The ÖtillÖ World Championships 2021

The End or Just a Beginning?

If you have been following our blog you might be expecting the father-son swimrun odyssey to reach its glorious end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Max’s knee started hurting mid-race at the Utö World Series in June. A lingering injury that put him out of the Swimrun World Champs on September the 6th. Super-Sub Niklas Lindskog stepped in. You will hear from them both later.

The Old Man: I always get nervous before big races. It isn’t some self-inflated idea that I can compete at the business end of the race, but as Steve Prefontaine immortalized “to give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift” and I think in some ways, would dishonor the race organizers, the hundred-plus volunteers and the amazing athletes that we would share the day with. With that thought in mind, I boarded the bus that would take us to the Djurönäset Hotel where all the 157 qualifying teams would meet for the registration and race briefing.

I had been following a training program designed by swimrun evangelist, founder, and Envol head coach Nico Remires. The guidance and camaraderie of Nico and Team Envol athletes had been fantastic, an amazing 44 of the field represented his swimrun coaching squad. After registration, Michael Lemmel, the spiritual god-father of the ötillö race, took us through an emotional race briefing. The atmosphere was electric!

At about 21:30 we called it a day and headed back to our room for the final kit check. Even with race nerves, I managed to sleep well before the 03:30 alarm and a simple breakfast. My Whoop (recovery tracker) said 95%, the taper had been perfect. At 04:20 we were packed and making our way through the dark night on a short walk to the water’s edge where a ferry would take us to Sandhamn and the start. The sun slowly emerged above the horizon as we reached the harbor and we were welcomed by the sight of some friendly faces that would follow us by boat during the race. The start would be 06:00 sharp.

The Day Breaks in Sandhamn

We settled toward the back of the start pen and as the gun sounded we followed the procession as it slowly gathered pace through the winding gravel streets on the 1200m run to the beach. I had been a little worried about the water temperature (less than 15 degrees) but it felt fine as I stuck to Niklas’ feet and settled into an easy rhythm stealing views to my left as the orange sky started to fill the day with light. 1750m later we hit Vindalsö and joined the steady procession in front. These next islands are rocky with lots of very technical ‘trails’ so we were in no rush to take places. At Time 3 as we hit Runmarö 10km into the race the watch said 1:32 – so far so good. 

The Runmarö leg is the first of the longer runs, almost 9km with an energy station midway at Time 4. As we ran through we saw that Nico’s partner had been injured and was receiving medical help, they don’t call it the sharp end of the race without reason! Unfortunately, the race ended for them there. We kept a steady work rate through this amazing landscape, mindful to take on fluids with a rough plan to take a gel every hour and additional salt/electrolytes every second. 

Game Face!

The Ötillö World Championship course is a true point to point taking the path of least resistance 75km from Sandhamn to Utö across and through whatever nature put in the way. The course was well marked for race day and we took it one section at a time winding south. My friends were picking up Max at Mörtö and I was looking forward to seeing them on the course. But first, we would see Niklas’ wife Ingela volunteering at the Nämdo Solvik energy station, refueled and reenergized, we continued.

We met The Boy at the 5-hour mark at the end of Mörtö (36.3 km). Now it would be a few short runs and swims before the infamous “pig swim”. At 1400m not the longest swim but one which is often cold, exposed and at this point in the race known for sapping energy. A gel later we were in the water and taking a right curved track to work with the currents as we fought our way to Kvinnoholmen.

Old legs were taking their time to get going again after cold immersion, but we knew that at the 47km mark the big run on Ornö would start. First a 12 km stretch to the energy station at the Ornö church and then another 8 km to Time 15 and the final cut-off. For this run, we put on a tether, the emotional and physiological swimrun umbilical cord that joins two souls in the pursuit of suffering.

We saw our fantastic supporters again at the church and with renewed resolve ran those last kilometers to the swim that would take us to Kullbäling and the 5km series of short swims and technical scrambles. With heavy legs, we landed on Utö for the final 3km of easy gravel until the final 600m winding up the final hill to an emotional side-by-side sprint to the finish line. Job done! 65km of running and 10km of swimming in 10 hours 41 minutes of steady effort. No major dips, no drama, just a great day out sharing the adventure – a race plan well executed.

The Boy: An anticlimactic end to a very special adventure. Two plus years of exploring the long neglected, innate love or maybe drive for endurance in me that resides within all humans. When doing something like this you have to put a lot of your metaphorical training eggs in one basket. As a complete nerd of human health, let’s just say that it’s suboptimal. But being able to say that you’ve competed in the world championships in a team event, with your father makes all of the time spent in the swimrun trenches worth it. It is bittersweet that I can’t say that now, and might never. 

I know more about human health than most, yet I make mistakes I shouldn’t. In late April I ran the last 45km to support my friend’s solo 160K Ultra with barely no running in my legs. After the run my hip was nagging me. I took two weeks off from running. And came back hard. Starting off with a fast interval session pacing Niklas and then the day after doing a solid swimrun around Kärsön. My left knee started complaining almost instantly. With 6 weeks until Utö the pain wasn’t bad enough to rest so I just kept on training. 

June 20th, the knee felt good. No complaining, no nagging pain while sleeping, ready to go I thought. The first 2 hours felt great. We held a solid pace, keeping up with some strong teams. I was feeling good and decided it was my time to pull on a swim for probably the first time since we started. I swam hard. Zooming by teams in the water and looking back every now and then to make sure The Old man was on my heels. Coming out of the water I felt like a wolf about to chase down its target. Eager to start I made the transition quick. I had failed to keep The Old Man on my heels and he had worked hard to keep up with me in the water. For the first time since the start The Old man’s suffering became apparent. 

After my strategic mistake we had settled into a more steady pace. On one of the islands in the middle of nowhere about 3 hours into the race we got passed by a team. One of the members turns around and says “nu börjar det kännas va?”. Literally two seconds later my knee starts complaining. For the rest of the race every step comes alongside a stabbing pain in the front of my left knee. 

