When mom feelings helps you go faster

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.

Uffe helped out playing with our big boy while Annika and I was running in the nearby ski slope

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.

Travelling with an infant requires some more pieces of luggage than the ordinary backpack.

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.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

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.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

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.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

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.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

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.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

Pregnancy reflections

I’m right in the middle of week 36 and as there aren’t that many weeks left of my pregnancy, I’ll share some reflections on how I have experienced it so far and my thoughts on what’s coming up.

I have one earlier pregnancy I can relate to and this one has developed very similar to my previous one. Both my pregnancies have been uncomplicated without any pain or injuries, and I’ve kept my training routines, but with some modifications.

As I’m carrying a baby, there is some obvious impact on my body. My blood volume have increased by 50%, I have gained 8 kg, my abdominal muscles are stretched out and the increased level of relaxin relaxes my ligaments. At the same time, most of my muscle groups are still working fine and if I maintain these muscles, it might be easier to come back to my ordinary training afterwards. Taking this into account I rather work on my local muscle functions and not on my oxygen capacity during this time.

I haven’t followed any specific guidance about training during pregnancy and I don’t rely on general advices as each pregnancy seem to be so individual. Instead I try to follow my gut feeling. I do what feels best, both physically and mentally. If an activity feels ok physically, but I’m worried if it may give consequences afterwards, then I rather adapt my activity. E.g. running has worked well for me but I have chosen to stop around week 30 in both my pregnancies as I’m uncertain if the relaxin in combination with a bigger belly creates unnecessary strain on my pelvic floor and ligaments.

Running in week 25 when my baby bump was pretty small

As a cross-country skier in my youth, one of my favorite training disciplines in summer was skidgång/elghufs in ski slopes and I find this a perfect 3rd trimester activity replacing my running sessions. Intervals in the hills or ski slope give me the same endorphins as running and is more gentle to my body.

Skidgång week 35 with a bigger belly

The major difference between my pregnancies is that this one involves swimming. Five years ago swimming was not a part of my training. Being an outdoor athlete it was a long process to adapt to the indoor pool training. Nowadays I really appreciate the early mornings in the pool and my pregnancy has not affected my routines of swimming. I swim in a group where I normally is the weakest swimmer (and being pregnant hasn’t really increased my speed). The modifications I do to keep my pulse/intensity down is to use a pullbouy and paddles. In that way I can still join the training session with the group and it gives me heap of inspiration to share the same lane as them.

All in all I have about the same lifestyle and everyday routines as when I’m not pregnant. My ambition is to return to competitive racing after pregnancy but before I can plan for any future races I have a delivery and the subsequent rehab to accomplish. This is not a walk in the park and it definitely includes many uncertainties.

My previous child birth went as expected until the last hour when it felt like things just happened very quick without anyone being ready, not least myself. I thought I would be much more in control of the situation. Maybe I was fooled from the saying that childbirth can be compared to a marathon. It’s nothing like that at all! A marathon I can prepare and practice beforehand. If I get injured I can withdraw. I’m always in control of my body and the situation. During labour I’ll need to work with people I don’t know and rely on the decisions they take in the moment.

When I worry for something in a race I use to practice it beforehand to find out how to control and handle the situation. Practicing child birth with different potential complications is not possible in the same way. Studying and reading about it just makes me more aware of everything that can go wrong and complications that can arise afterwards. But I will continue to find ways to prepare as I need to become more confident even though I can’t control it as I want to. And I bring with me, that just as a race seldom goes as planned, a solid preparation makes it a lot easier to reach the finish line despite hiccups along the way..

Off season

March is here and the light is starting to come back to Sweden. Running in a partly snow-free forest is never as wonderful as it is after a few months of ice and snow. Everything gets easier when the temperature rise and you can remove some layers of clothes. This is the time of the year when you normally feel faster and stronger for every session… Or not.

Our big boy is curious to listen whether the baby is breathing as loud as me

This year I’m going into spring knowing that I will become heavier and slower! It’s also inspirational in its way, it reminds me to be grateful for every training session that I can do because I don’t know how I will feel next week.  

I’ve had a fantastic winter. After two months of tiredness in late autumn I passed the magic 12 weeks border in December and felt stronger than ever. Not really because I physically was stronger. Probably the opposite, but every training session gave so much positive energy. Perhaps because I moved focus from a strive that every session must be of high quality to just enjoy that I can run and train as I want to.

Everything doesn’t always go as planned though. After ÖtillÖ last autumn Annika and I worked on a project to highlight the massive plastic pollution in the oceans and to raise money for the development of recycling infrastructure on Nusa Lembongan. In October and November we organized weekly training events in Stockholm to contribute to the fundraising project Bali Hope Swimrun. Unfortunately, I could not attend the final event in Bali as the Zika virus is present there. Thanks to Peter Aronsson who, with late notice stepped in, we could fulfill our project and Annika and Peter delivered a perfect race.

Overall victory for Annika and Peter at Bali Hope Swimrun after a tight race Photo: Ilham Abdillah

It was of course sad to not being able to go to Bali as planned but this project has only just started and there is much more to come. I’m excited to continue working with Annika on this and to see what we can accomplish.

But one thing at the time. For the coming months it’s someone else who has the power of my body. He or she weights around 700g and is around 30 cm tall and all I can do is to listen to this tiny creature and act accordingly. It might sound difficult, but it’s not that complicated. It’s interesting how quickly both my brain and body adapts to these new conditions. A pregnancy in itself is not an illness or an injury. It’s just that you need to put someone else in the first room.

