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.