The day after was bad. The weeks after were even worse. I could only walk with a straight leg, I woke up many times during the night and had to turn to one side with a straight leg before bending it. The hope of doing the ÖtillÖ WC slowly faded as reality set in. The thought of a two year journey that turned into three (thanks COVID) not reaching its opus magnum was sad. But as the stoics have taught me. Reality is what it is, accept it and be graceful and so I was. 

The Old Man still got to do it so that made the blow easier to take. Viewing the race from the outside makes me appreciate this epic race even more. It is one hell of a spectacle. The people who do it are insane in the very best of ways. While watching the finish I cannot say I didn’t imagine myself running that last hill. The idea of doing the WC next year is on the surface appealing. But knowing what it takes to get ready for it I don’t know if it is worth it. This might be an anticlimactic end to a great story or the beginning of a new one. I guess we’ll see in a couple of months if I can be tricked (again).

The Super-Sub: It´s been an absolute honor stepping in at a very late stage to be a small piece of the puzzle in finalizing the endeavor that The Old man and The Boy set out to do. To be honest the ÖtillÖ WC was not at all on my radar until late July. I have always considered it too long a race, not an event for me. This is a race for real athletes with endurance skills and experiences way above my capacity, so when the question came I did not know what to say. Is he serious? Does he think I can do it? 

There must be plenty of more capable and motivated candidates in The Old Man´s network, which anyone that knows the old bugger will confirm is an enormous spider’s web of runners, triathletes and swimrunners. And yes, there are plenty of more capable endurance athletes that would have brought more to the table than I could, but I came to recognize that a match in motivation, comradery and race day mind-set meant more to The Old Man than I first understood. 

Niklas Super-Sub

So with that, and an honest set of expectations plus a positive anointing from The Boy, I accepted the challenge – or more truthfully, my wife Ingela did. She was on board way before me! Therefore, with a prompt 90-degree shift in training focus from roller-skis to running, the preparations began. The rest is history. I was given a chance, I took it, and had a great day in the archipelago with a great friend. I sincerely hope that I met the expectations and the trust invested in me from both the older and younger Jenkinson. So would I, will I do it again? We will see. Ingela and I are now trying to get enough ranking points in the mixed class to get a bib in next year’s race. I Hope The Old man and The Boy will join us on that journey too.

The Old Man (again): I’d like to thank everyone that has been part of the three years it took to get to Monday’s race. Magdalena, Max, Niklas, Nico, The Westside Swimrunners, The Peking Seals, The Marauders, Team Envol, Bromma Sim, Ängby Runners, Stockholm City Tri, Mikkeller Running Club and many others; training buddies that shared early morning pool sessions and amazing days in nature. Thanks too to the volunteers, without you, we couldn’t even start to enjoy the suffering. Finally enormous gratitude to the ötillö race series organizers fronted by Michael Lemmel and Mats Skot. Coming to Utö feels more like you are being invited into someone’s home than to a race venue. Truly special.

Meditations – Utö Take Two

The Old Man: At the two-year anniversary of the first race in our swimrun odyssey it is a nice time to reflect. We have had our ups and our downs – which include broken bones, strained tendons, and a pandemic – but in the words of another ultra-realist “when life deals you lemons… eat the fucking lemons!” It has been a magnificent roller coaster – a truly amazing journey that we have shared to the full. I’m still looking forward to the final chapters and in some ways, it might be just the start! Never say never. I have nothing but admiration for how Max took on all the challenges, in my eyes, he developed not only as an athlete but also as a person. But enough from me, you can hear it from the Boy himself.

Max wondering if his paddles are big enough

The Boy: A little over two years ago I got tricked into being my dad’s sidekick in a sport called Swimrun. I was a just-turned 20-year-old kid, with a couple of months of swimming and less than a month of running under my belt. Our first race was the ÖtillÖ World Series Utö in May 2019. It would also be my first ever open-water swim!

I lacked in training hours and experience but I had been loading up on stoic philosophy, with motivational people like David Goggins and Jocko Willink telling me “that all of my excuses are lies” and that what I want “is to be uncommon amongst uncommon people” and a naïve, but a true, assumption that wisdom can be gained in the pursuit of voluntary suffering. The reality?  I had absolutely no idea what I was in for!

Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional

We got up early to get the boat out to the island. It’s beautiful and I’m excited. The race starts, I get a little too excited, and my pulse skyrockets. We hit the first swim. My heart rate is probably 180 but I am not even aware of it. As I step into the water for the first swim I realize this going to be an extreme test, the water temp is 5 degrees centigrade, which almost qualifies as an ice swim! I get brain freeze almost instantly as my hands and feet go numb. Even though it’s literally painful in the water we just keep moving in a state of mild panic. 

My mind stays almost still, and all I can think is to keep moving forward. Midway through the race on one of the longer runs, we get passed by our friend’s Team Nitroglycerin. Frida &  Paulina smile and wave as they glide by. In my head, it feels as if we’re running at a 4:30/km pace but the reality doesn’t match the feeling. At this moment I realize I am redlining and that I have probably been in the danger zone the entire race. 

The Dream Team

We made it to the finish line in an okay time of 6 hours and 7 minutes. I feel slightly shocked, extremely relieved, but mostly numb, numb hands, numb feet, and numb mind. But not in a bad way. I feel peaceful with the knowledge that in the face of extreme adversity I did not quit. I am ready to improve and explore my potential. 

So I sit here today writing this blog after two years of experience in one of the ultimate endurance sports. The author Alex Hutchinson defines endurance as “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop”. I think this perfectly sums up my two-year endurance experiment. I have done deep dives into many areas and learned all about breathing, how it affects our nervous system and why you should always (some caveats) breathe through your nose. I now know how nutrition affects my endurance and my joints. But most of all I have had a good time in a shared pursuit with the Old Man, meeting all sorts of interesting people along the way.

