrun together, short distances for trying the sport and hand paddles and lines for towing are banned. It’s supposed to be easy and fun to get into this sport and I think Ångaloppet is doing a great job in making a wider audience discover and appreciate the magnificent fun that this sport brings.
At the sharp end there is still a lot of fun and companionship, trust me, although heart is pounding and we’re pressing on in tight competition. The main event of Ångaloppet is no more than 22 km, which is short in the context of swimrun racing but still packs 24 swims. Water entries and exists all the time and a lot of trail/off trail makes for a hectic ride and tons of adrenaline! I so enjoy the feeling of being a hunted animal in the wilderness, or out hunting running through technical terrain and trying to outswim someone to the next islet.
Today I was back racing with my primary teammate Tomas Granberg of TG Swimrun notoriety. With no towline allowed, this race favors our very similar capacities in both disciplines of swimming and running. Also, we are both stronger in technical terrain than on runnable, which makes this course suit us. Usually we’ll for sure screw up something in a race but today was a fortunate exception. We executed a close to perfect race, which allowed us to advance as the race unfolded and cross the line as fifth finishers with the tenth best time ever on this course, to the best of our knowledge. Really pleased with our performance!
This bodes well for the big one, arising on the horizon like a fiend out of the Baltic ocean. I’m talking ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2018 — the relentless race of races that brings all the beauty of the salty and harsh archipelago along with massive fatigue. And we are now only three weeks out. That’s one more week of milage and then gradual tapering for Tomas and I. So looking forward to face the strobe of that first swim!
Oh. And the winners of today’s race, brothers Lars and Jonas Ekman of Bröderna bäver, are contenders for the win of the world championship. Last year they did the third fastest time ever in a world championship race and that was a step up from the year before. They are getting better and better, it looks, and I think that this year it will be gold for the brothers. Remember where you read it first.
Igår körde jag Öloppet med Nina Ellmark. Vi lyckades ta hem tredjeplatsen i mixklassen. Vilken bra partner! Funkade utmärkt tillsammans trots att vi inte ens tränat tillsammans innan och ingen av oss kört den här tävlingen tidigare.
Man ska inte syssla för mycket med ursäkter, så jag river av dem i en mening: Jag hade lite magproblem och jag tappade en lins. Det var det. Men när är ett lopp felfritt? Det är många komponenter som ska stämma i swimrun. Skönt med en förstående partner som gör det bästa av situationen!
Vi simmade helt okej och loppet inleds med 1 km simning. Det gjorde att vi var tvåa den första milen innan Daniel Adams Ray och Charlotte Eriksson sprang förbi. De gick kanske ut försiktigt. De såg så fräscha ut och det var då min svacka började, så jag insåg att vi inte kunde hänga på.
Tanken då var att det var långt upp till ettan. I själva verket var avståndet till Oom/Eriksson som mest 6 min och då de fick problem på Vrångö minskade det därifrån hela tiden och slutade på 2 min i mål. Adams Ray/Eriksson slutade som etta. Det är lustigt vad lite man vet ibland mitt uppe i ett lopp. Man vet aldrig säkert vad som händer framför så ge inte upp!
Jag älskade banan, minus de långa asfaltslöpningarna. Riktigt fint att springa ute på skären. Och jäklar vad fina simningar med lagom vågor för att göra det lite äventyrligt! Det här gör jag gärna om. Jag tänkte innan att pallen var ett rimligt mål och det lyckades vi ju med. Blir det revansch nästa år så kanske ett eller två steg upp är rimligt!