Hat trick at ÖtillÖ World Championship

Our third consecutive win at ÖtillÖ World Championship. It’s an unbelievable feeling.

Below an extract from ÖtillÖ press release, followed by my race report in Swedish.

The top teams pushed the pace to incredible speeds at the 13th edition of the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship, one of the toughest one day races in the world. Conditions were ideal for a quick pace on the 75 km long race course in the Stockholm archipelago but no one had expected the course records in each category men, mixed and women to be crushed with such incredible times.

The undefeated duo Annika Ericsson and Kristin Larsson (SWE) had a fierce battle against second placed women’s team Fanny Danckwardt and Desirée Andersson (SWE), who led a big part of the course but finally finished 3,49 minutes after the leaders who beat their own record from 2016 with not less than 36 minutes. ”Today’s conditions were just perfect, warm water and no wind. We have been able to race properly without being stiff and cold as previous years. We also met really tough competition this year so we had to keep on pushing”, said Kristin Larsson at the finish at Utö after the team’s third world championship gold in swimrun and record fast time in the women’s category.

https://otilloswimrun.com/smashed-course-records-at-otillo-swimrun-world-championship-2018/


Det blev hat trick för mig och Annika. Tredje raka segern i ÖtillÖ World Championship. Känns nästan overkligt att vi lyckats återupprepa segrarna när det är så lång tid emellan som ett helt år. Det är ju så mycket som skall klaffa för oss bägge två just den dagen; toppad form, frisk, skadefri, fungerande utrustning och en taktik som håller hela vägen. Den sistnämnda vågade vi oss på att förändra det här året.

Jag har många gånger tävlat nästan rakt av och förlitat mig på mitt pannben. Min vilja och envishet har tagit mig väldigt långt men det är också en egenskap som kan ställa till det. Första gången jag ställde upp i ÖtillÖ 2015 körde jag totalt respektlöst från start. En rejäl käftsmäll 8 timmar in loppet resulterade i att jag vinglade imål med en kroppstemperatur på 34 grader.

Foto:Linus Ahlberg

Året därpå, 2016, var jag bättre förberedd både med simning och med en egen energiplan. Vi satte ny rekordtid på 9 timmar 36 minuter. Det var mitt och Annikas första ÖtillÖ tillsammans och vi körde bra men kände bägge två att den här tiden kan vi nog förbättra.

Foto:Linus Ahlberg

2017 körde vi med helt nya dräkter, prototyperna som sedan blev ARK Ornö –dräkten, med premiumneopren på överkroppen och löparvänlig underdel. Fortfarande körde vi på hårt från start och när vi nådde Ornö hade vi redan en ledning med 30 minuter. Vädret var också ovanligt tufft så med den hårda starten blev avslutningen trött och vi lyckades inte slå fjolårets tid.

Inför 2018 visste vi att återupprepa segern en tredje gång är inget vi gör på gamla meriter. Varje lopp är ett nytt lopp. Däremot kan vi dra nytta av våra tidigare erfarenheter.

ÖtillÖ är 75km totalt, 10 km simning och 65km löpning över 26 öar mellan Sandhamn och Utö. Veckorna innan loppet simmar och springer jag och Annika genom hela banan. Ett kul inslag i träningen och en mental förberedelse inför loppet. Det är också ett tillfälle att njuta av miljön i en avslappnad situation jämfört med tävlingsdagen då det är fokus på annat.

 

På tävlingsmorgonen står vi lugnt i startfållan 5 minuter innan startskottet går. Vi vet vad som väntar och ser fram emot det. Känner oss redo. Vår utrustning är strået vassare än tidigare år. Vi är inställda på en annan taktik och vi har ytterligare ett år av gemensam träning i bagaget. I stort sett varje torsdag det senaste året har vi mötts upp i skogarna mellan oss och tränat tillsammans. Snackat. Umgåtts. Att tävla tillsammans ger mer än att bara dela ett tävlingsmål. Det blir ett naturligt sätt att umgås med vänner, dela upplevelsen i naturen och motivera varandra till tuffa träningsperioder. Men inte minst, med en lagkamrat jag litar på vågar jag pressa mina gränser under tävling.

Startskottet går och startfältet rör sig snabbt framåt i gryningen. Solen är på väg upp när vi kastar oss i på den första simningen, 1700 meter. Havsytan är som en spegel och vattnet är varmt (16 grader) och vi kliver upp på andra sidan bara lätt nedkylda. Tidigare år har vädret varit mer krävande, kroppen skakat av nedkylning och balanserandet på klipporna efteråt varit mycket tuffare.

Under själva tävlingen säger vi inte så mycket till varandra. Korta peppande ord. Allt flyter på. Vi har starka tjejer runtom oss. Fanny och Desiree är i vattnet snabba som delfiner. De tar och håller ledning ett par timmar in i loppet. Vi ligger inte först men ändå känns det som att vi har full kontroll över loppet. Vi springer i lagom fart, fokuserar på vår egen taktik och jag ser fram emot kommande öar.

