By end of August thoughts about go racing again started to pop up in my mind, as my body seemed to recover well and the training sessions became more regular. At about the same time Annika and I were contacted by the director of a new race in Italy. I felt that the date was good; end of September meant 3 months after my childbirth, and the distance of the race was right. I don’t want to participate in any longer races as long as I’m breastfeeding but 25km running/swimming felt doable.
Swimrun may not be the first you think of when you hear Finale Ligure, the famous MTB mecka. But located on the Italian Riviera, it looked to be a great place also for our sport and we have solely positive race experiences previously from this area (see SwimrunMan and Swimrun the Riviera).
Then suddenly life went up side down when Daniel had a bad accident with fractures in arm and leg in the beginning of September. All plans about going to Italy disappeared into the mission to just organize everyday life with a baby, a five year old and an injured life partner. The coming weeks were a bit chaotic. I spent some time up North at my parents place to get help with the kids and to give Daniel time to rest. As Daniel couldn’t carry our little boy at all for the first four weeks I’m forever grateful for the fantastic help we received from our friends.
Mid September I had almost forgot about the race when Annika mentioned it. We had just done our first swimrun training together in a year and were high on adrenalines and I just felt; Yes, why not! I’m not the strongest me but I’m not injured and I have an amazing team partner who wants to do this with me.
However, it was never an obvious decision to travel to Italy with a 12 week old baby to participate in a race. We had many thoughts back and forth. It was not until the last week before the race we took the final decision to go for it. Our little group of myself and my little boy, Annika and her youngest daughter left at 5am Friday morning for the airport. About 12 hours later we entered the little village Finale Ligure.
The journey was long but went very smooth and after a good night of sleep (first and only time baby slept for 6 hours w/o eating!) we were as ready as we could be.
After we had left our kids in the safe hands of Carolyn (our fantastic babysitter of the day) we had exactly 8 minutes to start. Time to start focus on ourselves and our race. Before we went over to the start line we made a quick check on our preparations. Everything was in place except that I had forgotten our soft bottle. “Ok, we have to drink more at the energy stations”, we said to each other before we grabbed an extra gel to make up for the fact that it now was more than 4 hours since the tea-and-croissant-breakfast.
The start went off and we followed our plan to use the first running and swim section as a warm up. A fast male team disappeared in front of us but we had good company with the second male team.
The first half of the race was mainly swimming sections. The water was warm and choppy and pretty nice until the fourth swim when we swam into a bunch of what I first thought was leafs. “Oh, there are red autumn leafs here as well”, I thought. But then I felt the first sting followed by a second, a third.. We swam into a huge shoal of jellyfish. After the 10th sting I got quit stressed and started to think about how we would ever reach the shore again.
We still had a 1.5km swim coming up. We entered the water together with the first men team and it felt good to have company in the water on this section as we were about to rounding a huge cliff. Also here there were plenty of jellyfish. The men team were screaming loud but Annika was strong as usual and fought hard trough the stingers without losing any speed.
She literally pulled me through the shoal of jellyfish as my lack of swimming took its toll. The stingers was not the only challenge at this section. Rounding the cliff we faced the strongest current I ever felt. Even if we pushed ourselves to the limit the cliff hardly moved. It almost became ridiculous after a while. This section, the longest swim section, took nearly double the time we had estimated.
Tired and low on energy we eventually entered the beach on the other side of the cliff just before the male team.
The longest running section with the most altitude meters was coming up. Normally my favorite. The guys put up a higher tempo and I wanted to follow but realized pretty quick I didn’t had the extra gear to put in. We slowly lost distance to the guys in front of us and started focus on just getting back to the finish line as soon as possible.
By now we had done ¾ of the race and we understood it would probably take us another hour to the finish line (i.e our kids). Here I had to fight with my mind to keep focus and not panic over the insight that we would stay 30 minutes longer on the course than expected. In real life 30 minutes is not a long time but these minutes were long and mentally painful. I had to force myself not getting too worried about how my baby was doing.
As soon as we passed the finish line I think we stopped just 20 seconds for the photographers before we went straight to the hotel where the kids were staying. Baby had slept most of the time and was probably not aware of that I had been away.
We were happy to stand on top of the podium but the biggest victory was that we managed to accomplish the race, the journey and everything around it with two happy kids.
The race was well organized with plenty of marshals out on the course. There were lead cyclists guiding us through villages and jetskis/sup paddlers in the water. The race director Matteo Testa was very accommodating and helped out with our logistics around the race. Matteos wife, Carolyn Clark, made a fantastic job taking care of baby while we were racing. Having a 6 month old baby girl themselves they understood my situation and I even got information out on the course from Matteo that baby was doing fine.
I managed this race mainly thanks to the support I received from my mom friends around me. I was a bit nervous telling my friends about my plans to go racing and it was such a relief that they both understood me and encouraged me to do this. And the race was a highlight for me. After this weekend it felt good to go back home doing ordinary stuff such as cleaning, baking, cooking and so on. Of course it was a challenge but I think it’s good to get out of the routines every now and then.
Usually it is the competitive instinct that drives me through challenges on the course, but I guess this time it was the mom feelings that was the strongest drive.