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.

6 thoughts on “Utö – Race Report – ÖtillÖ World Series

  1. Excellent report, well written by both of you. I particularly like Max’s description of his journey into unknown country beyond 10km. And all this with soggy feet!

    Dave Cook’s son Jonathan gets paid for writing reports for Trail magazine I think. Why not send this report for possible publication?

    1. I think it’s a bit insular for Trail Magazine but maybe something for the future. 🙂

  2. Great report as always Tom, I especially enjoyed the Max’s report knowing this is the first, and youthfully unprepared, venture into endurance. Kudos to both of you!

  3. Impressive both of you! But especially Max, so cool! Keep this pannben and you will go far 🙂 – looking forward to follow you guys!

    1. Yes, I was impressed with him too. Really strong swimming. The run endurance will come. Two weeks for him to get ready for Borås but then only a week until Sthlm SR so the pannben will be needed! x

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