Foto: Jan-Henrik Bäck

Drygt halvvägs in i loppet kommer en tuff etapp, 1400 meter simning som är helt oskyddad för minsta vind. Den beryktade grissimningen som har en förmåga att suga ut all energi ur kroppen. Men för första gången möts vi i år av helt stilla vatten. Finns inte ett spår av någon ”grissimning”. Det enda som bryter vattenspegeln är vågrörelsen från dem som redan är i vattnet. Vanligtvis brukar jag börja räkna armtag här när det blir för kallt för att ha något annat att fokusera på. Förra året kom jag upp till 600, i år hann jag inte ens börja räkna. När vi kliver upp lyder benen direkt, till och med käkarna fungerar och för första gången under mina 4 år lyckas jag tugga i mig hela twix-chokladen som alltid delas ut efter grissimningen.

När benen är pigga är sträckan mellan Mörtö Kobb och Mörtö Bunsö riktigt kul. Terrängen är fin men krävande. Innan nästa simning (1000 meter) kommer vi ikapp Fanny och Desiree som hade dragit ifrån oss tidigare. Vi håller ihop över till Kymmendö och springer tillsammans mot Ornö. Alla fyra känns väldigt starka. Ingen stressar utan har fullt fokus. Allt känns så kontrollerat och det ger mig mycket självförtroende. Vi simmar över och kliver upp på Ornö tätt ihop. Ornö är 20 kilometers löpning efter 7 timmars tävlande och det gäller att hålla uppe farten. Första åren var det här som min kropp vek ner sig och pannbenet tog över för att komma imål. I år samarbetar kropp och knopp. Annika och jag gör en fartökning och får en lucka. Vi drygar ut den sakta men säkert och vid Ornö kyrka har vi två minuters ledning.

Energistationen vid kyrkan är välkommen. Vi fyller på och jag riktigt känner hur energin går ut i kroppen. Simcoachen Ulf Hausmann är ute på cykel och hejar på och ger oss positiva baktider. Förra året var det här vi fick rapport att närmast jagande lag hade brutit och att vi hade en ledning med 30 minuter. Det gjorde att vi tillät oss känna efter hur vi egentligen mådde. Resultatet blev att vi tappade trycket helt och körde de sista 15 kilometrarna 20 minuter långsammare än 2016. Men nu är det helt annorlunda och vi kan öka farten den sista milen på Ornö. Marginalen bakåt växer men vi tar inte ut något i förskott utan fortsätter fokusera på oss och vad vi ska göra.

Avslutande öar innan sista ön, Utö, är små och simningarna är korta men plötsligt får jag kramp i en vad när hoppar i på sista simningen. Sträcker benet rakt upp i luften i ett försök att få loss krampen. Den släpper inte.

Vi kliver upp på Utö då Annika säger att vi har varit ute i 8.36. 8.36..! och det är drygt 20 min kvar till mål..! Jag glömmer allt vad kramp heter och vi springer på för allt vad vi har. Känslan är magisk inför vad som håller på att ske och benen är med oss. Vi är på väg mot Sub 9 timmar och en rejäl kross av vårt tidigare banrekord. För några veckor sedan när vi var ute och tränade körde vi hela vägen upp till målet, och det är jag tacksam över nu. Vi vet exakt hur långt det är och att vi måste ge allt nu. En knapp kilometer kvar möter Daniel upp. Kommer inte ihåg vad han säger men jag ser honom och det ger energi.

Foto: Daniel Hansson

Vi svänger upp för sista backen och ser målportalen med tävlingsklockan som visar 8 timmar och 56 minuter. Vi är första damlaget i historien som spränger 9 timmars gränsen och jag är så glad över mitt och Annikas hela genomförande. Vi har förberett oss noga, samarbetat bra och haft kul på vägen.

Tack Outdoorexperten som gör mitt tävlande möjligt.

Tack AccessRehab som tagit hand om min kropp de senaste 7 åren.

Tack till ARK Swimrun för att jag får vara med och utveckla de produkter jag tror på.

Tack till Salomon, Thule och SignSupply Sport som gör att jag alltid kan träna och tävla med den bästa utrustningen.

 

Öloppet

We are stumbling through the tough terrain of sticky bushes while looking for the ribbons. I want to increase the speed but immediately I lose sight of the markers and we have to slow down. It’s with great relief we reach the trail and start moving fast forward again. We can see several ribbons at one spot and I turn to the left and put up some more speed on the fast trail. It’s only 2 km left of the course and we’re looking forward to  soon reach the finish line. After a while Annika asks: “Have you seen any ribbons?” She is worried. And rightly so…

Arriving to Gothenburg I felt very excited to race. I was back into the routines after holiday period with a good amount of training done. Öloppet is a great rehearsal for the big race coming up in September. The archipelago outside Gothenburg offers car-free-islands, smooth cliffs, nice trails and a salty sea . But also a lot of asphalt running.  I see Öloppet as a “light” or compressed version of ÖtillÖ.

Annika and I planned to start rather offensive. We knew there is a short but very smelly swim section in the first hour and our ambition was to not have too many teams stirring up the mud before us there. It all goes better than expected when we find ourselves in the back of the front group during the first 1km swim.

We keep our position from the water until the stinky section. Unfortunately I manage to get stuck with the cord and pullboy while we jump into the dirty water. Poor Annika try to get us over asap while I’m more fiddling with my equipment and focusing on not swallow any water than swimming.