As a side note, whilst we were waiting for the lake to melt, we trained for and raced the infamous 90km cross country ski race the Vasaloppet. As you may know, I am bigger and way, way stronger than Tom. Let’s just say I pulled him the first half then pulled away for a solid time just below the 6-hour mark, not bad for a cross-country ski newbie, and another nice training challenge to take on with the Old Man. [Tom: Fair enough, you can start pulling on swims now!]

The Boy can Ski!

The ice is gone and soon it is time for the Utö race again which feels like a sort of revenge. I am fitter, stronger, happier, healthier, and smarter and this time I will enjoy it. I won’t redline and it won’t be a suffer-fest. One other thing that I will make sure won’t happen again is getting passed by Team Nitroglycerin – we are going to crush them! 🙂 

It’s not where you take the trail, it’s where the trail takes you

I am also excited to start the last summer of what became an almost three-year campaign to be on the start line in Sandhamn in September. Finishing the ÖtillÖ World Championships is something we hope to be able to brag about for a long time. Especially competing in the Worlds with your old man, not many people can say that “I went to the world championships in a team sport, with my dad.” 

Stockholm – frozen for the camera

And don’t think Tom is done yet. He is slowly trying to trick me (and himself) into doing Ultras. The 130 miles (210km) Liverpool to Leeds race has taken his fancy. He reasons that for navigation they conveniently put a canal there, that there are no hills and it finishes where he grew up so friends can meet us with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Umm, I’m not falling for his silky pitch this time! But the ultra scene is quite frankly intriguing, fortunately, not to the point where I want to do them yet. In a few years, you might see a post about the UTMB. Never say never, I guess… 

The Bloody Bar Keeps Moving!

For eight weeks leading to last Sunday, I took part in Whoop’s Project PR which was a recovery-based structured run training program for the 5000m distance. Whoop is a wrist-based sensor with a big-data backend that automatically tracks your body’s unique physiological state to determine your personal readiness to perform each day.

There are four key metrics that make up the Recovery Percentage: Heart Rate Variability (HRV), Resting Heart Rate (RHR), Respiratory Rate, and Hours of Sleep. So each day I am given a recovery score, 0-33% Red, 34-66% Yellow and 67-100% Green. The program gave slightly different volume and intensity workouts depending on the result.

A year ago I had never run under 19 minutes for the distance. This summer I had only managed 18:32 but I had an ambitious sub-18 goal in mind and two pacers I’d instructed to hold me to it. The attempt was scheduled for Sunday the 6th of December incidentally the same day that Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie would attempt to set a new world record for the half marathon in Valencia.

We both had perfect 7-degree running conditions and we both smashed our records, him in 57:32 and me in 17:33.

Rediscover Your Mission

My time pales in comparison to Kandie but I was actually the fastest 50-59 age grouper by a good margin and 25th overall from the 2500+ Whoopers that recorded a result on race day.

Yet only a few days later I was less impressed with myself. This is something I believe psychologists call “arrival fallacy” where you easily adjust to this new state of being so much so that actually achieving a goal turns out to be less satisfying than expected.

That’s just stupid, the joy of those good days should be savored so I have intentionally dedicated a little thought-time to re-orient back to the mission. The pursuit of a better me, valuing the process over the end result.

Value The Process Over The End Result

I am happy that the process worked and I am very proud of the result, but it isn’t the result that brings me the most satisfaction. The camaraderie I get from my training groups and buddies of all abilities is all the joy and motivation I need.

I was humbled that friends and family turned up to cheer. That my pacers Johan and Thomas were willing to give up their time was a major motivation, and I was driven by a need to honor that commitment. With four laps to go, I had to get the shovel out and dig really deep to stick with them.

A week later I remind myself to enjoy the achievement but recommit to the process and focus on the question of what I can do daily that moves me forward – simple things that are to be done well every day.

Recognize That Success is Fluid

Success is fluid. There will always be faster (and slower) athletes, the pursuit of being the best you can be is multi-faceted and is a very individual journey of growth. Define success on your own terms and embrace the many opportunities you encounter along the way.

I suggest that rather than having only fixed end-goals it is important to view training as a succession of practices that build an imperfect yet wonderful big picture. In these chaotic months of the pandemic, this has never been more true. Greatness and that is YOUR greatness comes from years of grit, effort, and many stumbles along the way – so I encourage you to enjoy every second of it!

Hope to see you along the way. 

Tom J

Stockholm December 2020.

Every Journey Has a Beginning

C-19 may have put a few bumps on the road but 2020 has been a special year for me, not only did I hit the big 50 but 2020 also marked the ten year anniversary of my start in endurance sports. We all have our stories, this is mine. Some people cross your path and change your whole direction. Mike Porter is one of those people. 

One of the many Sunday long runs with Ängby Runners

Hitting 40 and simultaneously leaving an alpine skiing coaching role left me with time to try other sporting pursuits. I started training for a marathon loosely directed by a friend who’d been trying (and failing) to go sub 4 hours in his previous attempts. My past performances, 50+ minute 10km races and half marathons around the 2hr mark would suggest that such a goal would be appropriately challenging. Mike had other ideas! 

Sthlm City Tri Champs 2020 – About to run from 9th to 4th place

Mike was over in Sweden visiting his brother and I agreed to take him on one of the local trail runs. After that run, my new goal was to run a Boston Qualifying time! Madness you might think? I know I did, but Mike saw potential and I was willing to follow his plan.

An early race – hoping the finish line comes before my head explodes!

At the same time, my 4 hour friend lent me a book, Dr. Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method of Running. This predated the March 2011 release of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run which popularized the idea of “natural” running. At that time I had no idea about different running philosophies. But we can go back even further. Gordon Pirie a 5000m and 10000m 1952, 1956 and 1960s Olympian was telling a similar story decades before (see LINK).

