Utö – Race Report – ÖtillÖ World Series

Sunday May 19th 2019

A long day out! Total distance: 40 300 m, Total running: 35 180 m, Total swimming: 5 120 m; 20 runs and 18 swims.

Course Map

Times & Distances

Event Photos

These 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.

ÖtillÖ had 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.

The 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.

Our only 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.

Looking around I could see friends…

  • Team 78 – Peking Seals – Anders x2
  • Team 52 – Team Ask – Dämien + Lukas
  • Team 23 – Team Resilience – Fredrik + Per
  • Team 15 – Class of 95 – Ola + Edvin
  • Team 12 – Team 40 Års Kris – Mattias + Karl
  • Team 417 – Simmörsorna – Therese + Lorraine
  • Team 416 – Cheese Team – Frida + Paulina
  • Team 350 – Swim 123 – Måns + Cecilia
  • Team 307 – Wild Date – Camilla + Per

We’d keep 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!

The next long day out is in two weeks – the Borås Swimrun. We will keep you posted.

A word from the boy:

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.

The ÖtillÖ Adventure – Part 2

Start of a New Journey – Max Jenkinson

Short introduction:

Most of you reading this will only know me by virtue of being Tom’s son. My name is Max and as you might expect by having him as my dad I am just as insane. To give you a short background, I was always an obsessive, clever and competitive kid who liked to embark on new endeavours that required one’s physical and mental limits to be pushed beyond where it seemed possible. These activities allowed me to submerge fully and forget about all mundane things. Totally consumed by the activity at hand, time seems to fade, negative emotions such as anxiety and stress dissipate and the only thing on your mind is the information necessary for you to advance in the game you are playing, be it football, ping pong or gaming. My life took a sharp turn when I decided to quit my then overconsuming habit of competitive gaming in order to pursue the search for optimal experience or as you might call it, happiness. I now spend most of my time trying to figure out how to improve my physical, mental and spiritual health, and I do this by reading, listening to podcasts and self-experimentation. I’m also taking a bachelors of science in biomedicine and sports physiology which helps a bit.  

I had just moved to a new city for university when Tom out of nowhere sent me this short film showcasing the “wonders” of the ÖtillÖ swimrun world championships. I looked at it,  it was impressive and I thought to myself is this crazy old man going to try to do this race as well? Of course he was, but in order to compete, he needed a partner. I was not enjoying where this was going! He then asked me to join him in what is deemed to be one of the hardest one-day endurance races on the face of the planet. Me not being a swimmer and not having done any form of endurance training for the past 7 years saw this as an opportunity to go on a physical and mental adventure alongside the man who raised me,… well I might, we’ll see.  He agreed to cover expenses and that was enough for me to accept the challenge. I’ve always told people that my dad is crazy but while contemplating if I should do this or not I realized I was way crazier!

To make this a bit more fun for both of us I’ve decided to track everything I know how to track and give you updates. I’ll be tracking my sleep, my heart rate variability, weight, calories, workouts, etc. Right now I am basically learning how to swim properly and I can’t really run because my shins/calf keep getting inflamed. I am slowly fixing that by using infrared light therapy, stretches and cold exposure. I hope you will enjoy following me going from a gym rat to an “almost” professional level endurance athlete! /Max

The ÖtillÖ Adventure – Part 1

ÖtillÖ – the Swimrun World Championships. Now that would be something!

 A total of 10km open water swimming and 65km trail running. One of the toughest and most beautiful endurance challenges in the world. But with raising popularity and race standards, very difficult to qualify for.

But there is another way… complete 5 world series and 2 merit races during 24 months with the same partner and you are in. A plan was hatched!

That plan, dreamt up as a supporter on the Utö finish line of the 2018 ÖtillÖ race relied on persuading my 19 year old son Max to join me. Can’t swim, can’t run… we’ve got two years… he thankfully agreed!

Our rough race plan looks something like this:

Races 2019:

1. May – Utö
2. June – Borås
3. June – Stockholm
4. September – 1000 Lakes

Races 2020:

5. April – Hvar
6. May – Utö
7. June – Scilly Isles

The Scilly Isles race and our target qualification date may well fall on my 50th birthday – big party – you are all invited.

Then of course we’d actually have to race the beast that is the World Championship ÖtillÖ race first Monday in September 2020. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it!

Wish us luck…

We will keep you posted on our progress, training and equipment as the journey unfolds.

Always forward never back.

Tom & Max (Team Fwdmotionsthlm)