The following swim sections are just wonderful with my strong teammate Annika making a great job in the front. No jellyfish in sight and balmy water. Just amazing! Running on the dry cliffs is also very nice and above all there is a fantastic audience cheering on all islands. Feels like everyone living on the islands are positive to the race and welcoming us racers with open arms (and sometimes with their own liquid station!).

My favorite section of the race is probably the island hoping that comes just after half of the race. We are passing by small cliff islands with short swim sections in-between. Here we are in good company with some men’s team.

They are faster than us on land and in the water but they use more time to get in and out of the water. We are more or less racing neck to neck before they leave us behind on the next long run.

After 4 hours of hard racing in the warm sun we have only 5 km running left. It’s here the bushy terrain starts and the ribbons that suppose to guide us through it are hard to follow. As we reach the trail we set up a higher speed until Annika asks me; “Have you seen any ribbons lately?”. When there is just one trail without crossings or options it is normal with less ribbons, but I agree that it starts to get worrying. We pass a tourist couple and while running by I ask them if they have seen any other racers. We don’t get any response. I convince myself that this is the only obvious trail to follow but I still have that bad gut feeling. Annika asks again; “Are you sure this is the right way?”. No. I’m not.

We stop and turn around. We meet the couple again and I repeat my question, this time in English; “Have you seen any other runners with a race bib?” – Yes, but not here. They are running over there…” We don’t have time to stop and look back to see were they are pointing, we already know..

Soon we are back at the spot with many ribbons and we find the correct crossing. Heading out on the right trail we dont know if we are still in the lead or not. 30 minutes ago we were told we had a 5 minute lead down to the chasing women’s team, Team Garmin. We are aware of that we have spent some minutes on the mistake and all we can do now is to push forward again as hard as we can.

While finally reaching the finish line we are quite relieved to hear the speaker announcing us as the winners. After our little de-tour we had only 90 seconds down to the second team.

A good reminder that a race is never finished until it’s finished!

Article about Öloppet in Swedish:

ÖtillÖ Engadin Swimrun

My fourth consecutive start in ÖtillÖ World Series Engadin.

I still remember the first time Carolin and I did the race in 2015. That it was so cold in lake Silvaplana that we needed half an hour in the bathtub afterwards. How we decided to race in wetsuits with long arms due to this but changed our mind in the last minute. The whole race was simply a great adventure (Link to my 2015 race story)

Doing something for the first time enriches my experience and creates memories. That is one of the reasons why I try to find new races every season. Exploring and racing in new places is a big motivation. But there are also a few exceptions. Somehow I keep coming back to Engadin (race story from 2016 and race pic 2017) The Engadin valley is a very beautiful place and it is easy to travel here with the whole family.

Grandparents, uncle and our son on the race course in Engadin.

Coming back to our first race three years ago I remember how we reminded each other to look at the scenery while running. How we survived the long ice cold swim in the St Moritz lake by looking at the mountains while breathing. Today I know the course very well and my experience of the course differs from my first years.

Knowing the course  means different expectations. I know that the swims are icing cold, that the hills are steep and I don’t get surprised when the first section of the race above 2000m is making me me feel sick due to the altitude.

Is it boring because you know everything? Well, it’s still a race and everything can happen during the five hours we are out there. This year we were really expecting and hoping for an exciting race but it didn’t quite go as we wanted.

Our game plan was to start defensive on the high altitude section to have rather fresh legs for the remaining hours. I felt pretty bad in the first 30 minutes of the race so I was happy that Daniel did not stress and kept a low pace. When Thule and the top male teams ran away from us we didn’t pay much attention to this. Feeling assured that we will be able to catch up later.

Coming down to the second swim after about one hour we saw 5 teams joining the water together about a minute before us. “Hm, it could have been good to be in that group..”.  I looked back but did not see any other teams around us.

Slowly but steady we lost time to the top teams. Legs felt good but our expected acceleration never really took off. We managed to improve our time from last year with 7 minutes. But If we had known beforehand that we would be swimming and running more or less alone the whole 46 km course with a big gap to the 2 top male teams and the first mixed team, and a big gap down to the chasing teams we had probably changed our tactics to a more offensive approach. It’s not a guarantee that it had been more successful though.  We passed two of the men teams who did a too offensive start. The mountains and altitude are unforgiving if you cross the limit. But at the same time, balancing on the limit is also creating experiences and memories.

Swimrun the Riviera

Do you want to extend the swimrun season? Go to France! Last year Annika and I raced our first French race Swimrunman in April. Daniel and I ended our season in November on the French Island La Reúnion and last weekend it was time to hit the Riviera to get season 2018 started.

I have positive experience from racing in France. It’s a good atmosphere among the racers and the organizers are very dedicated. Swimrun the Riviera is no exception. The event is well organized and we were well taken care of by the organization.

Photo: Hiep Images

As always an explosive start. Lucky there are photographers that captures these moments. I’m always so focused while racing that it takes me probably one hour into the races before I start to lift my eyes and take in the surroundings.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

The race was about 7km of swimming and 21km of running and took off at 7 in the morning. We followed the coastline from the old town in Nice towards Monaco. I expected it to be quite exploited but even though most of the trails are man-made they feel natural as they follow the terrain.

Photo: Christophe Poyer

We stayed close to the coastline almost all the time and were spoiled with beautiful scenery when we looked up. The morning hours were calm; no wind and morning sun.