Ängby Runners Beer Mile 2020 (5th Place)

The shoes I was using at the start of 2010 were recommended by a leading running store after video analyzing my gait. As a heel striking over-pronator I was recommended a pair of Nike stability running shoes. After reading Pose I ditched them for the most minimal racing flats I could find and started running with a fore/midfoot strike. The change was instant, as if I’d released a hand-break. Running was suddenly a state of freedom and flow.

Running trail with the Boy

Three months later I lined up at the Frankfurt Marathon successfully crossing the line in 3hrs 15 in all I can say was a truly transcendental experience. A year later my 10k PB was 38:22 and I’d embarked on a journey that would lead to my own swimming and triathlon coaching passion.

Gubbing the Competition
Ängby ROH – Fast 5k

Back to 2020, if you read my Blog Post on the Four Disciplines of Execution you’ll know that I had an ambitious plan to podium at the 70.3 Triathlon in Staffordshire. That race obviously didn’t happen but in the month of that race the numbers were lining up. I estimated that I’d need a swim threshold pace of 1:34/100, a run vLT of 4:02 (roughly equivalent to a 10k race result of 00:39:10) and a bike Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of over >3.7 w/kg (260w at 70kg) to have a chance. So how did I do?  I was at 1:32/100 for the swim, running 10k twice under 38 minutes (new PB 37:26) and a bike FTP of 264w and with a weight at 68kg that gave 3.9w/kg. You never know what happens on race day so I’ll reserve judgement, but I was proud of the work I’d put in. With the races moved to 2021 I’ll even get a second chance!

First time under 38 mins May 2020

Covid has also given me time to open new doors and meet other people. I am very glad to have met the Team Envol swimrun crowd. The head coach Nicolas Remirez shares a passion for hard work, natural running and French wine and I hope to get more involved with their training and coaching sessions next year. See also the BLOG on the Envol swimrun training camp Max and I attended HERE. When Utö was cancelled at short notice we went to the island to what turned out to be an impromptu swimrun festival. We had a great weekend.

Swimrun Gathering on Utö after Late Race Cancellation

Another new acquaintance is Matt Hill from Masters of Tri, recently moved to Stockholm and quickly established himself in the triathlon and swim scene. I have always been a bit of a Brett Sutton fanboy and Matts’ no-fuss approach to the essence of performance has been an inspiration. After all, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication! Matt has been involved with my Bromma and Stockholm City Triathlon swim squads and I’m sure that cooperation will continue.

Sunday Track Session With MOT Matt

The Boy and I still have the Hvar World Series Swimrun event in November which should be a great end to 2020. Then we’ll be looking forward to 2021 – Grit is the Shit!

The Boy wondering if he had properly understood Coach Nico’s hydration advice

Post-Script: A couple of years back Mike Porter left Vancouver for Newfoundland and his current passion is bringing high-quality spinning classes to anyone, anywhere, on any bike- at the gym, at home, or in a hotel. Check him out at www.positiveedge.ca

Nothing Great is Easy!

The ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship Course – Total Distance: 74680m. Trail Running: 65135m. Run Sections: 24. Swimming: 9545m. Swim Sections: 23. Longest Swim: 1750m. Longest Run: 19700m. Course Record in 2018, Fredrik Axegård and Alex Flores (SWE) Team Sport Office in a total time of 7 hours 39 minutes 25 seconds.

The Old Man: Nothing great is easy. It’s a good epitaph by channel swimming pioneer Captain Matthew Webb, but then he did die swimming the rapids at Niagara Falls! Obviously, not all ideas are good. That said, signing up for the Envol ötillö racecourse two-day swimrun camp was definitely one of my better ones.

Lotsen Hostel on Dalarö

We recently got notice that the Aug 31st 2020 Championship race would be cancelled. Fortunately, as a 24/7 qualifying team, we were one of the lucky few that got to keep their place in 2021. The Boy may not feel so fortunate, but he can fill you in on that later. Even before the announcement, I realized that there was a degree of uncertainty around the race and I really wanted the opportunity for us to do the course together this year. You never know what the future may bring. When I saw that Envol Swimrun was putting on a training camp covering the race course in two days I jumped at the opportunity and signed us up.

We were to start at 08:00 from Sandhamn Saturday 8th August and follow the racecourse over the 75km point to point course to Utö. To avoid a very early start the Boy and I stayed over with friends on the island of Sandhamn and joined the group on the waterfront at 07:45. After a quick briefing we were off!

What a team! [photo @cataxel]

An easy 1200m run through the sandy trails and we hit the beach for the first and longest swim. In most swimruns you participate in teams of two, for me that is one of the great dynamics of the sport. The Boy has become a strong paddle & pull buoy swimmer but suggested that he take this first 1750m on the tow-line drafting. We’d missed the introductions on the boat but I was surprised by how strong the swimmers were. In the normal weekend-warrior scenarios we tend to be among the stronger teams in the water but here we were mid-pack. We realized that many of Envol’s French top athletes had joined us for the first day. These guys were flying!

The Boy leading the charge! [photo @cataxel]

I had never been on the course before and the first thing that struck me was that this was a true point to point race. This wasn’t a carefully designed racecourse, this was whatever nature threw at you. Each island had its character, few were alike. We were blessed with blue skies, air temp in the mid-20s and water temp 14 to 17-degree range. Perfect conditions for our two-day adventure.

Point to Point Sandhamn to Utö

We called it a Saturday wrap after approximately 36km of amazing swimrunning at the southern tip of Mörtö and were taxied by rib-boat to the Lotsen hostel in Dalarö. There we spent a fantastic evening getting to know the other swimrunners, enjoying Envols’ wonderful hospitality and even getting some welcome recovery rehab from Igor (Igisport), one of the Envol instructors and the camp physio rehab/prehab genius.

