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!
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Discipline 4 – The Discipline of Accountability – Create a Cadence of
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?
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
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
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
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
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:
Account – report on commitments
Review the Scoreboard – change if needed
Plan – Lessons Learnt, improvements for next week and confirm new commitments
Definiteness of purpose is the one quality that one must possess to win
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.
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!
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)!
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.
The Boy: Almost 2 weeks had passed since the last conquest of suffering and there I was driving Tom’s van with all my stuff from Halmstad to Borås. Moving back to Stockholm with a pit-stop in Borås for 6 hours in the pain cave. I drove up on Saturday for a carb loading feast with the Champions League final and UFC Stockholm on the menu.
The conditions were a luxury, 14-20 degrees in the air and 12 degrees in the water. Everything seems great now that I’ve done Utö. The swims would be fine but the runs, especially the long run of 11km was going to give me some trouble.
At 10:45 we stood relatively ready at the starting blocks along with other doubting contestants with our only goal, again, to complete the race. It felt surprisingly good standing in the great weather looking out at the beautiful stretch of water ahead.
As the race started with a 5 min climb I soon accepted that this race was going to hurt more than I suspected. This time I was wearing my watch so I could keep an eye on my heart rate so that I wouldn’t go out too hard and run the last 5-10km at a snail’s pace. The first hour I probably averaged 182 BPM on the runs which made me realise that I had been red-lining the entire previous race at Utö. I slowed down a bit and focused on my breathing which got my heart rate down to 160-170Bpm which is manageable over time.
The pristine woods and the beauty of the lake really divert your attention from the pain and suffering and allows a short window of actual enjoyment. The pure enjoyment lasted until the prior mentioned long run. The sections before the 11K run are the 1300m lake crossing followed by a short 300m run to warm up and then the 300m jungle swim. After the lake crossing which felt like an eternity, my feet had gone numb. While warming up I started to feel some pain in my left foot but thought nothing of it as I assumed it was blood and heat coming back. The pain slowly ramped up during the run and ultimately left me incapable of planting my entire foot.
After 5:49 on the course the Old Man sprinted toward the finish line with me hanging on the line, limping as fast as one can limp. Again the first half of the race felt great, no pain and not too much suffering. This race I learnt two things, go slower than you want and focus on the second half of the race.
With Stockholm swim run coming up this Saturday and a foot that leaves me unable to walk properly, I do not know if I’ll be able to compete. But that could be a good thing, leaving me more time to recover and get in some quality training months before our next pursuit in Germany at the thousand lakes swimrun. Until next time!
A Word from the Old Man:
I’ve got to say I like Borås and the course did not disappoint. It was a little more low key than the World Series event two weeks ago but nevertheless incredibly well organized, signed and marshaled. Mr Colting put on a great event.
There were a few familiar faces at the start including Team Resilience and the Peking Seals, always nice to chase them. The mixture of trail, road and gravel suited me just fine and contrary to the Boy I was actually looking forward to the long 11k run section. I had a few Beyoncé songs queued in the virtual Spotify of my mind!
The swims went great; we took places on every wet section – as I said last time, I am very impressed with the Boy’s swimming. We then lost as many on each run, but who’s counting? Doing these races with Max takes me back almost a decade ago when I did my first swimruns. It was experimental, it was an adventure and it was the camaraderie, not the finishing times than brought us back to the start line with smiles on our faces. This reminds me of what brought me to swimruns in the first place and why the format is so special.
If we can’t do Stockholm on Saturday it isn’t the end of the world. I’ll just have to find another and hope the Boy recovers fast. Plus it gives me a chance to focus on Sunday’s triathlon race in Uppsala which incidentally is my birthday! #anotheryearfaster #doingmorewithless
Thanks to Race Director Jonas Colting, his super friendly crew and the good people of Borås, some of whom let us run through their gardens. We’ll be back!
@fwdmotionsthlm are chasing qualification to the 2020 ÖtillÖ World Championships through the 7 events in 24 months route. This was event number 2.
events tend to sneak up on you. I guess it is a form of suppression. The time
had come and our first swimrun competition was going to happen whether we were
ready or not.
put on a ferry for the 40 minute boat trip from the mainland to the island of
Utö. The organization was smooth, register, gather race kit bibs, timer chips
then race briefing from ÖtillÖ’s Michael Lemmel.
conditions were overcast, 12 degrees in the air, some rain forecast and the
swims would range between 8 and 6 degrees. I must admit I felt a little sorry
for Max. These were hard conditions for his first venture into swimrun and
endurance sport in general.
goal was to complete the course, but I knew that even if we had a good day we
were looking at around six hours of hard slog.