The entire course was unmarked. We had some concern about this before the race but the organization assured us that it would be pretty straightforward and if not, they use marshals to point out the way. At the long swims (1000-1500 meters) the organization would use boats to lead us in the right direction. Previous experiences from this type of setup has not always been so good as the boats that should guide us sometimes forgets that we are navigating after them. The Race directors listened to our concern and delivered a very good assistance and guidance where it was needed so we could focus on racing and moving forward as fast as possible.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

The last part of the race included three swims 1100m, 1500m and 500m with short but technical rocky passages in-between. A rather tough section if the weather had been bad but we were lucky with sunshine, no wind and 16 degrees in the water.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

On the short running sections we were passing some small isolated nudist beaches. It was very technical running to get there and I guess the sunbathers didn’t expect this rush of people running by. I felt sorry for the naked meditating man who must have been constantly interrupted by all of us running by in our wetsuits. At some points it was so narrow between the rock wall and the water that we more or less had to jump over a naked woman as we came in high speed. All went well though.

Photo: Christophe Poyer

Annika and I were racing close to our fellow competitors in the Ticino Coaching team during almost the whole course. On the last swim we were swimming side by side and entered the beach at the same time.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

The last run was 2,5km with 400 altitude meters along the “Nietzsche footpath” up to the finish line in the beautiful mountain village Eze.

Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye

 Annika and I pushed hard to gain distance to the other teams and when we crossed the finish line we were both super happy of our performance.

Photo: Christophe Poyer

We managed to take the third place overall and win the women category.  It was our first race of the season and although the result itself was not the focus, we had a good flow throughout the race. A positive start of the season.

Thanks Jean-Marie (picured), Christophe Poyer and Hiep Pictures for great pictures from the race

(More than) Swimrun on Réunion Island

It’s almost noon. Daniel and I have increased our speed the last hours to make the appointment. The race organization will pick us up at 12.00 and we are unsure how close to the summit we are due to the heavy fog we just entered. We are close to sprinting the last climb up to Le Maido when we suddenly meet a man and a woman on the trail in front of us:   –Daniel, Kristin?! Good to see you!

24 hours earlier, Yann – the Race Director behind Citroën SwimRun Réunion, picked us up at the airport on the other side of the island. Yann offered shower and a map, and drove us up to the rim of Mafate Cirque, a massive crater valley. From here on we left all roads and amenities behind us and entered a landscape with more than 200km hiking trails, some very small “villages” and an AMAZING scenery.

After we crossed Mafate by foot and met the race organization at Maido, they took us down to the coast to the press conference at Citroën Centre (main sponsor of the race). We got the opportunity to meet the famous athletes David Hauss and Cédric Fleurton and talk to the local newspaper and TV. We were also offered a car to keep for the rest of our stay to continue exploring the island after the race.

Coming down to the coast from the mountains meant a huge difference in temperature. At lunchtime, the next day, we got a sense of how it will be to race in 30+ degrees without any shadow. Hot! Water temperature was 25 degrees and did not offered any cooling. But it didn’t really matter as it was so nice to not freeze while swimming.

At race day we all gathered at Saint-Gilles-Les Bains in the morning and temperature was already rising. We were a strong field of 220 swimrunners ready to start the 24 kilometers of running and 6 kilometers of swimming along the West Coast. It was a strong lineup including two Olympic triathletes and an Xterra winner.

The race started with a 6 kilometers beach run. David and Cédric took off and were flying above the sand. Daniel and I were running in the chasing group of 4-5 teams.

It was hard to find the best line to run along the beach and sometimes it was better to run just at the water line. Anyhow, running on sand beaches is tough so I was soon looking forward to the next section, almost 3km swimming with just some short beach runs in between.

The first swim was 1600 meters but felt like 300 meters. It may have been all the colorful fishes and corals that stole some of my attention.

As Reunion Island is one of the most shark infested spots in the world with many deadly attacks since 2011, all swimming/surfing outside the coral reef is forbidden. That meant that all swimming took place in the lagoons inside the coral reef. A fantastic experience for us who are used to swim in pitch black lakes.

During one of the swims a man at the beach suddenly started waving and shouting to us. We stopped and looked up. My first thought was sharks!! But the man just wanted to direct us closer to the beach as the water was deeper there.

 Swimming in coral reef meant a new challenge for us as we had to find the best way through it. Sometimes we were so close to the corals that we were almost touching them and we could not just swim straight but had to navigate our way forward where it was deep enough to be able to swim.

By the end of the race we were racing close together with a team with great trail runners, the young Arnaud brothers. I  love the excitement of racing close to other teams.

The last section included two shorter swims and a 5 kilometer run. We had some advantage but we could see them behind us. Daniel started to get overheated and were slowing down. I got nervous that the strong runners would soon pass us but I felt strong and pushed harder so we would not get caught.

We managed to keep our lead all the way to the finish line and finished just two minutes ahead of them.

David and Cédric took the overall win and we were super happy to be the first mixed and second overall team to cross the finish line.

The race organization had made a great job; the course were clearly marked all the way with many volunteers along it and the finish area gave the feeling of a big party.

Photo: Gwael Desbont

The race took about four hours but we felt good afterwards and after the price giving ceremony we drove straight up to the mountain village Cilaos. Or straight might not be the correct word. The road up to Cilaos is well known for its 450 hairpin bends. It was  also heavy trafficked and a heavy rainfall that started a rock fall on the car next to us made the journey even more exciting.