Look who’s wearing the big pants!

The next day we were back at Mörtö before 09:00 and on our way again. Day two would have the famous 1400m Pig Swim and the infamous 19km run across Örnö. I was at least looking forward to the first and we enjoyed almost perfect conditions with a solid 22-minute crossing. It was hot on Örnö but the legs felt good (thanks Igor) and we kept a good pace. 

@bartpast77 had found a castaway on one of the islands! [photo @cataxel]

Reaching Ängsholmen was a special moment. On the race day, this would be the last cut-off point. If you get here by 18:00 (11hrs 59mins of racing) then you are almost guaranteed to make it. A series of quite short swims and runs follow before the final 3650m gravel trail to the line at utö värdshus. Finishing shoulder to shoulder with the Boy was special, we’d had some great battles on the swims and running these hallowed trails together had been magical. Another landmark moment on this swimrun odyssey we started in May 2019.

The Boss [photo @cataxel]

Big, big thanks to le grand patron, Envol head coach Nicolas Remirez, the safety boat driver Pehr Westman, navigators Julian Dent, Martin Belak and to Sandra and Igor for all the small things around the camp that made it outstanding. Thanks to Catarina Axelsson for the fantastic photos. Also, thanks to all the other swimrunners, sharing these journeys is what makes the destinations so special. Now over to the Boy…

The Boy: This two-day escapade somewhat marks the end of a journey or at least a chapter in my book about my physical training. If you read the first-ever blog post we wrote, you would know the story of how Tom cunningly tricked me into doing this. It all started with him sending me an inspirational video of ÖtillÖ and then going on to tell me how, if I accepted, it would be as if I were a professional athlete travelling around Europe competing with his dad. At the time, this seemed like an opportunity I could not let pass.

The Boy and @Bartpast77 [photo @cataxel]

There was something special about this past weekend as we were no longer a team of two trying to push our limits but a group of people with differing levels of fitness all trying to move from point A to B in the most efficient way possible. I did not feel stuck in my own head trying to win the perpetual battle with my own mind but instead outsourced the suffering to the group so that the shared suffering made the individual pain seem lesser. This allowed me to enjoy the beauty of the archipelago, the community of swimrun and the joy these lunatics take in suffering for hours on end each week. I had meaningful conversations with people I just met and felt as if everyone around shared a common singular goal. I think this is what humans have experienced throughout our evolutionary history, hunting and moving over long stretches of land together in sync.  

The Safety RIB at Lunch [photo @cataxel]

“Everybody comes to a point in their life when they want to quit. But it’s what you do at that moment that determines who you are.”  David Goggins

Goggins is probably the man that stood for much of the underlying motivation for why I accepted this adventure because of his unwavering willingness to embrace the suck and face the uncomfortable in order to grow as a human. Through voluntarily suffering through all these races and all the training leading into them I’ve probably grown and learned more about the human condition than in reading books or listening to thousands of hours of podcasts. The biggest take away from this chapter is that reaching your potential in life is all about increasing your ability to make good decisions by removing obstacles and increasing your capacity to win the internal battle against yourself. Voluntarily suffering seems to be the best if not the only way to improve our ability to win the inner battle which takes place between your present and future self—an immediate pleasure for long term pain or short term pain for long term gain. Every time you choose short term pain, your capacity for discipline increases and thus makes it easier to make the decisions you know you should. 

The Beauty of Movement [photo @cataxel]

My passion in life is figuring out the answer to the question of what it means to be optimally healthy in all aspects of being a human. As my knowledge expands, I want to expand my capacity for movement. This entails figuring out how to train the body as to inch it closer towards its potential for movement. I will now try the disciplines of mixed martial-arts combined with functional fitness to become a better mover and ultimately a better human. I will still run as I firmly believe humans are designed for running and should therefore run. And we still have the races that were moved from spring to autumn to complete. So swimrun is not entirely over; there will only be a shift of focus as our time is limited to 24 hours per day. 

Finish Line Photo [photo @cataxel]

I would like to end this post by thanking Tom for allowing me to join him on this journey. I might have been tricked initially, but I stayed willingly. I now have a deep appreciation for people who suffer voluntarily and I will incorporate this into my life as a tool to grow. If an opportunity that seems great but difficult arises I urge you to take it on head first. I could’ve said no as endurance sports seemed futile to me, I could’ve let this just be a dream in the imagination of my old man but then I would not have shared an incredible adventure with my own father. And let me tell you, this was an opportunity I am immensely grateful I did not let pass.

EYES ON THE PRIZE

THE OLD MAN: We made it! Perhaps not the way we planned – but the end justifies the means! Hvar and Borås have been moved to the Autumn and the Scilly canceled – which we will replace with Utö in September. So we will get our 7 races in 24 months, just not in the order we had planned!

Then it remains to be seen whether the current 31st August date for the ÖTILLÖ Championship race will stay. I sincerely hope so, but if not, we will have enjoyed every meter of the journey. Sharing it with the Boy has been very special.

We made it to the start line at least!

This journey and the pandemic situation have also given me perspective. I am sure I have not been alone in traveling more and more, doing more and more, buying more and more. Life got diluted – memories, experiences, friendships. Focus lost.

The past months exploring the local trails by foot and bike, experiencing a sunset a stone’s throw from home. Routine and consistency, simple things done well. Time to invest in close relationships, pursuits I enjoy, giving more back.

It has also had some side-effects. In these past weeks, I have run personal best times at 5k and 10k distances. My bike FTP is higher than ever. Weight down and recovery quality up thanks to advice from the Boy. Different than I had planned sure, but in losing things I have gained a lot.

Our First Finish Line (Utö)

True nobility is being superior to your former self. Races got canceled or postponed – good – more time to get fast. The biggest obstacle for success is not the guy that is faster than me, it is the S&E (the stories and excuses) that stop me from giving my best every day.