At 09:55 we
entered the race pen. The vibe before these events is something you really feel.
A bond between people, a brother and sisterhood of suffering to come.
around I could see friends…
78 – Peking Seals – Anders x2
52 – Team Ask – Dämien + Lukas
23 – Team Resilience – Fredrik + Per
15 – Class of 95 – Ola + Edvin
Team 12 – Team 40 Års Kris – Mattias + Karl
417 – Simmörsorna – Therese + Lorraine
416 – Cheese Team – Frida + Paulina
350 – Swim 123 – Måns + Cecilia
307 – Wild Date – Camilla + Per
an eye out for them on course. The signal for the start went at 10:15.
We were racing as father and son Team 25 – fwdmotionsthlm and we started well, probably too well in hindsight. Max was fast through the technical trail sections and swimming well and probably could have led the swims with his XXL paddles. Team 23 were in front (finish time 5:02:16) but we were ahead of the others by the end of the first swim. Team 73 came past us (finish 5:22:48) but having done a swimrun with Jim before that was more than expected. Then over the first half of the course we yo-yoed with Team 78, Anders would take us on the swim we would catch them on the runs.
After the Laxvik swim about half way there are a series of long runs. I was tired but Max was suffering. Swimming and running tethered creates a weird symbiosis. Over these kinds of races you are going to have highs and lows. Being connected by a literal umbilical cord connects you to your partners world of pain in a very profound way. Only one thing for it. Get out front and keep the cord tight. ‘Road-Mode’ engaged – which basically involves me thinking about run form and for some inexplicable reason, singing Beyoncé songs in my head to keep up the cadence – we plodded on – tight line.
We lost sight of Team 15 (Anders) and 78 (Ola) after one of the early energy stations during those stretches their finishing times 5:50:14 and 5:50: 41 respectively. Team 416 Frida & Paulina came past on a long gravel section with cheers of encouragement finishing in 5:53:51 then Team 52 Dämien & Lukas finishing 5:56:41. Very close to the end it was nice to see Team 417 Therese finish 6:04:00. As we were about to enter the last swim Team 12 Mattias shouted greetings from behind and asked us for a tow on the swim. We politely declined! Once again into the frigid, this time 6-degree water then swim and the jog up the finishing chute for a time of 6:07:48. Team 12 shortly behind 6:09:18.
The hot tubs by the finishing line were a godsend and from that vantage point we saw Team 350 Måns and Cecilla cross the finishing line in 6:28:53. The last friends team in was Team 307 Camilla & Per in 7:08:52 as always with big smiles.
The final team in were at 07:28:45. Eleven teams dropped out on the course and six teams missed the last cut-off time. A very long day out!
long day out is in two weeks – the Borås Swimrun. We will keep you posted.
A word from
In September last year Tom sent me a video
titled “ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World championship – The Struggle” which made me say yes
to competing with him on a whim without looking into what it would entail. 8
months later I’m standing on the starting line with 5 months of quality swim
training and 8 weeks of quality running due to injury and bad planning feeling
a bit out of place. I guess these things really do sneak up on you.
With glycogen stores full, a body fully recovered, and a body filled with caffeine – the first half of the race felt great! It went fast and didn’t hurt too bad. The swims were cold but easy having Tom in front to draft. The runs, where I knew I would have trouble, actually felt good especially on the trails through the woods. Running while having to constantly be cognizant of where every step goes really forces you into a flow state. I enjoyed it.
Halfway through the race the doubts started to creep in, every swim was getting colder and more painful and every run started to go slower while the legs and feet where slowly starting to fall apart. Prior to this I had never ran over 10 km so I had no idea how my body would hold up in the latter part of the race. On the longer runs I had Tom drag me. In my head it felt like I was running an all-out sprint then looking at Tom slowly trucking away was a weird reminder of how unfit I am. During the runs all I wanted was to get to the water to cool off and rest the legs but then as soon as I hit the water I wanted to get out from the grueling pain of the cold. The last 10K was an inner battle with the mind with every energy stop working as a reset button thanks to all the happy volunteers, the food and the short rests. I kept repeating David Goggin’s quotes in my head, especially “On the other side of suffering is greatness.” If you’re into extreme endurance and you don’t know who he is you’re truly missing out. I knew this was going to be hard and in hindsight I am positively surprised of how my body held up. It was a great experience. Now I just have to work on feeling great for longer parts of the race. Onward!
Thanks to our fellow competitors, volunteers and supporters out on the course. Special thanks to Ann Björk who’s friendly smile met us at various points on the course. Without you all, the pain would be greater.