Well needed break.. 

Arriving to the little village Cilaos made it all worth the adrenaline filled drive though. We stayed at a fantastic place and enjoyed the evening there, but prepared for an early morning. We set the alarm at 5 but we both woke up at 4 the next morning. We (or at least I) were happy to start our climb to Piton des Neiges earlier than planned.

Piton des Neiges is a 3070m high volcano, the highest point in the Indian Ocean. Most people hike up to the peak in two day as they sleep in a Gîte 2500 meter above the sea and start the last ascent very early to see the sunrise. Even though we were not aiming for the sunrise it was still good to get an early start to reach the summit before the clouds.

On our way up we were lucky to meet all sunrise hikers on their way down. This meant that we got to enjoy the peak all by ourselves for some hours. As we had no rush going down we even took the opportunity to take a longer nap at the summit. We woke up by a rather strong sun and realized that we probably needed to get down below the clouds again to not get sunstroke.

I wish we could have stayed another week(s) in Cilaos but in the afternoon it was time to face the 450 bends again. At least there was no rain this time. We arrived at the South coast in the evening and got the opportunity to spend some more time with David and Elise who we met 5 days earlier at the summit of Maido. This couple raced ÖtillÖ in Stockholm in September. They were lucky to catch one of the extra released spots and therefore only got 5 weeks’ of preparation.

Swimrun on Reunion Island was different from what we are used and I tried to prepare by doing hot yoga and other training in 40 degrees. It’s different for us but not really hard to adjust to. These guys on the other side, are used to swim in water temperature of 25 degrees and had to adjust for a race with water temps slightly above 10 degrees. Listening to their story and how they prepared for the ÖtillÖ race makes me impressed by their performance in the Swedish Archipelago.

We got the opportunity to join David and Elise for their morning swim in the ocean the next morning. It became more of fish spotting than swimming for us tourists though.

The rest of our last day we spent bathing in waterfalls, visiting a beach with green sand and driving on roads over fresh (2007) lava fields. 

Our tour then ended as it once started six days earlier. Yann, the race director, met us at his place where we repacked, had a shower and then he dropped us off at the airport. Best support and hospitality from a great swimrun community on the other side of the globe. Thanks!

Swimrun in Lake District

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Racing in UK was not in our calendar until a few weeks ago.  Both Daniel and I recovered well after ÖtillÖ and were excited to explore the well-known Lake District National Park.

Lake District is famous for its lakes, forests and fell and we got to discover it all last weekend together with 120 other participants in Breca Swimrun Coniston.

Breca Swimrun is a serie of swimrun races in UK and New Zealand providing six different races in challenging landscapes during the year.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Race morning met us with an autumnal morning mist. Lakes were calm and the only people around were wearing wetsuits and swim caps.

Even though the hour before the race was unusually quiet and peaceful, the 700 meter swim start put us right into race mode.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

We did a great swim and exited the swim just 20m after the first men team. They put up a fast and furious speed on the first run. Daniel took up the same speed without any problems and I was just trying to hold in there..

It was a speedy start of a 5 hour race but it felt good. I love the excitement of racing close to another team.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Out on the second running section we came in to more technical terrain. I was curious to see how our technical running was compared to our fellow racers. We were more or less together up the first hill and they were getting some meters on the technical downhill. Ok, no advantage for us there.

Even while realizing I was the slowest of all four of us it still felt good. We were going to spend at least four more hours on the course and even though speed and pulse was high I felt that Daniel and I controlled our pace very well and I did not got stressed.

In the lakes both teams had more or less the same speed and we stayed together, taking turns in fronting the swims.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Halfway into the race there was a 15km long fell run. We cabbed down our wetsuits, put away our paddles and just enjoyed the run. The combination of high speed, wet rocks and slippery ground made it pretty technical and I felt great being able to keep up with the guys.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Entering Lake Windermere we found ourselves in the front and pushed hard to not get caught during the swim.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

We felt relatively strong and put in one extra gear the last hour. My suffering level did also increase. The swims were cold and I got tired from the high speed. But still with a positive mind as we got a gap to the chasing team.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

After some shorter swim and run sections we had yet another beautiful fell run in front of us.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

I enjoyed the fast run at the same time as I tried to reassemble my forces for what was coming. We finished off with the longest swim of the day in Grasmere Lake. Strong headwind and cold temperature together with a tired body made sure we didn’t had a walk in the park to the finish line. I focused on counting my strokes, knowing that each stroke would take us one step closer to the shore.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

I was shivering all the 2km road run to the finish line but still keeping my mind and body prepared to sprint in case we would have to. Luckily we had no need to increase the speed as we had managed to build up a gap of 8 minutes.

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

It was a great feeling to cross the finish line as the first team and knowing that the bathtub in our hotel room was waiting for us just 100m away. I stumbled right from the finish area into a warm bath..

Photo:  Wildman Media – Paul Mitchell

Breca Coniston was a great race that reminded me why I’m competing. I love racing close to another team and push hard.  Lake District is also an awesome place! We enjoyed the landscape in a slower pace the day after the race.

Victory ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Championship 2017

In stormy and rainy conditions Annika and I managed to defend our world champ title from 2016.

We came well prepared to the 75km race over the 26 islands in Stockholm Archipelago and it was with excitement we were standing at the start line.

Combining quite a few training sessions out in the Archipelago together with top results in all ÖtillÖ series races we were ready for the BIG race.