With home working and zero travel, my bullshit S&E is at an all-time low. Days are a cycle of beautiful simplicity. Get up and put in the hard work – and it works. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift (thanks Pre).

The bridge between goals and accomplishment is discipline. Stay safe peeps. Skål.

It will taste good!

THE BOY: This journey started on a whim with a message from Tom with a video ad for ÖtillÖ and him telling me he needed a partner to do it. I was in an odd place training wise as I had just moved to another city and had taken up new forms of training after being a gym rat for 3 years. Unknowingly his timing was perfect, finding me in a state of exploration and so I said yes.

Here we are one and a half years later slowly adding more miles to the legs each week getting ready for something I didn’t even know existed 2 years prior. I feel happy, excited and terrified for what’s about to come. I also feel ready to move on to other pursuits of movement. This will be the finale, the final nail in the coffin to end an era of training and competing with the man who gave me life. But it will also be the start of something new. 

Playing on our doorstep with the Royal Palace in the background

The OLD MAN is 50 in six days’ time and has been crushing personal bests these past weeks and seems to get stronger following only 50% of the nutrition and bio-hacking advice I give him! This means he moves up an age group and that should only light the fire and as he builds motivation to keep grinding in the endurance sphere. Next year we might see him compete with the best in the world – stay tuned.

ÖTILLÖ will be the most testing feat both mentally and physically I will have ever endured. I think we live in a time where voluntary suffering is necessary to sustain mental health as we are not evolved to have it as good as we do. This race will be the most I’ve voluntarily suffered and so, as the logic goes, I’ll be happier after than I was before!

The Old Man has Shrunk!

#otillo #doingmorewithless #trilife #forwardneverstops #fwdmotionsthlm #FMS #trispot #mastersoftri #brommasim #stockholmcitytriathlon

Winter Interlude – Planning for 2020

Your goals should excite you a lot and scare you a little

My day job is working as an advisor to business management around various important strategic IT themes. Over the years I have seen a pattern. People have a tendency to overly focus on the idea, the target of that they would like to achieve – but rarely end up successfully executing!

A model we use to reinforce rules for translating strategy into action is 4DX – The 4 Disciplines of Execution.

Discipline 1 – The Discipline of Focus – Focus on the Wildly Important

Discipline 2 –The Discipline of Leverage – Act on Lead Measures

Discipline 3 – The Discipline of Engagement – Keep a Compelling Scorecard

Discipline 4 – The Discipline of Accountability – Create a Cadence of Accountability

For 2020 I have a few big goals and aside from this quest to qualify for ÖtillÖ with the Boy I also have a dream to qualify for the 70.3 World Champs in Taupo New Zealand at the end of the year.

To achieve a goal, you have never achieved before, you must start doing things that you have never done before…

So I thought to myself what would it look like if I applied 4DX to my training?

Discipline 1 – Focus on the Wildly Important

The Qualifying Race will be 70.3 Staffordshire 7th June 2020 conveniently seven days before ÖtillÖ Scilly with my birthday mid-week. First, a sanity check, what was last years’ winning times in my new M50-54 age group?

1st Place 2019; Swim 00:27:45, T1 00:03:52, Bike 02:26:52, T2 00:03:22, Run 01:35:16 for a total time of 04:37:08

2nd Place 2019; Swim 00:32:25, T1 00:03:44, Bike 02:34:02, T2 00:02:52, Run 01:34:56 for a total time of Total 04:47:59

From these I deduced my own goals; swim sub-30 (1:34/100m pace), bike sub-2:30 (36:04 km/h), run sub-1:35 (4:30 mins per km). If I can get somewhere around there, I have a chance. Based on past performance it will be tough but not impossible.

The bridge between goals and accomplishment is discipline

Discipline 2 – Act on Lead Measures

Lag measures are “output” oriented, while a lag measure tells you if you’ve achieved the goal, a lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal.

Aha! So here was my Eureka Moment, I started by listing pacing targets/results but realized that these were just other LAG measures, in the end, I arrived at this provisional list of highly influenceable lead measures.

  • Swimming > 10km / week
  • Running 100% execution of weekly tempo run
  • Cycling – 90% execution of scheduled trainer sessions
  • Weekly Sleep Performance > 85%
  • No dietary processed carbs until the last meal of the day
  • 16:8 Intermittent fasting >2 days per week

For 2020 I will have a razor focus on the process and let the outcomes of that process look after themselves!

If you are committed there is always a way

Discipline 3 – Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

I also realized that in the past I have tracked performance but not been great at tracking the process/lead metrics. So far, I have come up with these:

  • The volume of training week on week by discipline
  • Weight tracking
  • Number of 16:8 fasts
  • Heart Rate Variance
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Recovery / Sleep Performance
  • Swim – CSS Test every 6 weeks. Race day target 1:32/100 (Current 1:36)
  • Bike – FTP Test every 4 to 8 weeks (Functional Threshold Power). Target >3.7 w/kg (260w at 70kg)
  • Run – A 70.3 21,1km expectation is between 85% and 95% vLT.  So on 90% vLT of 4:02 predicts 1:34:33. A vLT of 4:02 is roughly equivalent to a 10k race result of 00:39:10 or 5k 00:18:52.

Where focus goes energy flows

Discipline 4 – Create a Cadence of Accountability

Lastly have nowhere to hide! I will set up a fixed weekly WIG (Wildly Important Goal) Session with the Boy to:

  1. Account – report on commitments
  2. Review the Scoreboard – change if needed
  3. Plan – Lessons Learnt, improvements for next week and confirm new commitments

Definiteness of purpose is the one quality that one must possess to win

Wish me luck! /T

#ironman703 #lovetaupo #otillo #doingmorewithless #trilife #forwardneverstops #fwdmotionsthlm #FMS

Malta – Race Report – ÖtillÖ World Series

The OLD MAN: The Saturday weather was great, 20 degrees in and out of the water. Annoyingly Google was pinging storm warnings to my phone, the calm wasn’t going to last. Luckily the high winds were forecasted from the west and with most of the course followed the east coast north from Valletta so it looked like we would be sheltered from the worst of it until late in the race.