There are many swimrun races around nowadays but there is only one ÖtillÖ and the original course in Stockholm Archipelago is one of a kind. Winds of 20 knots and a rough Baltic Sea made the experience even more special this year.

Thanks to all my family, friends and sponsors who believe in me. Having Addnature and Campz behind me is invaluable and it’s encouraging meeting representants from these companies out on the course cheering on us!

I wrote long posts about my previous ÖtillÖ races in 2016 and 2015 in my blog but it’s hard to describe the experience in words. This year the weather played a factor in the race and it might be easier to understand from the short video clips:

Swedish National TV: SVT Sporten

 

Fredrik Wannersted: ARK Swimrun

 

2017 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship – ATHLETE INTERVIEW

Two weeks before the start of ÖTILLÖ I was asked some interesting questions in a pre-race interview


Original source: ÖtillÖ World Series

”But you are women..”

It’s Saturday afternoon and we have just checked in at our hotel in the little village Les Salles-sur Verdon. The receptionist is curious about what we are planning to do in the area. We tell him that we will do the race tomorrow, the SwimrunMan. He stop his work and look at us slightly confused as if he was not able to translate what he just heard.

-“The Swimrun race!?!”, he explicate. “But you are women!!”

Now we are confused. He continues:

-“This race is not for women. It’s for the macho men with big muscles”, he explains to us and gesticulates.

I’m sure his intention isn’t as arrogant as it sounds. The receptionist is genuinely surprised but at that moment we find no point in explaining to him that we are well aware of what we are doing. We are eager to get in to our rooms, change clothes and get out to check the race course.

The race, “SwimrunMan”, is located in and around the beautiful lake of Sainte-Croix, two hours drive from Nice. Here we will swim 4500 meters and run 30000 meter gaining an elevation of 1500 meters.

This afternoon, the day before the race, we are running a short section of the race just to get familiar with the markings. We have time to check one water exit point before we have to rush to the race meeting. The organization gives a professional impression and the meeting is short and informative.

Sunday, race day and it is pretty cold and windy but we are excited to start the race.  On our way to the breakfast we meet the receptionist again;

“Are you really sure you will do the race? It’s very cold today”.

We focus on getting our breakfast done and then get ready for the race.

Photo: Philippe Murtas

At the start the atmosphere is warm and friendly and it feels like everyone is excited about what is about to come. At 10.30 it all starts with a short sprint down to the beach.

The first swim is 1700m, crossing the lake from one side to another.  There are two male teams heading off at high speed. Annika is doing a great job in front of me, leading a bunch of three to four teams across the lake.

Photo: Philippe Murtas

At the second half of the swim the wind is picking up and it is getting pretty cold. Luckily we climb 400 altitude meters straight up from the beach and we can work ourselves warm again. After five minutes I see the two teams in front of us and we push a bit harder just to get contact. After the uphill we are three teams running together at the plateau and it feels like we got a good start of the race.

Photo: Philippe Murtas

The next two hours we are two teams battling in the top, changing positions and chasing each other. Halfway out on the course we feel that we might got a gap on the run as we can’t see anyone behind us.

At the start of an 800m swimming section there is no marshal and we have to stop and try to locate the direction of the swim. When we get into the water we are not 100% sure, but Annika does a great job locating the exit point while swimming. But then we get another surprise. There is a team coming up beside us!

Apparently we hadn’t gained as much time on the guys as we thought and the race is still on. Annika manages to take the feet of the other team for the remaining part of the swim and we can exit together.

Getting out on the longest run section of the race we are told that the first two kilometers is a bit dangerous. It’s technical climbing on slippery rocks and being freezing cold makes it even tougher. The guys are faster than us and we lose them out of sight.

We arrive to the last energy station and we can’t see the other team. We don’t know how far behind we are but we stay focused on our race and refuel quickly.

Photo: Philippe Murtas

We have now passed the most technical part of the trail and start to run along a nice but stony section. Speed is high but suddenly Annika falls. It’s a bad fall on sharp stones but she is straight up on her feets running again. There is no impact on our speed after the fall, even though her knee is smashed pretty bad.

We keep on pushing and suddenly we see the guys in front of us. Before the last swim section we manage to overtake them and we do a great swim keeping the guys behind us.

On the last run to the finish line I try to run hard, but also prepare mentally to sprint, if the guys will show up again.

But we don’t have to sprint, we can enjoy the feeling of finishing as the first team. It’s just amazing to cross the finish line after a tight race.

It’s the first time ever I take an overall win together with another woman!

Photo: Philippe Murtas

On the way back to the airport we stop by the doctor as the deep wound in Annikas knee must be fixed with some stiches.

The day after the race we just had to send an email to the receptionist telling him that women can.. and this time we did it better than the men.

His reply:

… you didn’t tell me you were world champions!

See the vide from KIT here

Link to the official race movie: Swimrunman Gorges du Verdon

Träningsläger på familjevis

 Sedan en dryg vecka är vi tillbaka i stan efter tre bra träningsveckor i Sydafrika. Boostade på D-vitamin, höjdmeter och simkilometrar har vi nu kommit in i vardagsrutinerna igen.

Tillbaka till transportträning, pannlampsträning och tidsjakt. Jobb, dagis och logistik för hämtning/lämning.  Och när schemat till slut verkar hålla kommer lilleman hem från dagis med feber och ställer all planering upp och ner. Allt är precis som vanligt!