We stayed in the northerly part of the island in Melleiha a few kilometres to the east of the race HQ at the Golden Sands Resort. The Peking Seals were staying with us and it was nice to have their experience and camaraderie leading up to the race. We also had some family supporters visiting from the UK which was an added bonus.

Malta was going to be our fourth race together and our last in 2019, three more in 2020 and we hope to get the dubious privilege of toeing the starting line of the World Champs 31st of August. In the weeks since 1000 Lakes the Boy had been running well and we were looking forward to racing again.

The planned race route totalled 39,6 km with 13 swims totalling 8 700 metres of swimming. On the day some of the final swims were changed due to conditions so there were a little less swimming and a little more running.

I like point-to-point races. There is something about a journey of exploration across a landscape that fits the nature of swimrunning. For this journey the very-old-man (farfar Seth) dropped the Seals and FMS at the Golden Sands resort early for the 06:30 bus transport to the start. We settled mid-pack in the start pen and waited for the signal.

The opening charge took us down the limestone paved main street as it arked downwards towards the Meditarainan sea. A stunning start. The first swim took us across the opening of the Valletta harbour. This was cool. A few short swims and runs later we were out on wild trails following the coastline. The tricky limestone pavé made running fast rather difficult but at least it kept the pulse down. It was mostly rugged trails apart from a few kilometres of rather strange mud banks which had been turned into crazy slides by the rain showers. The Boy had chosen racing flats over trail shoes, perhaps not the best choice in hindsight. 

Four big swims; 1600, 800, 1400 and 1400m in a row strung the field out but there are always a few teams that track together. We had had a close race with Aussie Tim and Bolton Pete of the Marauders back at the 1000 lakes event and today was no different. It was great to see them again.

At the end of the day the changeable weather and rough final swims only enhanced the race experience. The entry to the final swim was particularly extreme with breakers smashing on to the cliffs to the left, as racers threaded through the surf towards the beach finish. 

The event site says “This race course has everything you can dream of for an ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Series Final. It is hard, it is long, it is stunning.”  True that – and add the privilege of getting to share such days with the Boy and it becomes very special indeed. Next up will be Hvar. We shall see who will lead the 2950m swim from Point Pelegrin to Carnjarni Bok. That will be epic!

If the Brits and Germans has made up the numbers at the 1000 Lakes, Malta was a very French affair. As a first time event coupled with the weather I’m sure it wasn’t an easy day for race directors Mats Skott and Mikael Lemmel but they managed to pull off another amazing show. Chapeau gentlemen, you have created something very special, I’m glad we can be a part of it.

The BOY: What a race! The training since the 1000 Lakes had been good, not tainted by injuries nor any lack of motivation. I’ve since read the infamous book Born To Run, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the joy of running, and David Goggins Can’t Hurt Me. These two books in conjunction with a bunch of podcasts on running have made me appreciate the innate beauty of running and how it is, in essence, praying with our feet. Something about moving through nature in synchronicity with the breath creates such a rhythm that allows for a mental state of absolute peace. Running never really appealed to me but after learning how to breathe right and getting my cardio to a level where I can just run I’m starting to get obsessed. 

With my new found love for running, I was really excited for Malta. I had been there once before during a language course and had an idea of how the terrain would look. My guess was that it would mainly be sandy roads and relatively flat; a running course. The race was harder than anticipated, to say the least. The flat runs were never long enough to get into a good grove and the longer ones were either in mud or on extremely rocky surfaces. Swimming behind the old man is always a pleasure but the 4 long swims in a row all felt like an eternity, stimulating the negative self chatter. During these races, the physical suffering is nothing compared to the mental. It is truly fascinating to be in a battle with yourself for 6 hours just holding a steady pace moving forward and then you finish with an upgraded brain to deal with yourself. 

During the previous races it had been my cardio that was lacking, with me becoming half delusional halfway through. In this race, I could’ve gone for days if it weren’t for my muscles not working up to the level of my heart. The mud section had me working like a mad man to move slower than walking speed and falling two times. The last long run section was on a rocky surface with all the elevation the race had to offer. This was my chance to push and get into the mental state that I’ve slowly become addicted to but my muscles were so sore and tight that I couldn’t keep a good running form on the hills nor on the rockier sections. My heart was fine while my muscles and head were in a fight with each other. I’ll have to reintroduce some strength work and hill runs into the training before Hvar and see if I can get my muscles up to par with my heart. This was an experience that made me more than what I was and to share it with my own father is an absolute treat. Every race I learn something new about myself and my body. I’m now back at the drawing board planning how to become happier, healthier and faster. See you in Hvar. 

#otillo #arkswimrun #doingmorewithless #forwardneverstops #semperanticus #fwdmotionsthlm #FMS #teamtrisport2019

@FwdMotionSthlm are a father and son team chasing qualification to the 2020 ÖtillÖ World Championships through the 7 events in 24 months route. This was event number 4.

1000 Lakes – Race Report – ÖtillÖ World Series

EVENT WEBSITE

Running 34640m, Swimming 7560m, 11 runs, 10 swims and 22% swimming.

The Old-Man: Event number three on our list was the 1000 Lakes World Series event which is a point to point race from the German towns of Wesenberg to Rheinsberg with a total distance of 42,2km. I was still a little worried about my wrist. Rehab had been going as well as expected, although I still didn’t have full joint mobility/strength, nevertheless race day was upon us so there was nothing more to do. Suck it and see!

The course has 10 swims, totaling 7,5 kilometers with four swims over 1000m. The running was on hard packed sand through mostly natural beech forest and some imported scots pine. The Boy had been swimming well at Utö and Borås so I felt the longer swims would suit us, time would tell.

Travel was easy with a relatively short flight to Berlin then a hire car for the 75km drive NW to Rheinsberg. When we arrived at the picturesque little town it was basked in sunshine. Great start. We had been given an accommodation tip of the Gasthof Edler, a very traditional butchers come guesthouse which was right by the main square and finishing line. Perfect. 

Registration, race briefing and dinner over, it was time for an early night. Breakfast at 07:00 as much as I was tempted by local specialty raw minced pork hackepeter we went for a more conservative carb centric choice with black coffee. Race kit sorted, the buses to the start at Wesenberg left at 08:45.

The start gun broke the nervous silence of the penned racers and we were in business. After ten minutes in the Boy rightfully suggested we take it down a notch. Running 4:30 tempo probably wasn’t sustainable and we were here to complete and have fun. After 3.8km of running the first swim was 1000m then 1.2k to another 1250m swim. These long swims split the field. The faster runners were already ahead but we had no problems taking places on swims against the evenly paced runners. We were having a good day.

On the last two races the Boy had run out of steam after half the distance but I knew from the training sessions we had been doing in Stockholm he was in much better endurance form. It could be a really tough day for the Old-Man! In the end we were evenly paced and although you can’t say six plus hours of exertion is easy we had a good race together. Running after some of the longer swims on freezing legs even made the Boy run like an old man but we pushed on.

The last run took us past the castle and a final 500m swim to a packed crowd of smiling, cheering spectators (great support) and the last few hundred meters to the finishing line in the square. Amazing place and an amazing race completed in 6 hours 12 minutes which was 29% from the time of the winning team. That is an improvement on 34% in Utö and 33% in Borås – forward never stops! Great work by the Boy and chuffed that the arm didn’t fail me – happy days.

Swimruns are special. The nature, the natural fartlek between running and swimming, the interplay with your partner and the camaraderie among competitors is unique. Add to that the carefully selected and impeccably orchestrated venues by the ötillö team, then that makes it extra special. Next up Malta 24th November.

The Boy: With injuries tainting the summer holidays this felt like some sort of revenge or test, to truly get back into the groove of suffering in order to improve. Tom falling off his bike and breaking his arm in early June and me having to recover from both a shoulder impingement and a possible stress fracture in the foot that came as a consequence of the prior Borås SR made the summer slightly less active than hoped for. I barely did any running or swimming until late august, which gave me 2 months to get fit.

The two previous races left me with the realization that I needed to fix the running and stay away from redlining from start to finish. I reckon I averaged an unhealthy heart rate of 180 BPM in both Utö and Borås leaving me delusional and completely drained halfway through. This time I was determined not to red line and to enjoy the race. 

I had read previously about the advantage of nasal breathing when training aerobically and decided to give it a go. The basic science behind it is that nasal breathing increasing nitric oxide which stimulated vasodilation and thus allows more blood flow to areas in need of oxygen, it also allows less oxygen into the body which increases the carbon dioxide content of the blood which ultimately stimulates the release of oxygen from its carrier hemoglobin. To sum it up nasal breathing increases the speed at which oxygen and carbon dioxide is absorbed and released and allows more blood flow to muscles allowing you to have a lower heart rate at the same exertion. 

So I started running only breathing through my nose. It felt weird and uncomfortable at first but it soon grew on me. Just a few weeks into it I was running faster than ever before holding my average heart rate below my aerobic threshold of 160bpm. There are a bunch more to go into about the science behind nasal breathing but I’ll leave that for another time, let’s just say that I am hooked. 

This race was the best one yet by far. Utö was cold as hell and the suffering was intense, Borås warmer but my foot gave in halfway leaving me with a limp for 15K or so, 1000 Lakes was truly beautiful and it was my chance to redeem myself. The race started fast and ended fast. We held a steady running tempo of a little under 6 min/km and swam great. With half the race left it almost felt as if the suffering was unavoidable but it never came. I kept breathing through my nose and held my heart rate down. I felt clear-headed, invigorated, and strong. We did slow down but it wasn’t because I was redlining, it was because the legs after a long swim in 15 degrees just won’t cooperate. Looking around and enjoying the scenery was a new experience for me which I hope to recreate. The goal now is to be so fit that the Old-Man suffers as much as I did the first two races, onward! 

#otillo #arkswimrun #doingmorewithless #forwardneverstops #semperanticus #fwdmotionsthlm #teamtrisport2019

@fwdmotionsthlm are chasing qualification to the 2020 ÖtillÖ World Championships through the 7 events in 24 months route. This was event number 3.

ÖtillÖ Campaign Update – Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!

Three days after the Borås Swimrun I came off my road bike and fractured both my radius and my scaphoid. Nobody else’s fault, just late on a long hot training ride, lost concentration and screwed up (literally)!

Titanium Plate in radius, the scaphoid is the half-moon shaped bone at the base of the thumb
Nice screws – Ironman!

It has now been six weeks and the pot had come off to be replaced with this fancy brace. So now I can slowly get back into training although as of now wrist mobility is very limited.

One armed freestyle worked surprisingly well with the left arm out front superman style… and with only 8 weeks to ÖtiilÖ 1000 Lakes it isn’t out of the question that I will have to do the swim segments using only one arm. If that is the case the Boy is pulling!

Tomorrow we head to the UK for a week in the Yorkshire Dales, at least the pub-fitness has improved these last non-training weeks! 🙂

We get back on the 29th, and I have a check up x-ray on the 30th. Then looking forward to getting back into a training routine.

Fingers crossed that we can muddle our way around the 1000 Lakes course in September and then be in better shape for ÖtillÖ Malta in November.

Vi hörs! /Tom