Jag gillar min vardag här hemma (i alla fall när pusslandet går ihop) och vi har access till bra träningsmöjligheter. Vi tänker träning när vi tränar och när vi planerar veckorna men däremellan är allt fokus på potträning, tvåårstrots och livets måsten. Då är det riktigt värdefullt att få in tre sammanhängande veckor med lite mindre att tänka på. Att åka iväg från vardagen hemma gör att det är enklare att träna enligt plan, att orka göra träningen bra och framförallt att återhämtningen blir så mycket bättre.

Inga motivationsproblem att genomför simpassen i denna miljö

Vi är en familj där vi båda tränar och satsar även fast vi nu är tre. Det vanliga verkar vara att en person trappar ner och stöttar den som fortsätter tävla. Jag är glad att vi båda två har möjlighet och vill forsätta satsningarna. Hemma tränar jag och Daniel var för sig typ 9 av 10 pass och resterande 10% är vi med alla tre. Nu när vi åkte till Sydafrika hade vi förmånen att ha med sällskap och hjälp av mina föräldrar och Daniels bror som fantastiska barnvakter.Det innebär att jag och Daniel har kunnat träna tillsammans vilket både är sporrande och stöttande.

Efter de två senaste årens flängande hit och dit med barn har vi insett att det är lite mer energikrävande att resa med småbarn jämfört med att resa själv. Ödmjuka inför vår relativt långa resa denna gång valde vi därför att ta en ordentlig paus mitt i resan och sova en natt i Dubai.

Iallafall vi som inte sov på flyget såg fram emot att sträcka ut våra ben på hotellet.

Tack vare att vi delade upp resan på två dagar var vi inte förstörda när vi kom fram till Stellenbosch och kunde snabbt komma igång med träningen och utforska omgivningarna.

Vi valde att lägga boendet så att det skulle fungera bra både för barnvakterna och för oss, dvs. att ingen av oss skulle vara beroende av bilen för att ta sig ut och att vi alla skulle kunna starta träningen från huset. Vi har det så hemma och det är räddningen i vardagen. Att ha skogen och sjön utanför huset är ovärderligt. Att vi här i Stellenbosch kunde dra ut på en helt vanliga löparrunda och få ihop 1 000 höjdmeter direkt bakom husknuten gjorde att vi trivdes riktigt bra.

När vi nu också hade chansen att umgås med mina föräldrar och Daniels bror så ville vi självklart även göra aktiviter som passade alla. Vingårdarna är säkra kort. Lekplatser, god mat till hungriga atleter och schysst vin till barnvakter. Naturreservatet Jonkershoek är ett bra ställe för utflykter.

 Vi trivdes så pass bra i Stellenbosch att vi begränsade turistandet utanför stan. Vi ville inte lägga mer tid i bilen än nödvändigt. En utflykt utanför stan som ändå var värd bilköerna var Table Mountain utanför Kapstaden.

Jag och Daniel sprang upp medan övriga familjen tog kabinbanan till toppen. Där kunde vi äta lunch tillsammans och titta på utsikten innan vi sprang ner igen.

Stigen upp till Table Mountain är snäppet vackrare än utsikten från toppen. Ta den istället för kabinbanan om ni har möjlighet!

Summa summarum blev det en väldigt bra träningsresa. Det tuffa är bara att komma hem och upptäcka att vabruari fortfarande inte är över..

”Barnens behov går alltid först”

Berg och hinder i Sydafrika

Stellenbosch som förmodligen mest är känt för sina vinodlingar, är också en grym träningsstad. Universitetets olympiska pool, löparbanorna, mtbstigarna. Allt det där hade vi hört mycket om innan vi åkte hit.

Det grymma med det här stället är också att det är omgivet av vackra berg! Våra första tio dagar här bodde vi en bit ovanför stan och gjorde många försök att utforska närmsta omgivningen.

Bergen här är väldigt lockande att springa upp på men ganska snabbt insåg vi varför många av bergen helt saknar stigar. Privat mark och elstängsel stänger ute all access.

Tyvärr är det ju så Sydafrika ser ut och det är ingen nyhet men det är ändå intressant hur det påverkar vardagen. Vi bor bakom låsta portar och rejäla säkerhetssystem. Allt för att stänga ute obehöriga, men känslan är ändå att det är oss själva vi låser in och begränsar.

Utanför porten till vårt hus. Vacker utsikt att titta på men jag vill hellre uppleva den

Men det är absolut inte omöjligt att hitta fina stigar här. Ska man springa i bergen utanför stan får man helt enkelt besöka ett naturreservat, betala för ett tillstånd och springa på markerade leder.

Naturreservatet Mont Rochelle i Franschhoek bjuder på vackra leder

Och MTB spåren i Jonkershoek är riktigt roliga

Alternativt frågar man snällt de som äger stora fastigheter om man får springa på deras mark. Vi har blivit stammisar på en bärfarm med mark en bra bit upp i bergen och de har inget emot att vi kör vertikala intervaller längs deras odlingar.

Sen har även många vingårdar enorma fastigheter där de ibland anlagt MTB stigar som man också kan springa på.

Nu har vi precis flyttat ner till byn. Utanför huset har vi två 600 höjdmeters kullar som vi precis utforskat. Jag tror vi kommer trivas här nere också!